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A universe of death; which God by curse 622
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 conceiv'd,
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.
Meanwhile, the Adversary of God and man,
Satan, with thoughts inflam'd of highest design, 630
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? 640
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,
Ply stemming nightly towards 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, 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
Woluminous and vast ; a serpent arm'd
With mortal sting : About her middle round

1 * Ternate and Tidore:' two of the Molucca islands in the East Indian Sea• ‘Trading flood:’ flood propelled by the trade winds.

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'd, and 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,
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 called that shadow seem’d,
For each seem’d either; black it stood as Night, 670
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 admir’d,
Admir’d, not fear'd ; God and his Son except,
Created thing not 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
Toyonder gates? through them I mean to pass,
That be assured, without leave ask'd of thee:

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Retire, or taste thy folly; and learn by proof, 686
Hell-born 1 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
Conjur'd 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 l and breath'st defiance here and scorn,
Where I reign king, and, to enrage thee more,
Thy king and lord 3 Back to thy punishment,
False fugitive and to thy speed add wings, 700
Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue -
Thy lingering, or with one stroke of this dart
Strange horrour seize thee, and pangs unfelt before.
So spake the grizly Terrour, and in shape,
So speaking and so threatening, grew tenfold
More dreadful and deform. On the other side,
Incens'd 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 710
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head
Levell'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 :

''Ophiuchus:” or Serpentarius, a constellation extending over forty degrees.

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So frown'd the mighty combatants, that Hell 719
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 rush'd between.
0 Father! what intends thy hand, she cried,
Against thy only Son 7 What fury, O Son |
Possesses thee to bend that mortal dart
Against thy Father's head? and know'st for whom ; 780
For Him who sits above, and laughs the while
At thee, ordain’d his 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, 740
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 forgotten 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

"But once more:’ referring to the Messiah, who is to destroy “Death and him that hath the power of Death.'

In bold conspiracy against Heaven's King, 751
All on a sudden miserable pain
Surpris’d 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,
Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess arm’d,
Out of thy head I sprung : Amazement seiz'd
All the host of Heaven ; back they recoil'd, afraid
At first, and call'd me Sin, and for a sign 760
Portentous held me ; but, familiar grown,
I pleas'd and with attractive graces won
The most averse, thee chiefly, who full oft
Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing,
Becam'st enamour'd, and such joy thou took'st
With me in secret, that my womb conceived
A growing burden. Meanwhile, war arose,
And fields were fought in Heaven ; wherein remain'd
(For what could else?) to our Almighty Foe
Clear victory; to our part loss and rout,
Through all the empyréan ; down they fell,
Driven headlong from the pitch of Heaven, down
Into this deep ; and in the general fall
I also : at which time this powerful key
Into my hand was given, with charge to keep
These gates for ever shut, which none can pass
Without my opening. Pensive here I sat
Alone; 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 pain
Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew

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