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John Milton. (1608–1674). Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


Paradise Lost: The Ninth Book

THE ARGUMENT.—Satan, having compassed the Earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise; enters into the Serpent sleeping. Adam and Eve in the morning go forth to their labours, which Eve proposes to divide in several places, each labouring apart: Adam consents not, alleging the danger lest that Enemy of whom they were forewarned should attempt her found alone. Eve, loth to be thought not circumspect or firm enough, urges her going apart, the rather desirous to make trial of her strength; Adam at last yields. The Serpent finds her alone: his subtle approach, first gazing, then speaking, with much flattery extolling Eve above all other creatures. Eve, wondering to hear the Serpent speak, asks how he attained to human speech and such understanding not till now; the Serpent answers that by tasting of a certain Tree in the Garden he attained both to speech and reason, till then void of both. Eve requires him to bring her to that tree, and finds it to be the Tree of Knowledge forbidden: the Serpent, now grown bolder, with many wiles and arguments induces her at length to eat. She, pleased with the taste, deliberates a while whether to impart thereof to Adam or not; at last brings him of the fruit; relates what persuaded her to eat thereof. Adam, at first amazed, but perceiving her lost, resolves, through vehemence of love, to perish with her, and, extenuating the trespass, eats also of the fruit. The effects thereof in them both; they seek to cover their nakedness; then fall to variance and accusation of one another.

NO MORE of talk where God or Angel Guest

With Man, as with his friend, familiar used

To sit indulgent, and with him partake

Rural repast, permitting him to while

Venial discourse unblamed. I now must change

Those notes to tragic—foul distrust, and breach

Disloyal, on the part of man, revolt

And disobedience; on the part of Heaven,

Now alienated, distance and distaste,

Anger and just rebuke, and judgment given,

That brought into this World a world of woe,

Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery,

Death’s harbinger. Sad task! yet argument

Not less but more heroic than the wrauth

Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued

Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage

Of Turnus for Lavinia disespoused;

Or Neptune’s ire, or Juno’s that so long

Perplexed the Greek, and Cytherea’s son:

If answerable style I can obtain

Of my celestial Patroness, who deigns

Her nightly visitation unimplored,

And dictates to me slumbering, or inspires

Easy my unpremeditated verse,

Since first this subject for heroic song

Pleased me, long choosing and beginning late,

Not sedulous by nature to indite

Wars, hitherto the only argument

Heroic deemed, chief maistrie to dissect

With long and tedious havoc fabled knights

In battles feigned (the better fortitude

Of patience and heroic martyrdom

Unsung), or to describe races and games,

Or tilting furniture, emblazoned shields,

Impreses quaint, caparisons and steeds,

Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights

At joust and tournament; then marshalled feast

Served up in hall with sewers and seneshals:

The skill of artifice or office mean;

Not that which justly gives heroic name

To person or to poem! Me, of these

Nor skilled nor studious, higher argument

Remains, sufficient of itself to raise

That name, unless an age too late, or cold

Climat, or years, damp my intended wing

Depressed; and much they may if all be mine,

Not Hers who brings it nightly to my ear.

The Sun was sunk, and after him the Star

Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring

Twilight upon the Earth, short arbiter

’Twixt day and night, and now from end to end

Night’s hemisphere had veiled the horizon round,

When Satan, who late fled before the threats

Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improved

In meditated fraud and malice, bent

On Man’s destruction, maugre what might hap

Of heavier on himself, fearless returned.

By night he fled, and at midnight returned

From compassing the Earth—cautious of day

Since Uriel, Regent of the Sun, descried

His entrance, and forwarned the Cherubim

That kept their watch. Thence, full of anguish, driven,

The space of seven continued nights he rode

With darkness—thrice the equinoctial line

He circled, four times crossed the car of Night

From pole to pole, traversing each colure—

On the eighth returned, and on the coast averse

From entrance or cherubic watch by stealth

Found unsuspected way. There was a place

(Now not, though Sin, not Time, first wraught the change)

Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,

Into a gulf shot under ground, till part

Rose up a fountain by the Tree of Life.

In with the river sunk, and with it rose,

Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought

Where to lie hid. Sea he had searched and land

From Eden over Pontus, and the Pool

Mæotis, up beyond the river Ob;

Downward as far Antartic; and, in length,

West from Orontes to the ocean barred

At Darien, thence to the land where flows

Ganges and Indus. Thus the orb he roamed

With narrow search, and with inspection deep

Considered every creature, which of all

Most opportune might serve his wiles, and found

The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field.

Him, after long debate, irresolute

Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose

Fit vessel, fittest Imp of fraud, in whom

To enter, and his dark suggestions hide

From sharpest sight; for in the wily snake

Whatever sleights none would suspicious mark

As from his wit and native subtlety

Proceeding, which, in other beasts observed,

Doubt might beget of diabolic power

Active within beyond the sense of brute.

Thus he resolved, but first from inward grief

His bursting passion into plaints thus poured:—

“O Earth, how like to Heaven, if not preferred

More justly, seat worthier of Gods, as built

With second thoughts, reforming what was old!

For what God, after better, worse would build?

Terrestrial Heaven, danced round by other Heavens,

That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps,

Light above light, for thee alone, as seems,

In thee concentring all their precious beams

Of sacred influence! As God in Heaven

Is centre, yet extends to all, so thou

Centring receiv’st from all those orbs; in thee,

Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears,

Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth

Of creatures animate with gradual life

Of growth, sense, reason, all summed up in Man.

