High on a throne of royal state, which farOutshone the wealth or Ormus and of Ind,Or where the gorgeous East with richest handShowers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,Satan exalted sat, by merit raisedTo that bad eminence; and, from despairThus high uplifted beyond hope, aspiresBeyond thus high, insatiate to pursueVain war with Heaven; and, by success untaught,His proud imaginations thus displayed:--"Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heaven!--For, since no deep within her gulf can holdImmortal vigour, though oppressed and fallen,I give not Heaven for lost: from this descentCelestial Virtues rising will appearMore glorious and more dread than from no fall,And trust themselves to fear no second fate!--Me though just right, and the fixed laws of Heaven,Did first create your leader--next, free choiceWith what besides in council or in fightHath been achieved of merit--yet this loss,Thus far at least recovered, hath much moreEstablished in a safe, unenvied throne,Yielded with full consent. The happier stateIn Heaven, which follows dignity, might drawEnvy from each inferior; but who hereWill envy whom the highest place exposesForemost to stand against the Thunderer's aimYour bulwark, and condemns to greatest shareOf endless pain? Where there is, then, no goodFor which to strive, no strife can grow up thereFrom faction: for none sure will claim in HellPrecedence; none whose portion is so smallOf present pain that with ambitious mindWill covet more! With this advantage, then,To union, and firm faith, and firm accord,More than can be in Heaven, we now returnTo claim our just inheritance of old,Surer to prosper than prosperityCould have assured us; and by what best way,Whether of open war or covert guile,We now debate. Who can advise may speak."He ceased; and next him Moloch, sceptred king,Stood up--the strongest and the fiercest SpiritThat fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair.His trust was with th' Eternal to be deemedEqual in strength, and rather than be lessCared not to be at all; with that care lostWent all his fear: of God, or Hell, or worse,He recked not, and these words thereafter spake:--"My sentence is for open war. Of wiles,More unexpert, I boast not: them let thoseContrive who need, or when they need; not now.For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest--Millions that stand in arms, and longing waitThe signal to ascend--sit lingering here,Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-placeAccept this dark opprobrious den of shame,The prison of his ryranny who reignsBy our delay? No! let us rather choose,Armed with Hell-flames and fury, all at onceO'er Heaven's high towers to force resistless way,Turning our tortures into horrid armsAgainst the Torturer; when, to meet the noiseOf his almighty engine, he shall hearInfernal thunder, and, for lightning, seeBlack fire and horror shot with equal rageAmong his Angels, and his throne itselfMixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,His own invented torments. But perhapsThe way seems difficult, and steep to scaleWith upright wing against a higher foe!Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drenchOf that forgetful lake benumb not still,That in our porper motion we ascendUp to our native seat; descent and fallTo us is adverse. Who but felt of late,When the fierce foe hung on our broken rearInsulting, and pursued us through the Deep,With what compulsion and laborious flightWe sunk thus low? Th' ascent is easy, then;Th' event is feared! Should we again provokeOur stronger, some worse way his wrath may findTo our destruction, if there be in HellFear to be worse destroyed! What can be worseThan to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemnedIn this abhorred deep to utter woe!Where pain of unextinguishable fireMust exercise us without hope of endThe vassals of his anger, when the scourgeInexorably, and the torturing hour,Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus,We should be quite abolished, and expire.What fear we then? what doubt we to incenseHis utmost ire? which, to the height enraged,Will either quite consume us, and reduceTo nothing this essential--happier farThan miserable to have eternal being!--Or, if our substance be indeed divine,And cannot cease to be, we are at worstOn this side nothing; and by proof we feelOur power sufficient to disturb his Heaven,And with perpetual inroads to alarm,Though inaccessible, his fatal throne:Which, if not victory, is yet revenge."He ended frowning, and his look denouncedDesperate revenge, and battle dangerousTo less than gods. On th' other side up roseBelial, in act more graceful and humane.A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemedFor dignity composed, and high exploit.But all was false and hollow; though his tongueDropped manna, and could make the worse appearThe better reason, to perplex and dashMaturest counsels: for his thoughts were low--To vice industrious, but to nobler deedsTimorous and slothful. Yet he pleased the ear,And with persuasive accent thus began:--"I should be much for open war, O Peers,As not behind in hate, if what was urgedMain reason to persuade immediate warDid not dissuade me most, and seem to castOminous conjecture on the whole success;When he who most excels in fact of arms,In what he counsels and in what excelsMistrustful, grounds his courage on despairAnd utter dissolution, as the scopeOf all his aim, after some dire revenge.First, what revenge? The towers of Heaven are filledWith armed