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Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment

The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
(For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense,) 556
Others apart sat on a hill retired,

In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;
Fix'd fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute;
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then.
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame;
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!
Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and exite
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, 580
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 olse 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. 595 Thither by harpy-footed furies haled,

At certain revolutions, all the damn'd

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, infix'd, 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, 615
With shuddering horror pale, and eyes aghast,
View'd first their lamentable lot, and found

No rest through many a dark and dreary vale
They pass'd, 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, inutterable, and worse

Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceive
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.
Meanwhile the adversary of God and Man


Satan, with thoughts inflamed of highest design, 630 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 on the clouds, by equinoctial 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 seem'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, impaled with circling fire,

Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat,

On either side a formidable shape :

The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair;


But ended foul in many a scaly fold

Voluminous and vast; a serpent arm'd

With mortal sting: About her middle round
A cry of Hellhounds never ceasing bark'd


With wide Cerberian mouths full loud, and rung 655
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, 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 less abhorr'd than these
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore ;
Nor uglier follow the night hag, when, call'd
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lured with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon 665
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape,

If shape it might be call'd that shape had none

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;

Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night, 670
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,

And shook a dreadful dart; what seem'd 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 fear'd; God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he, nor shunn'd;
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 ask'd 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 condemn'd To waste eternal days in woe and pain? And reckon'st thou thyself with Spirits of Heaven, Hell-doom'd! 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 grisly 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 burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Level'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 Heaven's artillery fraught, còme rattling on 715
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 frown'd the mighty combatants that Hell

Grew darker at their frown: so match'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,
Risen, and with hideous outcry rush'd between.
O Father! what intends thy hand, 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 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
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


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:

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