With what delight could I have walked thee round,

If I could joy in aught—sweet interchange

Of hill and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,

Now land, now sea, and shores with forest crowned,

Rocks, dens, and caves! But I in none of these

Find place or refuge; and the more I see

Pleasures about me, so much more I feel

Torment within me, as from the hateful siege

Of contraries; all good to me becomes

Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state.

But neither here seek I, nor in Heaven,

To dwell, unless by maistring Heaven’s Supreme;

Nor hope to be myself less miserable

By what I seek, but others to make such

As I, though thereby worse to me redound.

For only in destroying I find ease

To my relentless thoughts; and him destroyed,

Or won to what may work his utter loss,

For whom all this was made, all this will soon

Follow, as to him linked in weal or woe:

In woe then, that destruction wide may range!

To me shall be the glory sole among

The Infernal Powers, in one day to have marred

What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days

Continued making, and who knows how long

Before had been contriving? though perhaps

Not longer than since I in one night freed

From servitude inglorious well nigh half

The Angelic Name, and thinner left the throng

Of his adorers. He, to be avenged,

And to repair his numbers thus impaired—

Whether such virtue, spent of old, now failed

More Angels to create (if they at least

Are his created), or to spite us more—

Determined to advance into our room

A creature formed of earth, and him endow,

Exalted from so base original,

With heavenly spoils, our spoils. What he decreed

He effected; Man he made, and for him built

Magnificent this World, and Earth his seat,

Him Lord pronounced, and, O indignity!

Subjected to his service Angel-wings

And flaming ministers, to watch and tend

Their earthly charge. Of these the vigilance

I dread, and to elude, thus wrapt in mist

Of midnight vapour, glide obscure, and pry

In every bush and brake, where hap may find

The Serpent sleeping, in whose mazy folds

To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.

O foul descent! that I, who erst contended

With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained

Into a beast, and, mixed with bestial slime,

This essence to incarnate and imbrute,

That to the highth of Deity aspired!

But what will not ambition and revenge

Descend to? Who aspires must down as low

As high he soared, obnoxious, first or last,

To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.

Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed,

Since higher I fall short, on him who next

Provokes my envy, this new favourite

Of Heaven, this Man of Clay, son of despite,

Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised

From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.”

So saying, through each thicket, dank or dry,

Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on

His midnight search, where soonest he might find

The Serpent. Him fast sleeping soon he found,

In labyrinth of many a round self-rowled,

His head the midst, well stored with subtle wiles:

Not yet in horrid shade or dismal den:

Nor nocent yet, but on the grassy herb,

Fearless, unfeared, he slept. In at his mouth

The Devil entered, and his brutal sense.

In heart or head, possessing soon inspired

With act intelligential; but his sleep

Disturbed not, waiting close the approach of morn.

Now, whenas sacred light began to dawn

In Eden on the humid flowers, that breathed

Their morning incense, when all things that breathe

From the Earth’s great altar send up silent praise

To the Creator, and his nostrils fill

With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,

And joined their vocal worship to the quire

Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake

The season, prime for sweetest scents and airs;

Then com’mune how that day they best may ply

Their growing work—for much their work outgrew

The hands’ dispatch of two gardening so wide:

And Eve first to her husband thus began:—

“Adam, well may we labour still to dress

This Garden, still to tend plant, herb, and flower,

Our pleasant task enjoined; but, till more hands

Aid us, the work under our labour grows,

Luxurious by restraint: what we by day

Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,

One night or two with wanton growth derides,

Tending to wild. Thou, therefore, now advise,

Or hear what to my mind first thoughts present.

Let us divide our labours—thou where choice

Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind

The woodbine round this arbour, or direct

The clasping ivy where to climb; while I

In yonder spring of roses intermixed

With myrtle find what to redress till noon.

For, while so near each other thus all day

Our task we choose, what wonder if so near

Looks intervene and smiles, or objects new

Casual discourse draw on, which intermits

Our day’s work, brought to little, though begun

Early, and the hour of supper comes unearned!”

To whom mild answer Adam thus returned:—

“Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond

Compare above all living creatures dear!

Well hast thou motioned, well thy thoughts imployed

How we might best fulfil the work which here

God hath assigned us, nor of me shalt pass

Unpraised; for nothing lovelier can be found

In woman than to study household good,

And good works in her husband to promote.

Yet not so strictly hath our Lord imposed

Labour as to debar us when we need

Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,

Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse

Of looks and smiles; for smiles from reason flow

To brute denied, and are of love the food—

Love, not the lowest end of human life.

For not to irksome toil, but to delight,

He made us, and delight to reason joined.

These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint hands

Will keep from wilderness with ease, as wide

As we need walk, till younger hands ere long

Assist us. But, if much converse perhaps

Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield;

For solitude sometimes is best society,

And short retirement urges sweet return.

But other doubt possesses me, lest harm

Befall thee, severed from me; for thou know’st

What hath been warned us—what malicious foe,

Envying our happiness, and of his own

Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame

By sly assault and somewhere nigh at hand

Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find

His wish and best advantage, us asunder,

Hopeless to circumvent us joined, where each

To other speedy aid might lend at need.

Whether his first design be to withdraw

Our fealty from God, or to disturb

Conjugal love—than which perhaps no bliss

Enjoyed by us excites his envy more—

Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side

That gave thee being, still shades thee and protects.

The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,

Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,

Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.”

To whom the virgin majesty of Eve,

As one who loves, and some unkindness meets,

With sweet austere composure thus replied:—

“Offspring of Heaven and Earth, and all Earth’s lord!

