National Epics
By Kate Milner Rabb

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Public Domain Books

Selections From Paradise Lost


After having been thrown out of Heaven with his crew, Satan lay nine days in the burning lake into which he fell. Then, rousing himself, he rose from the liquid flames, flew over the lake, and alighting upon the solid though burning land, thus addressed Beelzebub, who had accompanied him.

  “Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"
  Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat
  That we must change for Heaven?–this mournful gloom
  For that celestial light? Be it so, since He
  Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
  What shall be right: farthest from Him is best,
  Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
  Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
  Where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
  Infernal World! and thou, profoundest Hell,
  Receive thy new possessor–one who brings
  A mind not to be changed by place or time.
  The mind is its own place, and in itself
  Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
  What matter where, if I be still the same,
  And what I should be, all but less than he
  Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
  We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
  Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
  Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
  To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
  Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
  But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
  The associates and co-partners of our loss,
  Lie thus astonished on the oblivious pool,
  And call them not to share with us their part
  In this unhappy mansion, or once more
  With rallied arms to try what may be yet
  Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”

  So Satan spake; and him Beelzebub
  Thus answered:–"Leader of those armies bright
  Which, but the Omnipotent, none could have foiled!
  If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
  Of hope in fears and dangers–heard so oft
  In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
  Of battle, when it raged, in all assaults
  Their surest signal–they will soon resume
  New courage and revive, though now they lie
  Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
  As we erewhile, astounded and amazed;
  No wonder, fallen from such pernicious highth!”

  He scarce had ceased when the superior Fiend
  Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield,
  Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
  Behind him cast. The broad circumference
  Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
  Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
  At evening, from the top of Fesolè,
  Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
  Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
  His spear–to equal which the tallest pine
  Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
  Of some great ammiral, were but a wand–
  He walked with, to support uneasy steps
  Over the burning marle, not like those steps
  On Heaven’s azure; and the torrid clime
  Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.
  Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
  Of that inflamèd sea he stood, and called
  His legions–Angel Forms, who lay entranced
  Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
  In Vallombrosa, where the Etrurian shades
  High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge
  Afloat, when the fierce winds Orion armed
  Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew
  Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
  While with perfidious hatred they pursued
  The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
  From the safe shore their floating carcases
  And broken chariot wheels. So thick bestrewn,
  Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
  Under amazement of their hideous change.
  He called so loud that all the hollow deep
  Of Hell resounded:–"Princes, Potentates,
  Warriors, the Flower of Heaven–once yours; now lost,
  If such astonishment as this can seize
  Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place
  After the toil of battle to repose
  Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
  To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
  Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
  To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds
  Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
  With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
  His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern
  The advantage, and descending, tread us down
  Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
  Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?–
  Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!"
          Book I., 240-330.


Preface  •  The Râmâyana  •  The Story of the Râmâyana  •  Selections From the Râmâyana  •  The Story of the Mahâ-Bhârata  •  Selections From the Mahâ-Bhârata  •  The Iliad  •  The Story of the Iliad  •  Selections From the Iliad  •  The Story of the Odyssey  •  Selections From the Odyssey  •  The Kalevala  •  The Story of the Kalevala  •  Selections From the Kalevala  •  Selection From the Aeneid  •  Beowulf  •  The Story of Beowulf  •  Selection From Beowulf  •  Selections From the Nibelungen Lied  •  The Story of the Song of Roland  •  Selections From the Song of Roland  •  The Story of the Shah-Nameh  •  Selections From the Shah-Nameh  •  The Story of the Poem of the Cid  •  Selections From the Poem of the Cid  •  The Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Hell  •  The Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Purgatory  •  The Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  The Story of the Divine Comedy - The Paradise  •  Selections From the Divine Comedy - Count Ugolino  •  Selection From the Orlando Furioso  •  The Lusiad  •  The Story of the Lusiad  •  Selections From the Lusiad  •  The Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of the Jerusalem Delivered  •  Selection From the Jerusalem Delivered  •  The Story of Paradise Lost  •  Selections From Paradise Lost  •  Apostrophe to Light  •  The Story of Paradise Regained  •  Selection From Paradise Regained