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Reluctant, but in vain, a greater power
515 Now ruld him, punish'd in the shape he sinn'd According to his doom : he would have spoke, But hiss for hiss return’d with forked tongue To forked tongue, for now were all transform’d Alike, to serpents all as accessories To his bold riot: dreadful was the din Of hissing through the hall, thick swarming now With complicated monsters head and tail, Scorpion, and Asp, and Amphisbæna dire, Cerastes horn'd, Hydrus, and Elops drear,
525 And Dipsas (not so thick swarm'd once the soil Bedropt with blood of Gorgon, or the isle Ophiusa) but still greatest he the midst, Now Dragon grown, larger than whom the sun Engender'd in the Pythian vale on slime,
but other sight instead, a crowd
As in their crime. Thus was th' applause they meant,
stood 4 grove hard by, sprung up with this their change, His will who reigns above, to aggravate Their penance, laden with fair fruit, like that
in Paradise, the bait of Eve Us'd by the Tempter : on that prospect strange Their earnest eyes they fix'd, imagining For one forbidden tree a multitude Now ris'n, to work them further woe or shame; 555 Yet parch'd with scalding thirst and hunger fierce, Though to delude them sent, could not abstain, But on they roll'd in heaps, and up the trees Climbing, sat thicker than the snaky locks That' curl'd Megæra: greedily they pluck'd The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flam'd; This more delusive, not the touch, but taste Deceiv'd; they fondly thinking to allay Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
565 Chew'd bitter ashes, which th' offended taste With spattering noise rejected : oft they' assay'd, Hunger and thirst constraining, drugg'd as oft, With hatefullest disrelish writh'd their jaws With soot and cinders fill’d; so oft they fell 570 Into the same illusion, not as Man, Whom they triumph'd once laps'd. Thus were they
And worn with famine, long and ceaseless hiss,
580 Ophion with Eurynome, the wide Encroaching Eve perhaps, had first the rule Of high Olympus, thence by Saturn driven And Ops, ere yet Dictæan Jove was born.
Meanwhile in Paradise the hellish pair 585 Too soon arriv’d, Sin there in pow'r before, Once actual, now in body, and to dwell Habitual habitant; behind her Death Close following pace for pace, not mounted yet On his pale horse ; to whom Sin thus began.
59.0 Second of Satan sprung, all-conqu’ring Death, What think'st thou of our empire now, though earn'd With travel difficult, not better far Than still at Hell's dark threshold to have sat watch, Unnam’d, undreaded, and thyself half starv'd ?
595 WHOM thus the Sin-born monster answer'd soon. To me, who with eternal famine pine, Alike is Hell, or Paradise, or Heaven, There best, where most with ravine I may meet; Which here, though plenteons, all too little seems 600 To stuff this maw, this vast unhide-bound corpse.
To whom th' incestuous mother thus reply'd.
Thou therefore on these herbs, and fruits, and flowers
This said, they both betook them several ways,
See with what heat these dogs of Hell advance
With suck'd and glutted offal, at one sling
He ended, and the heav'nly audience loud
660 In synod unbenign; and taught the fix’d Their influence malignant when to shower,