National Epics
By Kate Milner Rabb

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The Story of Paradise Lost

When that bright spirit, afterwards known as Satan, rose in rebellion against the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, presumptuously thinking himself equal to him in strength and following, he was overthrown by the Great Power and cast with his followers out of Heaven down to his future dwelling, flaming Hell.

Nine days he and his horrid crew fell through Chaos into the flaming pit yawning to receive them, and there lay for nine days,–rendered still more miserable by the thought of their immortality and the eternal bliss they had forfeited. Then Satan, rousing himself from the stupor consequent upon the fall, half rose and addressed the next in power to himself, Beelzebub.

“Thou art the same, yet not the same,” said he; “changed, lost is some of thy former brightness. Yet why repine? While we live, while we have so large a following, all is not lost. Our hate still lives, and have we but strength enough, we may still revenge ourselves upon him who thrust us into this accursed place.”

Rising from the lake, his great shield slung over his shoulders, the unconquered archangel walked over the burning marl to the beach of that fiery sea, and there with chiding words addressed the legions strewn around him. The great army rose hastily at the voice of its chief and passed before him, spirits whose heavenly names were now forever lost, who later became the gods of the idolaters. There was mighty Moloch, Chemos, those who later went by the general names of Baalim and Ashtaroth,–Thammuz, Dagon, Rimmon, Osiris, Isis, Orus and their train, Belial, and last of all, the Ionian gods.

His despair in part dissipated by the sight of this heroic array, their prince, towering high above all, addressed them. No one had foreseen the calamity that had overtaken them. Who could have guessed the power of the Almighty? But though overthrown they were not totally defeated. A rumor had long since been rife of the creation of another world with which they could interfere. At any rate, there must never be peace between them and the heavenly Powers. War there must be, war in secret, or war waged openly. As he ended, shield clashed against shield, and swords, quickly drawn, flashed before his eyes, and loud cries hurled defiance to Heaven.

The legions, led by Mammon, who in Heaven had been an honored architect, sought a hill near by, and quickly emptying it of its rich store of gold and jewels, built a massive structure. Like a temple in form was it, and round about it stood Doric columns overlaid with gold. No king of any future state could boast of a grander hall than this palace of Pandemonium which was so quickly reared upon a hill in Hell, and to which the heralds’ trumpets now summoned all the host.

On the massive throne, blazing with jewels, sat the fallen spirit, and thus addressed his followers: “Our success is sure in whatever we undertake. We shall never be riven with internecine warfare, for surely no one will quarrel over precedence in Hell. Therefore, united, we can, sure of our success, debate of the way in which we shall take up our warfare with the powers that have overthrown us.”

Moloch, Belial, Mammon, and Beelzebub spoke. Moloch was in favor of open war, since nothing could be worse than Hell, and continued assault against the Most High would, in annoying him, be a sweet revenge. Belial, who though timorous and slothful, was a persuasive orator, denounced Moloch’s plan. Since the ruler of Heaven was all-powerful, and they immortal, no one knew to what greater misery he could push them; perhaps he would bury them in boiling pitch to eternity, or inflict a thousand undreamed-of tortures. War, open and secret, he disliked, since it was impossible to conceal aught from the eye of the Most High. To make the best of Hell seemed all that was possible; in time they might become inured to its flames and better days might come, if they but accepted their doom patiently.

Mammon also considered war impossible. They could never hope to overcome the Almighty; neither could they hope nor wish for a reconciliation, for how hateful would be an eternity spent in cringing to one whom they hated. The desert soil of Hell teemed with riches, they could find peaceful pursuits, and it was his advice to continue there in quiet, untroubled by any thoughts of revenge.

