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Hell-doomed, and breath’st defiance here and scorn,
So spake the grisly Terror, and in shape,
721 To meet so great a foe. And now great deeds Had been achieved, 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 rushed between.
“O father, what intends thy hand," she cried, Against thy only son ? What fury, O 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 731 At thee, ordained his drudge to execute
Whate'er his wrath, which He calls justice, bids-
She spake, and at her words the hellish Pest
“ So strange thy outcry, and thy words so strange Thou interposest, that my sudden hand, Prevented, spares to tell thee yet by deeds What it intends, till first I know of thee
740 What thing thou art, thus double-formed, and why, In this infernal vale first met, thou call'st Me father, and that phantasm call'st my son. I know thee not, nor ever saw till now Sight more detestable than him and thee."
To whom thus the Portress of Hell-gate replied :“Hast thou forgot me, then ; and do I seem Now in thine eye so foul ?-once deemed so fair In Heaven, when at the assembly, and in sight Of all the Seraphim with thee combined
750 In bold conspiracy against Heaven's King, All on a sudden miserable pain Surprised thee, dim thine eyes, and dizzy swum In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast Threw forth, till on the left side opening wide, Likest to thee in shape, and countenance bright, Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed, Out of thy head I sprung. Amazement seized All the host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign 760 Portentous held me; but, familiar grown, I pleased, and with attractive graces won The most averse—thee chiefly, who, full oft Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing, Becam'st enamoured ; and such joy thou took'st With me in secret that my womb conceived A growing burden.
Meanwhile war arose, And fields were fought in Heaven : wherein remained (For what could else ?) to our Almighty Foe Clear victory; to our part loss and rout
770 Through all the Empyrean. Down they fell, Driven headlong from the pitch of Heaven, down Into this Deep; and in the general fall I also : at which time this powerful key Into my hands was given, with charge to keep These gates for ever shut, which none can pass Without my opening. Pensive here I sat Alone; but long I sat not, till my womb, Pregnant by thee, and now excessive grown, Prodigious motion felt and rueful throes.
780 At last this odious offspring whom thou seest, Thine own begotten, breaking violent way Tore through my entrails, that, with fear and pain Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew Transformed: but he my inbred enemy Forth issued, brandishing his fatal dart, Made to destroy. I fled, and cried out Death ! Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed From all her caves, and back resounded Death ! I fled; but he pursued (though more, it seems, 790 Inflamed with lust than rage), and, swifter far, Me overtook, his mother, all dismayed, And, in embraces forcible and foul Engendering with me, of that rape begot These yelling monsters, that with ceaseless cry Surround me, as thou saw'st-hourly conceived And hourly born, with sorrow infinite To me : for, when they list, into the womb That bred them they return, and howl, and gnaw My bowels, their repast ; then, bursting forth
800 Afresh, with conscious terrors vex me round, That rest or intermission none I find. Before mine eyes in opposition sits Grim Death, my son and foe, who sets them on,
And me, his parent, would full soon devour
She finished ; and the subtle Fiend his lore Soon learned, now milder, and thus answered smooth:
“Dear daughter-since thou claim'st me for thy sire, And my fair son here show'st me, the dear pledge Of dalliance had with thee in Heaven, and joys Then sweet, now sad to mention, through dire change Befallen us unforeseen, unthought-of-know, 821 I come no enemy, but to set free From out this dark and dismal house of pain Both him and thee, and all the Heavenly host Of Spirits that, in our just pretences armed, Fell with us from on high. From them I go This uncouth errand sole, and one for all Myself expose, with lonely steps to tread The unfounded Deep, and through the void immense To search, with wandering quest, a place foretold 830 Should be—and, by concurring signs, ere now Created vast and round,-a place of bliss In the purlieus of Heaven ; and therein placed A race of upstart creatures, to supply Perhaps our vacant room, though more removed, Lest Heaven, surcharged with potent multitude, Might hap to move new broils. Be this, or aught Than this more secret, now designed, I haste To know ; and, this once known, shall soon return, And bring ye to the place where thou and Death 840
Shall dwell at ease, and up and down unseen
Heceased; for both seemed highly pleased, and Death
850 And by command of Heaven's all-powerful King, I keep, by Him forbidden to unlock These adamantine gates ; against all force Death ready stands to interpose his dart, Fearless to be o'ermatched by living might. But what owe I to His commands above, Who hates me, and hath hither thrust me down Into this gloom of Tartarus profound, To sit in hateful office here confined, Inhabitant of Heaven and heavenly-born
860 Here in perpetual agony and pain, With terrors and with clamours compassed round Of mine own brood, that on my bowels feed ? Thou art my father, thou my author, thou My being gav'st me; whom should I obey But thee? whom follow ? Thou wilt bring me soon To that new world of light and bliss, among The gods who live at ease, where I shall reign At thy right hand voluptuous, as beseems Thy daughter and thy darling, without end.”
Thus saying, from her side the fatal key, Sad instrument of all our woe, she took ; And, towards the gate rolling her bestial train, Forthwith the huge portcullis high up-drew, Which, but herself, not all the Stygian Powers Could once have moved ; then in the key-hole turns