That such an Enemy we have, who seeks

Our ruin, both by thee informed I learn,

And from the parting Angel overheard,

As in a shady nook I stood behind,

Just then returned at shut of evening flowers.

But that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt

To God or thee, because we have a foe

May tempt it, I expected not to hear.

His violence thou fear’st not, being such

As we, not capable of death or pain,

Can either not receive, or can repel.

His fraud is, then, thy fear; which plain infers

Thy equal fear that my firm faith and love

Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced:

Thoughts, which how found they harbour in thy breast,

Adam! misthought of her to thee so dear?”

To whom, with healing words, Adam replied:—

“Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve!—

For such thou art, from sin and blame entire—

Not diffident of thee do I dissuade

Thy absence from my sight, but to avoid

The attempt itself, intended by our Foe.

For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses

The tempted with dishonour foul, supposed

Not incorruptible of faith, not proof

Against temptation. Thou thyself with scorn

And anger wouldst resent the offered wrong,

Though ineffectual found; misdeem not, then,

If such affront I labour to avert

From thee alone, which on us both at once

The enemy, though bold, will hardly dare;

Or, daring, first on me the assault shall light.

Nor thou his malice and false guile contemn—

Subtle he needs must be who could seduce

Angels—nor think superfluous others’ aid.

I from the influence of thy looks receive

Access in every virtue—in thy sight

More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were

Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on,

Shame to be overcome or overreached,

Would utmost vigour raise, and raised unite.

Why shouldst not thou like sense within thee feel

When I am present, and thy trial choose

With me, best witness of thy virtue tried?”

So spake domestic Adam in his care

And matrimonial love; but Eve, who thought

Less attributed to her faith sincere,

Thus her reply with accent sweet renewed:—

“If this be our condition, thus to dwell

In narrow circuit straitened by a Foe,

Subtle or violent, we not endued

Single with like defence wherever met,

How are we happy, still in fear of harm?

But harm precedes not sin: only our Foe

Tempting affronts us with his foul esteem

Of our integrity: his foul esteem

Sticks no dishonour on our front, but turns

Foul on himself; then wherefore shunned or feared

By us, who rather double honour gain

From his surmise proved false, find peace within,

Favour from Heaven, our witness, from the event?

And what is faith, love, virtue, unassayed

Alone, without exterior help sustained?

Let us not then suspect our happy state

Left so imperfet by the Maker wise

As not secure to single or combined.

Frail is our happiness, if this be so;

And Eden were no Eden, thus exposed.”

To whom thus Adam fervently replied:—

“O Woman, best are all things as the will

Of God ordained them; his creating hand

Nothing imperfect or deficient left

Of all that he created—much less Man,

Or aught that might his happy state secure,

Secure from outward force. Within himself

The danger lies, yet lies within his power;

Against his will he can receive no harm.

But God left free the Will; for what obeys

Reason is free; and Reason he made right,

But bid her well beware, and still erect,

Lest, by some fair appearing good surprised,

She dictate false, and misinform the Will

To do what God expressly hath forbid.

Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins

That I should mind thee oft; and mind thou me,

Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve,

Since Reason not impossibly may meet

Some specious object by the foe suborned,

And fall into deception unaware,

Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warned.

Seek not temptation, then, which to avoid

Were better, and most likely if from me

Thou sever not: trial will come unsought.

Wouldst thou approve thy constancy, approve

First thy obedience; the other who can know,

Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?

But, if thou think trial unsought may find

Us both securer than thus warned thou seem’st,

Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more.

Go in thy native innocence; rely

On what thou hast of virtue; summon all;

For God towards thee hath done his part: do thine.”

So spake the Patriarch of Mankind; but Eve

Persisted; yet submiss, though last, replied:—

“With thy permission, then, and thus forewarned,

Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words

Touched only, that our trial, when least sought,

May find us both perhaps far less prepared,

The willinger I go, nor much expect

A Foe so proud will first the weaker seek;

So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.”

Thus saying, from her husband’s hand her hand

Soft she withdrew, and, like a wood-nymph light,

Oread or Dryad, or of Delia’s train,

Betook her to the groves, but Delia’s self

In gait surpassed and goddess-like deport,

Though not as she with bow and quiver armed,

But with such gardening tools as Art, yet rude,

Guiltless of fire had formed, or Angels brought.

To Pales, or Pomona, thus adorned,

Likest she seemed—Pomona when she fled

Vertumnus—or to Ceres in her prime,

Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.

Her long with ardent look his eye pursued

Delighted, but desiring more her stay.

Oft he to her his charge of quick return

Repeated; she to him as oft engaged

To be returned by noon amid the bower,

And all things in best order to invite

Noontide repast, or afternoon’s repose.

O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,

Of thy presumed return! event perverse!

Thou never from that hour in Paradise

Found’st either sweet repast or sound repose;

Such ambush, hid among sweet flowers and shades,

Waited, with hellish rancour imminent,

To intercept thy way, or send thee back

Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss.

For now, and since first break of dawn, the Fiend,

Mere Serpent in appearance, forth was come,

And on his quest where likeliest he might find

The only two of mankind, but in them

The whole included race, his purposed prey.

In bower and field he sought, where any tuft

Of grove or garden-plot more pleasant lay,

Their tendance or plantation for delight;

By fountain or by shady rivulet

He sought them both, but wished his hap might find

Eve separate; he wished, but not with hope

Of what so seldom chanced, when to his wish,

Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,

Veiled in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,

Half-spied, so thick the roses bushing round

About her glowed, oft stooping to support

Each flower of tender stalk, whose head, though gay

Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,

Hung drooping unsustained. Them she upstays

Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while

Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,

From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.