watch, that render all accessImpregnable: oft on the bodering DeepEncamp their legions, or with obscure wingScout far and wide into the realm of Night,Scorning surprise. Or, could we break our wayBy force, and at our heels all Hell should riseWith blackest insurrection to confoundHeaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy,All incorruptible, would on his throneSit unpolluted, and th' ethereal mould,Incapable of stain, would soon expelHer mischief, and purge off the baser fire,Victorious. Thus repulsed, our final hopeIs flat despair: we must exasperateTh' Almighty Victor to spend all his rage;And that must end us; that must be our cure--To be no more. Sad cure! for who would lose,Though full of pain, this intellectual being,Those thoughts that wander through eternity,To perish rather, swallowed up and lostIn the wide womb of uncreated Night,Devoid of sense and motion? And who knows,Let this be good, whether our angry FoeCan give it, or will ever? How he canIs doubtful; that he never will is sure.Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire,Belike through impotence or unaware,To give his enemies their wish, and endThem in his anger whom his anger savesTo punish endless? 'Wherefore cease we, then?'Say they who counsel war; 'we are decreed,Reserved, and destined to eternal woe;Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,What can we suffer worse?' Is this, then, worst--Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?What when we fled amain, pursued and struckWith Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besoughtThe Deep to shelter us? This Hell then seemedA refuge from those wounds. Or when we layChained on the burning lake? That sure was worse.What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,And plunge us in the flames; or from aboveShould intermitted vengeance arm againHis red right hand to plague us? What if allHer stores were opened, and this firmamentOf Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fallOne day upon our heads; while we perhaps,Designing or exhorting glorious war,Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurled,Each on his rock transfixed, the sport and preyOr racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunkUnder yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains,There to converse with everlasting groans,Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved,Ages of hopeless end? This would be worse.War, therefore, open or concealed, alikeMy voice dissuades; for what can force or guileWith him, or who deceive his mind, whose eyeViews all things at one view? He from Heaven's heightAll these our motions vain sees and derides,Not more almighty to resist our mightThan wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.Shall we, then, live thus vile--the race of HeavenThus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer hereChains and these torments? Better these than worse,By my advice; since fate inevitableSubdues us, and omnipotent decree,The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do,Our strength is equal; nor the law unjustThat so ordains. This was at first resolved,If we were wise, against so great a foeContending, and so doubtful what might fall.I laugh when those who at the spear are boldAnd venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fearWhat yet they know must follow--to endureExile, or igominy, or bonds, or pain,The sentence of their Conqueror. This is nowOur doom; which if we can sustain and bear,Our Supreme Foe in time may much remitHis anger, and perhaps, thus far removed,Not mind us not offending, satisfiedWith what is punished; whence these raging firesWill slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.Our purer essence then will overcomeTheir noxious vapour; or, inured, not feel;Or, changed at length, and to the place conformedIn temper and in nature, will receiveFamiliar the fierce heat; and, void of pain,This horror will grow mild, this darkness light;Besides what hope the never-ending flightOf future days may bring, what chance, what changeWorth waiting--since our present lot appearsFor happy though but ill, for ill not worst,If we procure not to ourselves more woe."Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb,Counselled ignoble ease and peaceful sloth,Not peace; and after him thus Mammon spake:--"Either to disenthrone the King of HeavenWe war, if war be best, or to regainOur own right lost. Him to unthrone we thenMay hope, when everlasting Fate shall yieldTo fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife.The former, vain to hope, argues as vainThe latter; for what place can be for usWithin Heaven's bound, unless Heaven's Lord supremeWe overpower? Suppose he should relentAnd publish grace to all, on promise madeOf new subjection; with what eyes could weStand in his presence humble, and receiveStrict laws imposed, to celebrate his throneWith warbled hyms, and to his Godhead singForced hallelujahs, while he lordly sitsOur envied sovereign, and his altar breathesAmbrosial odours and ambrosial flowers,Our servile offerings? This must be our taskIn Heaven, this our delight. How wearisomeEternity so spent in worship paidTo whom we hate! Let us not then pursue,By force impossible, by leave obtainedUnacceptable, though in Heaven, our stateOf splendid vassalage; but rather seekOur own good from ourselves, and from our ownLive to ourselves, though in this vast recess,Free and to none accountable, preferringHard liberty before the easy yokeOf servile pomp. Our greatness