Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

Paradise Lost: Book 02

Written by: John Milton | Biography
 | Quotes (101) |
 High on a throne of royal state, which far 
Outshone the wealth or Ormus and of Ind, 
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand 
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold, 
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised 
To that bad eminence; and, from despair 
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires 
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue 
Vain war with Heaven; and, by success untaught, 
His proud imaginations thus displayed:-- 
 "Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heaven!-- 
For, since no deep within her gulf can hold 
Immortal vigour, though oppressed and fallen, 
I give not Heaven for lost: from this descent 
Celestial Virtues rising will appear 
More glorious and more dread than from no fall, 
And trust themselves to fear no second fate!-- 
Me though just right, and the fixed laws of Heaven, 
Did first create your leader--next, free choice 
With what besides in council or in fight 
Hath been achieved of merit--yet this loss, 
Thus far at least recovered, hath much more 
Established in a safe, unenvied throne, 
Yielded with full consent.
The happier state In Heaven, which follows dignity, might draw Envy from each inferior; but who here Will envy whom the highest place exposes Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share Of endless pain? Where there is, then, no good For which to strive, no strife can grow up there From faction: for none sure will claim in Hell Precedence; none whose portion is so small Of present pain that with ambitious mind Will covet more! With this advantage, then, To union, and firm faith, and firm accord, More than can be in Heaven, we now return To claim our just inheritance of old, Surer to prosper than prosperity Could have assured us; and by what best way, Whether of open war or covert guile, We now debate.
Who can advise may speak.
" He ceased; and next him Moloch, sceptred king, Stood up--the strongest and the fiercest Spirit That fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair.
His trust was with th' Eternal to be deemed Equal in strength, and rather than be less Cared not to be at all; with that care lost Went all his fear: of God, or Hell, or worse, He recked not, and these words thereafter spake:-- "My sentence is for open war.
Of wiles, More unexpert, I boast not: them let those Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest-- Millions that stand in arms, and longing wait The signal to ascend--sit lingering here, Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame, The prison of his ryranny who reigns By our delay? No! let us rather choose, Armed with Hell-flames and fury, all at once O'er Heaven's high towers to force resistless way, Turning our tortures into horrid arms Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise Of his almighty engine, he shall hear Infernal thunder, and, for lightning, see Black fire and horror shot with equal rage Among his Angels, and his throne itself Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire, His own invented torments.
But perhaps The way seems difficult, and steep to scale With upright wing against a higher foe! Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench Of that forgetful lake benumb not still, That in our porper motion we ascend Up to our native seat; descent and fall To us is adverse.
Who but felt of late, When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear Insulting, and pursued us through the Deep, With what compulsion and laborious flight We sunk thus low? Th' ascent is easy, then; Th' event is feared! Should we again provoke Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find To our destruction, if there be in Hell Fear to be worse destroyed! What can be worse Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemned In this abhorred deep to utter woe! Where pain of unextinguishable fire Must exercise us without hope of end The vassals of his anger, when the scourge Inexorably, and the torturing hour, Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus, We should be quite abolished, and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense His utmost ire? which, to the height enraged, Will either quite consume us, and reduce To nothing this essential--happier far Than miserable to have eternal being!-- Or, if our substance be indeed divine, And cannot cease to be, we are at worst On this side nothing; and by proof we feel Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven, And with perpetual inroads to alarm, Though inaccessible, his fatal throne: Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.
" He ended frowning, and his look denounced Desperate revenge, and battle dangerous To less than gods.
On th' other side up rose Belial, in act more graceful and humane.
A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed For dignity composed, and high exploit.
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear The better reason, to perplex and dash Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low-- To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds Timorous and slothful.
Yet he pleased the ear, And with persuasive accent thus began:-- "I should be much for open war, O Peers, As not behind in hate, if what was urged Main reason to persuade immediate war Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast Ominous conjecture on the whole success; When he who most excels in fact of arms, In what he counsels and in what excels 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 bodering 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 th' 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 Th' 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, What can we suffer worse?' Is this, then, worst-- 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 Or racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk Under yon 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; for what can force or guile With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye Views all things at one view? He from Heaven's height All these our motions vain sees and derides, Not more almighty to resist our might Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we, then, live thus vile--the race of Heaven Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here Chains and these torments? Better these than worse, By my advice; since fate inevitable Subdues us, and omnipotent decree, The Victor's will.
To suffer, as to do, Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust That so ordains.
