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Paradise Lost: Book 02

John Milton

High on a throne of royal state, which far 
Outshone the wealth or Ormus and of Ind, 
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand 
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold, 
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised 
To that bad eminence; and, from despair 
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires 
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue 
Vain 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 hold 
Immortal vigour, though oppressed and fallen, 
I give not Heaven for lost: from this descent 
Celestial Virtues rising will appear 
More 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 choice 
With what besides in council or in fight 
Hath been achieved of merit--yet this loss, 
Thus far at least recovered, hath much more 
Established in a safe, unenvied throne, 
Yielded with full consent. The happier state 
In Heaven, which follows dignity, might draw 
Envy from each inferior; but who here 
Will envy whom the highest place exposes 
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim 
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share 
Of endless pain? Where there is, then, no good 
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there 
From faction: for none sure will claim in Hell 
Precedence; none whose portion is so small 
Of present pain that with ambitious mind 
Will covet more! With this advantage, then, 
To union, and firm faith, and firm accord, 
More than can be in Heaven, we now return 
To claim our just inheritance of old, 
Surer to prosper than prosperity 
Could 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 Spirit 
That fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair. 
His trust was with th' Eternal to be deemed 
Equal in strength, and rather than be less 
Cared not to be at all; with that care lost 
Went 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 those 
Contrive who need, or when they need; not now. 
For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest-- 
Millions that stand in arms, and longing wait 
The signal to ascend--sit lingering here, 
Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place 
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame, 
The prison of his ryranny who reigns 
By our delay? No! let us rather choose, 
Armed with Hell-flames and fury, all at once 
O'er Heaven's high towers to force resistless way, 
Turning our tortures into horrid arms 
Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise 
Of his almighty engine, he shall hear 
Infernal thunder, and, for lightning, see 
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage 
Among his Angels, and his throne itself 
Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire, 
His own invented torments. But perhaps 
The way seems difficult, and steep to scale 
With upright wing against a higher foe! 
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench 
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still, 
That in our porper motion we ascend 
Up to our native seat; descent and fall 
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late, 
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear 
Insulting, and pursued us through the Deep, 
With what compulsion and laborious flight 
We sunk thus low? Th' ascent is easy, then; 
Th' event is feared! Should we again provoke 
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find 
To our destruction, if there be in Hell 
Fear to be worse destroyed! What can be worse 
Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemned 
In this abhorred deep to utter woe! 
Where pain of unextinguishable fire 
Must exercise us without hope of end 
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge 
Inexorably, 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 incense 
His utmost ire? which, to the height enraged, 
Will either quite consume us, and reduce 
To nothing this essential--happier far 
Than miserable to have eternal being!-- 
Or, if our substance be indeed divine, 
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst 
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel 
Our 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 denounced 
Desperate revenge, and battle dangerous 
To less than gods. On th' other side up rose 
Belial, in act more graceful and humane. 
A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed 
For dignity composed, and high exploit. 
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue 
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear 
The better reason, to perplex and dash 
Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low-- 
 To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds 
Timorous 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 urged 
Main reason to persuade immediate war 
Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast 
Ominous conjecture on the whole success; 
When he who most excels in fact of arms, 
In what he counsels and in what excels 
Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair 
And utter dissolution, as the scope 
Of all his aim, after some dire revenge. 
First, what revenge? The towers of Heaven are filled 
With armed watch, that render all access 
Impregnable: oft on the bodering Deep 
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing 
Scout far and wide into the realm of Night, 
Scorning surprise. Or, could we break our way 
By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise 
With blackest insurrection to confound 
Heaven's purest light, yet our great Enemy, 
All incorruptible, would on his throne 
Sit unpolluted, and th' ethereal mould, 
Incapable of stain, would soon expel 
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire, 
Victorious. Thus repulsed, our final hope 
Is flat despair: we must exasperate 
Th' 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 lost 
In the wide womb of uncreated Night, 
Devoid of sense and motion? And who knows, 
Let this be good, whether our angry Foe 
Can give it, or will ever? How he can 
Is 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 end 
Them in his anger whom his anger saves 
To 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 struck 
With Heaven's afflicting thunder, and besought 
The Deep to shelter us? This Hell then seemed 
A refuge from those wounds. Or when we lay 
Chained 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 above 
Should intermitted vengeance arm again 
His red right hand to plague us? What if all 
Her stores were opened, and this firmament 
Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire, 
Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall 
One 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 prey 
Or racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk 
Under 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, alike 
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile 
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye 
Views all things at one view? He from Heaven's height 
All these our motions vain sees and derides, 
Not more almighty to resist our might 
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles. 
