Page images
PDF
EPUB

The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet
(For Eloquence the soul, fong charms the sense,)
Others apart fat on a hill retir’d,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
Fixt fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandring mazes loft,
Of good and evil much they argu'd then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathie, and glory and shame,
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy :
Yet with a pleasing forcerie 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, nam'd of lamentation loud
Heard on the rueful stream ; fierce Phlegeton.
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from these a now and silent stream,
Lethe the river of oblivion rowls
Her watry 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 feems
Of ancient pile ; all else deep snow and ice,
A gulph profound as that Serbonian bog
Betwixt Damiata and mount Casus old,
Where armies whole have sunk : the parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effe&t of fire.
Thither by harpy footed furies hail'd,
At certain revolutions all the damn'd
Are brought : and feel by 'turns the bitter change
Of fierce extreams, extreams by change more fierce,
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice
Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immoveable, infixt, and frozen round,
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.
They ferry over this Lethean sound
Both to and fro, their forrow to augment,
And with 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 foord, and of itself the water flies
Al taste of living wight, as once it fed.
The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on
In confus'd march forlorn, th’adventrous bands
With shuddring horror pale, and eyes agast

View'd firft their lamentable lot, and found
No reft : through many a dark and drearie vale
They pass’d, and many a region dolorous,
O're many a frozen, many a fierie Alpe,
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,
Abominable, inutterable, and worse
Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceiv'd,
Gorgions and Hydra's, and Chimeras dire.

Mean while the adversary.of God and man,
Satan with thoughts inflam'd of highest design,
Puts on swift wings, and towards the gates of hell
Explores his folitary flight; sometimes
He scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left,
Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soares
Up to the fiery concave towring high.
As when far off at sea a fleet descri'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close failing from Bengala, or the ines
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicie drugs: they on the trading flood
Through the wide Ethiopian to the cape
Ply stemming nightly toward the pole. So seem'd
Far off the flying fiend i 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 unconfum’d. Before the gates there fat ..
On either side a formidable shape;
The one seem'd woman to the waste, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous, and vast, a serpent arm'd
With mortal fting : about her middle round
A cry of hell-hounds never ceasing bark'd
With wide Cerberian mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal : yet, when they lift, would creep,
If aught disturb’d their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there, yet there ftill bark'd and howl'd
Within unseen. Far less abhor'd than these
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian Ahore ::
Nor uglier follow the night hag, when callid .
In secret, riding through the air The comes
Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon
Eclipfes at their charms. The other shape,
If shape it might be callid, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,
Of substance might be calld that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either ; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And Thook a dreadful dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his feat
The monster moving onward came as fast
With horrid ftrides, hell trembl'd as he strode.
Th’undaunted fiend what this might be admir'd,
Admir'd, not fear'd; God and his Son except,

Created thing naught valu'd he nor fhun'a ;
And with disdainful look thus first began.

Whence and what art thou, exécrable Thape,
That dar'it, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy mifcreated front athwart my way". , .'
To yonder gates? through them I mean to passi .
That be affur'd, without leave askt of thee :: ..
Retire, or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with spirits of heav'n.
To whom the goblin full of wrath reply'd,
Art thou that traitor angel, art thou he,. .
Who first broke peace in heav'n and faith, till then,
Unbrok’n, and in proud rebellious arms,
Drew after him the third part of heav'n's fons. .
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 reck'n'st thou thyself with spirits of heav'n,
Hell-doom'd, and breathi'st defiance here and scorn
Where I reign king, and to enrage thee more,
Thy king and lord ? back to thy punishment, mint
False fugitive, and to thy speed add wings, . ;.,.
Least with a whip. of scorpions I pursue -
Thy lingring, or with one stroke of this dart
Strange horror feise thee, and pangs unfelt before. :-
So spake the griefly terrour, and in shape,

So speaking, and so threatning, grew tenfold
- More dreadful and deform : on th’other side 1

Incenst with indignation Satan stood
Unterrify'd, and like a comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »