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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 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
In confused 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
A universe of death: which God by curse [death,
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 Hellhounds never ceasing bark'd
With wide Cerberian 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 bag, 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 nought 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 thon 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 breathest 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
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,
So speaking and so threatening, grew tenfold
More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctic sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Level'd his deadly aim; their fatal hands
No second stroke intend; and such a frown
Each cast at the other, as when two black clouds,
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 miglity combatants, that Hell
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 achieved, whereof all Hell had rung,
Had not the snaky Sorceress that sat
Fast by Hell-gate, and kept the fatal key,
Risen, and with hideous outcry růsh'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 Against thy Father's head? and know'st for whom; For him who sits above, and laughs the while At thee ordain'd bis drudge; to execute Whate'er his wrath, which he calls justice, bids ; His wrath, which one day will destroy ye both!

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 What it intends; till first I know of thee, What thing thou art, thus double-form'd; and why, 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 Of all the Seraphim with thee combined In bold conspiracy against Heaven's King, All on a sudden miserable pain Surprised thee, dim thine eyes, and dizzy swum In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast Threw forth; till, on the left side opening wide, Likest to thee in shape and countenance bright,

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