Nearer he drew, and many a walk traversed

Of stateliest covert, cedar, pine, or palm;

Then voluble and bold, now hid, now seen

Among thick-woven arborets, and flowers

Imbordered on each bank, the hand of Eve:

Spot more delicious than those gardens feigned

Or of revived Adonis, or renowned

Alcinoüs, host of old Laertes’ son,

Or that, not mystic, where the sapient king

Held dalliance with his fair Egyptian spouse.

Much he the place admired, the person more.

As one who, long in populous city pent,

Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,

Forth issuing on a summer’s morn, to breathe

Among the pleasant villages and farms

Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight—

The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,

Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound—

If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,

What pleasing seemed for her now pleases more,

She most, and in her look sums all delight:

Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold

This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve

Thus early, thus alone. Her heavenly form

Angelic, but more soft and feminine,

Her graceful innocence, her every air

Of gesture or least action, overawed

His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved

His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought.

That space the Evil One abstracted stood

From his own evil, and for the time remained

Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed,

Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge.

But the hot hell that always in him burns,

Though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,

And tortures him now more, the more he sees

Of pleasure not for him ordained. Then soon

Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts

Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites:—

“Thoughts, whither have ye led me? with what sweet

Compulsion thus transported to forget

What hither brought us? hate, not love, nor hope

Of Paradise for Hell, here to taste

Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy,

Save what is in destroying; other joy

To me is lost. Then let me not let pass

Occasion which now smiles. Behold alone

The Woman, opportune to all attempts—

Her husband, for I view far round, not nigh,

Whose higher intellectual more I shun,

And strength, of courage haughty, and of limb

Heroic built, though of terrestrial mould;

Foe not informidable, exempt from wound—

I not; so much hath Hell debased, and pain

Infeebled me, to what I was in Heaven.

She fair, divinely fair, fit love for Gods,

Not terrible, though terror be in love,

And beauty, not approached by stronger hate,

Hate stronger under show of love well feigned—

The way which to her ruin now I tend.”

So spake the Enemy of Mankind, enclosed

In serpent, inmate bad, and toward Eve

Addressed his way—not with indented wave,

Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,

Circular base of rising folds, that towered

Fold above fold, a surging maze; his head

Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;

With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect

Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass

Floated redundant. Pleasing was his shape

And lovely; never since the serpent kind

Lovelier—not those that in Illyria changed

Hermione and Cadmus, or the God

In Epidaurus; nor to which transformed

Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline, was seen,

He with Olympias, this with her who bore

Scipio, the highth of Rome. With tract oblique

At first, as one who sought access but feared

To interrupt, sidelong he works his way.

As when a ship, by skilful steersman wrought

Nigh river’s mouth or foreland, where the wind

Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail,

So varied he, and of his tortuous train

Curled many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,

To lure her eye. She, busied, heard the sound

Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as used

To such disport before her through the field

From every beast, more duteous at her call

Than at Circean call the herd disguised.

He, bolder now, uncalled before her stood,

But as in gaze admiring. Oft he bowed

His turret crest and sleek enamelled neck,

Fawning, and licked the ground whereon she trod.

His gentle dumb expression turned at length

The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad

Of her attention gained, with serpent-tongue

Organic, or impulse of vocal air,

His fraudulent temptation thus began:—

“Wonder not, sovran mistress (if perhaps

Thou canst who art sole wonder), much less arm

Thy looks, the heaven of mildness, with disdain,

Displeased that I approach thee thus, and gaze

Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feared

Thy awful brow, more awful thus retired.

Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair,

Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine

By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore,

With ravishment beheld—there best beheld

Where universally admired. But here,

In this enclosure wild, these beasts among,

Beholders rude, and shallow to discern

Half what in thee is fair, one man except,

Who sees thee (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen

A Goddess among Gods, adored and served

By Angels numberless, thy daily train?”

So glozed the Tempter, and his proem tuned.

Into the heart of Eve his words made way,

Though at the voice much marvelling; at length,

Not unamazed, she thus in answer spake:—

“What may this mean? Language of Man pronounced

By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed!

The first at least of these I thought denied

To beasts, whom God on their creation-day

Created mute to all articulate sound;

The latter I demur, for in their looks

Much reason, and in their actions, oft appears.

Thee, Serpent, subtlest beast of all the field

I knew, but not with human voice endued;

Redouble, then, this miracle, and say,

How cam’st thou speakable of mute, and how

To me so friendly grown above the rest

Of brutal kind that daily are in sight:

Say, for such wonder claims attention due.”

To whom the guileful Tempter thus replied:—

“Empress of this fair World, resplendent Eve!

Easy to me it is to tell thee all

What thou command’st, and right thou shouldst be obeyed.

I was at first as other beasts that graze

The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,

As was my food, nor aught but food discerned

Or sex, and apprehended nothing high:

Till on a day, roving the field, I chanced

A goodly tree far distant to behold,

Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,

Ruddy and gold. In nearer drew to gaze;

When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,

Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense

Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats

Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at even,

Unsucked of lamb or kid, that tend their play.

To satisfy the sharp desire I had

Of tasting those fair Apples, I resolved

Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,

Powerful persuaders, quickened at the scent

Of that alluring fruit, urged me so keen.

About the mossy trunk I wound me soon;

For, high from ground, the branches would require

Thy utmost reach, or Adam’s; round the Tree

All other beasts that saw, with like desire

Longing and envying stood, but could not reach.