Shall we, then, live thus vile--the race of Heaven 
Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here 
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse, 
By my advice; since fate inevitable 
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree, 
The Victor's will. To suffer, as to do, 
Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust 
That so ordains. This was at first resolved, 
If we were wise, against so great a foe 
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall. 
I laugh when those who at the spear are bold 
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear 
What yet they know must follow--to endure 
Exile, or igominy, or bonds, or pain, 
The sentence of their Conqueror. This is now 
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear, 
Our Supreme Foe in time may much remit 
His anger, and perhaps, thus far removed, 
Not mind us not offending, satisfied 
With what is punished; whence these raging fires 
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames. 
Our purer essence then will overcome 
Their noxious vapour; or, inured, not feel; 
Or, changed at length, and to the place conformed 
In temper and in nature, will receive 
Familiar the fierce heat; and, void of pain, 
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light; 
Besides what hope the never-ending flight 
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change 
Worth waiting--since our present lot appears 
For 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 Heaven 
We war, if war be best, or to regain 
Our own right lost. Him to unthrone we then 
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield 
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife. 
The former, vain to hope, argues as vain 
The latter; for what place can be for us 
Within Heaven's bound, unless Heaven's Lord supreme 
We overpower? Suppose he should relent 
And publish grace to all, on promise made 
Of new subjection; with what eyes could we 
Stand in his presence humble, and receive 
Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne 
With warbled hyms, and to his Godhead sing 
Forced hallelujahs, while he lordly sits 
Our envied sovereign, and his altar breathes 
Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers, 
Our servile offerings? This must be our task 
In Heaven, this our delight. How wearisome 
Eternity so spent in worship paid 
To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue, 
By force impossible, by leave obtained 
Unacceptable, though in Heaven, our state 
Of splendid vassalage; but rather seek 
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own 
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess, 
Free and to none accountable, preferring 
Hard liberty before the easy yoke 
Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear 
Then most conspicuous when great things of small, 
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse, 
We can create, and in what place soe'er 
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain 
Through labour and endurance. This deep world 
Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst 
Thick clouds and dark doth Heaven's all-ruling Sire 
Choose to reside, his glory unobscured, 
And with the majesty of darkness round 
Covers his throne, from whence deep thunders roar. 
Mustering their rage, and Heaven resembles Hell! 
As he our darkness, cannot we his light 
Imitate when we please? This desert soil 
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold; 
Nor want we skill or art from whence to raise 
Magnificence; and what can Heaven show more? 
Our torments also may, in length of time, 
Become our elements, these piercing fires 
As soft as now severe, our temper changed 
Into their temper; which must needs remove 
The sensible of pain. All things invite 
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state 
Of order, how in safety best we may 
Compose our present evils, with regard 
Of what we are and where, dismissing quite 
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise." 
  He scarce had finished, when such murmur filled 
Th' assembly as when hollow rocks retain 
The sound of blustering winds, which all night long 
Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull 
Seafaring men o'erwatched, whose bark by chance 
Or pinnace, anchors in a craggy bay 
After the tempest. Such applause was heard 
As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased, 
Advising peace: for such another field 
They dreaded worse than Hell; so much the fear 
Of thunder and the sword of Michael 
Wrought still within them; and no less desire 
To 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 grave 
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed 
A pillar of state. Deep on his front engraven 
Deliberation sat, and public care; 
And princely counsel in his face yet shone, 
Majestic, though in ruin. Sage he stood 
With Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear 
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look 
Drew audience and attention still as night 
Or summer's noontide air, while thus he spake:-- 
  "Thrones and Imperial Powers, Offspring of Heaven, 
Ethereal Virtues! or these titles now 
Must we renounce, and, changing style, be called 
Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote 
Inclines--here to continue, and build up here 
A growing empire; doubtless! while we dream, 
And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomed 
This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat 
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt 
From Heaven's high jurisdiction, in new league 
Banded against his throne, but to remain 
In strictest bondage, though thus far removed, 
Under th' inevitable curb, reserved 
His captive multitude. For he, to be sure, 
In height or depth, still first and last will reign 
Sole king, and of his kingdom lose no part 
By our revolt, but over Hell extend 
His empire, and with iron sceptre rule 
Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven. 
