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Of endless pain? Where there is then no good 30
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there
From faction; for none sure will claim in Hell
Precedence—none whose portion is so small
Of present pain, that with ambitious mind
Will covet more. With this advantage then

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To union and firm faith and firm accord,
More than can be in Heaven, we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old;
Surer to prosper than prosperity
Could have assur'd us; and, by what best way, 40
Whether of open war or covert guile,
We now debate : who can advise, may speak.'

He ceased; and next him Moloch, scepter'd king, Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit That fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair. 45 His trust was with the Eternal to be deem'd Equal in strength, and rather than be less Card not to be at all. With that care lost Went all his fear; of God, or Hell, or worse He reck'd not, and these words thereafter spake : 50

My sentence is for open war : of wiles, More unexpert, I boast not; them let those Contrive who need, or when they need, not now. For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest, Millions that stand in arms, and longing wait 55 The signal to ascend, sit lingering here, Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place Accept this dark, opprobrious den of shame, The prison of his tyranny who reigns By our delay ? No! let us rather choose,

60 Armed with Hell flames and fury, all at once, O’er Heaven's high towers to force resistless way, Turning our tortures into horrid arms Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise of his almighty engine, he shall hear Infernal thunder, and for lightning see Black fire and horror shot with equal rage Among his angels, and his throne itself Mix'd with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire, His own invented torments. But perhaps

70 The way seems difficult and steep to scale With upright wing against a higher foe.

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Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
That in our proper motion we ascend

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Up to our native seat : descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late,
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting, and pursued us through the deep,
With what compulsion, and laborious flight

80 We sunk thus low? The ascent is easy then ; The event is fear'd. Should we again provoke Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find To our destruction, if there be in Hell Fear to be worse destroy'd. What can be worse 85 Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemn'd In this abhorred deep to utter woe; Where pain of unextinguishable fire Must exercise us, without hope of end, The vassals of his anger, when the scourge

90 Inexorably, and the torturing hour, Calls us to penance? More destroy'd than thus, We should be quite abolish'd, and expire. What fear we then ? What doubt we to incense His utmost ire? which, to the highth enrag'd

95 Will either quite consume us, and reduce To nothing this essential ; happier far Than miserable to have eternal being : Or if our substance be indeed divine, And cannot cease to be, we are at worst On this side nothing ; and by proof we feel Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven, And with perpetual inroads to alarm, Though inaccessible, his fatal throne; Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.

105 He ended frowning, and his look denounc'd Desperate revenge, and battel dangerous To less than gods. On the other side up rose Belial, in act more graceful and humane; A fairer person lost not heaven; he seemed For dignity composed and high exploit. But all was false and hollow; though his tongue Dropt manna, and could make the worse appear The better reason, to perplex and dash Maturest counsels ; for his thoughts were low : 115

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To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful. Yet, he pleas'd the ear,
And with persuasive accent thus began:

'I should be much for open war, O Peers !
As not behind in hate, if what was urg'd
Main reason to persuade immediate war
Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast
Ominous conjecture on the whole success;
When he who most excels in fact of arms,
In what he counsels and in what excels

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Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair
And utter dissolution, as the scope
Of all his aim, after some dire revenge.
First, what revenge? The towers of Heaven are fill'd
With armed watch, that render all access

130 Impregnable: oft on the bordering deep Encamp their legions, or, with obscure wing, Scout far and wide into the realm of Night, Scorning surprise. Or could we break our way By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise 135 With blackest insurrection, to confound Heaven's purest light, yet our great enem", All incorruptible, would on his throne Sit unpolluted, and the ethereal mould, Incapable of stain, would soon expel

140 Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire Victorious. Thus repuls'd, our final hope Is flat despair : we must exasperate The almighty Victor to spend all his rage, And that must end us; that must be our cure, 145 To be no more. Sad cure! for who would lose, Though full of pain, this intellectual being, Those thoughts that wander through eternity, To perish rather, swallowed up and lost In the wide womb of uncreated night,

150 Devoid of sense and motion ? And who knows, Let this be good, whether our angry foe Can give it, or will ever ? How he can, Is doubtful; that he never will, is sure. Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire,

155 Belike through impotence or unaware, To give his enemies their wish, and end Them in his anger, whom his anger saves

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To punish endless ? “Wherefore cease we then?”
Say they who counsel war; we are decreed, 160
Reserv'd, and destin'd to eternal woe:
Whatever doing, what can we suffer more?
What can we suffer worse?” Is this then worst,
Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?
What! when we fled amain, pursued, and struck 165
With Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought
The deep to shelter us? This Hell then seem'd
A refuge from those wounds. Or when we lay
Chain'd on the burning lake? That sure was worse.
What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, 170
Awak’d, should blow them into sevenfold rage,
And plunge us in the flames ? or, from above,
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? What if all
Her stores were open'd, and this firmament

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Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,
Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall
One day upon our heads ? while we, perhaps,
Designing or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurld,

180 Each on his rock transfix'd, the sport and prey Of racking whirlwinds; or for ever sunk Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains; There to converse with everlasting groans, Unrespited, unpitied, unrepriev'd,

185 Ages of hopeless end! This would be worse. War therefore, open or concealed, alike My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye Views all things at one view? He from Heaven's highth All these our motions vain sees and derides ;

191 Not more almighty to resist our might Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles. Shall we then live thus vile, the race of Heaven Thus trampl'd, thus expell’d, to suffer here

195 Chains and these torments? Better these than worse, By my advice; since fate inevitable Subdues us, and omnipotent decree, The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do, Our strength is equal, nor the law unjust That so ordains. This was at first resolvd,

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If we were wise, against so great a fc
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh, when those who at the spear are bold
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear

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What yet they know must follow, to endure
Exile, or ignominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their conqueror. This is now
Our doom, which if we can sustain and bear,
Our supreme foe in time may much remit
His

anger, and perhaps, thus far remov'd,
Not mind us not offending, satisfied
With what is punish'd ; whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome

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Their noxious vapour; or, inur'd, not feel ;
Or, chang'd at length, and to the place conformid
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat, and void of pain ;
This horrour will grow mild, this darkness light ;
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting ; since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe.

225 Thus Belial, with words cloth'd in reason's garb, Counsellid ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth, Not peace : and after him thus Mammon spake :

'Either.to disenthrone the king of Heaven We war, if war be best, or to regain

230 Our own right lost. Him to unthrone we then May hope, when everlasting fate shall yield To fickle chance, and Chaos judge the strife : The former vain to hope argues as vain The latter : for what place can be for us

235 Within Heaven's bound, unless Heaven's Lord supreme We overpower? Suppose he should relent, And publish grace to all, on promise made Of new subjection ; with what eyes could we Stand in his presence humble, and receive

240 Strict laws impos'd, to celebrate his throne With warbled hymns, and to his Godhead sing Forc'd hallelujahs ; while he lordly sits Our envied sovran, and his altar breathes

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