Amid the tree now got, where plenty hung

Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my fill

I spared not; for such pleasure till that hour

At feed or fountain never had I found.

Sated at length, ere long I might perceive

Strange alteration in me, to degree

Of Reason in my inward powers, and Speech

Wanted not long, though to this shape retained.

Thenceforth to speculations high or deep

I turned my thoughts, and with capacious mind

Considered all things visible in Heaven,

Or Earth, or Middle, all things fair and good.

But all that fair and good in thy Divine

Semblance, and in thy beauty’s heavenly ray,

United I beheld—no fair to thine

Equivalent or second; which compelled

Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come

And gaze, and worship thee of right declared

Sovran of creatures, universal Dame!”

So talked the spirited sly Snake; and Eve,

Yet more amazed, unwary thus replied:—

“Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt

The virtue of that Fruit, in thee first proved.

But say, where grows the Tree? from hence how far?

For many are the trees of God that grow

In Paradise, and various, yet unknown

To us; in such abundance lies our choice

As leaves a greater store of fruit untouched,

Still hanging incorruptible, till men

Grow up to their provision, and more hands

Help to disburden Nature of her bearth.”

To whom the wily Adder, blithe and glad;—

“Empress, the way is ready, and not long—

Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,

Fast by a fountain, one small thicket past

Of blowing myrrh and balm. If thou accept

My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.”

“Lead, then,” said Eve. He, leading, swiftly rowled

In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,

To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy

Brightens his crest. As when a wandering fire,

Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night

Condenses, and the cold invirons round,

Kindled through agitation to a flame

(Which oft, they say, some evil Spirit attends),

Hovering and blazing with delusive light,

Misleads the amazed night-wanderer from his way

To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,

There swallowed up and lost, from succour far:

So glistered the dire Snake, and into fraud

Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the Tree

Of Prohibition, root of all our woe;

Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake:—

“Serpent, we might have spared our coming hither,

Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess,

The credit of whose virtue rest with thee—

Wondrous, indeed, if cause of such effects!

But of this tree we may not taste nor touch;

God so commanded, and left that command

Sole daughter of his voice: the rest, we live

Law to ourselves; our Reason is our Law.”

To whom the Tempter guilefully replied:—

“Indeed! Hath God then said that of the fruit

Of all these garden-trees ye shall not eat,

Yet lords declared of all in Earth or Air?”

To whom thus Eve, yet sinless:—“Of the fruit

Of each tree in the garden we may eat;

But of the fruit of this fair Tree, amidst

The Garden, God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat

Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’”

She scarce had said, though brief, when now more bold

The Tempter, but, with shew of zeal and love

To Man, and indignation at his wrong,

New part puts on, and, as to passion moved,

Fluctuates disturbed, yet comely, and in act

Raised, as of some great matter to begin.

As when of old some orator renowned

In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence

Flourished, since mute, to some great cause addressed,

Stood in himself collected, while each part,

Motion, each act, won audience ere the tongue

Sometimes in highth began, as no delay

Of preface brooking through his zeal of right:

So standing, moving, or to highth upgrown,

The Tempter, all impassioned, thus began:—

“O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving Plant,

Mother of science! now I feel thy power

Within me clear, not only to discern

Things in their causes, but to trace the ways

Of highest agents, deemed however wise.

Queen of this Universe! do not believe

Those rigid threats of death. Ye shall not die.

How should ye? By the Fruit? it gives you life

To knowledge. By the Threatener? look on me,

Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live,

And life more perfet have attained than Fate

Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.

Shall that be shut to Man which to the Beast

Is open? or will God incense his ire

For such a petty trespass, and not praise

Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain

Of death denounced, whatever thing Death be,

Deterred not from achieving what might lead

To happier life, knowledge of Good and Evil?

Of good, how just! of evil—if what is evil

Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?

God, therefore, cannot hurt ye and be just;

Not just, not God; not feared then, nor obeyed:

Your fear itself of death removes the fear.

Why, then, was this forbid? Why but to awe,

Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,

His worshipers? He knows that in the day

Ye eat thereof your eyes, that seem so clear,

Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then

Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as Gods,

Knowing both good and evil, as they know.

That ye should be as Gods, since I as Man,

Internal Man, is but proportion meet—

I, of brute, human; ye, of human, Gods.

So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off

Human, to put on Gods—death to be wished,

Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring!

And what are Gods, that Man may not become

As they, participating godlike food?

The Gods are first, and that advantage use

On our belief, that all from them proceeds.

I question it; for this fair Earth I see,

Warmed by the Sun, producing every kind;

Them nothing. If they all things, who enclosed

Knowledge of Good and Evil in this Tree,

That whoso eats thereof forthwith attains

Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies

The offence, that Man should thus attain to know?

What can your knowledge hurt him, or this Tree

Impart against his will, if all be his?

Or is it envy? and can envy dwell

In Heavenly breasts? These, these and many more

Causes import your need of this fair Fruit.

Goddess humane, reach, then, and freely taste!”

He ended; and his words, replete with guile,

Into her heart too easy entrance won.

Fixed on the Fruit she gazed, which to behold

Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound

Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned

With reason, to her seeming, and with truth.

Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and waked

An eager appetite, raised by the smell

So savoury of that Fruit, which with desire,

Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,

Solicited her longing eye; yet first,

Pausing a while, thus to herself she mused:—

“Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of Fruits,

Though kept from Man, and worthy to be admired,

Whose taste, too long forborne, at first assay

Gave elocution to the mute, and taught

The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise.

