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With half a hundred mouths, gaping and black;
And Tartarus slopes downward to the dark
Twice the whole space that in the realms of light
Th' Olympian heaven above our earth aspires. —
Here Earth's first offspring, the Titanic brood,
Roll lightning-blasted in the gulf profound;
The twin Aloïdae, colossal shades,
Came on my view; their hands made stroke at Heaven
And strove to thrust Jove from his seat on high.
I saw Salmoneus his dread stripes endure,
Who dared to counterfeit Olympian thunder
And Jove's own fire. In chariot of four steeds,
Brandishing torches, he triumphant rode
Through throngs of Greeks, o'er Elis' sacred way,
Demanding worship as a god. 0 fool!
To mock the storm's inimitable flash—
With crash of hoofs and roll of brazen wheel!
But mightiest Jove from rampart of thick cloud
Hurled his own shaft, no flickering, mortal flame,
And in vast whirl of tempest laid him low.
Next unto these, on Tityos I looked,
Child of old Earth, whose womb all creatures bears:
Stretched o'er nine roods he lies; a vulture huge
Tears with hooked beak at his immortal side,
Or deep in entrails ever rife with pain
Gropes for a feast, making his haunt and home
In the great Titan bosom; nor will give
To ever new-born flesh surcease of woe.
Why name Ixion and Pirithous,
The Lapithae, above whose impious brows
A crag of flint hangs quaking to its fall,
As if just toppling down, while couches proud,
Propped upon golden pillars, bid them feast
In royal glory: but beside them lies
The eldest of the Furies, whose dread hands
Thrust from the feast away, and wave aloft
A flashing firebrand, with shrieks of woe.
Here in a prison-house awaiting doom
Are men who hated, long as life endured,
Their brothers, or maltreated their gray sires,
Or tricked a humble friend; the men who grasped
At hoarded riches, with their kith and kin
Not sharing ever—an unnumbered throng;
Here slain adulterers be; and men who dared
To fight in unjust cause, and break all faith
With their own lawful lords. Seek not to know
What forms of woe they feel, what fateful shape
Of retribution hath o'erwhelmed them there.
Some roll huge boulders up; some hang on wheels,
Lashed to the whirling spokes; in his sad seat
Theseus is sitting, nevermore to rise;
Unhappy Phlegyas uplifts his voice
In warning through the darkness, calling loud,
‘0, ere too late, learn justice and fear God!’
Yon traitor sold his country, and for gold
Enchained her to a tyrant, trafficking
In laws, for bribes enacted or made void;
Another did incestuously take
His daughter for a wife in lawless bonds.
All ventured some unclean, prodigious crime;
And what they dared, achieved. I could not tell,
Not with a hundred mouths, a hundred tongues,
Or iron voice, their divers shapes of sin,
Nor call by name the myriad pangs they bear.”
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