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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 579
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 wat'ry labyrinth; whereof who drinks,
Forthwith his former state and b'ing forgets, 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; all 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 th' effect of fire.
Thither, by harpy-footed furies hal’d, 596
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 6oo Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine Immoveable, infix'd, and frozen round, Periods of time, thence hurry'd 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 Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards 6 II 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 frozen, many a fiery Alp, 62o Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death,

A universe of death, which God by curse

Created evol, for evil only good, - " Where all life dies, death lives, and nature brecds,

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 Chimaeras dire.
Meanwhile th’ Adversary of God and Man,
Satan, with thoughts inflam'd of high'st design,
Puts on swift wings, and tow'rds the gates of
Hell 631
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
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 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, 645
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,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold 651
Voluminous and vast, a serpent arm'd
With mortal sting: about her middle round

[graphic]

A cry of Hell-hounds never ceasing, bark'd 654
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'dand howl'd,
Within unseen. Far less abhorr'd than these
Wex'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,
Lur'd 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 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, 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 thou, execrable shape,
That dar'st, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy miscreated front athwart my way

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