By John Milton
The original, squashed down to read in about 40 minutes
Milton, a civil servant under England's brief period as a Republic, published his epic when he was becoming blind. The Poet Laureate Dryden, to whom it was shown, remarked, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too".
Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of EDEN, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of OREB, or of SINAI, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of CHAOS; or, if SION's hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings out-spread,
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument.
I may assert th' Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first, for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell-say first what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress His will
For one restraint, Lords of the World be-side?
Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
The infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels. ... Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
[For nine days and nights the apostate Angel lay silent, 'rolling in the fiery gulf,' and then, looking round, he discerned by his side BEELZEBUB, 'one next himself in power and next in crime.' With him he took counsel, and rearing themselves from off the pool of fire they found footing on a dreary plain. Walking with uneasy steps the burning vale, the lost Archangel made his way to the shore of 'that inflamed sea,' and called aloud to his associates to 'awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!' They heard, and gathered about him, all who were 'known to men by various names and various idols through the heathen world,' but with looks 'downcast and damp.']
Then straight commands that, at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared
His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall,
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled
The imperial ensign which full high advanc't
Shone like a Meteor streaming to the Wind
At which the universal host up-sent
A shout that tore Hell's conclave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of CHAOS and old Night.
[The mighty host now circled in orderly array about 'their dread commander.']
He, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower. His form had yet not lost
All her original brightness, nor appeared
Less than Archangel ruined, and the excess
Of glory obscured: as when the sun newrisen
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darkened so, yet shone
Above them all the Archangel. But his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows
Of dauntless courage and considerate pride,
Waiting revenge... He now prepared
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers. Attention held them mute.
Thrice he essayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn.
Tears, such as Angels weep, burst forth; at last
Words interwove with sighs found out their way:
"O myriads of immortal Spirits' O Powers,
Matchless, but with the Almighty!-and that strife
Was not inglorious, though the event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change,
Hateful to utter. But what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge past or present, could have feared
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
He who reigns
Monarch in Heaven, till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent, or custom, and his regal state
Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed-
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
Henceforth, his might we know, and know our own,
So as not either to provoke, or dread
New war, provoked. Our better part remains
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
What force effected not; that he no less
At length from us may find who overcomes
By force hath overcome but half his foe.
Space may produce new Worlds, whereof so rife
There went a fame in Heaven that he ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation whom his choice regard
Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven.
Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps
Our first eruption-thither, or elsewhere;
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor the abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature. Peace is despaired;
For who can think submission? War, then war
Open or understood, must be resolved."
He spake; and to confirm his words, outflew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim. The sudden blaze
Far round illumined Hell. Highly they raged
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war
Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
[The exiled host now led by Mammon, 'the least erected spirit that fell from Heaven,' proceeded to build Pandemonium. their architect being him whom 'men called Mulciber.' and...]
The great seraphic Lords and Cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat,
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats.
High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus or 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, counselled war.
[Then uprose BELIAL- 'a fairer person lost not Heaven'-and reasoned that force was futile.]
The towers of Heaven are filled
With armed watch, that render all access
[Besides, failure might lead to their annihilation, and who wished for that?]
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through Eternity,
To perish rather, swallowd up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night,
[They were better now than when they were hurled from Heaven, or when they lay chained on the burning lake. Their Supreme Foe might in time remit His anger, and slacken those raging fires. Mammon also advised them to keep the peace, and make the best they could of Hell, a policy received with applause; but then BEELZEBUB, 'than whom. SATAN except, none higher sat,' rose, and with a look which 'drew audience and attention still as night,' developed the suggestion previously made by SATAN, that they should attack Heaven's High Arbitrator through His new-created Man, waste His creation, and 'drive as we are driven.']
"This would surpass
Common revenge, and interrupt His joy
In our confusion, and our joy upraise
In His disturbance."
[This proposal was gleefully received. But then the difficulty arose who should be sent in search of this new world? All sat mute, till SATAN declared that he would 'abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction,' a decision hailed with reverent applause. The council dissolved, the Infernal Peers disperse to their several employments: some to sports, some to warlike feats, some to argument, 'in wandering mazes lost,' some to adventurous discovery; while SATAN wings his way to the ninefold gate of Hell, guarded by Sin and her abortive offspring Death, and Sin, opening the gate for him to go out, cannot shut it again. The Fiend stands on the brink, 'pondering his voyage,' while before him appear...]
