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Where armies whole have sunk: The parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire. 595
Thither by harpy-footed furies haled,
At certain revolutions, all the damn'd
Are brought; and feel by turns the bitter change
Of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce,
From beds of raging fire, to starve in ice

Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, infix'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,

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
Puts on swift wings, and towards the gates of 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 on the cloud, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs; they, on the trading flood, 640
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,
Ply stemming nightly toward the pole: so seem'd
Far off the flying Fiend. At last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,
And thrice threefold the gates; three folds were brass,
Three iron, three of adamantine rock

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,
If shape it might be callid 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, 670
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 admired;
Admired, not fear’d; God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he, nor shunn’d;
And with disdainful look thus first began: 680

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
Strange horror seize thee, and pangs unfelt before.

So spake the grisly Terror, and in shape
So speaking and so threatening, grew tenfold 705
More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified; and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair 710
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Leveld his deadly aim; their fatal hands
No second stroke intend; and such a frown
Each cast at th’ other, as when two black clouds,
With Heaven's artillery fraught, come rattling on 715
Over the Caspian; then stand front to front,
Hovering a space, till winds the signal blow
To join their 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

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,
Prevented, spares to tell thee yet by deeds
What it intends; till first I know of thee

What thing thou art, thus double-form'd; 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.

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

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