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Spreading their bane; the blasted stars look'd wan,
420 Appointed to sit there had left their charge, Flown to the upper world; the rest were all Far to th' inland retired, about the walls Of Pandemonium, city and proud seat Of Lucifer, so by allusion call’d,
425 Of that bright star to Satan paragon'd. There kept their watch the legions, while the Grand In council sat, solicitous what chance Might intercept their emperor sent; so he Departing, gave command; and they observed. 430 As when the Tartar from his Russian foe By Astracan over the snowy plains Retires, or Bactrian Sophi from the horns Of Turkish crescent, leaves all waste beyond The realm of Aladule, in his retreat
435 To Tauris or Casbeen, so these the late Heav'n-banish'd host, left desert utmost Hell Many a dark league, reduced in careful watch Round their metropolis, and now expecting Each hour their great advent'rer from the search 440 Of foreign worlds; he through the midst, unmark’d, In show plebeian Angel militant Of lowest order, pass'd ; and from the door Of that Plutonian hall, invisible, Ascended his high throne, which under state Of richest texture spread, at th' upper end Was placed in regal lustre. Down a while He sat, and round about him saw, unseen.
412. See Ovid, Met. ii. 791. 426. Paragon'd, from the French parungonner. 432. Astracan, a large city in one of the islands of the Volga. -Sophi, the king of Persia, who is styled Bactrian, from one of the richest of the Persian provinces.
433. Aladule, the greater Armenia.--Tauris, a city in Persia, now called Ecbatana. ---Casbeen, another great city in the same country.
At last, as from a cloud, his fulgent head
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms,Virtues, Pow'rs,
490 Without our hazard, labour, or alarm,
To range in, and to dwell, and over Man
So having said, a while he stood, expecting
505 To fill his ear; when, contrary, he hears On all sides, from innumerable tongues A dismal universal hiss, the sound Of public scorn.
He wonder'd, but not long Had leisure, wond'ring at himself now more : 510 His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare, His arms clung to his ribs, his legs intwining Each other, till supplanted down he fell A monstrous serpent on his belly prone, Reluctant, but in vain; a greater Pow'r
515 Now ruled him, punish'd in the shape he sinn'd, According to his doom. He would have spoke, But hiss for hiss return'd with forked tongue To forked tongue; for now were all transform'd Alike; to serpents all as accessories
520 To his bold riot. Dreadful was the din Of hissing through the hall, thick swarming now With complicated monsters, head and tail, Scorpion, and Asp, and Amphisbæna dire, Cerastes horn'd, Hydrus, and Elops drear, 525 And Dipsas (not so thick swarm'd once the soil
504. The transformation of the fallen angels inentioned in this passage is a fine invention, and one of those bold marvels which so well fit the nature of epic poetry.
513. Supplanted, here used in its original sense, from the Latin supplanture, to trip up by the heels.
524. Amphisbæna, a serpent with a head at both ends of its body; Cerastes, as here called, a horned snake; Hydrus, a water snake; Elops, a serpent which gives no notice of its approach. and Dipsas, one which occasions a feverish thirst by its bite.
Bedropt with blood of Gorgon, or the isle
540 They felt themselves now changing Down their
arms, Down fell both spear and shield, down they as fast, And the dire hiss renew'd, and the dire form Catch'd by contagion, like in punishment, As in their crime. Thus was th' applause they meant Turn’d to exploding hiss ; triumph to shame,
516 Cast on themselves from their own mouths. There
stood A grove hard by, sprung up with this their change, His will who reigns above, to aggravate Their penance, laden with fair fruit, like that 550 Which grew in Paradise, the bait of Eve Used by the Tempter. On that prospect strange Their earnest eyes they fix'd, imagining For one forbidden tree a multitude Now risen, to work them further woe or shame; 555 Yet parch'd with scalding thirst and hunger fierce, Though to delude them sent, could not abstain, But on they roll'd in heaps, and up the trees Climbing, sat thicker than the snaky locks That curl's Megæra. Greedily they pluck'd 560 The fruitage, fair to sight, like that which grew
527. Lucan, Phars. ix. 696. in which the account is given of Perseus slaying the Gorgon.-Ophiusa is an island in the Medi. terranean, which was deserted by its inhabitants, on account of the enormous multitude of serpents there.
530. The Python was a serpent said to have sprung from the flime that was left after the Deucalian deluge.
560. Megera, one of the furies.
Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed;
Mean while, in Paradise the hellish pair 585 Too soon arrived, Sin there in Pow'r before, Once actual, now in body, and to dwell Habitual habitant; behind her Death Close following, pace for pace, not niounted yet On his pale horse: to whom Sin thus began: 590
562. It is said by Josephus that trees were to be seen about this devoted spot, whíci bore fruit delicious to the eye, but falling into ashes the moment it was touched.
573. Bentley reads with thirst and famin dire.
574. This idea is supposed to have been taken from the old romances, or from Ariosto, Can. 43. st. 38
581. So true it is that the most ancient mythological fables bear evident traces of having originated in traditions derived from the scripture history.--Ophion, or the serpent, was undoubtedly Satan; and Enrynome, or the wide-ruling, must have referred to Eve, who was so called from the ambitious desires with which she eat the forbidden fruit.-Jortin says, Milton took the idea from Apollonius, I.
586. Sin in pow'r, that is, there was a possibility of its betraying man. Actual once, namely, when Adam really sinned; and in body, when it became always present and active.
590, Rev. vi. 8.