Amid the murmur of applause that followed Mammon’s speech, Beelzebub, than whom none towered higher save Satan, arose, his face grave, his attitude majestic. “Would you, Thrones and Imperial Powers,” he cried, “think to build up a kingdom here, secure from the arm of Heaven? Have you so soon forgotten that this is not a kingdom ceded to you by the Most High, but a dungeon in which he has shut you for your everlasting punishment? Never will he forget that you are his prisoners; your lot will not be peace, but custody and stripes. What return can we make, then, but to think out some slow but sure and sweet revenge? It is not necessary to attempt to scale the walls of Heaven. Other things remain. There is this new world, his plaything. It may lie exposed, and we can at least make the attempt to seize it and lay it waste, and thus vex him.” As he saw their eyes sparkle, he continued: “We may in this attempt come near to the steps of our old abode and breathe again its delicious airs instead of these hellish flames. But first we must find some one, strong, wary, and watchful, to send in search of it.”

Satan strode forth, his courage and his consciousness of it making his face shine with transcendent glory. “Long is the way and hard; its dangers unknown and terrible, but I should be a poor sovereign did I hesitate in the attempt to seek it out. I do not refuse the sovereignty, for I fear not to accept as great a share of hazard as of honor. Stay here; charm away your time, and I will seek deliverance abroad for all of us.”

As he spoke he rose to depart, fearful lest others might now offer to go and share the glory with him.

The legions rose with a sound like thunder, bowed in deepest reverence and went forth, some, to explore their dismal abode, others to amuse themselves at games, others to discuss Free Will and Fate, while their leader pursued his way toward the gate of Hell.

The nine-fold gates were of brass, iron, and adamantine rock, reaching high to the mighty roof, and most horrible were the Shapes that guarded it.

On one side sat a creature, woman to the waist, below, a serpent, surrounded by a crew of hell hounds, forever barking and then seeking refuge within her. On the other, a Shape, black, fierce, terrible, crowned with the likeness of a kingly crown, and shaking in its hands a dreadful dart. As he strode, Hell trembled. Satan, undaunted, met him with fierce words. As the two stood, their lances pointed at each other, the woman shrieked and ran between them.

“Father, rush not upon thy son! Son, raise not thy hand against thy father!” She then explained that she was Satan’s daughter, Sin, who had sprung from his head full grown, and that she later became by him the mother of the creature called Death who sat with her to guard the gates.

Satan at once unfolded to them his plan of seeking the new world and making a happy home for both Sin and Death, where they could forever find food to gratify their hideous cravings. Charmed by his highly-colored pictures, and forgetful of the commands from above, Sin opened the mighty doors, so that the flames of Hell spread far out into Chaos, but her strength failed her when she attempted to close them again.

For a moment Satan looked out into the mixture of Hot and Cold and Moist and Dry that formed Chaos, and then started forth, now rising, now falling, his wings heavy with the dense masses, now wading, now creeping, until at last he reached the spot where was fixed the throne of Chaos and of Night. Here Satan learned of the situation of the new world and soon caught a glimpse of it, hanging like a star, by a golden chain, from Heaven.

Sitting in Heaven, high throned above all, God, all-seeing, all-knowing, was conscious of Satan’s escape from Hell and his approach to the new world. To his Son, sitting on his right hand, he pointed out the fallen spirit. “No prescribed bounds can shut our Adversary in; nor can the chains of hell hold him. To our new world he goes, and there, by no fault of mine, will pervert man, whom I have placed therein, with a free will; so to remain until he enthralls himself. Man will fall as did Satan, but as Satan was self-tempted, and man will be deceived by another, the latter shall find grace where his tempter did not.”

Great was the joy of the Son when he learned that man would receive mercy for his transgression. “Pardon and mercy he shall receive,” declared the Father, “but some one must be willing to expiate his sin for him; the just must die for the unjust. Who in Heaven is willing to make the sacrifice?”

For a moment all the Heavenly quire stood mute; then the Son of God spoke and implored his Father to let his anger fall on him, since he could not wholly die, but could arise from death and subdue his vanquisher.

When his Father accepted the sacrifice, and named him Son of God and Man who should hereafter be Universal King, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, Heaven rang with the shouts of the Angels, who, casting down their amaranthine wreaths until the golden pavement was covered with the garlands, took their golden harps and sang the praises of the Father and the Son.

While they sang, Satan walked over the vast globe on which he had alighted, through what in after years, when the world was peopled, was to be the Paradise of Fools, the spot to which the spirits of all things transitory and vain, of those who had worked for their reward in life instead of in Heaven, would come. He walked around the dark globe until, directed by a gleam of light, he found the spot where a ladder led up to Heaven. Just below it, down through the spheres, was the seat of Paradise to which he was bending his way.

