Blake continues – 3

Satan and Beelzebub – from the first book of John Milton’s Paradise Lost – illustration by Gustave Doré

AG: So Milton’s Paradise Lost is an account of the fall of man. Well, the revolt in heaven – Satan revolting in heaven, falling into hell with all of his counselors and assistant  demons – Beelzebub, Moloch, Lucifer, Mammon.  And so in the second chapter, after the great chaotic fall, there’s a council, just like King Louis’s council, with all the counselors around and here we have the Miltonic version of the Satanic counsel in Hell, with everybody contributing their advice – how do we deal with this problem?  Shall we fight God or not?  Just like here, in “The French Revolution” – shall we fight the people, or not?, or shall we fight Lafayette?  And in Milton, Book II (of Paradise Lost), it’s how are we going to organize to get our revenge on God, or what should we do about it?

And, prior to this speech, Mammon had spoken. And Mammon’s last line was.. Well,   Mammon wanted to compromise, actually.  Mammon, (or) money, wanted to compromise – “…All things invite/ To peaceful counsels, and the settled state/Of order….” (That might be like Necker‘s speech later on.  Necker, the Finance Minster. Blake might actually have taken that off of Mammon, because Mammon is saying, “Let’s compromise”, as Necker did).

“…All things invite/To peaceful counsels, and the settled state/Of order, how in safety best we may/ Compose our present evils, with regard/ All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise./ He scarce had finished, when such murmur filled/ Th’ assembly, as when hollow rocks retain/ The sound of blustering winds, which all night long/ Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull/ Seafaring men o’erwatched, whose bark by chance,/ Or pinnance, anchors in a craggy bay/ After the tempest: such applause was heard/ As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased,/ Advising peace; for such another field/ They dreaded worse than Hell; so much the fear/ Of thunder and the sword of Michael/ Wrought still within them; and no less desire/ To found this nether empire, which might rise/ By policy, and long process of time,/ In emulation opposite to Heaven./ Which when Beelzebub perceived, than whom,/ Satan except, none higher sat, with grave/ Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed/ A pillar of state; deep on his front engraven/ Deliberation sat and public care;/ And princely counsel in his face yet shone,/ Majestic though in ruin. Sage he stood/ With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear/  The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look/ Drew audience and attention still as night/ Or summer’s noontide air, while thus he spake:/ “Thrones and imperial powers, offspring of Heaven,/ Ethereal virtues; or these titles now/ Must we renounce, and, changing style, be called/ Princes of Hell? For so the popular vote/ Inclines, here to continue, and build up here/ A growing empire – Doubtless! while we dream,/ And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomed/ This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat/ Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt/ From Heaven’s high jurisdiction, in new league/ Banded against his throne, but to remain/ In strictest bondage, though thus far removed,/ Under th’ inevitable curb, reserved/ His captive multitude. For he, be sure,/ In height or depth, still first and last will reign/ Sole King, and of his kingdom lose no part/ By our revolt, but over Hell extend/ His empire, and with iron scepter rule/ Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven./ What sit we then projecting peace and war?/ War hath determined us, and foiled with loss/ Irreparable; terms of peace yet none/ Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given/ To us enslaved, but custody severe,/ And stripes, and arbitrary punishment/ Inflicted? and what peace can we return,/ But, to our power, hostility and hate,/ Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow,/ Yet eer plotting how the Conqueror least/ May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice/ In doing what we most in suffering feel?

So you hear where that sound comes from that Blake has here when Burgundy gets up.  He has his speech and he goes on for several pages.

“…What if we find/Some easier enterprise? There is a place..” – (in Heaven) -“(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven/ Err not), another world, the happy seat/Of some new race called Man…”

“…But first, whom shall we send/In search of this new world? whom shall we find/ Sufficient? who shall tempt with wandering feet/The dark, unbottomed, infinite abyss….” – (That’s pretty good language.  That’s like “brazen war foreheads.“)

So, he concludes – “The weight of all, and our last hope, relies./ This said, he sat; and expectation held/ His look suspense, awaiting who appeared/ To second, or oppose, or undertake/ The perilous attempt; but all sat mute,/ Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and each/ In others’ countenance read his own dismay,/ Astonished. None among the choice and prime/ Of those Heaven-warring champions could be found/ So hardy as to proffer or accept/ Alone the dreadful voyage..” – (Beelzebub was suggesting somebody go out and spy on heaven and take the measure of things and figure out a strategy for a war on heaven) – “…till at last/ Satan, whom now transcendent glory raised/ Above his fellows, with monarchal pride/ Conscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake:/ “O progeny of Heaven….”

And so forth. So that’s where Blake gets this oratory.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning approximately fifteen minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-one-and-a-half minutes in] 

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