Thy praise he also who forbids thy use

Conceals not from us, naming thee the Tree

Of Knowledge, knowledge both of Good and Evil;

Forbids us then to taste. But his forbidding

Commends thee more, while it infers the good

By thee communicated, and our want;

For good unknown sure is not bad, or, had

And yet unknown, is as not had at all.

In plain, then, what forbids he but to know?

Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise!

Such prohibitions bind not. But, if Death

Bind us with after-bands, what profits then

Our inward freedom? In the day we eat

Of this fair Fruit, our doom is we shall die!

How dies the Serpent? He hath eaten, and lives,

And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,

Irrational till then. For us alone

Was death invented? or to us denied

This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?

For beasts it seems; yet that one beast which first

Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy

The good befallen him, author unsuspect,

Friendly to Man, far from deceit or guile.

What fear I, then? rather, what know to fear

Under this ignorance of Good and Evil,

Of God or Death, of law or penalty?

Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,

Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,

Of virtue to make wise. What hinders, then,

To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?”

So saying, her rash hand in evil hour

Forth-reaching to the Fruit, she plucked, she eat.

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat,

Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe

That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk

The guilty Serpent, and well might, for Eve,

Intent now only her taste, naught else

Regarded; such delight till then, as seemed,

In fruit she never tasted, whether true,

Or fancied so through expectation high

Of knowledge; nor was Godhead from her thought.

Greedily she ingorged without restraint,

And knew not eating death. Satiate at length,

And hightened as with wine, jocond and boon,

Thus to herself she pleasingly began:—

“O sovran, virtuous, precious of all trees

In Paradise! of operation blest

To sapience, hitherto obscured, infamed,

And thy fair Fruit let hang, as to no end

Created! but henceforth my early care,

Not without song, each morning, and due praise,

Shall tend thee, and the fertil burden ease

Of thy full branches, offered free to all;

Till, dieted by thee, I grow mature

In knowledge, as the Gods who all things know,

Though others envy what they cannot give—

For, had the gift been theirs, it had not here

Thus grown! Experience, next to thee I owe,

Best guide: not following thee, I had remained

In ignorance; thou open’st Wisdom’s way,

And giv’st access, though secret she retire.

And I perhaps am secret: Heaven is high—

High, and remote to see from thence distinct

Each thing on Earth; and other care perhaps

May have diverted from continual watch

Our great Forbidder, safe with all his Spies

About him. But to Adam in what sort

Shall I appear? Shall I to him make known

As yet my change, and give him to partake

Full happiness with me, or rather not,

But keep the odds of knowledge in my power

Without copartner? so to add what wants

In female sex, the more to draw his love,

And render me more equal, and perhaps—

A thing not undesirable—sometime

Superior; for, inferior, who is free?

This may be well; but what if God have seen,

And death ensue? Then I shall be no more;

And Adam, wedded to another Eve,

Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct!

A death to think! Confirmed, then, I resolve

Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe.

So dear I love him that with him all deaths

I could endure, without him live no life.”

So saying, from the Tree her step she turned,

But first low reverence done, as to the Power

That dwelt within, whose presence had infused

Into the plant sciential sap, derived

From nectar, drink of Gods. Adam the while,

Waiting desirous her return, had wove

Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn

Her tresses, and her rural labours crown,

As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen.

Great joy he promised to his thoughts, and new

Solace in her return, so long delayed;

Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill,

Misgave him. He the faltering measure felt,

And forth to meet her went, the way she took

That morn when first they parted. By the Tree

Of Knowledge he must pass; there he her met,

Scarce from the Tree returning; in her hand

A bough of fairest fruit, that downy smiled,

New gathered, and ambrosial smell diffused.

To him she hasted; in her face excuse

Came prologue, and apology to prompt,

Which, with bland words at will, she thus addressed:—

“Hast thou not wondered, Adam, at my stay?

Thee I have missed, and thought it long, deprived

Thy presence—agony of love till now

Not felt, nor shall be twice; for never more

Mean I to try, what rash untried I sought,

The pain of absence from thy sight. But strange

Hath been the cause, and wonderful to hear.

This Tree is not, as we are told, a Tree

Of danger tasted, nor to evil unknown

Opening the way, but of divine effect

To open eyes, and make them Gods who taste;

And hath been tasted such. The Serpent wise,

Or not restrained as we, or not obeying,

Hath eaten of the Fruit, and is become

Not dead, as we are threatened, but thenceforth

Endued with human voice and human sense,

Reasoning to admiration, and with me

Persuasively hath so prevailed that I

Have also tasted, and have also found

The effects to correspond—opener mine eyes,

Dim erst, dilated spirits, ampler heart,

And growing up to Godhead; which for thee

Chiefly I sought, without thee can despise.

For bliss, as thou hast part, to me is bliss;

Tedious, unshared with thee, and odious soon.

Thou, therefore, also taste, that equal lot

May join us, equal joy, as equal love;

Lest, thou not tasting, different degree

Disjoin us, and I then too late renounce

Deity for thee, when fate will not permit.”

Thus Eve with countenance blithe her story told;

But in her cheek distemper flushing glowed.

On the other side, Adam, soon as he heard

The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed,

Astonied stood and blank, while horror chill

Ran through his veins, and all his joints relaxed.

From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve

Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed.

Speechless he stood and pale, till thus at length

First to himself he inward silence broke:—

“O fairest of Creation, last and best

Of all God’s works, creature in whom excelled

Whatever can to sight or thought be formed,

Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet!