Down through the crystal spheres he bent his way toward the Sun, which attracted him by its superior splendor. Espying Uriel, the Angel of the Sun, he quickly took the form of a youthful Cherub, and, approaching Uriel, told him that having heard of the new world he had been seized by a longing to quit the bands of Cherubim and see for himself the wonderful work of the Creator.

Directed by the unsuspecting Uriel, Satan sped downward and standing upon the top of Niphates, surveyed Eden.

As he looked, his spirit was troubled. He had brought Hell with him, and his unhappy thoughts boiled and surged in his troubled mind. “Sun, I hate thee, because thy beams recall to me what I was and how I fell. The matchless King of Heaven deserved no such return from me. His service was easy. Had I only been created a lower Power!–But even then, might not some higher one have led me into temptation? What shall I do, whither shall I fly, to escape infinite wrath, and infinite despair? Hell is around me, I myself am Hell! There is no hope for me. Submission is the only way left, and I could not unsay what I have said; I could never bridge the gulf made by my revolt. Farewell to remorse! Good is forever lost to me, and I must now make Evil my good. I can at least divide the empire of the world with the King of Heaven.”

As he realized how his bitter thoughts had dimmed his countenance he smoothed it over with outward calm, but not before Uriel, from the Sun, had noted and wondered over his strange gestures.

Leaping over the high natural walls of Paradise, Satan, in the form of a cormorant, perched himself on the Tree of Life. Beautiful was the scene before him. All the trees and plants were of the noblest kind. In the midst of them stood the Tree of Life with its golden fruit, and not far off the Tree of Knowledge. Southward through Eden ran a river, which, passing under a huge hill, emerged into four great streams wandering through many afterwards famous realms. Between the rows of trees stretched level lawns where grazed the happy flocks, and over the green mead were sprinkled flowers of every hue. No fairer scene ever met living eyes, and fairest of all were the two stately forms, in whose looks shone the divinity of their Maker. Hand in hand they passed through the garden, refreshed themselves with the delicious fruits, and were happy in each other.

As he gazed on them while the animals fell asleep and the sun sank below the horizon, Satan, still torn with conflicting emotions, ruminated over the unhappiness he was to bring the lovely pair. He admired them, he could love them; they had not harmed him, but he must bring unhappiness upon them because of their likeness to their Creator. Through them only could he obtain his longed-for revenge.

Anxious to learn where to attack them, he prowled about them, now as a lion, now as a tiger, listening to their conversation. They spoke of their garden, of the Tree of Life, and of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. “In the day ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die,” had been their warning. Eve recalled the day of her creation, when she had first fled from Adam, and then yielded to his embraces, and Satan, watching their caresses, envied and hardened his heart. “Live while ye may!” he muttered. “Soon will I return and offer you new woes for your present pleasures.”

In the mean time, Gabriel, warned by Uriel, who suspected that an evil spirit had crept into Paradise, had set watches around the garden. Ithuriel and Zephon, sent to search for him, spied Satan in the form of a toad, sitting near the ear of Eve, tainting her dreams with foul whispers. Touched by Ithuriel’s spear, he was forced to resume his own shape and was taken to Gabriel. The angry Satan attempted to use force, but warned by a sign from Heaven that his strength was insufficient, fled, murmuring, through the night.

When morning dawned on Eden, a morn of unimaginable beauty, Adam waked Eve from her restless slumbers, and heard her troubled dreams, in which she had been tempted to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. He comforted her, and after their morning hymn, in which they glorified their Creator, they set about their pleasant work of pruning the too luxuriant vines of their Paradise. In the mean time, the Father above, knowing the design of Satan, and determined that man should not fall without warning, sent Raphael down to Adam to tell him that he was threatened by an enemy, and that, as a free agent, if he fell, his sin would be upon his own head.

Six-winged Raphael swept down through the spheres and stood in Paradise, welcomed by Adam. Eve hastened to set before their guest every delicacy that Eden knew, and while she was preparing these Adam listened to the Angel’s warning.