This was at first resolved, If we were wise, against so great a foe Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh when those who at the spear are bold And venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear What yet they know must follow--to endure Exile, or igominy, or bonds, or pain, The sentence of their Conqueror.
This is now Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear, Our Supreme Foe in time may much remit His anger, and perhaps, thus far removed, Not mind us not offending, satisfied With what is punished; whence these raging fires Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome Their noxious vapour; or, inured, not feel; Or, changed at length, and to the place conformed In temper and in nature, will receive Familiar the fierce heat; and, void of pain, This horror will grow mild, this darkness light; Besides what hope the never-ending flight Of future days may bring, what chance, what change Worth waiting--since our present lot appears For happy though but ill, for ill not worst, If we procure not to ourselves more woe.
" Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb, Counselled ignoble ease and peaceful sloth, Not peace; and after him thus Mammon spake:-- "Either to disenthrone the King of Heaven We war, if war be best, or to regain Our own right lost.
Him to unthrone we then May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife.
The former, vain to hope, argues as vain The latter; for what place can be for us Within Heaven's bound, unless Heaven's Lord supreme We overpower? Suppose he should relent And publish grace to all, on promise made Of new subjection; with what eyes could we Stand in his presence humble, and receive Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne With warbled hyms, and to his Godhead sing Forced hallelujahs, while he lordly sits Our envied sovereign, and his altar breathes Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers, Our servile offerings? This must be our task In Heaven, this our delight.
How wearisome Eternity so spent in worship paid To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue, By force impossible, by leave obtained Unacceptable, though in Heaven, our state Of splendid vassalage; but rather seek Our own good from ourselves, and from our own Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess, Free and to none accountable, preferring Hard liberty before the easy yoke Of servile pomp.
Our greatness will appear Then most conspicuous when great things of small, Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse, We can create, and in what place soe'er Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain Through labour and endurance.
This deep world Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst Thick clouds and dark doth Heaven's all-ruling Sire Choose to reside, his glory unobscured, And with the majesty of darkness round Covers his throne, from whence deep thunders roar.
Mustering their rage, and Heaven resembles Hell! As he our darkness, cannot we his light Imitate when we please? This desert soil Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold; Nor want we skill or art from whence to raise Magnificence; and what can Heaven show more? Our torments also may, in length of time, Become our elements, these piercing fires As soft as now severe, our temper changed Into their temper; which must needs remove The sensible of pain.
All things invite 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 where, dismissing quite All thoughts of war.
Ye have what I advise.
" He scarce had finished, when such murmur filled Th' assembly as when hollow rocks retain The sound of blustering winds, which all night long Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull Seafaring men o'erwatched, whose bark by chance Or pinnace, anchors in a craggy bay After the tempest.
Such applause was heard As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased, Advising peace: for such another field They dreaded worse than Hell; so much the fear Of thunder and the sword of Michael 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 perceived--than whom, Satan except, none higher sat--with grave Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed 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 Must we renounce, and, changing style, be called Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote Inclines--here to continue, and build up here A growing empire; doubtless! while we dream, And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomed 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 removed, Under th' inevitable curb, reserved His captive multitude.
For he, to 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 determined us and foiled with loss Irreparable; terms of peace yet none Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given To us enslaved, but custody severe, And stripes and arbitrary punishment Inflicted? and what peace can we return, But, to our power, hostility and hate, Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow, Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice In doing what we most in suffering feel? Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need With dangerous expedition to invade Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault or siege, Or ambush from the Deep.
What if we find 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, called Man, about this time To be created like to us, though less In power and excellence, but favoured more Of him who rules above; so was his will Pronounced among the Gods, and by an oath That shook Heaven's whole circumference confirmed.
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 of subtlety.
Though Heaven be shut, And Heaven's high Arbitrator sit secure In his own strength, this place may lie exposed, The utmost border of his kingdom, left To their defence who hold it: here, perhaps, Some advantageous act may be achieved 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, Hurled 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 devised By Satan, and in part proposed: for whence, 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 Pleased 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 judged, well ended long debate, Synod of Gods, and, like to what ye are, Great things resolved, 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 neighbouring arms, And opportune excursion, we may chance Re-enter Heaven; or else in some mild zone Dwell, not unvisited of Heaven's fair light, Secure, and at the brightening orient beam Purge off this gloom: the soft delicious air, To heal the scar of these corrosive fires, Shall breathe her balm.
