Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 146-151 - Explanation

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Line. 146-151: Sad cure.....and motion.

      Belial giving his counsel in Hell's conclave refutes the arguments of Moloch who had expressed his opinion in favour of open war. He grants the reckless daring and the intrepid courage of his rival, but is his plan after all feasible? Moloch had said that they should not allow their fear of a second defeat and a worse punishment to follow to deter them from making a further invasion. He had envisaged the possibility of their being annihilated completely, if they should fail in this attempt, and he had commended it as preferable to their present suffering. But Belial refuses to recognise this as a consummation devoutly to be wished for. His whole being, which is in love with ease and pleasure, revolts at the thought that they could cease to be. He therefore expresses himself ironically in these words.

      Moloch has expressed great satisfaction with the thought that they might be completely annihilated by God as a result of their second insurrection against him. But their Belial refuses to be gratified by it It is indeed a pitiable end to them, the most highly gifted of creatures, the highest in the scale of creation, that. they should lose all our intelligence and physical being and become merged in the great void of Night.

      It appears rather inconsistent with the Character that Belial should be so much aware of the extraordinary intelligence that God has gifted his angels with, but it should be remembered that Belial is here indulging in one of his specious arguments, and the note of tender pathos and regret is intended to strike his audience with an abhorrence for Moloch's plea. He has heard the argument that they are highest in the scale of creation and he makes capital use of it here for his own purpose; there is no question of conviction at all in whatever he argues. At the same time this speech shows his unbelief in the doctrine of the imperishability of angels, whether good or bad, because of the divine substance with which they have been made.

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