What sit we then projecting peace and war? 
War hath determined us and foiled with loss 
Irreparable; terms of peace yet none 
Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given 
To us enslaved, but custody severe, 
And stripes and arbitrary punishment 
Inflicted? 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 least 
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice 
In doing what we most in suffering feel? 
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need 
With dangerous expedition to invade 
Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault or siege, 
Or ambush from the Deep. What if we find 
Some easier enterprise? There is a place 
(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven 
Err not)--another World, the happy seat 
Of some new race, called Man, about this time 
To be created like to us, though less 
In power and excellence, but favoured more 
Of him who rules above; so was his will 
Pronounced among the Gods, and by an oath 
That shook Heaven's whole circumference confirmed. 
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn 
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould 
Or substance, how endued, and what their power 
And where their weakness: how attempted best, 
By force of subtlety. Though Heaven be shut, 
And Heaven's high Arbitrator sit secure 
In his own strength, this place may lie exposed, 
The utmost border of his kingdom, left 
To their defence who hold it: here, perhaps, 
Some advantageous act may be achieved 
By sudden onset--either with Hell-fire 
To waste his whole creation, or possess 
All as our own, and drive, as we were driven, 
The puny habitants; or, if not drive, 
Seduce them to our party, that their God 
May prove their foe, and with repenting hand 
Abolish his own works. This would surpass 
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy 
In our confusion, and our joy upraise 
In his disturbance; when his darling sons, 
Hurled headlong to partake with us, shall curse 
Their frail original, and faded bliss-- 
Faded so soon! Advise if this be worth 
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here 
Hatching vain empires." Thus beelzebub 
Pleaded his devilish counsel--first devised 
By Satan, and in part proposed: for whence, 
But from the author of all ill, could spring 
So deep a malice, to confound the race 
Of mankind in one root, and Earth with Hell 
To mingle and involve, done all to spite 
The great Creator? But their spite still serves 
His glory to augment. The bold design 
Pleased highly those infernal States, and joy 
Sparkled in all their eyes: with full assent 
They 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 deep 
Will once more lift us up, in spite of fate, 
Nearer our ancient seat--perhaps in view 
Of those bright confines, whence, with neighbouring arms, 
And opportune excursion, we may chance 
Re-enter Heaven; or else in some mild zone 
Dwell, not unvisited of Heaven's fair light, 
Secure, and at the brightening orient beam 
Purge off this gloom: the soft delicious air, 
To heal the scar of these corrosive fires, 
Shall breathe her balm. But, first, whom shall we send 
In search of this new World? whom shall we find 
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wandering feet 
The dark, unbottomed, infinite Abyss, 
And through the palpable obscure find out 
His uncouth way, or spread his airy flight, 
Upborne with indefatigable wings 
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive 
The happy Isle? What strength, what art, can then 
Suffice, or what evasion bear him safe, 
Through the strict senteries and stations thick 
Of Angels watching round? Here he had need 
All circumspection: and we now no less 
Choice in our suffrage; for on whom we send 
The weight of all, and our last hope, relies." 
  This said, he sat; and expectation held 
His look suspense, awaiting who appeared 
To second, or oppose, or undertake 
The perilous attempt. But all sat mute, 
Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and each 
In other's countenance read his own dismay, 
Astonished. None among the choice and prime 
Of those Heaven-warring champions could be found 
So hardy as to proffer or accept, 
Alone, the dreadful voyage; till, at last, 
Satan, whom now transcendent glory raised 
Above his fellows, with monarchal pride 
Conscious of highest worth, unmoved thus spake:-- 
  "O Progeny of Heaven! Empyreal Thrones! 
With reason hath deep silence and demur 
Seized us, though undismayed. Long is the way 
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light. 
Our prison strong, this huge convex of fire, 
Outrageous to devour, immures us round 
Ninefold; and gates of burning adamant, 
Barred over us, prohibit all egress. 
These passed, if any pass, the void profound 
Of unessential Night receives him next, 
Wide-gaping, and with utter loss of being 
Threatens him, plunged in that abortive gulf. 
If thence he scape, into whatever world, 
Or unknown region, what remains him less 
Than unknown dangers, and as hard escape? 