How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost,

Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote!

Rather, how hast thou yielded to transgress

The strict forbiddance, how to violate

The sacred Fruit forbidden? Some cursed fraud

Of enemy hath beguiled thee, yet unknown,

And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee

Certain my resolution is to die.

How can I live without thee? how forgo

Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly joined,

To live again in these wild woods forlorn?

Should God create another Eve, and I

Another rib afford, yet loss of thee

Would never from my heart. No, no! I feel

The link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh,

Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state

Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.”

So having said, as one from sad dismay

Recomforted, and, after thoughts disturbed,

Submitting to what seemed remediless,

Thus in calm mood his words to Eve he turned:—

“Bold deed thou hast presumed, adventrous Eve,

And peril great provoked, who thus hast dared

Had it been only coveting to eye

That sacred Food, sacred to abstinence;

Much more to taste it, under ban to touch.

But past who can recall, or done undo?

Not God Omnipotent, nor Fate! Yet so

Perhaps thou shalt not die; perhaps the fact

Is not so hainous now-foretasted Fruit,

Profaned first by the Serpent, by him first

Made common and unhallowed ere our taste,

Nor yet on him found deadly. He yet lives—

Lives, as thou saidst, and gains to live, as Man,

Higher degree of life: inducement strong

To us, as likely, tasting, to attain

Proportional ascent; which cannot be

But to be Gods, or Angels, Demi-gods.

Nor can I think that God, Creator wise,

Though threatening, will in earnest so destroy

Us, his prime creatures, dignified so high,

Set over all his works; which, in our fall,

For us created, needs with us must fail,

Dependent made. So God shall uncreate,

Be frustrate, do, undo, and labour lose—

Not well conceived of God; who, though his power

Creation could repeat, yet would be loth

Us to abolish, lest the Adversary

Triumph and say: ‘Fickle their state whom God

Most favours; who can please him long? Me first

He ruined, now Mankind; whom will he next?’—

Matter of scorn not to be given the Foe.

However, I with thee have fixed my lot,

Certain to undergo like doom. If death

Consort with thee, death is to me as life;

So forcible within my heart I feel

The bond of Nature draw me to my own—

My own is thee; for what thou art is mine.

Our state cannot be severed; we are one,

One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.”

So Adam; and thus Eve to him replied:—

“O glorious trial of exceeding love,

Illustrious evidence, example high!

Ingaging me to emulate; but, short

Of thy perfection, how shall I attain,

Adam? from whose dear side I boast me sprung,

And gladly of our union hear thee speak,

One heart, one soul in both; whereof good proof

This day affords, declaring thee resolved,

Rather than death, or aught than death more dread,

Shall separate us, linked in love so dear,

To undergo with me one guilt, one crime,

If any be, of tasting this fair Fruit;

Whose virtue (for of good still good proceeds,

Direct, or by occasion) hath presented

This happy trial of thy love, which else

So eminently never had been known.

Were it I thought death menaced would ensue

This my attempt, I would sustain alone

The worst, and not persuade thee—rather die

Deserted than oblige thee with a fact

Pernicious to thy peace, chiefly assured

Remarkably so late of thy so true,

So faithful love unequalled. But I feel

Far otherwise the event—not death, but life

Augmented, opened eyes, new hopes, new joys,

Taste so divine that what of sweet before

Hath touched my sense flat seems to this and harsh.

On my experience, Adam, freely taste,

And fear of death deliver to the winds.”

So saying, she embraced him, and for joy

Tenderly wept, much won that he his love

Had so ennobled as of choice to incur

Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.

In recompense (for such compliance bad

Such recompense best merits), from the bough

She gave him of that fair enticing Fruit

With liberal hand. He scrupled not to eat,

Against his better knowledge, not deceived,

But fondly overcome with female charm.

Earth trembled from her entrails, as again

In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;

Sky loured, and, muttering thunder, some sad drops

Wept at completing of the mortal Sin

Original; while Adam took no thought,

Eating his fill, nor Eve to iterate

Her former trespass feared, the more to soothe

Him with her loved society; that now,

As with new wine intoxicated both,

They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel

Divinity within them breeding wings

Wherewith to scorn the Earth. But that false Fruit

Far other operation first displayed,

Carnal desire inflaming. He on Eve

Began to cast lascivious eyes; she him

As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn,

Till Adam thus ’gan Eve to dalliance move:—

“Eve, now I see thou art exact of taste

And elegant—of sapience no small part;

Since to each meaning savour we apply,

And palate call judicious. I the praise

Yield thee; so well this day thou hast purveyed.

Much pleasure we have lost, while we abstained

From this delightful Fruit, nor known till now

True relish, tasting. If such pleasure be

In things to us forbidden, it might be wished

For this one Tree had been forbidden ten.

But come; so well refreshed, now let us play,

As meet is, after such delicious fare;

For never did thy beauty, since the day

I saw thee first and wedded thee, adorned

With all perfections, so enflame my sense

With ardour to enjoy thee, fairer now

Than ever-bounty of this virtuous Tree!”

So said he, and forbore not glance or toy

Of amorous intent, well understood

Of Eve, whose eye darted contagious fire.

Her hand he seized, and to a shady bank,

Thick overhead with verdant roof imbowered,

He led her, nothing loth; flowers were the couch,

Pansies, and violets, and asphodel,

And hyacinth—Earth’s freshest, softest lap.

There they their fill of love and love’s disport

Took largely, of their mutual gilt the seal,

The solace of their sin, till dewy sleep

Oppressed them, wearied with their amorous play.

