"I Know Thee Who Thou Art"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 263

Context: Satan, once the bright angel named Lucifer, has been plunged into Hell after the civil war in Heaven, preciptated by his ambition to rebel against God's authority. Following their fall, Satan and his fellow rebels hold a conclave in Hell to decide what action to take. Some of the fallen angels urge another battle with the heavenly host, to be undertaken with the goal of regaining Heaven; others urge against renewing the combat. A suggestion by Satan is reviewed, a third proposal. It is to search out the world and man, whose creation by God has been prophesied. This course of action is chosen, and Satan himself undertakes the difficult mission. He passes out of Hell to "the hoary deep, a dark/ Illimitable ocean without bound,/ Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height,/ And time and place are lost." Passing through this void, Satan comes to the throne of Chaos, the ruling spirit, who holds court with Night, his consort, and other spirits: Orcus, Ades, Demogorgon, Rumor, Chance, Tumult, Confusion, and Discord. Satan offers to return the newly created universe to its original darkness, if the spirit Chaos will tell him where it is. Chaos replies to Satan:

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. . . him thus the anarch old
With faltering speech and visage incomposed
Answered. "I know thee, stranger, who thou art,
That mighty leading angel, who of late
Made head against heaven's king, though overthrown.
I saw and heard, for such a numerous host
Fled not in silence through the frighted deep
With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
Confusion worse confounded; and heaven gates
Poured out by millions her victorious bands

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