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Heroic ardour to advent'rous deeds

Under their god-like leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move,
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,
Nor strait'ning vale, nor wood, nor stream divides 70
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread; as when the total kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing,
Came, summon'd over Eden, to receive
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heav'n they march'd, and many a province wide,
Tenfold the length of this terrene: at last,
Far in th' horizon to the north appear'd
From skirt to skirt a fiery region, stretch'd
In battailous aspect, and nearer view
Bristled with upright beams innumerable
Of rigid spears, and helmets throng'd, and shields
Various, with boastful argument pourtray'd,
The banded pow'rs of Satan, hasting on
With furious expedition; for they ween'd
That self-same day, by fight or by surprise,
To win the mount of God, and on his throne
To set the envier of his state, the proud
Aspirer; but their thoughts prov'd fond and vain 90
In the mid-way: though strange to us it seem'd
At first, that angel should with angel war,
And in fierce hosting meet, who wont to meet
So oft in festivals of joy and love
Unanimous, as sons of one great Sire,
Hymning th' eternal Father: but the shout
Of battle now began, and rushing sound
Of onset ended soon each milder thought.
High in the midst, exalted as a God,
Th' apostate in his sun-bright chariot sat,
Idol of majesty divine, enclos'd
With flaming cherubim and golden shields;
Then lighted from his gorgeous throne, for now
Twixt host and host but narrow space was left,

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A dreadful interval, and front to front
Presented stood in terrible array
Of hideous length: before the cloudy van,
On the rough edge of battle ere it joined,
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanc'd,
Came tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold;
Abdiel that sight endur'd not, where he stood
Among the mightiest, bent on highest deeds,
And thus his own undaunted heart explores.

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"'O Heaven! that such resemblance of the High'est Should Iyet remain, where faith and reälty Remain not: wherefore should not strength and might There fail where virtue fails, or weakest prove Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable? His puissance, trusting in th' Almighty's aid, I mean to try, whose reason I have try'd Unsound and false; nor is it ought but just, That he who in debate of truth hath won, Should win in arms, in both disputes alike Victor; though brutish that contést and foul, When reason hath to deal with force, yet so Most reason is that reason overcome.'

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"So pondering, and from his armed peers Forth stepping opposite, half-way he met His daring foe, at this prevention more Incens'd, and thus securely him defy'd.

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"Proud, art thou met? thy hope was to have reach'd
The height of thy aspiring unoppos'd,
The throne of God unguarded, and his side
Abandon'd at the terror of thy power

Or potent tongue: fool! not to think how vain
Against th' Omnipotent to rise in arms;
Who out of smallest things could without end
Have rais'd incessant armies to defeat
Thy folly; or with solitary hand,
Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow
Unaided could have finish'd thee, and whelm'd
Thy legions under darkness: but thou seest

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All are not of thy train; there be who faith
Prefer, and piety to God, though then
To thee not visible, when I alone
Seem'd in thy world erroneous to dissent
From all: my seet thou seest; now learn, too late,
How few sometimes may know, when thousands err.'

"Whom the grand foe, with scornful eye askance,
Thus answer'd. 'Ill for thee, but in wish'd hour 150
Of my revenge, first sought for, thou return'st
From flight, seditious angel! to receive
Thy merited reward, the first assay

Of this right hand provok'd, since first that tongue,
Inspir'd with contradiction, durst oppose
A third part of the Gods, in synod met
Their deities to assert, who, while they feel
Vigour divine within them, can allow
Omnipotence to none. But well thou com'st
Before thy fellows, ambitious to win
From me some plume, that thy success may show
Destruction to the rest: this pause between
(Unanswered lest thou boast) to let thee know;
At first I thought that liberty and Heaven
To heavenly souls had been all one; but now
I see that most through sloth had rather serve,
Minist'ring spirits, train'd up in feast and song!
Such thou arm'd, the ministrelsy Heav'n,
Servility with freedom to contend,

As both their deeds compar'd this day shall prove.' 170
"To whom in brief thus Abdiel stern reply'd.
'Apostate! still thou err❜st, nor end wilt find
Of erring, from the path of truth remote:
Unjustly thou deprav'st it with the name
Of servitude, to serve whom God ordains,
Or Nature: God and Nature bid the same,
When he who rules is worthiest, and excels
Them whom he governs. This is servitude,
To serve th' unwise, or him who hath rebell'd
Against his worthier, as thine now serve thee,
Thyself not free, but to thyself enthrall'd;

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Yet lewdly dar'st our minist'ring upbraid.
Reign thou in Hell, thy kingdom; let me serve
In Heav'n God ever blest. and his divine
Behests obey, worthiest to be obey'd;

Yet chains in Hell, not realms expect: meanwhile
From me return'd, as erst thou saidst, from flight,
This greeting on thy impious crest receive.'

"So say'ing, a noble stroke he lifted high,
Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell 190
On the proud crest of Satan, that no sight,
Nor motion of swift thought, less could his shield,
Such ruin intercept: ten paces huge

He back recoil'd; the tenth on bended knee
His massy spear upstay'd; as if on earth
Winds under ground, or waters forcing way,
Sidelong had push'd a mountain from his seat,
Half sunk with all his pines. Amazement seiz'd
The rebel thrones, but greater rage, to see
Thus foil'd their mightiest; ours joy filled, and shout,
Presage of victory, and fierce desire

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Of battle: whereat Michaël bid sound

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Th' arch-angel trumpet; through the vast of Heav'n
It sounded, and the faithful armies rung
Hosanna to the High'est: nor stood at gaze
The adverse legions, nor less hideous join'd
The horrid shock. Now storming fury rose,
And clamour such as heard in Heav'n till now
Was never; arms on armour clashing bray'd
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots rag'd; dire was the noise
Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming vollies flew,
And, flying, vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together rush'd
Both battles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage; all Heav'n
Resounded, and, had Earth been then, all Earth
Had to her centre shook. What wonder? when
Millions of fierce encount'ring angels fought

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On either side, the least of whom could wield
These elements, and arm him with the force
Of all their regions: how much more of pow'r
Army' against army numberless to raise
Dreadful combustion warring, and disturb,
Though not destroy, their happy native seat;
Had not th' eternal King omnipotent,
From his strong hold of Heav'n, high over-rul'd
And limited their might; though number'd such
As each divided legion might have seem'd
A numerous host; in strength each armed hand
A legion; led in fight, yet leader seem'd
Each warrior single as in chief, expert
When to advance, or stand, or turn the sway
Of battle, open when, and when to close
The ridges of grim war: no thought of flight,
None of retreat, no unbecoming deed
That argued fear; each on himself rely'd,
As only in his arm the moment lay
Of victory: deeds of eternal fame
Were done, but infinite; for wide was spread
That war and various; sometimes on firm ground
A standing fight, then, soaring on main wing,
Tormented all the air; all air seem'd then
Conflicting fire. Long time in even scale
The battle hung; till Satan, who that day
Prodigious pow'r had shown, and met in arms
No equal, ranging through the dire attack
Of fighting seraphim confus'd, at length

Saw where the sword of Michael smote, and fell'd 250
Squadrons at once; with huge two-handed sway
Brandish'd aloft, the horrid edge came down
Wide wasting; such destruction to withstand
He hasted, and oppos'd the rocky orb
Of tenfold adamant, his ample shield,
A vast circumference. At his approach
The great arch-angel from his warlike toil
Surceas'd, and glad, as hoping here to end
Intestine war in Heav'n, th' arch foe subdu'd,

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