But I should ill become this throne, O Peers, 
And this imperial sovereignty, adorned 
With splendour, armed with power, if aught proposed 
And judged of public moment in the shape 
Of difficulty or danger, could deter 
Me from attempting. Wherefore do I assume 
These royalties, and not refuse to reign, 
Refusing to accept as great a share 
Of hazard as of honour, due alike 
To him who reigns, and so much to him due 
Of hazard more as he above the rest 
High honoured sits? Go, therefore, mighty Powers, 
Terror of Heaven, though fallen; intend at home, 
While here shall be our home, what best may ease 
The present misery, and render Hell 
More tolerable; if there be cure or charm 
To respite, or deceive, or slack the pain 
Of this ill mansion: intermit no watch 
Against a wakeful foe, while I abroad 
Through all the coasts of dark destruction seek 
Deliverance for us all. This enterprise 
None shall partake with me." Thus saying, rose 
The 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 stand 
His rivals, winning cheap the high repute 
Which he through hazard huge must earn. But they 
Dreaded not more th' adventure than his voice 
Forbidding; and at once with him they rose. 
Their rising all at once was as the sound 
Of thunder heard remote. Towards him they bend 
With awful reverence prone, and as a God 
Extol him equal to the Highest in Heaven. 
Nor failed they to express how much they praised 
That for the general safety he despised 
His own: for neither do the Spirits damned 
Lose all their virtue; lest bad men should boast 
Their specious deeds on earth, which glory excites, 
Or close ambition varnished o'er with zeal. 
  Thus they their doubtful consultations dark 
Ended, rejoicing in their matchless Chief: 
As, when from mountain-tops the dusky clouds 
Ascending, while the north wind sleeps, o'erspread 
Heaven's cheerful face, the louring element 
Scowls 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 herds 
Attest their joy, that hill and valley rings. 
O shame to men! Devil with devil damned 
Firm concord holds; men only disagree 
Of creatures rational, though under hope 
Of heavenly grace, and, God proclaiming peace, 
Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife 
Among themselves, and levy cruel wars 
Wasting 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 forth 
In order came the grand infernal Peers: 
Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemed 
Alone th' 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 emblazonry, and horrent arms. 
Then of their session ended they bid cry 
With trumpet's regal sound the great result: 
Toward the four winds four speedy Cherubim 
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy, 
By herald's voice explained; the hollow Abyss 
Heard far adn wide, and all the host of Hell 
With deafening shout returned 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 perplexed, 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 th' 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 airy knights, and couch their spears, 
Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms 
From either end of heaven the welkin burns. 
Others, with vast Typhoean 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 Oechalia crowned 
With conquest, felt th' envenomed robe, and tore 
Through pain up by the roots Thessalian pines, 
And Lichas from the top of Oeta threw 
Into th' 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 reasoned high 
Of 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 charm 
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite 
Fallacious hope, or arm th' 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 Phlegeton, 
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage. 
Far off from these, a slow and silent stream, 
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls 
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks 
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; 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 haled, 
At certain revolutions all the damned 
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, infixed, 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 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 
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, th' adventurous bands, 
With shuddering horror pale, and eyes aghast, 
Viewed first their lamentable lot, and found 
No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale 
They 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 curse 
Created evil, for evil only good; 
Where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds, 
Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things, 
Obominable, inutterable, and worse 
Than 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 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 seemed 
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 seemed woman to the waist, and fair, 
But ended foul in many a scaly fold, 
Voluminous and vast--a serpent armed 
With mortal sting. About her middle round 
A cry of Hell-hounds never-ceasing barked 
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung 
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep, 
If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb, 
And kennel there; yet there still barked and howled 
Within unseen. Far less abhorred than these 
Vexed Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts 
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore; 
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, called 
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 called that shape had none 
Distinguishable 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 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. 
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, advance 
Thy miscreated front athwart my way 
To 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 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 condemned 
To waste eternal days in woe and pain? 
And reckon'st thou thyself with Spirits of Heaven 
Hell-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 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 th' other side, 
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood 
Unterrified, and like a comet burned, 
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge 
In th' arctic sky, and from his horrid hair 
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head 
Levelled his deadly aim; their fatal hands 
No second stroke intend; and such a frown 
Each cast at th' other as when two black clouds, 
With heaven's artillery fraught, came 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 frowned the mighty combatants that Hell 
Grew darker at their frown; so matched they stood; 
For never but once more was wither 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 rushed 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, ordained 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 returned:-- 
  "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-formed, 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." 
