1667 | London

Attack Plans

Moloch calls for an open war on heaven.

High on a throne of royal state which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
To that bad eminence and from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain war with heaven, and by success untaught
His proud imaginations thus displayed:
Powers and dominions, deities of heaven,
For since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigor, though oppressed and fallen,
I give not heaven for lost. From this descent
Celestial virtues rising will appear
More glorious and more dread than from no fall
And trust themselves to fear no second fate.
Me though just right and the fixed laws of heaven
Did first create your leader, next free choice
With what besides in counsel or in fight
Hath been achieved of merit, yet this loss,
Thus far at least recovered, hath much more
Established in a safe unenvied throne
Yielded with full consent. The happier state
In heaven which follows dignity might draw
Envy from each inferior. But who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer’s aim,
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? Where there is then no good
For which to strive no strife can grow up there
From faction. For none sure will claim in hell
Precedence, none whose portion is so small
Of present pain that with ambitious mind
Will covet more! With this advantage then
To union and firm faith and firm accord,
More than can be in heaven, we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper than prosperity
Could have assured us, and by what best way­—
Whether of open war or covert guile—
We now debate. Who can advise may speak.
He ceased, and next him, Moloch, sceptered king
Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair.
His trust was with the eternal to be deemed
Equal in strength and rather than be less
Cared not to be at all. With that care lost
Went all his fear. Of God or hell or worse
He recked not and these words thereafter spake:
“My sentence is for open war: of wiles,
More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
Contrive who need or when they need, not now.
For while they sit contriving shall the rest—
Millions that stand in arms and longing wait
The signal to ascend—sit lingering here
Heaven’s fugitives and for their dwelling place
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
The prison of His tyranny who reigns
By our delay? No! Let us rather choose
Armed with hell flames and fury all at once
Over heaven’s high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the torturer when to meet the noise
Of His almighty engine He shall hear
Infernal thunder and for lightning see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among His angels and His throne itself
Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. But perhaps
The way seems difficult and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe.
Let such bethink them (if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still)
That in our proper motion we ascend
Up to our native seat. Descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting and pursued us through the deep
With what compulsion and laborious flight
We sunk thus low? The ascent is easy then.
The event is feared? Should we again provoke
Our stronger some worse way His wrath may find
To our destruction—if there be in hell
Fear to be worse destroyed! What can be worse
Than to dwell here driven out from bliss, condemned
In this abhorred deep to utter woe
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end,
The vassals of His anger, when the scourge
Inexorably and the torturing hour
Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus
We should be quite abolished and expire.
What fear we then? What doubt we to incense
His utmost ire which to the heighth enraged
Will either quite consume us and reduce
To nothing this essential, happier far
Than, miserable, to have eternal being?
Or if our substance be indeed divine
And cannot cease to be we are at worst
On this side nothing and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb His heaven
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, His fatal throne,
Which if not victory is yet revenge.”


John Milton

From Paradise Lost. The fallen angels hold this conference at “the high capital of Satan and his peers” or pandemonium, a term that Milton coined for the occasion. Born in 1608, three years before the publication of the King James Bible, Milton grew up in a house on the same London street as the Mermaid Tavern, where Ben Jonson liked to drink. Milton wrote his tracts “The Reason of Church Government” in 1642 and “Areopagitica” in 1644, and he became secretary for foreign tongues for the Commonwealth in 1649.