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With notes angelical to many a harp
Their own heroic deeds and hapless fall
By doom of battel; and complain that Fate 550
Free virtue should inthral to force or chance.
Their song was partial, but the harmony
(What could it less when spi'rits immortal sing?)
Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment 554
The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
(For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense,)
Others apart sat on a hill retir’d,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
Fix'd fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute, 560
And found no end, in wand'ring 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: 565
Yet with a plcasing sorcery could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite i
Fallacious hope, or arm th' obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel.
Another part in squadrons and gross bands, 570
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 575
Into the burning lake their baleful streams;
Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate ;

Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, nam'd 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 wat’ry labyrinth, whereof who drinks,
Forthwith his former state and being forgers, 585
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 590
Of ancient pile; or else deep snow and ice,
A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Daniata and Mount Casius old,
Where armies whole have sunk: the parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs th’ effect of fire. 595
Thither by harpy-footed furies hal'd
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 600
Their soft ethercal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, 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, 605
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 th' attempt 610
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 614 · In confus’d march forlorn, th' advent'rous bands

With shudd'ring 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, 620
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of
A universe of death, which God by curse [death,
Created ev'il, for evil only good
Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds,
Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things, 625
Abominable, inutterable, and worse
Than fables yet have feign’d, or fear conceiv’d,
Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire.

Mean while the adversary of God and man,
Satan with thoughts inflam'd of hig’hest design,
Puts on swift wings, and tow'ards 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 tow'ring high. 635
As when far off at sea a fleet descry'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds

645

ine rock,

Close sailing from Bengala or the isles
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs: they on the trading flood 640
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 three-fold 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;
The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair, 650
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 654
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep,
If ought disturb’d their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there, yet there still bark'd and howlid,
Within unseen. Far less abhorr'd than these
Vex'd Scylla bathing in the sea that parts 660
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore:
Nor uglier follow the Night-hag, when call'd
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lurd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the lab’ring moon
Eclipses at their charms. The other shape, 666

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,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell, 671
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 675
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;
And with disdainful look thus first began. 680

Whence and what art ihou, execrable shape!
That darüst, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy miscreated front athwart my way
To yonder gates? through them I mean to pass,
That be assurd, without leave ask'd of thee: 685
Retire, or taste thy folly', and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with spi'rits of Heav'n.

To whom the goblin full of wrath reply'd. Art thou that traitor angel, art thou he Who first broke peace in Heav'n and faith, till then Unbroken, and in proud rebellious arms 691 Drew after him the third part of Heav'n's sons Conjur'd against the Hig'hest, for which both thou And they, outcast from God, are here condemn'd To waste eternal days in woe and pain? 695 And reckon’st thou thyself with spi'rits of Heav'n,

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