will appearThen most conspicuous when great things of small,Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse,We can create, and in what place soe'erThrive under evil, and work ease out of painThrough labour and endurance. This deep worldOf darkness do we dread? How oft amidstThick clouds and dark doth Heaven's all-ruling SireChoose to reside, his glory unobscured,And with the majesty of darkness roundCovers his throne, from whence deep thunders roar.Mustering their rage, and Heaven resembles Hell!As he our darkness, cannot we his lightImitate when we please? This desert soilWants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;Nor want we skill or art from whence to raiseMagnificence; and what can Heaven show more?Our torments also may, in length of time,Become our elements, these piercing firesAs soft as now severe, our temper changedInto their temper; which must needs removeThe sensible of pain. All things inviteTo peaceful counsels, and the settled stateOf order, how in safety best we mayCompose our present evils, with regardOf what we are and where, dismissing quiteAll thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise."He scarce had finished, when such murmur filledTh' assembly as when hollow rocks retainThe sound of blustering winds, which all night longHad roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lullSeafaring men o'erwatched, whose bark by chanceOr pinnace, anchors in a craggy bayAfter the tempest. Such applause was heardAs Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased,Advising peace: for such another fieldThey dreaded worse than Hell; so much the fearOf thunder and the sword of MichaelWrought still within them; and no less desireTo found this nether empire, which might rise,By policy and long process of time,In emulation opposite to Heaven.Which when Beelzebub perceived--than whom,Satan except, none higher sat--with graveAspect he rose, and in his rising seemedA pillar of state. Deep on his front engravenDeliberation sat, and public care;And princely counsel in his face yet shone,Majestic, though in ruin. Sage he stoodWith Atlantean shoulders, fit to bearThe weight of mightiest monarchies; his lookDrew audience and attention still as nightOr summer's noontide air, while thus he spake:--"Thrones and Imperial Powers, Offspring of Heaven,Ethereal Virtues! or these titles nowMust we renounce, and, changing style, be calledPrinces of Hell? for so the popular voteInclines--here to continue, and build up hereA growing empire; doubtless! while we dream,And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomedThis place our dungeon, not our safe retreatBeyond his potent arm, to live exemptFrom Heaven's high jurisdiction, in new leagueBanded against his throne, but to remainIn strictest bondage, though thus far removed,Under th' inevitable curb, reservedHis captive multitude. For he, to be sure,In height or depth, still first and last will reignSole king, and of his kingdom lose no partBy our revolt, but over Hell extendHis empire, and with iron sceptre ruleUs here, as with his golden those in Heaven.What sit we then projecting peace and war?War hath determined us and foiled with lossIrreparable; terms of peace yet noneVouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be givenTo us enslaved, but custody severe,And stripes and arbitrary punishmentInflicted? and what peace can we return,But, to our power, hostility and hate,Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow,Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror leastMay reap his conquest, and may least rejoiceIn doing what we most in suffering feel?Nor will occasion want, nor shall we needWith dangerous expedition to invadeHeaven, whose high walls fear no assault or siege,Or ambush from the Deep. What if we findSome easier enterprise? There is a place(If ancient and prophetic fame in HeavenErr not)--another World, the happy seatOf some new race, called Man, about this timeTo be created like to us, though lessIn power and excellence, but favoured moreOf him who rules above; so was his willPronounced among the Gods, and by an oathThat shook Heaven's whole circumference confirmed.Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learnWhat creatures there inhabit, of what mouldOr substance, how endued, and what their powerAnd where their weakness: how attempted best,By force of subtlety. Though Heaven be shut,And Heaven's high Arbitrator sit secureIn his own strength, this place may lie exposed,The utmost border of his kingdom, leftTo their defence who hold it: here, perhaps,Some advantageous act may be achievedBy sudden onset--either with Hell-fireTo waste his whole creation, or possessAll as our own, and drive, as we were driven,The puny habitants; or, if not drive,Seduce them to our party, that their GodMay prove their foe, and with repenting handAbolish his own works. This would surpassCommon revenge, and interrupt his joyIn our confusion, and our joy upraiseIn his disturbance; when his darling sons,Hurled headlong to partake with us, shall curseTheir frail original, and faded bliss--Faded so soon! Advise if this be worthAttempting, or to sit in darkness hereHatching vain empires." Thus beelzebubPleaded his devilish counsel--first devisedBy Satan, and in part proposed: for whence,But from the author of all ill, could springSo deep a malice, to confound the raceOf mankind in one root, and Earth with HellTo mingle and involve, done all to spiteThe great Creator? But their spite still servesHis glory to augment. The bold