"Hope Against Hope"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Suggested by an allusion in Paradise Lost to the translation of Enoch, "The World Before the Flood" relates at length the poet's vision of the world from the Creation to the Deluge. Montgomery, in the preface, says that it was his design to present a "similitude of events, that might be imagined to have happened in the first age of the world, in which such Scripture-characters as are introduced would probably have acted and spoken as they are here made to act and speak. The story is told as a parable only; and its value, in this view, must be determined by its moral, or rather by its religious, influence on the mind and heart." In Canto V, the sons of the patriarchs gather around the burying-place of their elders to offer sacrifice on the anniversary of the Fall of Adam. Enos, Canaan, Jared, Methusaleh, Lamech, and Seth stand with bowed heads while Enoch slays the lamb and invokes the divine fire of acceptance from Heaven. When the people murmur in fear as no fire appears, Enoch says:

Men, brethren, fathers! wherefore do you fear?
Hath God departed from us?–God is here;
Present in every heart, with sovereign power,
He tries, he proves his people in this hour;
Hope against hope, and ask till ye receive.