The secrets of the hoary Deep-a dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimensions; where length, breadth, and highth,
And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
And CHAOS, ancestors of Nature, hold Eternal anarchy.
[At last he spreads his 'sail-broad vans' for flight, and 'in the surging smoke, Uplifted spurns the ground.' He is directed by CHAOS and sable-vested Night, and comes to where he can see far off]
The empyreal Heaven, 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.
[As invocation to Light, and a lament for the poet's blindness now preludes a picture of Heaven, and the Almighty Father conferring with the only Son.]
Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heaven first-born!
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!
Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the Sun,
Before the Heavens, thou wert, and at the voice
Of God. as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless Infinite!
But thou Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn.
With the year Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
[God. observing the approach of SATAN to the world, foretells the fall of man to the Son, who listens while...]
In his face, Divine compassion visibly appeared,
Love without end, and without measure grace.
[The Father asks where such love can be found as will redeem man by satisfying eternal Justice.]
He asked, but all the Heavenly Quire stood mule,
And silence was in Heaven.
[Admiration seized All Heaven, and 'With solemn adoration down they cast, Their Crowns inwove with Amarant and Gold', when the Son replied:]
"Account me man. I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly die
Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage.
Under his gloomy power I shall not long
[While the immortal quires chanted their praise, SATAN drew near and sighted the world- the sun, earth, moon and companion planets.]
As when a scout,
Through dark and desert ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware
The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First seen, or some renowned metropolis
With glistening spires and pinnacles adorned,
Which now the rising Sun gilds with his beams,
Such wonder seized, though after Heaven seen,
The Spirit malign, but much more envy seized.
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.
[Flying to the Sun, and taking the form of 'a stripling Cherub,' SATAN recognizes there the Archangel Uriel and accosts him.]
Brightest Seraph, tell
In which of all these shining orbs hath Man
His fixed seat, or fixed seat hath none,
But all these shining Orbs his choice to dwell;
That I may find him, and with secret gaze,
Or open admiration him behold
On whom the great Creator hath bestow'd
Worlds, and on whom hath all these graces pour'd.
[And Uriel, although held to be 'the sharpest-sighted spirit of all in Heaven,' was deceived, for angels cannot discern hypocrisy. So Uriel, pointing, answers:]
That place is earth, the seat of Man, that light
His day, which else as th'other hemisphere
Night would invade, but there the neighbouring moon
(So call that opposite fair star) her aid
Timely interposes, and her monthly round
Still ending, still renewing through mid-Heaven,
With borrowed light, her countenance triform
Hence fills and empties to enlighten the Earth.
And in her pale dominion checks the night.
That spot to which I point is Paradise,
Adam's abode; those lofty shades his bower.
Thy way thou canst not miss; me mine requires.'
Thus said. he turned: and SATAN, bowing low,
As to superior spirits is wont in Heaven,
Where honour due and reverence none neglects,
Took leave, and toward the coast of Earth beneath,
Down from the ecliptic, sped with hoped success,
Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel,
Nor stayed till on Niphates' top he lights.
[Coming within sight of Paradise, SATAN's conscience is aroused, and lie grieves over the suffering his dire work will entail, exclaiming:]
"Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell."
[As he approaches Paradise more closely the deliciousness of the place affects even his senses.]
As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the Blest, with such delay
Well pleased they slack (heir course, and many a league
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles,
So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend.
[At last, after sighting 'all kinds of living creatures new to sight and strange,' he descries Man.]
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
God-like erect, with native honour clad
In naked majesty, seemed lords of all,
And worthy seemed: for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone ....
For contemplation he, and valour, formed.
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only. she for God in him ...
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love's embraces met-
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve.
[At the sight of the gentle pair. SATAN again almost relents. Taking the shape of various animals, he approaches to hear them talk. and finds from Adam that the only prohibition laid on them is partaking of the Tree of Knowledge. Eve, replying, tells Adam how she found herself alive, saw her form reflected in the water, and thought herself fairer even than he until...]
"Thy gentle hand
Seized mine; I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelled by manly grace
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair."