designPleased highly those infernal States, and joySparkled in all their eyes: with full assentThey vote: whereat his speech he thus renews:--"Well have ye judged, well ended long debate,Synod of Gods, and, like to what ye are,Great things resolved, which from the lowest deepWill once more lift us up, in spite of fate,Nearer our ancient seat--perhaps in viewOf those bright confines, whence, with neighbouring arms,And opportune excursion, we may chanceRe-enter Heaven; or else in some mild zoneDwell, not unvisited of Heaven's fair light,Secure, and at the brightening orient beamPurge off this gloom: the soft delicious air,To heal the scar of these corrosive fires,Shall breathe her balm. But, first, whom shall we sendIn search of this new World? whom shall we findSufficient? who shall tempt with wandering feetThe dark, unbottomed, infinite Abyss,And through the palpable obscure find outHis uncouth way, or spread his airy flight,Upborne with indefatigable wingsOver the vast abrupt, ere he arriveThe happy Isle? What strength, what art, can thenSuffice, or what evasion bear him safe,Through the strict senteries and stations thickOf Angels watching round? Here he had needAll circumspection: and we now no lessChoice in our suffrage; for on whom we sendThe weight of all, and our last hope, relies."This said, he sat; and expectation heldHis look suspense, awaiting who appearedTo second, or oppose, or undertakeThe perilous attempt. But all sat mute,Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and eachIn other's countenance read his own dismay,Astonished. None among the choice and primeOf those Heaven-warring champions could be foundSo hardy as to proffer or accept,Alone, the dreadful voyage; till, at last,Satan, whom now transcendent glory raisedAbove his fellows, with monarchal prideConscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake:--"O Progeny of Heaven! Empyreal Thrones!With reason hath deep silence and demurSeized us, though undismayed. Long is the wayAnd hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.Our prison strong, this huge convex of fire,Outrageous to devour, immures us roundNinefold; and gates of burning adamant,Barred over us, prohibit all egress.These passed, if any pass, the void profoundOf unessential Night receives him next,Wide-gaping, and with utter loss of beingThreatens him, plunged in that abortive gulf.If thence he scape, into whatever world,Or unknown region, what remains him lessThan unknown dangers, and as hard escape?But I should ill become this throne, O Peers,And this imperial sovereignty, adornedWith splendour, armed with power, if aught proposedAnd judged of public moment in the shapeOf difficulty or danger, could deterMe from attempting. Wherefore do I assumeThese royalties, and not refuse to reign,Refusing to accept as great a shareOf hazard as of honour, due alikeTo him who reigns, and so much to him dueOf hazard more as he above the restHigh honoured sits? Go, therefore, mighty Powers,Terror of Heaven, though fallen; intend at home,While here shall be our home, what best may easeThe present misery, and render HellMore tolerable; if there be cure or charmTo respite, or deceive, or slack the painOf this ill mansion: intermit no watchAgainst a wakeful foe, while I abroadThrough all the coasts of dark destruction seekDeliverance for us all. This enterpriseNone shall partake with me." Thus saying, roseThe Monarch, and prevented all reply;Prudent lest, from his resolution raised,Others among the chief might offer now,Certain to be refused, what erst they feared,And, so refused, might in opinion standHis rivals, winning cheap the high reputeWhich he through hazard huge must earn. But theyDreaded not more th' adventure than his voiceForbidding; and at once with him they rose.Their rising all at once was as the soundOf thunder heard remote. Towards him they bendWith awful reverence prone, and as a GodExtol him equal to the Highest in Heaven.Nor failed they to express how much they praisedThat for the general safety he despisedHis own: for neither do the Spirits damnedLose all their virtue; lest bad men should boastTheir specious deeds on earth, which glory excites,Or close ambition varnished o'er with zeal.Thus they their doubtful consultations darkEnded, rejoicing in their matchless Chief:As, when from mountain-tops the dusky cloudsAscending, while the north wind sleeps, o'erspreadHeaven's cheerful face, the louring elementScowls o'er the darkened landscape snow or shower,If chance the radiant sun, with farewell sweet,Extend his evening beam, the fields revive,The birds their notes renew, and bleating herdsAttest their joy, that hill and valley rings.O shame to men! Devil with devil damnedFirm concord holds; men only disagreeOf creatures rational, though under hopeOf heavenly grace, and, God proclaiming peace,Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strifeAmong themselves, and levy cruel warsWasting the earth, each other to destroy:As if (which might induce us to accord)Man had not hellish foes enow besides,That day and night for his destruction wait!The Stygian council thus dissolved; and forthIn order came the grand infernal Peers:Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemedAlone th' antagonist of Heaven, nor lessThan Hell's dread Emperor, with pomp supreme,And god-like imitated state: him roundA globe of fiery Seraphim enclosedWith bright emblazonry, and horrent arms.Then of their session ended they bid cryWith trumpet's regal sound the great result:Toward the four winds four speedy CherubimPut to their mouths the sounding alchemy,By herald's voice explained; the hollow AbyssHeard far adn wide, and all the host of HellWith deafening shout returned them loud acclaim.Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat raisedBy false presumptuous hope, the ranged PowersDisband; and, wandering, each his several wayPursues, as inclination or sad choiceLeads him perplexed, where he may likeliest findTruce to his restless thoughts, and entertainThe 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 th' Olympian games or Pythian fields;Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goalWith rapid wheels, or fronted brigades form:As when, to warn proud cities, war appearsWaged in the troubled sky, and armies rushTo battle in the clouds; before each vanPrick forth the airy knights, and couch their spears,Till thickest legions close; with feats of armsFrom either end of heaven the welkin burns.Others, with vast Typhoean rage, more fell,Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the airIn whirlwind; Hell scarce holds the wild uproar:--As when Alcides, from Oechalia crownedWith conquest, felt th' envenomed robe, and toreThrough pain up by the roots Thessalian pines,And Lichas from the top of Oeta threwInto th' Euboic sea. Others, more mild,Retreated in a silent valley, singWith notes angelical to many a harpTheir own heroic deeds, and hapless fallBy doom of battle, and complain that FateFree 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 ravishmentThe 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 reasoned highOf Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate--Fixed 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 charmPain for a while or anguish, and exciteFallacious hope, or arm th' obdured breastWith stubborn patience as with triple steel.Another part, in squadrons and gross bands,On bold adventure to discover wideThat dismal world, if any clime perhapsMight yield them easier habitation, bendFour ways their flying march, along the banksOf four infernal rivers, that disgorgeInto the burning lake their baleful streams--Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;Sad Acheron of sorrow, black and deep;Cocytus, named of lamentation loudHeard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegeton,Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.Far off from these, a slow and silent stream,Lethe, the river of oblivion, rollsHer watery labyrinth, whereof who drinksForthwith his former state and being forgets--Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain.Beyond this flood a frozen continentLies dark and wild, beat with perpetual stormsOf whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm landThaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seemsOf ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice,A gulf profound as that Serbonian bogBetwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old,Where armies whole have sunk: the parching airBurns frore, and cold performs th' effect of fire.Thither, by harpy-footed Furies haled,At certain revolutions all the damnedAre brought; and feel by turns the bitter changeOf fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce,From beds of raging fire to starve in iceTheir soft ethereal warmth, and there to pineImmovable, infixed, and frozen roundPeriods of time,--thence hurried back to fire.They ferry over this Lethean soundBoth to and fro, their sorrow to augment,And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reachThe tempting stream, with one small drop to loseIn 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 guardsThe ford, and of itself the water fliesAll taste of living wight, as once it fledThe lip of Tantalus. Thus roving onIn confused march forlorn, th' adventurous bands,With shuddering horror pale, and eyes aghast,Viewed first their lamentable lot, and foundNo rest. Through many a dark and dreary valeThey passed, 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 curseCreated evil, for evil only good;Where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds,Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,Obominable, inutterable, and worseThan fables yet have feigned 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 toward the gates of HellExplores his solitary flight: sometimesHe scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left;Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soarsUp to the fiery concave towering high.As when far off at sea a fleet descriedHangs in the clouds, by equinoctial windsClose sailing from Bengala, or the islesOf Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bringTheir spicy drugs; they on the trading flood,Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,Ply stemming nightly toward the pole: so seemedFar off the flying Fiend. At last appearHell-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 satOn either side a formidable Shape.The one seemed woman to the waist, and fair,But ended foul in many a scaly fold,Voluminous and vast--a serpent armedWith mortal sting. About her middle roundA cry of Hell-hounds never-ceasing barkedWith wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rungA hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep,If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb,And kennel there; yet there still barked and howledWithin unseen. Far less abhorred than theseVexed Scylla, bathing in the sea that partsCalabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore;Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, calledIn