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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 bordering 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 the 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

The 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,
Is this then worst,

What can we suffer worse?

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
Of wracking whirlwinds; or for ever sunk
Under you 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.”

A third proposal is at length made and adopted. It is to search the truth of that prophecy or tradition in heaven concerning another world, and another kind of creature, equal, or not much inferior, to themselves, about this time to be created. In their doubt who shall be sent on this difficult search, Satan their chief undertakes alone the voyage, and is honoured and applauded. The council thus ended, the rest betake them several ways, and to several employments, as their inclinations lead them, to entertain the time till Satan return. He passes on his journey to hell-gates: finds them shut, and guarded by two monsters, called SIN and DEATH.


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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.
The undaunted fiend what this might be admired,
Admired, not feared; God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he, nor shunned;
And with disdainful look thus first began:

"Whence and what art thou, execrable shape,
That darest, 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 reckonest thou thyself with spirits of heaven,
Hell-doomed, and breathest 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 the other side,
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burned,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the 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 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:

So frowned the mighty combatants, that hell
Grew darker at their frown; so matched 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 rushed between.

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