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Where armies whole have sunk: The parching air
605 And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach The tempting stream, with one small drop to lose In sweet forgetfulness all pain and woe, All in one moment, and so near the brink; But fate withstands, and to oppose the attempt
610 Medusa with Gorgonian terror 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 confused march forlorn, the adventurous bands, 615 With shuddering horror 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,
620 Rocks, caves, lakes, fens,bogs, dens,and shades of death, 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, 625 Abominable, inutterable, and worse Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceived, Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.
Meanwhile the adversary of God and Man,
Satan, with thoughts inflamed of highest design, 630
646 Impenetrable, impaled with circling fire, Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat, On either side a formidable shape: The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair; 650 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 Hellhounds never ceasing bark'd With wide Cerberian mouths full loud, and rung
655 A hideous peal; yet when they list, would creep, If aught disturb’d 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
660 Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore; Nor uglier follow the night hag, when, call’d In secret, riding through the air she comes Lured with the smell of infant blood, to dance With Lapland witches, while the laboring moon 665
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape,
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 assured, without leave ask'd of thee: 685 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
691 Drew after him the third part of Heaven's sons Conjured against the Highest; for which both thon And they, outcast from God, are here condemn'd To waste eternal days in woe and pain?
695 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;
700 Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue
Thy lingering, or with one stroke of this dart
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, 725 Risen, and with hideous outcry rush'd 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 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 735 Forbore; then these to her Satan return'd:
So strange thy outcry, and thy words so strange
Thou interposest, that my sudden hand,
745 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 deem'd 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 swam In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast Threw forth; till, on the left side opening wide, 755 Likest to thee in shape and countenance bright Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess arm’d, Out of thy head I sprang; Amazement seized All the host of Heaven; back they recoild, afraid At first, and call'd 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 enamor'd; and such joy thou took'st 765 With me in secret that my womb conceived A growing burden. Meanwhile war arose, And fields were fought in Heaven; wherein remain'd (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