Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Ascent of Hell

Painting by John Martin.
With the declaration of open defiance against God, the Fallen Angels lamented in their new, infernal home. Frenzied with anger, Satan and his kin raise a vast palace in the fiery torrents of Hell, a new city to house those liberated from the tyranny of Heaven - Pandaemonium. Built as a temple to the ancient gods of old, crowned in gold and rivalled not by great Babylon at its height, the palace was a worthy monument to the towering ambitions of those that dwelled inside.

Satan rallies the Fallen Angels
Painting by William Blake.
A ringing blast sounded upon the trumpets of the Fallen crowd, as the Infernal Court is summoned. In their tens, in their hundreds, in their thousands, in their millions the invigored legions rally, and the mightiest of the fell Seraphim and Lords of the Cherubim take up position in the Halls of Hell, ready to seek counsel from their dark master. " High on a throne of royal state, Satan exalted sat, by merit raised ", still shocked by his unenviable fate. But fully one third of Heaven's host and followed him in his rebellion, and now they looked to their dread commander. " I give not Heav'n for lost ", the Morning Star rages. Though their sulphurous prison is a grim abode, at least they escape the unbearable weight of oppression in Heaven down here in the dank depths of Tartarus. Peace with Heaven is a crime to Him, torn is he between principle and the thought of the light. Rising before his dark council, Satan puts forth the motion, should they once again march in open war, and try one last time to remove God himself from the throne of Heaven? Or should cunning and guile take the place of force, if they are to prevail? To do nothing would be no better than to groan under the weight of Heaven, but to act rashly could make their fate more miserable still. What was to be done?

Just then Moloch, exalted among the Fallen Angels for his prowess in the War (for more on this, please click here), rose to his feet and raised his sceptered hand. Strongest among the gathered spirits, and fiercer still through despair, he urges the gathered storm to march upon Heaven at once, to tear down the angelic host:

                           " Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,

                             This prison of His tyranny who reigns,

                             By our delay? No let us rather choose,
                             Armed with Hell's flames and fury all at once... "
                                                                  - MOLOCH URGES FOR WAR

All eyes look round, as Belial, blessed with grace and dignified bearing, rises to counter. Glorious it would most surely be, should they by force of arms seize back the lost paradise. But what if they fail. The same breath which kindled the fire in Hell could blast them sevenfold. Better to accept their lot, " This horror will grow mild, this darkness light ", eventually, they will forget what it was to be in Heaven, and Hell will be their Heaven. Then out spake Mammon, Prince of Avarice, rallying to Belial's side. The Omnipotent is too powerful to cast out by force, and to bow before God for eternity is a fate worse than any flame of Hell. Best, it would be, to look to their own realm now. Raise Hell to greatness with their strife, make it conspicuous for its liberty and sweetness, and all other angels will see who was truly right.

Satan vows to discover the realm of Men
Engraving by Gustave Doré.
Then up rose Beelzebub, a being no spirit sat higher than, save the Apostate Himself. Mighty once in Heaven, now Prince in Hell, Beelzebub turned to his brothers, who gazed on in awe and rapt attention. The King of Heaven will never stop, he says, not until he rules with his iron sceptre over the deepest corners of Hell. The poison of God must be drawn from earthly wounds wherever it be found, no matter the cost. God decreed this to be their dungeon, but it will now be so much more.

Beelzebub suddenly remembers an old prophecy he once heard as a high angel of Heaven. Yes, there was another way they could weaken God's power, an alternative to outright war. Emboldened, the Prince of Hell speaks forth:

                   "  There is a place

                      If ancient and prophetic fame in Heav'n err not,

                      Another world, the happy seat,

                      Of some new race called Man, about this time

                      To be created like to us, though less

                      In power and excellence, but favoured more

                      Of him who rules above... "

                                                   - BEELZEBUB SPEAKS OF THE COMING OF MAN

The dark angel moves that they seek out this world, this Earth, and discover the nature of these Men. Their power, their weakness, whether by force or subtetly they can be corrupted, these things they should discover. The Gates of Heaven are shut, but let them be so, they can wound God more deeply than any blade without setting foot on the Mount of Heaven. They shall control men as though their own through their wicked ways:

                     " Seduce them to our party, that their God

                       May prove their foe, and with repenting hand

                       Abolish his own works! "

                                                - THE FALLEN ANGELS DEVISE THE RUIN OF MAN

Satan begins the ascent from Hell
Engraving by Gustave Doré.
God will be forced to hurl his own creation headlong into Hell. It would be the ultimate revenge. But who to send on this dangerous enterprise? Who will brave the perilous journey, to break out of the confines of Hell and seek out the land of men? Who will walk the path above the endless abyss? Whoever it may be their last hope lies with him. Beelzebub takes his seat once more, as a deathly silence plays out in the Palace of Hell. Of all the warring champions which marched on God, none may be seen with the courage to undertake this dark voyage. None among the despairing and furious host. None it seems, but one. Rising in his transcendant majesty, Satan himself stands alone:


                              " I should ill become this throne, O Peers,

                                And this imperial sov'reignty, adorned,

                               With splendour, armed with power, if aught proposed

                               And judged of public moment, in the shape

                               Of difficulty or danger could deter

                               Me from attempting... "

                                                         - SATAN ACCEPTS HIS DARK MISSION

God himself may always act through others, the Morning Star rages, may bend others to his will, but He will not bind them to slavery. He will go himself to the realm of Men. Wronged above all others by the King of Heaven, so now he will turn God's beloved creation against him. The gathered Seraphim look on in reverence, bowing before Satan, praising him as a god, worthy of the Throne of Heaven itself. While he is gone, he commands, they are to tighten their control over Hell, and begin the transformation of their fiery inferno into a new Heaven. It is with great, thunderous cheers and merry song that the embattled angels of Hell see off their dark master, who begins the long and arduous journey from the Lake of Fire to the Garden of Eden...

United Kingdom

Penguin Classics:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

United States

Penguin Classics:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)