secret, riding through the air she comes,Lured with the smell of infant blood, to danceWith Lapland witches, while the labouring moonEclipses at their charms. The other Shape--If shape it might be called that shape had noneDistinguishable in member, joint, or limb;Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,For each seemed either--black it stood as Night,Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,And shook a dreadful dart: what seemed his headThe likeness of a kingly crown had on.Satan was now at hand, and from his seatThe monster moving onward came as fastWith horrid strides; Hell trembled as he strode.Th' undaunted Fiend what this might be admired--Admired, not feared (God and his Son except,Created thing naught valued he nor shunned),And with disdainful look thus first began:--"Whence and what art thou, execrable Shape,That dar'st, though grim and terrible, advanceThy miscreated front athwart my wayTo yonder gates? Through them I mean to pass,That be assured, without leave asked 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 thenUnbroken, and in proud rebellious armsDrew after him the third part of Heaven's sons,Conjured against the Highest--for which both thouAnd they, outcast from God, are here condemnedTo waste eternal days in woe and pain?And reckon'st thou thyself with Spirits of HeavenHell-doomed, 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 pursueThy lingering, or with one stroke of this dartStrange 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 th' other side,Incensed with indignation, Satan stoodUnterrified, and like a comet burned,That fires the length of Ophiuchus hugeIn th' arctic sky, and from his horrid hairShakes pestilence and war. Each at the headLevelled his deadly aim; their fatal handsNo second stroke intend; and such a frownEach cast at th' other as when two black clouds,With heaven's artillery fraught, came rattling onOver the Caspian,--then stand front to frontHovering a space, till winds the signal blowTo join their dark encounter in mid-air.So frowned the mighty combatants that HellGrew darker at their frown; so matched they stood;For never but once more was wither likeTo meet so great a foe. And now great deedsHad been achieved, whereof all Hell had rung,Had not the snaky Sorceress, that satFast by Hell-gate and kept the fatal key,Risen, and with hideous outcry rushed between."O father, what intends thy hand," she cried,"Against thy only son? What fury, O son,Possesses thee to bend that mortal dartAgainst thy father's head? And know'st for whom?For him who sits above, and laughs the whileAt thee, ordained his drudge to executeWhate'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 PestForbore: then these to her Satan returned:--"So strange thy outcry, and thy words so strangeThou interposest, that my sudden hand,Prevented, spares to tell thee yet by deedsWhat it intends, till first I know of theeWhat thing thou art, thus double-formed, and why,In this infernal vale first met, thou call'stMe father, and that phantasm call'st my son.I know thee not, nor ever saw till nowSight more detestable than him and thee."T' whom thus the Portress of Hell-gate replied:--"Hast thou forgot me, then; and do I seemNow in thine eye so foul?--once deemed so fairIn Heaven, when at th' assembly, and in sightOf all the Seraphim with thee combinedIn bold conspiracy against Heaven's King,All on a sudden miserable painSurprised thee, dim thine eyes and dizzy swumIn darkness, while thy head flames thick and fastThrew forth, till on the left side opening wide,Likest to thee in shape and countenance bright,Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed,Out of thy head I sprung. Amazement seizedAll th' host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraidAt first, and called me Sin, and for a signPortentous held me; but, familiar grown,I pleased, and with attractive graces wonThe most averse--thee chiefly, who, full oftThyself in me thy perfect image viewing,Becam'st enamoured; and such joy thou took'stWith me in secret that my womb conceivedA growing burden. Meanwhile war arose,And fields were fought in Heaven: wherein remained(For what could else?) to our Almighty FoeClear victory; to our part loss and routThrough all the Empyrean. Down they fell,Driven headlong from the pitch of Heaven, downInto this Deep; and in the general fallI also: at which time this powerful keyInto my hands was given, with charge to keepThese gates for ever shut, which none can passWithout my opening. Pensive here I satAlone; but long I sat not, till my womb,Pregnant by thee, and now excessive grown,Prodigious motion felt and rueful throes.At last this odious offspring whom thou seest,Thine own begotten, breaking violent way,Tore through my entrails, that, with fear and painDistorted, all my nether shape thus grewTransformed: but he my inbred enemyForth issued, brandishing his fatal dart,Made to destroy. I fled, and cried out Death!Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighedFrom all her caves, and back resounded Death!I fled; but he pursued (though more, it seems,Inflamed with lust than rage), and, swifter far,Me overtook, his mother, all dismayed,And, in embraces forcible and foulEngendering with me, of that rape begotThese yelling monsters, that with ceaseless crySurround me, as thou saw'st--hourly conceivedAnd hourly born, with sorrow infiniteTo me; for, when they list, into the wombThat bred them they return, and howl, and gnawMy bowels, their repast; then, bursting forthAfresh, with conscious terrors vex me round,That rest or intermission none I find.Before mine eyes in opposition sitsGrim Death, my son and foe, who set them on,And me, his parent, would full soon devourFor want of other prey, but that he knowsHis end with mine involved, and knows that IShould prove a bitter morsel, and his bane,Whenever that shall be: so Fate pronounced.But thou, O father, I forewarn thee, shunHis deadly arrow; neither vainly hopeTo be invulnerable in those bright arms,Through tempered heavenly; for that mortal dint,Save he who reigns above, none can resist."She finished; and the subtle Fiend his loreSoon learned, now milder, and thus answered smooth:--"Dear daughter--since thou claim'st me for thy sire,And my fair son here show'st me, the dear pledgeOf dalliance had with thee in Heaven, and joysThen sweet, now sad to mention, through dire changeBefallen us unforeseen, unthought-of--know,I come no enemy, but to set freeFrom out this dark and dismal house of painBoth him and thee, and all the heavenly hostOf Spirits that, in our just pretences armed,Fell with us from on high. From them I goThis uncouth errand sole, and one for allMyself expose, with lonely steps to treadTh' unfounded Deep, and through the void immenseTo search, with wandering quest, a place foretoldShould be--and, by concurring signs, ere nowCreated vast and round--a place of blissIn the purlieus of Heaven; and therein placedA race of upstart creatures, to supplyPerhaps our vacant room, though more removed,Lest Heaven, surcharged with potent multitude,Might hap to move new broils. Be this, or aughtThan this more secret, now designed, I hasteTo know; and, this once known, shall soon return,And bring ye to the place where thou and DeathShall dwell at ease, and up and down unseenWing silently the buxom air, embalmedWith odours. There ye shall be fed and filledImmeasurably; all things shall be your prey."He ceased; for both seemed highly pleased, and DeathGrinned horrible a ghastly smile, to hearHis famine should be filled, and blessed his mawDestined to that good hour. No less rejoicedHis mother bad, and thus bespake her sire:--"The key of this infernal Pit, by dueAnd by command of Heaven's all-powerful King,I keep, by him forbidden to unlockThese adamantine gates; against all forceDeath ready stands to interpose his dart,Fearless to be o'ermatched by living might.But what owe I to his commands above,Who hates me, and hath hither thrust me downInto this gloom of Tartarus profound,To sit in hateful office here confined,Inhabitant of Heaven and heavenly born--Here in perpetual agony and pain,With terrors and with clamours compassed roundOf mine own brood, that on my bowels feed?Thou art my father, thou my author, thouMy being gav'st me; whom should I obeyBut thee? whom follow? Thou wilt bring me soonTo that new world of light and bliss, amongThe gods who live at ease, where I shall reignAt thy right hand voluptuous, as beseemsThy daughter and thy darling, without end."Thus saying, from her side the fatal key,Sad instrument of all our woe, she took;And, towards the gate rolling her bestial train,Forthwith the huge portcullis high up-drew,Which, but herself, not all the Stygian PowersCould once have moved; then in the key-hole turnsTh' intricate wards, and every bolt and barOf massy iron or solid rock with easeUnfastens. On a sudden open fly,With impetuous recoil and jarring sound,Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grateHarsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shookOf Erebus. She opened; but to shutExcelled her power: the gates wide open stood,That with extended wings a bannered host,Under spread ensigns marching, mibht pass throughWith horse and chariots ranked in loose array;So wide they stood, and like a furnace-mouthCast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame.Before their eyes in sudden view appearThe secrets of the hoary Deep--a darkIllimitable ocean, without bound,Without dimension; where length, breadth, and height,And time, and place, are lost; where eldest NightAnd Chaos, ancestors of Nature, holdEternal anarchy, amidst the noiseOf endless wars, and by confusion stand.For Hot, Cold, Moist, and Dry, four champions fierce,Strive here for mastery, and to battle bringTheir embryon atoms: they around the flagOf each his faction, in their several clans,Light-armed or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow,Swarm populous, unnumbered as the sandsOf Barca or Cyrene's torrid soil,Levied to side with warring winds, and poiseTheir lighter wings. To whom these most adhereHe rules a moment: Chaos umpire sits,And by decision more embroils the frayBy which he reigns: next him, high arbiter,Chance governs all. Into this wild Abyss,The womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave,Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,But all these in their pregnant causes mixedConfusedly, and which thus must ever fight,Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordainHis dark materials to create more worlds--Into this wild Abyss the wary FiendStood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frithHe had to cross. Nor was his ear less pealedWith noises loud and ruinous (to compareGreat things with small) than when Bellona stormsWith all her battering engines, bent to raseSome capital city; or less than if this frameOf Heaven were falling, and these elementsIn mutiny had from her axle tornThe steadfast Earth. At last his sail-broad vansHe spread for