But, first, whom shall we send In search of this new World? whom shall we find Sufficient? who shall tempt with wandering feet The dark, unbottomed, infinite Abyss, And through the palpable obscure find out His uncouth way, or spread his airy flight, Upborne with indefatigable wings Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive The happy Isle? What strength, what art, can then 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 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 void profound Of unessential Night receives him next, Wide-gaping, and with utter loss of being Threatens him, plunged 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 sovereignty, adorned With splendour, 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 These royalties, and not refuse to reign, Refusing to accept as great a share Of hazard as of honour, due alike To him who reigns, and so much to him due Of hazard more as he above the rest High honoured sits? Go, therefore, mighty Powers, Terror of Heaven, though fallen; intend 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 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, 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 th' 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 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 Scowls o'er the darkened landscape 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 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 Stygian council thus dissolved; and forth In order came the grand infernal Peers: Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemed Alone th' antagonist of Heaven, nor less Than Hell's dread Emperor, with pomp supreme, And god-like imitated state: him round A globe of fiery Seraphim enclosed With bright emblazonry, and horrent arms.
Then of their session ended they bid cry With trumpet's regal sound the great result: Toward the four winds four speedy Cherubim Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy, By herald's voice explained; the hollow Abyss Heard far adn wide, and all the host of Hell With deafening shout returned them loud acclaim.
Thence more at ease their minds, and somewhat raised By false presumptuous hope, the ranged 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 th' 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 Waged in the troubled sky, and armies rush To battle in the clouds; before each van Prick forth the airy 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, Rend up both rocks and hills, and ride the air In whirlwind; Hell scarce holds the wild uproar:-- As when Alcides, from Oechalia crowned With conquest, felt th' envenomed 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 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, 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, 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 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 th' 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 th' attempt, 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, th' 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, 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, Obominable, 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, 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 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.
Th' 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, 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 reckon'st thou thyself with Spirits of Heaven Hell-doomed, 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 tenfold, More dreadful and deform.
On th' other side, Incensed with indignation, Satan stood Unterrified, and like a comet burned, That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge In th' 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 th' other as when two black clouds, With heaven's artillery fraught, came 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 wither 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.
"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, ordained 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 returned:-- "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 What thing thou art, thus double-formed, and why, 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.
" T' whom thus the Portress of Hell-gate replied:-- "Hast thou forgot me, then; and do I seem Now in thine eye so foul?--once deemed so fair In Heaven, when at th' assembly, and in sight Of all the Seraphim with thee combined In bold conspiracy against Heaven's King, All on a sudden miserable pain Surprised 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 armed, Out of thy head I sprung.
Amazement seized All th' host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign Portentous held me; but, familiar grown, I pleased, and with attractive graces won The most averse--thee chiefly, who, full oft Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing, Becam'st enamoured; and such joy thou took'st With me in secret that my womb conceived A growing burden.
Meanwhile war arose, And fields were fought in Heaven: wherein remained (For what could else?) to our Almighty Foe Clear victory; to our part loss and rout Through all the Empyrean.
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 hands 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 Transformed: 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 sighed From all her caves, and back resounded Death! I fled; but he pursued (though more, it seems, Inflamed with lust than rage), and, swifter far, Me overtook, his mother, all dismayed, 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 conceived 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 set them on, And me, his parent, would full soon devour For want of other prey, but that he knows His end with mine involved, and knows that I Should prove a bitter morsel, and his bane, Whenever that shall be: so Fate pronounced.
But thou, O father, I forewarn thee, shun His deadly arrow; neither vainly hope To be invulnerable in those bright arms, Through tempered heavenly; for that mortal dint, Save he who reigns above, none can resist.
" She finished; and the subtle Fiend his lore Soon learned, now milder, and thus answered 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 Then sweet, now sad to mention, through dire change Befallen 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 armed, 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 Th' unfounded Deep, and through the void immense To search, with wandering 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 placed A race of upstart creatures, to supply Perhaps our vacant room, though more removed, Lest Heaven, surcharged with potent multitude, Might hap to move new broils.
Be this, or aught Than this more secret, now designed, 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, embalmed With odours.
There ye shall be fed and filled Immeasurably; all things shall be your prey.
" He ceased; for both seemed highly pleased, and Death Grinned horrible a ghastly smile, to hear His famine should be filled, and blessed his maw Destined to that good hour.
No less rejoiced His mother bad, and thus bespake her sire:-- "The key of this infernal Pit, by due And by command of Heaven's all-powerful King, I keep, by him forbidden to unlock These adamantine gates; against all force Death ready stands to interpose his dart, Fearless to be o'ermatched 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 confined, Inhabitant of Heaven and heavenly born-- Here in perpetual agony and pain, With terrors and with clamours compassed 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 moved; then in the key-hole turns Th' 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, Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grate Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook Of Erebus.
