"Awake, Arise, Or Be Forever Fallen!"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 209

Context: Arising from the burning lake in Hell, where he has been plunged by the heavenly host, Satan moves toward the shore, still proud and belligerent. Milton describes him as a great Greek warrior carrying a spear many times the length of the tallest Norwegian pine suitable for a ship's mast. Over Satan's shoulder is slung a ponderous, round shield which seems as large as the moon when it is viewed through Galileo's telescope, which Milton himself probably saw when he visited the astronomer in Italy as a young man. Satan, like one of the great warrior chiefs of the Iliad or the Aeneid, calls on his followers, the defeated angels who rebelled against God, to arise from the fires. The irony in his speech is noteworthy:

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. . . have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror? who now beholds
Cherub and seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern
The advantage, and descending tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linkéd thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf.
Awake, arise, or be forever fallen!

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