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The stairs were such as whereon Jacob saw
Angels ascending and descending, bands
Of guardians bright, when he from Esau fled
To Padan-Aram in the field of Luz,
Dreaming by night under the open sky,
And waking cried, This is the gate of heaven.
Each stair mysteriously was meant, nor stood
There always, but drawn up to heaven sometimes
Viewless; and underneath a bright sea flow'd
Of jasper, or of liquid pearl, whereon
Who after came from earth sailing arriv'd,
Wafted by angels, or flew o'er the lake,
Rapt in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.
The stairs were then let down, whether to dare
The fiend by easy ascent, or aggravate
His sad exclusion from the doors of bliss :
Direct against which open’d from beneath,
Just o'er the blissful seat of paradise,
A passage down to th’ earth, a passage wide,
Wider by far than that of after-times
Over mount Sion, and, though that were large, 530
Over the Promis'd Land to God so dear,
By which, to visit oft those happy tribes,
On high behests his angels to and fro
Pass'd frequent, and his eye with choice regard,
From Paneas, the fount of Jordan's flood,
To Beërsaba, where the Holy Land
Borders on Egypt and the Arabian shore :
So wide the op’ning seem'd, where bounds were set
To darkness, such as bound the ocean wave.
Satan from hence now on the lower stair,
That scald by steps of gold to heaven-gate,
Looks down with wonder at the sudden view
Of all this world at once. As when a scout,
Through dark and desart ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware
The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First-seen, or some renown’d metropolis,
With glistering spires and pinnacles adorn’d,
Which now the rising sun gilds with his beams :
Such wonder seiz'd, though after heaven seen,
The spirit malign ; but much more envy seiz'd
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.
Round he surveys, (and well might, where he stood
So high above the circling canopy
Of night's extended shade,) from eastern point
Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears
Andromeda far off Atlantic seas
Beyond th’horizon : then from pole to pole
He views in breadth, and without longer pause
Down right into the world's first region throws
His flight precipitant, and winds with ease
546 climbing] Drayton's Barons Warres, c. ii. st. 14.
• There riseth up an easie climbing hill. Todd. 554 At sight] Quod tandem spectaculum fore putamus, cum totam terram contueri licebit? Cic. Tusc. Disp. i. 19.
Through the pure marble air his oblique way
Amongst innumerable stars, that shone
Stars distant, but nigh hand seem'd other worlds;
Or other worlds they seem’d, or happy isles,
Like those Hesperian gardens fam'd of old,
Fortunate fields, and groves, and flow'ry vales,
Thrice happy isles; but who dwelt happy there 570
He stay'd not to enquire : above them all
The golden sun in splendor likest heaven
Allur'd his eye : thither his course he bends
Through the calm firmament; (but up or down,
By centre or eccentric, hard to tell,
Or longitude,) where the great luminary,
Aloof the vulgar constellations thick,
That from his lordly eye keep distance due,
Dispenses light from far ; they as they move
Their starry dance in numbers that compute
Days, months, and years, towards his all-cheering
Turn swift their various motions, or are turn'd
By his magnetic beam, that gently warms
The universe, and to each inward part
With gentle penetration, though unseen,
Shoots invisible virtue even to the deep;
So wond'rously was set his station bright.
564 marble air] •Strikes thro' the marble skies.'
See Marino's Sl. of the Innocents, p. 75. Transl. 564 oblique] Drayton uses this word with the accent on the first syllable. Polyllb. Song xvi. « Then in his óblique course, the lusty straggling street.'
There lands the fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the sun's lucent orb
Through his glaz’d optic tube yet never saw.
The place he found beyond expression bright,
Compar'd with aught on earth, metal or stone;
Not all parts like, but all alike inform’d
With radiant light, as glowing iron with fire ;
If metal, part seem'd gold, part silver clear ;
If stone, carbuncle most or chrysolite,
Ruby or topaz, to the twelve that shone
In Aaron's breast-plate, and a stone besides
Imagin'd rather oft than elsewhere seen,
That stone, or like to that which here below
Philosophers in vain so long have sought,
In vain, though by their powerful art they bind
Volatil Hermes, and call up unbound
In various shapes old Proteus from the sea,
Drain'd through a limbec to his native form.
What wonder then if fields and regions here
Breathe forth elixir pure, and rivers run
Potable gold, when with one virtuous touch
Th' arch-chimic sun so far from us remote
592 metal] In the first editions medal.?
597 to] Doctor Pearce had an ingenious friend who proposed to read
“Rubie, or Topaz, two o’th’ twelve that shone.' How would the Doctor profess to pronounce his line ?
Fenton reads, or the twelve that shone.' 605 limbec] See Sylvester's Du Bartas, p. 85.
• Fire that in limbec of pure thoughts divine
Doth purge our thoughts.'
Produces with terrestrial humor mix'd
Here in the dark so many precious things
Of colour glorious and effect so rare ?
Here matter new to gaze the devil met
Undazzled; far and wide his eye commands;
For sight no obstacle found here, nor shade,
But all sun-shine; as when his beams at noon
Culminate from th’ Æquator, as they now
Shot upward still direct, whence no way round
Shadow from body opaque can fall; and the air,
No where so clear, sharpen’d his visual ray
To objects distant far, whereby he soon
Saw within ken a glorious angel stand,
The same whom John saw also in the sun :
His back was turn’d, but not his brightness hid;
Of beaming sunny rays, a golden tiar
Circl'd his head, nor less his locks behind
Illustrious on his shoulders fledge with wings
Lay waving round; on some great charge employ'd
He seem'd, or fix'd in cogitation deep.
Glad was the spirit impure, as now in hope
To find who might direct his wand'ring flight
To paradise the happy seat of man,
His journey's end, and our beginning woe.
But first he casts to change his proper shape,
Which else might work him danger or delay :
And now a stripling cherub he appears,
Not of the prime, yet such as in his face
622 ken] See Greene's “Never too late.” “I might see in my ken.'