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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

550
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),
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, 560
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

570

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 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; all else deep snow and ice,
A gulf profound as that Serboniano bog

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590

600

Betwixt Damiatao 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,
All in one moment, and so near the brink;
But Fate withstands, and, to oppose the attempt, 610
Medusa° with Gorgonian terror guards
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 adventurous 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,

620 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 feigned or fear conceived, Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire.

Meanwhile the adversary of God and man, Satan, with thoughts inflamed of highest design, 630 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 Ethiopiano to the Cape,

640

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; 650
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 Cerbereano mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal ... Far less abhorred than these
Vexed Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts

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Calabriao 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 laboring 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,

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