Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 were; dismissing quite
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise."

He scarce had finish'd, when such murmur
fill'd

The assembly, as when hollow rocks retain
The sound of blustering winds, which all night
long

Had rous'd the sea, now with hoarse cadence lul!
Seafaring men o'erwatch'd, whose bark by chance
Or pinnace anchors in a craggy bay

After the tempest: such applause was heard
As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleas'd,
Advising peace: for such another field

They dreaded worse than Hell: so much the fear
Of thunder and the sword of Michaël
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 perceiv'd, than whom
Satan except, none higher sat, with grave
Aspéct he rose, and in his rising seem'd
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

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 call'd Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less

In power and excellence, but favor'd more
Of him who rules above; so was his will
Pronounc'd among the gods, and by an oath,
That shook Heaven's whole circumference, con
firm'd.

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 or subtlety. Though Heaven be shut.
And Heaven's high Arbitrator sit secure
In his own strength, this place may lie expos'd,
The utmost border of his kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here perhaps
Some advantageous act may be achiev'd
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,
Hurl'd 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 devis'd

Must we renounce, and, changing style, be call'd By Satan, and in part propos'd: for whence,

Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote
Inclines here to continue, and build up here
A growing empire; doubtless; while we dreain,
And know not that the king of Heaven hath doom'd
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 remov'd
Under the inevitable curb, reserv'd
His captive multitude: for he, 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 determin'd us, and foil'd with loss
Irreparable: terms of peace yet none

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
Pleas'd 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 judg'd, well ended long debate
Synod of gods, and, like to what ye are,
Great things resolv'd, 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 neighbor-
ing arms

And opportune excursion, we may chance
Re-enter Heaven: or else in some mild zone
Dwell, not unvisited of Heaven's fair light,

Vouchsaf'd or sought; for what peace will be Secure; and at the brightening orient beam

[blocks in formation]

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 appear'd
To second, or oppose, or undertake

The perilous attempt: but all sat mute,

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 fail'd they to express how much they prais'd,
That for the general safety he despis'd

His own: for neither do the spirits damn'd
Lose all their virtue; lest bad men should boast
Their specious deeds on earth which glory excites,
Or close ambition, varnish'd o'er with zeal.

Pondering the danger with deep thoughts; and Thus they their doubtful consultations dark

each

In other's countenance read his own dismay
Astonish'd: none among the choice and prime
Of those Heaven-warring champions could

found

So hardy, as to proffer or accept,
Alone, the dreadful voyage; till at last
Satan, whom now transcendent glory rais'd
Above his fellows, with monarchal pride,
Conscious of highest worth, unmov'd thus spake.
"O progeny of Heaven, empyreal thrones,
With reason hath deep silence and demur
Seiz'd us, though undismay'd. 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,
Barr'd over us, prohibit all egress.

These pass'd, if any pass, the void profound
Of unessential Night receives him next
Wide gaping, and with utter loss of being
Threatens him, plung'd 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 sovranty, adorn'd

be

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 darken'd landskip 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 damn'd
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 dissolv'd; and forth
In order came the grand infernal peers;
Midst came their mighty paramount, and seem'd
Alone the antagonist of Heaven, nor less
Than Hell's dread emperor, with pomp supreme,
And godlike imitated state: him round

A globe of fiery seraphim enclos'd,
With bright imblazonry, and horrent arms.

With splendor, arm'd with power, if aught pro- Then of their session ended they bid cry

pos'd

And judg'd 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 honor, due alike
To him who reigns, and so much to him due
Of hazard more, as he above the rest

High honor'd sits? Go therefore, mighty powers,
Terror of Heaven, though fall'n; intend

home,

at

With trumpets' regal sound the great result:
Towards the four winds four speedy cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy,
By herald's voice explain'd; the hollow abyss
Heard far and wide, and all the host of Hell
With deafening shout return'd them loud acclaim.
Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat
rais'd

By false presumptuous hope, the ranged powers
Disband, and, wandering, each his several way
Pursues, as inclination or sad choice

Leads him, perplex'd where he may likeliest find

While here shall be our home, what best may ease Truce to his restless thoughts, and entertain
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 rais'd,
Others among the chief might offer now
(Certain to be refus'd) what erst they fear'd;
And, so refus'd, might in opinion stand
His rivals; winning cheap the high repute,
Which he through hazard huge must earn.
they

Dreaded not more the adventure, than his voice
Forbidding; and at once with him they rose:

But

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 brigades form.
As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
Wag'd 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 Typhoan 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 crown'd
With conquest, felt the envenom'd 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 enthral 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 retir'd,

In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
Fix'd 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, nam'd of lamentation loud

Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,
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; or 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
Barns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire.
Thither by harpy-footed furies hal'd

At certain revolutions, all the damn'd

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, infix'd, 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 the attempt
Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards
The ford, and of itself the water flies
A taste of living wight, as once it fled

The lip of Tantalus. Thus roving on

In confus'd march forlorn, the adventurous bands
With shuddering horror pale, and eyes aghast,
View'd first their lamentable lot, and found
No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale
They pass'd, 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,
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,
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,
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,
Ply stemming nightly toward the pole: so seem'd
Far off the flying fiend. At last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,
And thrice three-fold 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;
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast; a serpent arm'd
With mortal sting: About her middle round
A cry of Hell-hounds never ceasing bark'd
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
Vex'd Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore:
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, call'd
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lur'd with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the laboring 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 call'd that shadow seem'd
For each seem'd either: black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart; what seem'd his hean
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 nought valued he, nor shunn'd;
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 assur'd, without leave ask'd 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,

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

Who first broke peace in Heaven, and faith, till then At first, and call'd me Sin, and for a sign
Unbroken; and in proud rebellious arms
Drew after him the third part of Heaven's sons
Conjúr'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?

[ocr errors]

And reckon'st thou thyself with spirits of Heaven,
Hell-doom'd, 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 ten-fold
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
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:
So frown'd the mighty combatants, that Hell
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 achiev'd, whereof all Hell had rung,
Had not the snaky sorceress, that sat
Fast by Hell-gate, and kept the fatal key,
Ris'n, and with hideous outcry rush'd 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 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,

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 enamor'd, and such joy thou took'st
With me in secret, that my womb conceiv'd
A growing burden. Meanwhile war arose,
And fields were fought in Heaven; wherein re-
main'd

[ocr errors]

(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
Transform'd: 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 sigh'd
From all her caves, and back resounded Death!
I fled, but he pursued, (though more, it seems,
Inflam'd with lust than rage,) and, swifter far,
Me overtook his mother all dismay'd,
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 conceiv'd
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 sets them on,
And me his parent would full soon devour
For want of other prey, but that he knows
His end with mine involv'd; and knows that I
Should prove a bitter morsel, and his bane,
Whenever that shall be; so Fate pronounc'd.

What thing thou art, thus double-form'd; and why But thou, O father, I forewarn thee, shun

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 forgot 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 combin'd
In bold conspiracy 'gainst Heaven's King,

His deadly arrow; neither vainly hope
To be invulnerable in those bright arms,
Though temper'd heavenly; for that mortal dint,
Save he who reigns above, none can resist."
She finish'd; and the subtle fiend his lore
Soon learn'd, now milder. and thus answer'd 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

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,

Then sweet, now sad to mention, through dire change So wide they stood, and like a furnace mouth
Befall'n 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 arm'd,
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

The unsounded deep, and through the void immense
To search with wondering 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 plac'd
A race of upstart creatures, to supply
Perhaps our vacant room; though more remov'd,
Lest Heaven, surcharg'd with potent multitude,
Might hap to move new broils. Be this or aught
Than this more secret now design'd, 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, imbalm'd
With odors: there ye shall be fed and fill'd
Immeasurably; all things shall be your prey."
He ceas'd, for both seem'd highly pleas'd, and
Death

Grinn'd horrible a ghastly smile, to hear
His famine should be fill'd; and blest his maw
Destin'd to that good hour: no less rejoic'd
His mother bad, and thus bespake her sire.
"The key of this infernal pit by due,

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-arm'd or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow
Swarm populous, unnumber'd 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 mix'd
Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds;
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend

And by command of Heaven's all-powerful King, Stood on the brink of Hell, and look'd a while.

I keep, by him forbidden to unlock

These adamantine gates; against all force
Death ready stands to interpose his dart,
Fearless to be o'ermatch'd 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 confin'd,
Inhabitant of Heaven, and heavenly-born,
Here in perpetual agony and pain,

With terrors and with clamors compass'd 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 mov'd; then in the key-hole

turns

The 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
The infernal doors, and on their hinges grate
Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook
Of Erebus. She open'd, but to shut
Excell'd her power; the gates wide open stood,
That with extended wings a banner'd host,
Under spread ensigns marching, might pass through
With horse and chariots rank'd in loose array;

Pondering his voyage: for no narrow frith
He had to cross. Nor was his ear less peal'd
With noises loud and ruinous, (to compare
Great things with small,) that 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 stedfast Earth. At last his sail-broad vans
He spreads 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 fathoms 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 stay'd,
Quench'd in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea,
Nor good dry land: nigh founder'd 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 purloin'd
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 confus'd,
Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his ear
With loudest vehemence: thither he plies,

« PreviousContinue »