Page images

The thronging audience. In difcourse more sweet (For Eloquence the foul, fong charms the sense,) Others apart fat on a hill retir'd,

In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
Fixt fate, free will, foreknowledge abfolute,
And found no end, in wandring mazes lost,
Of good and evil much they argu'd then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Paffion and apathie, and glory and shame,
Vain wisdom all, and false philofophy :
Yet with a pleasing forcerie could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm th'obdured breast
With ftubborn patience as with triple steel,
Another part in squadrons and grofs bands,
On bold adventure to discover wide
That dismal world, if any clime perhaps
Might yield them easier habitation, bend
Four ways their flying march, along the banks
Of four infernal rivers that difgorge

Into the burning lake their baleful streams;
Abhorred Styx the flood of deadly hate,
Sad Acheron of forrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, nam'd of lamentation loud
Heard on the rueful ftream; fierce Phlegeton
Whofe waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from thefe a flow and filent ftream,
Lethe the river of oblivion rowls

Her watry labyrinth, whereof who drinks,
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,

Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.
Beyond this flood a frozen continent

Lies dark and wild, beat with perpetual ftorms
Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin feems
Of ancient pile; all elfe deep fnow and ice,
A gulph profound as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Cafus old,

Where armies whole have funk: the parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire.
Thither by harpy footed furies hail'd,

At certain revolutions all the damn'd

Are brought and feel by turns the bitter change
Of fierce extreams, extreams by change more fierce,
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice

Their foft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, infixt, and frozen round,
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.
They ferry over this Lethean found

Both to and fro, their forrow to augment,
And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach
The tempting stream, with one small drop to lose
In fweet forgetfulness all pain and woe,

All in one moment, and so near the brink;
But fate withstands, and to oppose th'attempt
Medufa with Gorgonian terror guards

The foord, and of itself the water flies
All tafte of living wight, as once it fled
The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on
In confus'd march forlorn, th'adventrous bands
With fhuddring horror pale, and eyes agast

New'd firft their lamentable lot, and found
To reft: through many a dark and drearie vale
They pafs'd, and many a region dolorous,

Ore many a frozen, many a fierie Alpe,

Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death, A univerfe of death, which God by curfe

Created evil, for evil only good,

Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds
Perverse, all monftrous, all prodigious things,
Abominable, inutterable, and worse

Then fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceiv'd,
Gorgions and Hydra's, and Chimeras dire.

Mean while the adversary of God and man,
Satan with thoughts inflam'd of highest design,
Puts on swift wings, and towards the gates of hell
Explores his folitary flight; fometimes

He fcours the right hand coast, sometimes the left,
Now fhaves with level wing the deep, then foares
Up to the fiery concave towring high.

As when far off at fea a fleet defcri'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Clofe failing from Bengala, or the isles

Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their fpicie drugs: they on the trading flood
Through the wide Ethiopian to the cape

Ply ftemming nightly toward the pole. So feem'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,
Impenetrable, impal'd with circling fire

Yet unconfum'd. Before the gates there fat
On either fide a formidable shape;

The one feem'd woman to the waste, and fair
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous, and vaft, a serpent arm'd
With mortal fting: about her middle round
A cry of hell-hounds never ceafing bark'd

With wide Cerberian mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal: yet, when they lift, 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 lefs abhor'd than these
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the fea that parts
Calabria from the hoarfe Trinacrian fhore:
Nor uglier follow the night hag, when call'd
In fecret, riding through the air fhe comes
Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon
Eclipfes at their charms. The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,
Of fubftance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each feem'd either; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,

And fhook a dreadful dart; what feem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.

Satan was now at hand, and from his feat
The monster moving onward came as fast
With horrid ftrides, hell trembl'd as he strode.
Th'undaunted fiend what this might be admir'd,
Admir'd, not fear'd; God and his Son except,

Created thing naught välu'd he nor fhun'd;
And with disdainful look thus first began.

Whence and what art thou, execrable shape,
That dar'ft, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy mifcreated front athwart my way

To yonder gates? through them I mean to pass,'
That be affur'd, without leave afkt of thee:
Retire, or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with spirits of heav'n.
To whom the goblin full of wrath reply'd,
Art thou that traitor angel, art thou he,

Who first broke peace in heav'n and faith, till then
Unbrok❜n, and in proud rebellious arms

Drew after him the third part of heav'n's fons
Conjur'd against the highest, for which both thou
And they outcaft from God, are here condemn'd
To wafte eternal days in woe and pain?
And reck'n'ft thou thyfelf with spirits of heav'n,
Hell-doom'd, and breath'ft defiance here and scorn
Where I reign king, and to enrage thee more,
Thy king and lord? back to thy punishment,
Falfe fugitive, and to thy speed add wings,
Least with a whip of scorpions I pursue
Thy lingring, or with one stroke of this dart
Strange horror feife thee, and pangs unfelt before.
So fpake the griefly terrour, and in shape,
So fpeaking, and fo threatning, grew tenfold
More dreadful and deform: on th'other fide
Incenft with indignation Satan ftood
Unterrify'd, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge


« PreviousContinue »