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A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casius old,

Where armies whole have sunk: the parching air 595 Burns frore, and cold performs the effects of fire.

Thither, by harpy-footed Furies hald,
At certain revolutions, all the damn'd
Are brought; and feel by turns the bitter change

Of fierce extremes-extremes by change more fierce : 600 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
605 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 !
610 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
615 In confus'd march forlorn, the adventurous bands,

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-620 O'er many a frozen, many a fiery AlpRocks—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 625 Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things

Abominable-inutterable ; and worse
Than fables yet have feign’d, or fear conceiv’d,
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.

Meanwhile, the adversary of God and man, 630 Satan, with thoughts inflam'd 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 635 Up to the fiery concave, towering high :

As when far off at sea a fleet descried
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles

Of Ternate, and Tidore, whence merchants bring 610 Their spicy drugs; they on the trading flood,

Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,
Ply stemming nightly toward the pole: so seein'd
Far off the flying fiend. At last appear

Hell-bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof; 645 And thrice threefold the gates: three folds were brass,

Three iron, three of adamantine rock,
Impenetrable, impal’d with circling fire,
Yet unconsum'd. Before the gates there sat

On either side a formidable shape :
650 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 hell-hounds never-ceasing bark’d,
655 With wide Cerberean mouths, full loud, and rung

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 660 Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts

Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore:
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, callid
In secret, riding through the air she comes,

Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
665 With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon

Eclipses at their charms. The other shape, -

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

Or substance might be call’d that shadow seem'd, 670 For each seem'd either; black it stood as night,

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 675 The monster moving onward came as fast

With horrid strides; hell trembled as he strode :
Th' undaunted fiend what this might be admir'd;-
Admir'd, -not fear'd; God and his Son except,

Created thing nought valued he, nor shunn'd; 680 And, with disdainful look, thus first began:

Whence, and what art thou, execrable shape! “ That dar'st, though grim and terrible, advance

Thy miscreated front athwart my way

To yonder gates? through them I mean to pass ; 685 “ That be assur'd, 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, 690 “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

Conjur'd against the Highest ; for which both thou

“ And they, outcast from God, are here condemnd 695 “ To waste eternal days in woe and pain?

“ And reckon'st thou thyself with spirits of heaven,
“ Hell-doom'd! and breath'st defiance here and scorn,
“Where I reign king ? and, to enrage thee more,

Thy king and lord. Back to thy punishment, 700 “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,

705 So speaking and so threat'ning, grew tenfold

More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incens'd with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified ; and like a comet burn'd,

That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge 710 In the 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, 715 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 frown'd the mighty combatants, that hell 720 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 achiev'd, whereof all hell had rung,

Had not the snaky sorceress, that sat
725 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 730 “ 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.” 735 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 740

“What it intends; till first I know of thee,
“What thing thou art, thus double-form'd; and why,

745 66

“ 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."
To whom thus the portress of hell-gate replied:

Hast thou forgot me then, and do I seem
“ Now in thine eye so foul ? once deem'd so fair

“ In heaven, when at the assembly, and in sight 750 “ Of all the Seraphim, with thee combin'd

“In bold conspiracy against heaven's King,
“ All on a sudden miserable pain
“Surpris’d thee; dim thine eyes and dizzy swum

“ In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast 755 “ Threw forth; till, on the left side opening wide,

“Likest to thee in shape and count'nance bright,
" Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess arm’d,
“Out of thy head I sprung: amazement seiz'd

“ All the host of heaven; back they recoil'd, afraid 760 At first, and call'd me Sin, and for a sign

“ Portentous held me; but, familiar grown,
“ I pleas'd, and with attractive graces won
“ The most averse, thee chiefly, who full oft

Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing,
765 “ Becam'st enamour'd, and such joy thou took'st

“ With me in secret, that my womb conceiv'd
A growing burden. Meanwhile, war arose,
“And fields were fought in heaven; wherein remain'd

* (For what could else ?) to our almighty foe 770 “Clear victory ; to our part loss and rout,

Through all the empyréan : down they fell, “Driv'n headlong from the pitch of heaven,-down “Into this deep; and in the general fall

“I also : at which time this powerful key
775 “ Into my hand was given, with charge to keep

These gates for ever shut, which none can pass
“Without my opening. Pensive here I sat
“Alone; but long I sat not, till my womb

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