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The Stygian council thus dissolved; and forth In order came the grand infernal

peers:
Midst came their mighty paramount, and seem'd
Alone the antagonist of heaven, nor less
Than hell's dread emperor, with pomp supreme,
And god-like imitated state: him round
A globe of fiery seraphim enclosed

With bright imblazonry, and horrent arms.
Then of their session ended they bid cry
With trumpets' regal sound the great result:
Toward the four winds four speedy cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchymy,
By herald's voice explain'd; the hollow abyss
Heard far and wide, and all the host of hell
With deafening shout return'd them loud acclaim.
Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat

raised

By false presumptuous hope, the ranged powers
Disband, and, wandering, each his several way
Pursues, as inclination or sad choice

Leads him, perplex'd where he may likeliest find
Truce to his restless thoughts, and entertain
The irksome hours, till his great chief return.
Part on the plain, or in the air sublime,
Upon the wing, or in swift race contend,
As at the Olympian games or Pythian fields;
Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal
With rapid wheels, or fronted brigades form.
As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
Waged in the troubled sky, and armies rush
To battle in the clouds, before each van
Prick forth the aery knights, and couch their spears,
Till thickest legions.close; with feats of arms
From either end of heaven the welkin burns.
Others, with vast Typhoan rage more fell,
Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air
In whirlwind; hell scarce holds the wild uproar.
As when Alcides, from Echalia crown'd

With conquest, felt the envenom'd robe, and tore
Through pain up by the roots Thessalian pines,

And Lichas from the top of Eta threw
Into the Euboic sea. Others more mild,
Retreated in a silent valley, sing
With notes angelical to many a harp
Their own heroic deeds, and hapless fall
By doom of battle; and complain that fate
Free virtue should enthrall to force or chance.
Their song was partial; but the harmony
(What could it less when spirits immortal sing?)
Suspended hell, and took with ravishment

The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet (For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense), 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 excite
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,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from these, a slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls

Her watry labyrinth, whereof who drinks,

Book II. 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 else 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 effects of fire.
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 sinall 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

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In cónfused 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,

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 conceived,
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.

Meanwhile, the adversary of God and man, Satan, with thoughts inflamed 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
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
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 hell-hounds never-ceasing bark'd
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
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
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,
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 naught 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 breath'st 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

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