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Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue
Thy ling'ring, 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 threat'ning, grew tenfold 705
More dreadful and deform. On th' other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrify'd, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In th' arctic sky, and from his horrid hair 710
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Levell’d 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 Heav'n's artill’ry fraught, come rattling on 715
Over the Caspian; then stand front to front
Hov'ring 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 mateh'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 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,
716. The Caspian was noticed for being tempestuous.
722. Jesus Christ is here meant.

What thing ihou 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. 743

T' whom thus the portress of Hell gate reply'd :
Hast thou forgot me then, and do I seem
Now in thine eyes so foul ? once deem'd so fair
In Heav'n, when at th' assembly, and in sight
Of all the Seraphim with thee combined

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,
Tore through my entrails, that with fear and pain
Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew
Transform'd: but he my inbred


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
Of Spirits, that in our just pretences arm'd 826
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
Th' unfounded deep, and through the void immense
To search with wand'ring 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 Heav'n, and therein placed
A race of upstart creatures to supply
Perhaps our vacant room, though more removed, 835
Lest Heav'n surcharged with potent multitude
Might hap to move new broils : Be this or aught
Than this more secret now design'd, 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
Wing silently the buxom air, embalm'd
With odours : there ye shall be fed and fill'd
Immeasurably, all things shall be your prey.

He ceased, for both seem'd highlypleased; and Death
Grinn'd horrible a ghastly smile, to hear 845
His famine should be fill’d, and blest his maw .
Destined to that good hour: no less rejoiced
His mother bad, and thus bespake her sire:
The key of this infernal pit by due,

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
My being gav'st me; whom should I obey 865
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. 870

Thus saying, from her side the fatal key,
Sad instrument of all our woe, she took ;
And tow'rds the gate rolling her bestial train,
Forthwith the huge portcullis high up-drew,
Which but herself, not all the Stygian pow'rs 875
Could once have moved; then in the key-hole turns
Th' intricate wards, and ev'ry bolt and bar

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.



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