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Shall change their course to pleasure, ease, and sloth,
Surfeit, and lust; till wantonness and pride
Raise out of friendship hostile deeds in peace.
The conquer'd also, and enslav'd by war,
Shall, with their freedom lost, all virtue lose
And fear of God; from whom their piety feign'd
In sharp contést of battle found no aid
Against invaders ; therefore, cool'd in zeal,
Thenceforth shall practise how to live secure,
Worldly or dissolute, on what their lords
Shall leave them to enjoy ; for the Earth shall bear
More than enough, that temperance may be tried :
So all shall turn degenerate, all deprav'd;
Justice and temperance, truth and faith, forgot;
One man except, the only son of light
In a dark age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a world
Offended : fearless of reproach and scorn,
Or violence, he of their wicked ways
Shall them admonish; and before them set
The paths of righteousness, how much more safe,
And full of peace ; denouncing wrath to come
On their impenitence; and shall return
Of them derided, but of God observ'd
The one just man alive; by his command
Shall build a wondrous ark, as thou beheldst,
To save himself, and household, from amidst
A world devote to universal wrack.
No sooner he, with them of man and beast
Select for life, shall in the ark be lodg’d,
And shelter'd round; but all the cataracts
Of Heaven set open on the Earth shall pour
Rain, day and night; all fountains of the deep,
Broke up, shall heave the ocean to usurp
Beyond all bounds; till inundation rise
Above the highest hills : then shall this mount
Of Paradise by might of waves be mov’d
Out of his place, push'd by the horned flood,
With all his verdure spoil'd, and trees adrift,
Down the great river to the opening gulf,
And there take root an island salt and bare,
The haunt of seals, and orcs, and sea-mews' clang
To teach thee that God attributes to place
No sanctity, if none be thither brought
By men who there frequent, or therein dwell.
And now, what further shall ensue, behold.”
He look’d, and saw the ark hull on the flood,
Which now abated; for the clouds were Aled,
Driven by a keen north-wind, that, blowing dry,
Wrinkled the face of deluge, as decay'd ;
And the clear Sun on his wide watery glass
Gaz'd hot, and of the fresh wave largely drew,
As after thirst; which made their flowing shrink
From standing lake to tripping ebb, that stole
With soft foot towards the deep; who now had stos'
His sluices, as the Heaven his windows shut.
The ark no more now floats, but seems on ground,
Fast on the top of some high mountain fix'd.
And now the tops of hills, as rocks, appear ;
With clamour thence the rapid currents drive,
Towards the retreating sea, their furious tide.
Forthwith from out the ark a raven flies,
And after him, the surer messenger,
A dove sent forth once and again to spy
Green tree or ground, whereon his foot may light:
The second time returning, in his bill
An olive-leaf he brings, pacific sign :
Anon dry ground appears, and from his ark
The ancient sire descends, with all his train :
Then with uplifted hands, and eyes devout,
Grateful to Heaven, over his head beholds
A dewy cloud, and in the cloud a bow
Conspicuous with three listed colours gay,
Betokening peace from God, and covenant new.
Whereat the heart of Adam, erst so sad,
Greatly rejoic'd; and thus his joy broke forth.
“ O thou, who future things canst represent
As present, heavenly instructor! I revive
At this last sight ; assur'd that Man shall live,
With all the creatures, and their seed preserve.
Far less I now lament for one whole world
Of wicked sons destroy'd, than I rejoice
For one man found so perfect, and so just,
That God vouchsafes to raise another world
From hirn, and all his anger to forget. [Heaven
But say, what mean those colour'd streaks in
Distended, as the brow of God appeas’d ?
Or serve they, as a flowery verge, to bind
The fluid skirts of that same watery cloud,
Lest it again dissolve, and shower the Earth ?"
To whom the arch-angel. “ Dextrously thou
aim'st; So willingly doth God remit his ire, Though late repenting him of Man deprav'd; Griev'd at his heart, when looking down he saw The whole Earth fill'd with violence, and all flesh
Corrupting each their way; yet, those removid,
Such grace shall one just man find in his sight,
That he relents, not to blot out mankind;
And makes a covenant never to destroy
The Earth again by flood; nor let the sea
Surpass his bounds ; nor rain to drown the world,
With man therein or beast ; but, when he brings
Over the Earth a cloud, will therein set
His triple-colour'd bow, whereon to look,
And call to mind his covenant : day and night,
Seed-time and harvest, heat and hoary frost,
Shall hold their course ; till fire purge all things new,
Both Heaven and Earth, wherein the just shall
The Argument. The angel Michael continues, from the flood, to
relate what shall succeed ; then, in the mention of Abraham, 'comes by degrees to explain, who that seed of the woman shall be, which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall; his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension; the state of the church till his second coming. Adam, greatly satisfied and recomforted by these relations and promises, descends the hill with Michael ; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either
hand leads them out of Paradise, the fiery sword waving behind them, and the Cherubim taking their stations to guard the place.
As one who in his journey bates at noon, [pausd
Though bent on speed; so here the arch-angel
Betwixt the world destroy'd and world restor’d,
If Adam aught perhaps might interpose ;
Then, with transition sweet, new speech resumes.
“ Thus thou hast seen one world begin, and end;
And Man, as from a second stock, proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see; but I perceive
Thy mortal sight to fail : objects divine
Must needs impair and weary human sense :
Henceforth what is to come I will relate;
Thou therefore give due audience, and attend.
“ This second source of men, while yet but few, And while the dread of judgment past remains Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity, With some regard to what is just and right Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace ; Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop, Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock, Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid, With large wine-offerings pour'd, and sacred feast, Shall spend their days in joy unblam’d; and dwell Long time in peace, by families and tribes, Under paternal rule: till one shall rise Of proud ambitious heart; who, not content With fair equality, fraternal state, Will årrogate dominion undeserv'd Over his brethren, and quite dispossess