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From beds of raging fire, to starve in ice
Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, intix’d, and frozen round,
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.
They ferry over this Lethean sound
Both to and fro, their sorrow to augment,
And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach
The tempting stream, with one small drop to lose
In sweet forgetfulness all pain and woé,
All in one moment, and so near the brink;
But fate withstands, and to oppose the attempt
Medusa with Gorgonian terrour guards
The ford, and of itself the water flies
All taste of living wight, as once it fled
The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on
In confus'd march forlorn, the adventurous bands
With shuddering horrour pale, and eyes aghast,
View'd first their lamentable lot, and found
No rest: Through many a dark and dreary vale
They pass'd, and many a region dolorous,
O’er many a frozen, many a fiery Alp,
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of
A universe of death ; which God by curse
Created evil, for evil only good,
Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds,
Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,
Abominable, inutterable, and worse
$300.550 Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceiv'd, Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.
Mean while, the Adversary of God and Man, Satan, with thoughts inflam'd of highest design, Puts on swift wings, and towards the gates Hell Explores his solitary flight: sometimes He scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left; Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soars Up to the fiery concave towering high. As when far off at sea a fleet descried Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds Close falling from Bengala, or the isles Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring Their spicy drugs, they, on the trading flood, Through the wide Ethiopian to the cape, Ply stemming nighly toward the pole : so seem'd Far off the flying Fiend. At last appear Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof, And thrice three-fold the gates; three folds were brass, Three iron, three of adamantine rock Impenetrable, impaľd with circling fire, Yet unconsum’d. Before the gates there sat On either side a formidable shape; The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair; But ended foul in many a scaly fold Voluminous and vast; a serpent arm’d With mortal sting: about her middle round A cry of hell-hounds never-ceasing bark'd
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep,
If aught disturb their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there; yet there still bark'd and howl'd,
Within unseen. Far less abhorr'd than these
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore :
Nor uglier follow the night hag, when, call's
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none,
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem’d,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat
The monster moving onward came as fast
With horrid strides; Hell trembled as he strode.
The undaunted Fiend what this might be admir’d,
Admir'd, not fear'd; God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he, nor shunn'd;
And with disdainful look thus first began.
Whence and what art thou, execrable shape!
That dar’st, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy miscreated front athwart my way
To yonder gates? through them I mean to pass,
That be assur’d, without leave ask'd of thee:
Retire, or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born! not to contend with Spirits of Heaven.
To whom the Goblin full of wrath replied.
Art thou that Traitor-Angel, art thou He,
Who first broke peace in Heaven, and faith, till then
Unbroken; and in proud rebellious arms
Drew after him the third part of Heaven's sons
Conjùr'd against the Highest; for which both thou
And they, outcast from God, are here condemn'd
To waste eternal days in woe and pain?
And reckon’st thou thyself with Spirits of Heaven,
Hell-doom'd! and breath'st defiance here and scorn,
Where I reign king, and, to enrage thee more,
Thy king and lord ? Back to thy punishment,
False fugitive! and to thy speed add wings,
Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue
Thy lingering, or with one stroke of this dart
Strange horrour seise thee, and pangs unfelt before.
So spake the grisly Terrour, and in shape,
So speaking and so threatening, grew ten-fold
More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incens'd with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctick sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Levell’d his deadly aim; their fatal hands
No second stroke intend; and such a frown
Each cast at the other, as when two black clouds,
With Heaven's artillery fraught, came rattling on
Over the Caspian, then stand front to front,
Hovering a space, till winds the signal blow
To join the dark encounter in mid air:
So frown'd the mighty combatants, that Hell
Grew darker at their frown; so match'd they stood;
For never but once more was either like
To meet so great a foe: and now great deeds
Had been achiev'd, whereof all Hell had rung,
Had not the snaky Sorceress, that sat
Fast by Hell-gate, and kept the fatal key,
Risen, and with hideous outcry rush'd between.
O Father, what intends thy hand, she cried,
Against thy only son? What fury, 0 Son!
Possesses thee to bend that mortal dart
Against thy Father's head ? and know'st for whom;
For him who sits above and laughs the while
At thee, ordain'd his drudge, to execute
Whate'er his wrath, which he calls justice, bids;
His wrath, which one day will destroy ye both.
She spake, and at her words the hellish Pest Forbore; then these to her Satan return'd.
So strange thy outcry, and thy words so strange Thou interposest, that my sudden hand,