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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 the Olympian games or Pythian fields;
Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal
With rapid wheels, or fronted brigads 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 aery 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,

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Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air

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In whirlwind; Hell scarce holds the wild uproar:

As when Alcides, from Echalia crowned

With conquest, felt the envenomed robe, and tore
Through pain up by the roots Thessalian pines,
And Lichas from the top of Eta threw

Into the 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)

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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 the obdurèd 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
Abhorrèd 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

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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 the 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,

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All in one moment, and so near the brink
But Fate withstands, and, to oppose the attempt,
Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards

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The ford, and of itself the water flies

All taste of living wight, as once it fled

The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on

In confused march forlorn, the adventrous 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,

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Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,
Abominable, inutterable, and worse

Than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived,
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimæras 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

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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.
The 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,

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