She opened; but to shut Excelled her power: the gates wide open stood, That with extended wings a bannered host, Under spread ensigns marching, mibht pass through With horse and chariots ranked in loose array; So wide they stood, and like a furnace-mouth 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, 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-armed or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift, or slow, Swarm populous, unnumbered 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 mixed Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight, Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain His dark materials to create more worlds-- Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while, Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith He had to cross.
Nor was his ear less pealed With noises loud and ruinous (to compare Great things with small) than 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 steadfast Earth.
At last his sail-broad vans He spread 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 fathom 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 stayed-- Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea, Nor good dry land--nigh foundered, 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 purloined 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 confused, Borne through the hollow dark, assaults his ear With loudest vehemence.
Thither he plies Undaunted, to meet there whatever Power Or Spirit of the nethermost Abyss Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask Which way the nearest coast of darkness lies Bordering on light; when straight behold the throne Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread Wide on the wasteful Deep! With him enthroned Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of things, The consort of his reign; and by them stood Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name Of Demogorgon; Rumour next, and Chance, And Tumult, and Confusion, all embroiled, And Discord with a thousand various mouths.
T' whom Satan, turning boldly, thus:--"Ye Powers And Spirtis of this nethermost Abyss, Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spy With purpose to explore or to disturb The secrets of your realm; but, by constraint Wandering this darksome desert, as my way Lies through your spacious empire up to light, Alone and without guide, half lost, I seek, What readiest path leads where your gloomy bounds Confine with Heaven; or, if some other place, From your dominion won, th' Ethereal King Possesses lately, thither to arrive I travel this profound.
Direct my course: Directed, no mean recompense it brings To your behoof, if I that region lost, All usurpation thence expelled, reduce To her original darkness and your sway (Which is my present journey), and once more Erect the standard there of ancient Night.
Yours be th' advantage all, mine the revenge!" Thus Satan; and him thus the Anarch old, With faltering speech and visage incomposed, Answered: "I know thee, stranger, who thou art-- *** That mighty leading Angel, who of late Made head against Heaven's King, though overthrown.
I saw and heard; for such a numerous host Fled not in silence through the frighted Deep, With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout, Confusion worse confounded; and Heaven-gates Poured out by millions her victorious bands, Pursuing.
I upon my frontiers here Keep residence; if all I can will serve That little which is left so to defend, Encroached on still through our intestine broils Weakening the sceptre of old Night: first, Hell, Your dungeon, stretching far and wide beneath; Now lately Heaven and Earth, another world Hung o'er my realm, linked in a golden chain To that side Heaven from whence your legions fell! If that way be your walk, you have not far; So much the nearer danger.
Go, and speed; Havoc, and spoil, and ruin, are my gain.
" He ceased; and Satan stayed not to reply, But, glad that now his sea should find a shore, With fresh alacrity and force renewed Springs upward, like a pyramid of fire, Into the wild expanse, and through the shock Of fighting elements, on all sides round Environed, wins his way; harder beset And more endangered than when Argo passed Through Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks, Or when Ulysses on the larboard shunned Charybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steered.
So he with difficulty and labour hard Moved on, with difficulty and labour he; But, he once passed, soon after, when Man fell, Strange alteration! Sin and Death amain, Following his track (such was the will of Heaven) Paved after him a broad and beaten way Over the dark Abyss, whose boiling gulf Tamely endured a bridge of wondrous length, From Hell continued, reaching th' utmost orb Of this frail World; by which the Spirits perverse With easy intercourse pass to and fro To tempt or punish mortals, except whom God and good Angels guard by special grace.
But now at last the sacred influence Of light appears, and from the walls of Heaven Shoots far into the bosom of dim Night A glimmering dawn.
Here Nature first begins Her farthest verge, and Chaos to retire, As from her outmost works, a broken foe, With tumult less and with less hostile din; That Satan with less toil, and now with ease, Wafts on the calmer wave by dubious light, And, like a weather-beaten vessel, holds Gladly the port, though shrouds and tackle torn; Or in the emptier waste, resembling air, Weighs his spread wings, at leisure to behold Far off th' empyreal Heaven, extended wide In circuit, undetermined square or round, With opal towers and battlements adorned Of living sapphire, once his native seat; And, fast by, hanging in a golden chain, This pendent World, in bigness as a star Of smallest magnitude close by the moon.
Thither, full fraught with mischievous revenge, Accursed, and in a cursed hour, he hies.



Comments