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Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue
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 Ris'n, and with hideous outcry rush'd between.
O Father, what intends thy hand, she cry'd, 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, 740
709. Ophiuchus, or Serpentarius, a northern constellation,
What thing ihou art, thus double-form'd, and why
T' whom thus the portress of Hell gate reply'd :
750 In bold conspiracy against Heav'n'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 op'ning wide, 755 Likest to thee in shape and count'nance bright, Then shining beav'nly fair, a Goddess arm'd Out of thy head I sprung; amazement seized All th' host of Heav'n; back they recoil'd, 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 enamour'd, and such joy thou took'st 765 With me in secret, that my womb conceived A growing burthen. Meanwhile war arose, And fields were fought in Heav'n; wherein remain'd (For what could else ?) to our Almighty Foe Clear victory; tu our part loss and rout
770 Through all the empyrean. Down they fell, Driv'n headlong from the pitch of Heav'n, down Into this deep, and in the general fall I also; at which time this powerful key Into my hand was giv'n, with charge to keep 775 These gates for ever shut; wbich none can pass Without my op'ning. 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
758. This is imitated from the mythological fabic of Minerva springing from the head of Jopieri
Thine own begotten, breaking violent way,
785 Forth issued, brandishing his fatal dart, Made to destroy. I fled, and cry'd out DEATH; Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sigh'd 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 dismay'd, And in embraces forcible and foul Ingend'ring with me, of that rape begot These yelling monsters, that with ceaseless cry 795 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 805 For want of other prey, but that he knows His end with mine involved; and knows that I Should prove a bitter morsel, and his bane, Whenever that shall be. So Fate pronounced. But thou, O Father, I forewarn thee, shun 810 His deadly arrow; neither vainly hope To be invulnerable in those bright arms, Though temper'd heav'nly, for that mortal dint, Save He who reigns above, none can resist.
She finisb'd, and the subtle Fiend his lore 815 Soon learn’d, now milder, and thus answer'd 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 Heav'n, and joys Then sweet, now sad to mention, through dire change Befall'n us unforeseen, anthought of; know 821 I come no enemy, but to set free From out this dark and dismal house of pain
789. See Virgil, Æn. ii. 53.
Both him and thee, and all the heav'nly host
He ceased, for both seem'd highlypleased; and Death
850 And by command of Heav'n's all-pow'rful 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’ermatch'd by living might. 855 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 Heav'n, and heav'nly born, 860 Here in perpetual agony and pain, With terrors and with clamours compass'd round Of mine own brood, that on my bowels feed?
842. Buxom; not as Newton would interpret it, flexible or yielding, but cheerful or inspiring cheerfulness by the odours and music with which it is filled.
Thou art my father, thou my author, thou
Thus saying, from her side the fatal key,
massy iron or solid rock with ease Unfastens. On a sudden open fly With impetuous recoil and jarring sound 880 Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grate Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook Of Erebus. She open'd; but to shut Excell'd her pow'r: the gates wide open stood, That with extended wings a banner'd host 885 Under spread ensigns marching might pass through With horse and chariots rank'd in loose array; So wide they stood, and like a furnace mouth Cast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame. Before their eyes in sudden view appear The secrets of the hoary deep, a dark Illimitable ocean, without bound, Without dimension,where length,breadth,and highth, And time, and place, are lost; where eldest Night And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
895 Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise Of endless wars, and by confusion stand. For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four champions fierce Strive here for mast'ry, and tc battle bring Their embryon atoms; they around the flag 900 Of each his faction, in their sev'ral clans, Light-arm’d or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow, Swarm populous, unnumber'd as the sands Of Barca or Cyrene's torrid soil, Levy'd to side with warring winds, and poise 905 904. Barca and Cyrene were a city and province of Lybia.