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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
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
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
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,
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 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,
709. Ophiuchus, or Serpentarius, a northern constellation.
716. The Caspian was noticed for being tempestuous.
722. Jesus Christ is here meant.
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.
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 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 heav'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
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; to our part loss and rout
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
These gates for ever shut; which 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.
At last this odious offspring whom thou seest
758. This is imitated from the mythological fable of Minerva springing from the head of Jupiter.
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 enemy
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,
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
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
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
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 finish'd, and the subtle Fiend his lore 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, unthought of; know 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
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 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,
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.
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,
1 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 cheerfui 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
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.
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
Could once have moved; then in the key-hole turns
Th' intricate wards, and ev'ry bolt and bar
Of massy iron or solid rock with ease
Unfastens. On a sudden open fly
With impetuous recoil and jarring sound
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
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
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 to battle bring
Their embryon atoms; they around the flag
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
904. Barca and Cyrene were a city and province of Lybia. F