To emphasize the sin of disobedience, Raphael related to the pair the story of Satan’s conspiracy with the other powers because the Father had proclaimed the power of his Son. The Father, knowing Satan’s confidence in himself, had allowed him for two days to fight an equal number of his legions of angels, among whom was Abdiel who had fled, indignant, from Satan’s ranks, and on the third day, when the legions of evil lay crushed beneath the mountains which the shining angels had heaped upon them, the Son of God drove forth in his chariot, and single-handed, forced them before him, terror-stricken, until, Heaven’s wall having opened, they fell downward for nine days, in horror and confusion into the depths of Hell. The Messiah, returning home in triumph in his chariot, was welcomed by the bright orders into the home of his Father.

Delighted by the recital of Raphael, Adam asked him to relate the story of the Creation, and explain to him the motion of the celestial bodies. He then told Raphael of his own creation; how he awoke as from a sleep and found the Sun above him and around him the pleasant groves of Paradise; how he named the animals as they passed before him, according to the will of God, and how he had pleaded with his Maker for a companion and equal, until the Creator, casting him into a sound sleep, took from his side a rib and formed from it his beauteous Eve. As Adam concluded, the setting sun warned Raphael to depart.

Satan, after fleeing from Gabriel, had hidden in the dark parts of the earth, so that he could creep in at night unseen of Uriel. After the eighth night, he crept in past the watchful Cherubim, and stealing into Paradise, wrapped in the mist rising over the river that, shooting underground, rose up as a fountain near the Tree of Life, he crept, though not without loathing, into the serpent, in which form he could best evade the watchful eyes of the heavenly guards and accomplish his purpose.

When morning dawned, Eve asked Adam for once to permit her to work alone, so that they might accomplish more. Adam, who constantly desired her presence, prayed her to remain, warning her of the enemy of whom Raphael had spoken, and telling her that they could resist temptation more easily together than when separated. But Eve was obdurate, and Adam finally consented that she should go alone to work.

As she moved among the groves, tying up the drooping flowers, like to Pomona in her prime, or to Ceres, the sight of so much beauty, goodness, and innocence moved even the serpent, as he approached, intent on the destruction of her happiness. But as he looked, the thought of her joy but tortured him the more, since happiness was no longer possible for him.

This was before the serpent had been compelled to crawl his whole length on the ground, and as he moved on, fold on fold, his head proudly reared, his scales brilliant in color, he was not an unpleasant object to look upon. He circled about Eve as though lost in admiration, until her attention was attracted, and then astounded her by addressing her in her own language. When she demanded by what means he had acquired speech, he told her by the plucking and eating of a certain tree in the garden, which he had no sooner tasted than he felt his inward powers to develop until he found himself capable of speech.

Eve at once asked him to take her to the tree, but when she recognized the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, she demurred, assuring the serpent that God had commanded them not to touch it, for if they ate of it, they should surely die. “Am I not alive?” asked her tempter, “and have I not eaten of it? Is it not a rank injustice that you should be forbidden to taste it and to lack the Knowledge of Good and Evil which it would give you? Where can the offence lie? It must be envy that causes such a prohibition.”

His words, the sight of the fruit, and natural hunger all prevailed on Eve, and she plucked a branch from the tree and tasted the fruit. As she ate she saw Adam coming in search of her, holding a garland which he had been binding to crown her. To his reproaches, she replied with the arguments of her tempter, until Adam, in despair, determined to taste the apple that he might not lose Eve. Paradise without her would not be Paradise, and no new wife could make him forget her.

After the first exhilaration of the food was past they began to reproach each other, mindful of their destiny, of which they had been warned by Raphael, and, engaged in this fruitless chiding, they were found by the Son, who, informed of their transgression by the angels, sought them out in their place of concealment. Adam and Eve he sentenced to a life of sorrow and labor, the serpent to go despised and ever at enmity with man. Then, pitying the unhappy pair, he clad them in skins and re-ascended to Heaven.

