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Their lighter wings. To whom these most adhere,
He rules a moment; Chaos umpire sits,
And by decision more imbroils the fray
By which he reigns: next him high arbiter
Chance governs all. Into this wild abyss,
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mix'd
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th' almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds:
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell, and look'd a while,
Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith
He had to cross. Nor was his ear less peal'd
With noises loud and ruinous, (to compare
Great things with small,) than when Bellona storms,
With all her battering engines bent to rase
Some capital city; or less than if this frame
Of heaven were falling, and these elements
In mutiny had from her axle torn
The stedfast earth. At last his sail-broad vans
He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoke
Uplifted spurns the ground; thence many a league
As in a cloudy chair ascending rides
Audacious; but, that seat soon failing, meets
927 sail-broad] See Maximi Tyrii Diss. vol. i. p. 214, ed. Reiske. Tεiváσαι Tàs πTεgúɣas one loria. And Lucret. vi. 743. 'Pennarum vela remittunt.' Or consult Wakefield's note. See Milton's Prose Works, i. 148: ed. Symmons.
A vast vacuity: all unawares
Flutt'ring his pennons vain plumb down he drops
Ten thousand fathom deep, and to this hour
Down had been falling, had not by ill chance
The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud
Instinct with fire and nitre hurried him
As many miles aloft: that fury stay'd,
Quench'd in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea,
Nor good dry land: nigh founder'd on he fares, 940
Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,
Half flying; behoves him now both oar and sail.
As when a gryfon through the wilderness
With winged course o'er hill or moory dale
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth
Had from his wakeful custody purloin'd
The guarded gold: so eagerly the fiend
O'er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or
936 rebuff] Compare Statii Theb. vii. 35.
Atque illum Arctom labentem cardine portæ
Tempestas æterna plage, prætentaque cœlo
Agmina nimborum, primique Aquilonis hiatus
In diversa ferunt.'
942 oar] Beaumont's Psyche, c. xvi. st. 224. 'Spreading their wings like oars.'
Marino's Sl. of the Inn. p. 49.
'With wings like feather'd oars.'
And Dante, Il. Purg. c. ii.
'Si che remo non vuol, ne altro velo.' C. xii. 4.
945 Arimaspian] Eschyli Prometheus, ver. 810. See Pomp. Mela; lib. ii. c. 1. Solini Polyh. xv. 22. Prisciani Pervig. ver. 700. Plauti Aulularia, act iv. sc. 8. i. p. 142. Plin. N. Hist. lib. iv. c. 26. See Bulwer's Artif. Changeling, p. 102.
With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way, And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies. At length a universal hubbub wild
Of stunning sounds and voices all confus'd,
Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his ear
With loudest vehemence: thither he plies,
Undaunted to meet there whatever power
Or spirit of the nethermost abyss
Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask
Which way the nearest coast of darkness lies,
Bordering on light; when straight behold the throne
Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread
Wide on the wasteful Deep: with him enthron'd
Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
The consort of his reign; and by them stood
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon; Rumor next, and Chance,
And Tumult, and Confusion, all imbroil'd,
And Discord with a thousand various mouths.
T' whom Satan turning boldly, thus.-Ye powers,
And spirits of this nethermost abyss,
Chaos and antient Night, I come no spy,
With purpose to explore or to disturb
The secrets of your realm; but by constraint
Wand'ring this darksome desart, as my way
Lies through your spacious empire up to light,
949 With head] See Sidon. Apollinar. c. ii. 171. Antholog. Lat. ed. Burm. vol. 1, p. 403. Ep. cciii. for this manner of speech:
'Pastor, Arator, Eques, pavi, colui, superavi,
Capras, rus, hostes, fronde, ligone, manu.'
Alone, and without guide, half lost, I seek
What readiest path leads where your gloomy bounds
Confine with heav'n; or if some other place,
From your dominion won, th' ethereal King
Possesses lately, thither to arrive
I travel this profound; direct my course;
Directed, no mean recompence it brings
To your behoof, if I that region lost,
All usurpation thence expell'd, reduce
To her original darkness and your sway,
(Which is my present journey,) and once more
Erect the standard there of antient Night;
Yours be th' advantage all, mine the revenge.
Thus Satan; and him thus the Anarch old,
With fault'ring speech and visage incompos'd,
Answer'd. I know thee, stranger, who thou art, 990
That mighty leading angel, who of late
Made head against heaven's King, though overthrown.
I saw and heard; for such a numerous host
Fled not in silence through the frighted deep,
With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
Confusion worse confounded; and heaven-gates
Pour'd out by millions her victorious bands
Pursuing. I upon my frontiers here
Keep residence; if all I can will serve,
That little which is left so to defend,
Encroach'd on still thro' your intestine broils
Weak'ning the sceptre of old Night: first hell,
Your dungeon, stretching far and wide beneath;
Now lately heaven and earth, another world,
Hung o'er my realm, link'd in a golden chain
To that side heaven from whence your legions fell:
If that way be your walk, you have not far;
So much the nearer danger: go and speed;
Havock, and spoil, and ruin are my gain.
He ceas'd; and Satan stay'd not to reply,
But glad that now his sea should find a shore,
With fresh alacrity and force renew'd
Springs upward, like a pyramid of fire,
Into the wild expanse, and through the shock
Of fighting elements, on all sides round
Environ'd, wins his way; harder beset
And more endanger'd, than when Argo pass'd
Through Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks:
Or when Ulysses on the larboard shun'd
Charybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steer'd.
So he with difficulty and labour hard
Mov'd on, with difficulty and labour he;
But he once past, soon after when man fell,
Strange alteration! Sin and Death amain
Following his track, such was the will of Heaven,
Pav'd after him a broad and beaten way
Over the dark abyss, whose boiling gulf
Tamely endur'd a bridge of wond'rous length,
From hell continu'd, reaching th' utmost orb
Of this frail world; by which the spirits perverse
1013 a pyramid of fire] Drayton in his David and Goliah, 1630. 'He look't like to a piramid on fire.' Todd.