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420

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 voido profound
Of unessential night receives him next,
Wide gaping, and with utter loss of being

440 Threatens him, plunged in that abortive gulf. If thence he scape into whatever world

430

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, adorned
With splendor, 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 450
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 honored sits ? Go, therefore, mighty powers,
Terror of heaven, though fallen; intendo 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

460
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, 470
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 the 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 480
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 490 Scowls o'er the darkened landskip snow or shower; If chance the radiant sun, with farewell sweet,

30C

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 Stygiano council thus dissolved, and forth
In order came the grand infernal peers :
Midst came their mighty paramount, and seemed
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 enclosed
With bright emblazonry, and horrent arms.
Then of their session ended they bid cryo
With trumpets' regal sound the great result:
Toward the four winds four speedy cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy,

510

By herald's voice explained: the hollow abyss
Heard far and wide, and all the host of hell
With deafening shout returned them loud acclaim. 520
Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat raised
By false presumptuous hope, the rangèd 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 the Olympiano games or Pythian fields;

530
Part curb their fiery steeds, or shun the goal
With rapid wheels, or fronted brig'ades form:
As when, to warn proud cities, war appears
Waged in the troubledo 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 Typhoeano rage, more fell,
Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air

540 In whirlwind; hell scarce holds the wild uproar: As when Alcides,' from Echalia crowned

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