While this was occurring in Eden, Sin and Death, feeling in some mysterious way the success of their parent, determined to leave Hell and seek their new home. Passing through Chaos, they pushed the heavy elements this way and that, cementing them with Death’s mace until they constructed of them a bridge from the gates of Hell to the point on earth at which Satan had first alighted, and here met him, just returning, flushed with success, to Hell.

All the followers of Satan were gathered in Pandemonium to hear the news of his success, which he related, overjoyed at having wrought the ruin of mankind and revenged himself on God by so small a thing as the eating of an apple. As he concluded and stood waiting their applause, he heard a universal hiss, and saw himself surrounded by serpents, and himself changing into an enormous dragon. The great hall was filled with the monsters, scorpions, asps, hydras, and those who stood waiting without with applause for their leader were likewise changed into loathsome reptiles. Without the hall a grove sprang up, loaded with tempting fruit, but when, tortured with thirst, they tried to eat, it turned in their mouths to bitter ashes. After a time they were permitted to take again their own shapes, but were compelled to resume this serpent-form for a certain number of days each year, to crush their pride.

When God saw the entrance of Sin and Death into the world, he proclaimed to his Saints that their seeming victory was but temporary, and that eventually his Son would defeat Sin, Death, and the Grave, and seal up the mouth of Hell. Then, as the Halleluias rang out, he ordered the angels to make certain changes in the universe as a punishment to man. The Sun was so to move as to affect the earth alternately with a cold and heat almost unbearable; to the Moon were assigned her motions; the other planets were to join in various ways, often “unbenign.” The winds were assigned their stations to torment the earth and sea, and the thunder was set to strike terror to the heart of man. The poles of the earth were pushed aslant, and soon the effects of the changes were felt in heat, cold, wind, and storm.

Adam, though absorbed in his own misery and momentarily expecting Death, saw the changes, and bemoaned his woes the more. How would his mysterious progeny despise him, since he was the cause of their being brought into the world of woe! When Eve attempted to comfort him he drove her from him with harsh words, saying that in time to come women would be the unhappy cause of all man’s misery, as she had been of his. At last, seeing the futility of his outcries Adam began to cheer his wife, recalling the promise that their offspring should crush the head of the serpent, and suggested to her that they go to their former place of prayer and pour forth to God their true contrition and repentance.

The glad Son, presenting these prayers at his Father’s throne, interceded with him for them, since their contrition now was worth more than their worship in a state of innocence. His intercession was accepted, but since they had lost the two gifts of Happiness and Immortality, they must leave the garden lest they be tempted to taste next of the Tree of Life and make their woe eternal.

Michael was sent down to drive them from the garden, and if the pair seemed repentant and disconsolate he was ordered to comfort them with the promise of better days and to reveal to them somewhat of the future. In habit as a man Michael descended and declared to Adam and Eve that they could no longer abide in Paradise. When Adam, himself broken with grief, attempted to console the heart-broken Eve, the Angel comforted her also, and causing a sleep to fall upon her, led Adam to a hill-top, whence could be seen the hemisphere of the earth, soon to be covered by the seats of empires.

Touching Adam’s eyes with three drops from the well of life, the Angel showed him a long panorama, beginning with the crime of Cain, and showing the building of the Ark and its landing on Ararat. When he perceived that Adam’s eyes were weary, he recited to him the story of Abraham, of the deliverance from Egypt, the wandering in the Wilderness, of the royal stock of David from which would spring the seed so often promised Adam, who should ascend the hereditary throne, and whose glory should be universal.

Overjoyed, Adam inquired when would take place the final death stroke to Satan, the bruising with the Victor’s heel. Michael responded that Satan was not to be destroyed, but his works in Adam and his seed, and that the sacrifice of the Son’s life for man would forever crush the strength of Satan’s progeny, Sin and Death. Then, to that Heaven to which he would reascend, the faithful would go when the time came for the world’s dissolution, and there would be received into the bliss eternal.

Strengthened and sustained, Adam went down from the mount and met Eve, just awaking from comforting dreams.

The Cherubim descended, and, urged by the Angel, the two took their way into the wide world that lay before them, and looking back beheld the flaming swords of the Cherubim at the gates of their lost Paradise.


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