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Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while, or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm the obdured breast
With stubborn patience, as with triple steel.
Another part, in squadrons and gross 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 disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams:
Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;
Sad Acheron, of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, named of lamentation loud

Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage
Far off from these, a slow and silent stream.
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls

Her watery 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 storms
Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
Thaws not but gathers heap, and ruin seems
Of ancient pile; or else deep snow and ice,
A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casius old,

Where armies whole have sunk. The parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire
Thither, by harpy-footed furies haled,

At certain revolutions, all the damned

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

Immovable, infixed, 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,

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
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,
With shuddering horror pale, and eyes aghast,
Viewed first their lamentable lot, and found

No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale
They passed, and many a region dolorous,

O'er many a frozen, many a fiery Alp,

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,

Abominable, unutterable, and worse

Than fables yet have feigned, or fear conceived,
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.

Meanwhile the adversary of God and man,
Satan, with thoughts inflamed of highest design,
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 in the clouds, by equinoxial winds

Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles

Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs; they on the trading flood,
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,

Ply stemming nightly toward the pole: so seemed
Far off the flying fiend. At last appear
Hell-bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,

And thrice threefold the gates. Threefolds were brass,
Three iron, three of adamantine rock
Impenetrable, impaled with circling fire,

Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat
On either side a formidable shape;

The one seemed woman to the waist, and fair;
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast, a serpent armed

With mortal sting. About her middle round
A cry of hell-hounds never-ceasing barked,
With wide Cerberian mouths, full loud, and rung
A hideous peal. Yet when they list, would creep,
If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there; yet there still barked and howled
Within, unseen. Far less abhorred than these
Vexed Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore.
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, called
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lured with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the laboring moon
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape,

If shape it might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,

Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,
For each seemed either-black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,

And shook a dreadful dart; what seemed 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 feared. God and His Son except,
Created thing nought valued he, nor shunned;
And with disdainful look thus first began:

Whence, and what art thou, execrable shape!
That darest, 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 asked of thee.
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,

Drew after him the third part of Heaven's sons
Conjured against the Highest; for which both thou
And they, outcast from God, are here condemned
To waste eternal days in woe and pain?
And reckonest thou thyself with Spirits of Heaven,
Hell-doomed, and breathest 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,
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 grizzly Terror, and in shape,
So speaking and so threatening, grew tenfold
More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burned,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge

In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Leveled his deadly aim; their fatal hands

No second stroke intend; and such a frown
Each cast at the other, as when two black clouds,
With Heaven's artillery fraught, come rattling on
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 frowned the mighty combatants, that Hell
Grew darker at their frown; so matched 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,
Risen, and with hideous outcry rushed between.
O father! what intends thy hands, 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
At thee ordained 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
Forbore; then these to her Satan returned:

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 formed, 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.

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