  T' whom thus the Portress of Hell-gate replied:-- 
"Hast thou forgot me, then; and do I seem 
Now in thine eye so foul?--once deemed so fair 
In Heaven, when at th' 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, 
Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed, 
Out of thy head I sprung. Amazement seized 
All th' host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid 
At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign 
Portentous held me; but, familiar grown, 
I pleased, and with attractive graces won 
The most averse--thee chiefly, who, full oft 
Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing, 
Becam'st enamoured; 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 remained 
(For what could else?) to our Almighty Foe 
Clear victory; to our part loss and rout 
Through all the Empyrean. 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 hands 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 
Transformed: but he my inbred enemy 
Forth issued, brandishing his fatal dart, 
Made to destroy. I fled, and cried out Death! 
Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed 
From 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 foul 
Engendering with me, of that rape begot 
These yelling monsters, that with ceaseless cry 
Surround me, as thou saw'st--hourly conceived 
And hourly born, with sorrow infinite 
To me; for, when they list, into the womb 
That bred them they return, and howl, and gnaw 
My bowels, their repast; then, bursting forth 
Afresh, with conscious terrors vex me round, 
That rest or intermission none I find. 
Before mine eyes in opposition sits 
Grim Death, my son and foe, who set them on, 
And me, his parent, would full soon devour 
For want of other prey, but that he knows 
His end with mine involved, and knows that I 
Should prove a bitter morsel, and his bane, 
Whenever that shall be: so Fate pronounced. 
But thou, O father, I forewarn thee, shun 
His deadly arrow; neither vainly hope 
To 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 lore 
Soon 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 pledge 
Of dalliance had with thee in Heaven, and joys 
Then sweet, now sad to mention, through dire change 
Befallen us unforeseen, unthought-of--know, 
I come no enemy, but to set free 
From out this dark and dismal house of pain 
Both him and thee, and all the heavenly host 
Of Spirits that, in our just pretences armed, 
Fell with us from on high. From them I go 
This uncouth errand sole, and one for all 
Myself expose, with lonely steps to tread 
Th' unfounded Deep, and through the void immense 
To search, with wandering quest, a place foretold 
Should be--and, by concurring signs, ere now 
Created vast and round--a place of bliss 
In the purlieus of Heaven; and therein placed 
A race of upstart creatures, to supply 
Perhaps our vacant room, though more removed, 
Lest Heaven, surcharged with potent multitude, 
Might hap to move new broils. Be this, or aught 
Than this more secret, now designed, I haste 
To know; and, this once known, shall soon return, 
And bring ye to the place where thou and Death 
Shall dwell at ease, and up and down unseen 
Wing silently the buxom air, embalmed 
With odours. There ye shall be fed and filled 
Immeasurably; all things shall be your prey." 
  He ceased; for both seemed highly pleased, and Death 
Grinned horrible a ghastly smile, to hear 
His famine should be filled, and blessed his maw 
Destined to that good hour. No less rejoiced 
His mother bad, and thus bespake her sire:-- 
  "The key of this infernal Pit, by due 
And by command of Heaven's all-powerful King, 
I keep, by him forbidden to unlock 
These adamantine gates; against all force 
Death 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 down 
Into 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 round 
Of mine own brood, that on my bowels feed? 
Thou art my father, thou my author, thou 
My being gav'st me; whom should I obey 
But thee? whom follow? Thou wilt bring me soon 
To that new world of light and bliss, among 
The gods who live at ease, where I shall reign 
At thy right hand voluptuous, as beseems 
Thy 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 Powers 
Could once have moved; then in the key-hole turns 
Th' intricate wards, and every bolt and bar 
Of massy iron or solid rock with ease 
Unfastens. On a sudden open fly, 
With impetuous recoil and jarring sound, 
Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grate 
Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook 
Of Erebus. She opened; but to shut 
Excelled her power: the gates wide open stood, 
That with extended wings a bannered host, 
Under spread ensigns marching, mibht pass through 
With horse and chariots ranked in loose array; 
So wide they stood, and like a furnace-mouth 
Cast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame. 
Before their eyes in sudden view appear 
The secrets of the hoary Deep--a dark 
Illimitable ocean, without bound, 
Without dimension; where length, breadth, and height, 
And time, and place, are lost; where eldest Night 
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold 
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise 
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand. 