Soon as the force of that fallacious Fruit,

That with exhilarating vapour bland

About their spirits had played, and inmost powers

Made err, was now exhaled, and grosser sleep,

Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams

Incumbered, now had left them, up they rose

As from unrest, and, each the other viewing,

Soon found their eyes how opened, and their minds

How darkened. Innocence, that as a veil

Had shadowed them from knowing ill, was gone;

Just confidence, and native righteousness,

And honour, from about them, naked left

To guilty Shame: he covered, but his robe

Uncovered more. So rose the Danite strong,

Herculean Samson, from the harlot-lap

Of Philistean Dalilah, and waked

Shorn of his strength; they destitute and bare

Of all their virtue. Silent, and in face

Confounded, long they sat, as strucken mute;

Till Adam, though not less than Eve abashed,

At length gave utterance to these words constrained:—

“O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear

To that false Worm, of whomsoever taught

To counterfeit Man’s voice—true in our fall,

False in our promised rising; since our eyes

Opened we find indeed, and find we know

Both good and evil, good lost and evil got:

Bad Fruit of Knowledge, if this be to know,

Which leaves us naked thus, of honour void,

Of innocence, of faith, of purity,

Our wonted ornaments now soiled and stained,

And in our faces evident the signs

Of foul concupiscence; whence evil store,

Even shame, the last of evils; of the first

Be sure then. How shall I behold the face

Henceforth of God or Angel, erst with joy

And rapture so oft beheld? Those Heavenly Shapes

Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze

Insufferably bright. Oh, might I here

In solitude live savage, in some glade

Obscured, where highest woods, impenetrable

To star or sunlight, spread their umbrage broad,

And brown as evening. Cover me, ye pines!

Ye cedars, with innumerable boughs

Hide me, where I may never see them more!

But let us now, as in bad plight, devise

What best may, for the present, serve to hide

The parts of each other that seem most

To shame obnoxious, and unseemliest seen—

Some tree, whose broad smooth leaves, together sewed,

And girded on our loins, may cover round

Those middle parts, that this new comer, Shame,

There sit not, and reproach us as unclean.”

So counselled he, and both together went

Into the thickest wood. There soon they choose

The fig tree—not that kind for fruit renowned,

But such, as at this day, to Indians known,

In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms

Braunching so broad and long that in the ground

The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow

About the mother tree, a pillared shade

High overarched, and echoing walks between:

There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,

Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds

At loop-holes cut through thickest shade. Those leaves

They gathered, broad as Amazonian targe,

And with what skill they had together sewed,

To gird their waist—vain covering, if to hide

Their guilt and dreaded shame! O how unlike

To that first naked glory! Such of late

Columbus found the American, so girt

With feathered cincture, naked else and wild,

Among the trees on isles and woody shores.

Thus fenced, and, as they thought, their shame in part

Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind,

They sat them down to weep. Nor only tears

Rained at their eyes, but high winds worse within

Began to rise, high passions—anger, hate,

Mistrust, suspicion, discord—and shook sore

Their inward state of mind, calm region once

And full of peace, now tost and turbulent:

For Understanding ruled not, and the Will

Heard not her lore, both in subjection now

To sensual Appetite, who, from beneath

Usurping over sovran Reason, claimed

Superior sway. From thus distempered breast

Adam, estranged in look and altered style,

Speech intermitted thus to Eve renewed:—

“Would thou hadst hearkened to my words, and stayed

With me, as I besought thee, when that strange

Desire of wandering, this unhappy morn,

I know not whence possessed thee! We had then

Remained still happy—not, as now, despoiled

Of all our good, shamed, naked, miserable!

Let none henceforth seek needless cause to approve

The faith they owe; when earnestly they seek

Such proof, conclude they then begin to fail.”

To whom, soon moved with touch of blame, thus Eve:—

“What words have passed thy lips, Adam severe?

Imput’st thou that to my default, or will

Of wandering, as thou call’st it, which who knows

But might as ill have happened thou being by,

Or to thyself perhaps? Hadst thou been there,

Or here the attempt, thou couldst not have discerned

Fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake;

No ground of enmity between us known

Why he should mean me ill or seek to harm;

Was I to have never parted from thy side?

As good have grown there still, a lifeless rib.

Being as I am, why didst not thou, the Head,

Command me absolutely not to go,

Going into such danger, as thou saidst?

Too facile then, thou didst not much gainsay,

Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss.

Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent,

Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me.”

To whom, then first incensed, Adam replied:—

“Is this the love, is this the recompense

Of mine to thee, ingrateful Eve, expressed

Immutable when thou wert lost, not I—

Who might have lived, and joyed immortal bliss,

Yet willingly chose rather death with thee?

And am I now upbraided as the cause

Of thy transgressing? not enough severe,

It seems, in thy restraint! What could I more?

I warned thee, I admonished thee, foretold

The danger, and the lurking Enemy

That lay in wait; beyond this had been force,

And force upon free will hath here no place.

But confidence then bore thee on, secure

Either to meet no danger, or to find

Matter of glorious trial; and perhaps

I also erred in overmuch admiring

What seemed in thee so perfet that I thought

No evil durst attempt thee, But I rue

That error now, which is become my crime,

And thou the accuser. Thus it shall befall

Him who, to worth in women overtrusting,

Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook;

And, left to herself, if evil thence ensue,

She first his weak indulgence will accuse.”

Thus they in mutual accusation spent

The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;

And of their vain contest’ appeared no end.