flight, and, in the surging smokeUplifted, spurns the ground; thence many a league,As in a cloudy chair, ascending ridesAudacious; but, that seat soon failing, meetsA vast vacuity. All unawares,Fluttering his pennons vain, plumb-down he dropsTen thousand fathom deep, and to this hourDown had been falling, had not, by ill chance,The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud,Instinct with fire and nitre, hurried himAs many miles aloft. That fury stayed--Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea,Nor good dry land--nigh foundered, on he fares,Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,Half flying; behoves him now both oar and sail.As when a gryphon through the wildernessWith winged course, o'er hill or moory dale,Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealthHad from his wakeful custody purloinedThe guarded gold; so eagerly the FiendO'er bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way,And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.At length a universal hubbub wildOf stunning sounds, and voices all confused,Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his earWith loudest vehemence. Thither he pliesUndaunted, to meet there whatever PowerOr Spirit of the nethermost AbyssMight in that noise reside, of whom to askWhich way the nearest coast of darkness liesBordering on light; when straight behold the throneOf Chaos, and his dark pavilion spreadWide on the wasteful Deep! With him enthronedSat sable-vested Night, eldest of things,The consort of his reign; and by them stoodOrcus and Ades, and the dreaded nameOf Demogorgon; Rumour next, and Chance,And Tumult, and Confusion, all embroiled,And Discord with a thousand various mouths.T' whom Satan, turning boldly, thus:--"Ye PowersAnd Spirtis of this nethermost Abyss,Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spyWith purpose to explore or to disturbThe secrets of your realm; but, by constraintWandering this darksome desert, as my wayLies through your spacious empire up to light,Alone and without guide, half lost, I seek,What readiest path leads where your gloomy boundsConfine with Heaven; or, if some other place,From your dominion won, th' Ethereal KingPossesses lately, thither to arriveI travel this profound. Direct my course:Directed, no mean recompense it bringsTo your behoof, if I that region lost,All usurpation thence expelled, reduceTo her original darkness and your sway(Which is my present journey), and once moreErect the standard there of ancient Night.Yours be th' advantage all, mine the revenge!"Thus Satan; and him thus the Anarch old,With faltering speech and visage incomposed,Answered:"I know thee, stranger, who thou art--***That mighty leading Angel, who of lateMade head against Heaven's King, though overthrown.I saw and heard; for such a numerous hostFled not in silence through the frighted Deep,With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,Confusion worse confounded; and Heaven-gatesPoured out by millions her victorious bands,Pursuing. I upon my frontiers hereKeep residence; if all I can will serveThat little which is left so to defend,Encroached on still through our intestine broilsWeakening the sceptre of old Night: first, Hell,Your dungeon, stretching far and wide beneath;Now lately Heaven and Earth, another worldHung o'er my realm, linked in a golden chainTo that side Heaven from whence your legions fell!If that way be your walk, you have not far;So much the nearer danger. Go, and speed;Havoc, and spoil, and ruin, are my gain."He ceased; and Satan stayed not to reply,But, glad that now his sea should find a shore,With fresh alacrity and force renewedSprings upward, like a pyramid of fire,Into the wild expanse, and through the shockOf fighting elements, on all sides roundEnvironed, wins his way; harder besetAnd more endangered than when Argo passedThrough Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks,Or when Ulysses on the larboard shunnedCharybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steered.So he with difficulty and labour hardMoved on, with difficulty and labour he;But, he once passed, soon after, when Man fell,Strange alteration! Sin and Death amain,Following his track (such was the will of Heaven)Paved after him a broad and beaten wayOver the dark Abyss, whose boiling gulfTamely endured a bridge of wondrous length,From Hell continued, reaching th' utmost orbOf this frail World; by which the Spirits perverseWith easy intercourse pass to and froTo tempt or punish mortals, except whomGod and good Angels guard by special grace.But now at last the sacred influenceOf light appears, and from the walls of HeavenShoots far into the bosom of dim NightA glimmering dawn. Here Nature first beginsHer farthest verge, and Chaos to retire,As from her outmost works, a broken foe,With tumult less and with less hostile din;That Satan with less toil, and now with ease,Wafts on the calmer wave by dubious light,And, like a weather-beaten vessel, holdsGladly the port, though shrouds and tackle torn;Or in the emptier waste, resembling air,Weighs his spread wings, at leisure to beholdFar off th' empyreal Heaven, extended wideIn circuit, undetermined square or round,With opal towers and battlements adornedOf living sapphire, once his native seat;And, fast by, hanging in a golden chain,This pendent World, in bigness as a starOf smallest magnitude close by the moon.Thither, full fraught with mischievous revenge,Accursed, and in a cursed hour, he hies.
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