"Well Hast Thou Fought The Better Fight"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 322

Context: Raphael, in his instruction of Adam, tells how Satan drew away from God a host of angels and proposed to them a revolt in heaven. Of all the millions who heeded his summons, only one, Abdiel, a seraph, refused to show such ingratitude to God as Satan and his cohorts were planning. Abdiel warned them all that God's golden scepter would turn into a rod of iron to bruise and break their disobedience. Milton here emphasizes the devil's disobedience so that he may contrast man's disobedience with it. Abdiel withdrew from the scornful host and made his way across the wide plain of heaven until morning came. There is a cave near the mount of God from which light and darkness issue to produce day and night in heaven, although the heavenly night corresponds to the earthly twilight.

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Abdiel found on the plain the angelic squadrons drawn up for battle and found that the revolt, which he had thought only he knew about, was general knowledge. He was led to the sacred hill through general applause, and before the supreme seat a voice speaks:
Servant of God, well done, well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintained
Against revolted multitudes the cause
Of truth, in word mightier than they in arms;
And for the testimony of truth hast borne
Universal reproach, far worse to bear
Than violence; for this was all thy care
To stand approved in sight of God, though worlds
Judged thee perverse; the easier conquest now
Remains thee, aided by this host of friends,
Back on thy foes more glorious to return
Than scorned thou didst depart, and to subdue
By force, who reason for their law refuse,
Right reason for their law, and for their King
Messiah, who by right of merit reigns.
Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince,
And thou in military prowess next,
Gabriel, lead forth to battle these my sons
Invincible, lead forth my armed saints
By thousands and by millions ranged for fight, . . .

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"Unrespited, Unpitied, Unreprieved"

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