For Hot, Cold, Moist, and Dry, four champions fierce, 
Strive here for mastery, and to battle bring 
Their embryon atoms: they around the flag 
Of each his faction, in their several clans, 
Light-armed or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow, 
Swarm populous, unnumbered as the sands 
Of Barca or Cyrene's torrid soil, 
Levied to side with warring winds, and poise 
Their lighter wings. To whom these most adhere 
He rules a moment: Chaos umpire sits, 
And by decision more embroils the fray 
By 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 mixed 
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight, 
Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain 
His dark materials to create more worlds-- 
Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend 
Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while, 
Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith 
He had to cross. Nor was his ear less pealed 
With noises loud and ruinous (to compare 
Great things with small) than when Bellona storms 
With all her battering engines, bent to rase 
Some capital city; or less than if this frame 
Of Heaven were falling, and these elements 
In mutiny had from her axle torn 
The steadfast Earth. At last his sail-broad vans 
He spread for flight, and, in the surging smoke 
Uplifted, spurns the ground; thence many a league, 
As in a cloudy chair, ascending rides 
Audacious; but, that seat soon failing, meets 
A vast vacuity. All unawares, 
Fluttering his pennons vain, plumb-down he drops 
Ten thousand fathom deep, and to this hour 
Down had been falling, had not, by ill chance, 
The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud, 
Instinct with fire and nitre, hurried him 
As 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 wilderness 
With winged course, o'er hill or moory dale, 
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth 
Had from his wakeful custody purloined 
The guarded gold; so eagerly the Fiend 
O'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 wild 
Of stunning sounds, and voices all confused, 
Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his ear 
With loudest vehemence. Thither he plies 
Undaunted, to meet there whatever Power 
Or Spirit of the nethermost Abyss 
Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask 
Which way the nearest coast of darkness lies 
Bordering on light; when straight behold the throne 
Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread 
Wide on the wasteful Deep! With him enthroned 
Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things, 
The consort of his reign; and by them stood 
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name 
Of 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 Powers 
And Spirtis of this nethermost Abyss, 
Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spy 
With purpose to explore or to disturb 
The secrets of your realm; but, by constraint 
Wandering this darksome desert, as my way 
Lies through your spacious empire up to light, 
Alone and without guide, half lost, I seek, 
What readiest path leads where your gloomy bounds 
Confine with Heaven; or, if some other place, 
From your dominion won, th' Ethereal King 
Possesses lately, thither to arrive 
I travel this profound. Direct my course: 
Directed, no mean recompense it brings 
To your behoof, if I that region lost, 
All usurpation thence expelled, reduce 
To her original darkness and your sway 
(Which is my present journey), and once more 
Erect 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 late 
Made head against Heaven's King, though overthrown. 
I saw and heard; for such a numerous host 
Fled not in silence through the frighted Deep, 
With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout, 
Confusion worse confounded; and Heaven-gates 
Poured out by millions her victorious bands, 
Pursuing. I upon my frontiers here 
Keep residence; if all I can will serve 
That little which is left so to defend, 
Encroached on still through our intestine broils 
Weakening the sceptre of old Night: first, Hell, 
Your dungeon, stretching far and wide beneath; 
Now lately Heaven and Earth, another world 
Hung o'er my realm, linked in a golden chain 
To 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 renewed 
Springs upward, like a pyramid of fire, 
Into the wild expanse, and through the shock 
Of fighting elements, on all sides round 
Environed, wins his way; harder beset 
And more endangered than when Argo passed 
Through Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks, 
Or when Ulysses on the larboard shunned 
Charybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steered. 
So he with difficulty and labour hard 
Moved 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 way 
Over the dark Abyss, whose boiling gulf 
Tamely endured a bridge of wondrous length, 
From Hell continued, reaching th' utmost orb 
Of this frail World; by which the Spirits perverse 
With easy intercourse pass to and fro 
To tempt or punish mortals, except whom 
God and good Angels guard by special grace. 
  But now at last the sacred influence 
Of light appears, and from the walls of Heaven 
Shoots far into the bosom of dim Night 
A glimmering dawn. Here Nature first begins 
Her 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, holds 
Gladly the port, though shrouds and tackle torn; 
Or in the emptier waste, resembling air, 
Weighs his spread wings, at leisure to behold 
Far off th' empyreal Heaven, extended wide 
In circuit, undetermined square or round, 
With opal towers and battlements adorned 
Of living sapphire, once his native seat; 
And, fast by, hanging in a golden chain, 
This pendent World, in bigness as a star 
Of smallest magnitude close by the moon. 
Thither, full fraught with mischievous revenge, 
Accursed, and in a cursed hour, he hies.

Added: 2 Sep 2002 | Last Read: 21 Jan 2019 2:45 PM | Viewed: 4627 times

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