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All circumspection; and we now no less
Choice in our suffrage; for on whom we send, 415
The weight of all, and our last hope, relies.

This said he sat; and expectation held
His look suspense, awaiting who appear'd
To second, or oppose, or undertake
The perilous attempt: but all sat mute,

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Pondering the danger with deep thought; and each
In other's countenance read his own dismay,
Astonish’d: None among the choice and prime
Of those heaven-warring champions could be found
So hardy as to proffer or accept,

425 Alone, the dreadful voyage; till at last Satan, whom now transcendent glory raised Above his fellows, with monarchal pride, Conscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake:

O Progeny of Heaven, empyreal Thrones! 430 With reason hath deep silence and demur Seized us, though undismay’d: Long is the way And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light; Our prison strong; this huge convex of fire, Outrageous to devour, immures us round 435 Ninefold; and gates of burning adamant, Barr'd over us, prohibit all egress. These pass’d, if any pass, the void profound Of unessential Night receives him next Wide gaping, and with utter loss of being 440 Threatens him, plunged in that abortive gulf. If thence he scape into whatever world, Or unknown region, what remains him less Than unknown dangers and as hard escape? But I should ill become this throne, O Peers, 445 And this imperial sov’reignty, adorn'd With splendor, arm'd with power, if aught proposed And judged of public moment, in the shape Of difficulty or danger could deter

Me from attempting. Wherefore do I assume 450
These royalties, and not refuse to reign,
Refusing to accept as great a share
Of hazard as of honor, due alike
To him who reigns, and so much to him due
Of hazard more, as he above the rest

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High honor'd sits? Go, therefore, mighty Powers,
Terror of Heaven, though fallen! intend at home,
While here shall be our home, what best may ease
The present misery, and render Hell
More tolerable; if there be cure or charm

460 To respite, or deceive, or slack the pain Of this ill mansion: intermit no watch Against a wakeful Foe, while I abroad Through all the coasts of dark destruction seek Deliverance for us all: This enterprise

465 None shall partake with me. Thus saying rose The Monarch, and prevented all reply; Prudent, lest, from his resolution raised, Others among the chief might offer now (Certain to be refused) what erst they fear'd; 470 And, so refused, might in opinion stand His rivals; winning cheap the high repute Which he through hazard huge must earn. But they Dreaded not more the adventure than his voice Forbidding; and at once with him they rose:

475 Their rising all at once was as the sound Of thunder heard remote. Towards him they bend "With awful reverence prone; and as a God Extol him equal to the Highest in Heaven: Nor fail'd they to express how much they praised, 480 That for the general safety he despised His own: For neither do the Spirits damn'd Lose all their virtue; lest bad men should boast Their specious deeds on earth, which glory excites Or close ambition, varnish'd o'er with zeal. 485

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Thus they their doubtful consultations dark
Ended, rejoicing in their matchless Chief:
As when from mountain tops the dusky clouds
Ascending, while the north wind sleeps, o’erspread
Heaven's cheerful face, the lowering element 490
Scowls o’er the darken'd landscape snow or shower;
If chance the radiant sun with farewell sweet
Extend his evening beam, the fields revive,
The birds their notes renew, and bleating herds
Attest their joy, that hill and valley ring.

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O shame to men! Devil with Devil damn'd
Firm concord holds; men only disagree
Of creatures rational, though under hope
Of heavenly grace: and, God proclaiming peace,
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife

500 Among themselves, and levy cruel wars, Wasting the earth, each other to destroy: As if (which might induce us to accord) Man had not hellish foes enow besides, That, day and night, for his destruction wait.

505 The Stygian council thus dissolved; and forth In order came the grand infernal Peers: Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seem'd Alone the Antagonist of Heaven, nor less Than Hell's dread Emperor, with promp supreme 510 And Godlike imitated state: him round A globe of fiery Seraphim enclosed With bright emblasonry and horrent arms. Then of their session ended they bid cry With trumpets' regal sound the great result: 515 Toward the four winds four speedy Cherubim Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy, By herald's voice explain’d; the hollow abyss Heard far and wide, and all the host of Hell With deafening shout return'd them loud acclaim. 520 Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat raised

By false presumptuous hope, the ranged Powers
Disband; and, wandering, each his several way
Pursues, as inclination or sad choice
Leads him perplex'd, where he may likeliest find 525
Truce to his restless thoughts, and entertain
The irksome hours till his great Chief return.
Part on the plain, or in the air sublime,
Upon the wing, or in swift race contend,
As at the Olympian games or Pythian fields; 530
Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal
With rapid wheels, or fronted brigades form.
As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
Waged in the troubled sky, and armies rush
To battle in the clouds, before each van

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Prick forth the aery knights, and couch their spears
Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms
From either end of Heaven the welkin burns.
Others, with vast Typhæan rage more fell,
Rend

up

both rocks and hills, and ride the air 540 In whirlwind; Hell scarce holds the wild uproar. As when Alcides, from Echalia crown'd With conquest, felt the envenom'd robe, and tore Through pain up by the roots Thessalian pines; And Lichas from the top of Eta threw

545 Into the Euboic sea. Others more mild, Retreated in a silent valley, sing With notes angelical to many a harp Their own heroic deeds and hapless fall By doom of battle; and complain that fate 550 Free virtue should enthral to force or chance. Their song was partial; but the harmony (What could it less when spirits immortal sing?) Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet (For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense,) 556 Others apart sat on a hill retired,

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In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;
Fix'd fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute;
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame;
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!
Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm the obdured breast
With stubborn patience, as with triple steel.
Another part, in squadrons and gross bands,
On bold adventure to discover wide
That dismal world, if any

clime perhaps
Might yield them easier habitation, bend
Four ways their flying march, along the banks
Of four infernal rivers that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams;
Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;
Sad Acheron, of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, named of lamentation loud
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from these, a slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.
Beyond this flood a frozen continent
Lies dark and wild, beat with perpetual storms
Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seems
Of ancient pile; or else deep snow and ice,
A gulf profound, as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casius old,

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