[While SATAN roams through Paradise, with 'sly circumspection,' Uriel descends on an evening sunbeam to warn Gabriel, 'chief of the angelic guards,' that a suspected spirit with looks 'alien from Heaven,' had passed to earth, and Gabriel promises to find him before dawn.]
Now came still Evening on, and Twilight grey
Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.
She all night long her amorous descant sung.
Silence was pleased. Now glowed the firmament
With living sapphires: Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon.
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light.
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.
[Adam and Eve talk ere they retire to rest- she questioning him.]
"Sweet is the breath of Morn. her rising sweet
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the Sun,
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams on herb, tree, fruit and flower,
Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertile earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night,
With this her solemn bird, and this fair Moon,
And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train;
But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising Sun
On this delightful land; nor herb. fruit, flower,
Glistering with dew; nor fragrance after showers;
Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night,
With this her solemn bird; nor walk by moon,
Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet.
But wherefore all night long shine these?
For whom This glorious sight,
When sleep hath shut all eyes?"
"These have their course to finish round the Earth,
And they, though unbeheld in deep of night,
Shine not in vain. Nor think, though men were none,
That Heaven would want spectators, God want praise.
Millions of spiritual Creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep;
All these with ceaseless praise His works behold
Both day and night. ....."
Thus talking, hand in hand, alone they passed
On to their blissful bower.
[Gabriel then sends the Cherubim 'armed to their night watches.' and commands Ithuriel and Zephon to search the Garden, where they find SATAN; 'squat like a toad close to the ear of Eve,' seeking to taint her dreams.]
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness.
[SATAN therefore starts up in his own person, and is conducted to Gabriel, who sees him coming with them, 'a third, of regal port, but faded splendour wan.' Gabriel and he engage in a heated altercation, and a fight seems imminent between the Fiend and the angelic squadrons that 'begin to hem him round,' when, by a sign in the sky, SATAN is reminded of his powerlessness in open fight, and flees, murmuring. 'And with him fled the shades of night.' Adam, waking in the morning, finds Eve flushed and distraught, and she tells him of her troublous dreams. He cheers her, and they pass out to the open field, and, adoring, raise their morning hymn of praise.]
"These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty! thine this universal frame.
Thus wondrous fair-thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable! who sittest above these heavens
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.
Speak, ye who best can tell, ye Sons of Light,
Angels-for ye behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing-ye in Heaven;
(In Earth join. all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
Fairest of Starrs, last in the train of Night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling morn
With thy bright circlet, praise him in thy sphere
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.
Thou Son, of this great world both eye and soul,
Acknowledge him thy greater; sound his praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climb'st
And when high noon hast gained, and when thou fall'st.
Moon, that now meet'st the orient Sun, now fliest,
With the fixed Stars, fixed in their orb that flies;
And ye five other wandering Fires, that move
In mystic dance, not without song, resound
His praise who out of Darkness called up Light. ...
Ye Mists and Exhalations, that now rise
From hill or steaming lake. dusky or grey,
Till the Sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold,
In honour to the World's great Author
Whether to deck with clouds the uncoloured sky,
Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers,
Rising or falling, still advance his praise.
His praise, ye Winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud; and wave your tops, ye Pines,
With every plant in sign of worship wave.
Fountains, and ye that warble as ye flow,
Melodious murmurs, warbling, tune his praise.
Join voices, all ye living souls. Ye birds,
That, singing, up to Heaven's gate ascend,
Bear on your wings and in your notes his praise. ....
Hail. universal Lord! Be bounteous still
To give us only good; and, if the night
Have gathered aught of evil. or concealed,
Disperse it, as now light dispels the dark."
So prayed they innocent, and to their thoughts
Firm peace recovered soon, and wonted calm.
[The Almighty now sends Raphael, 'the sociable Spirit,' from Heaven to warn Adam of his danger, and, alighting on the eastern cliff of Paradise, the Seraph shakes his plumes and diffuses heavenly fragrance around; then moving through the forest is seen by Adam, who, with Eve, entertains him, and seizes the occasion to ask him of 'their Being, who dwell in Heaven,' and further, what is meant by the angelic caution- 'if ye be found obedient.' Raphael thereupon tells of the disobedience, in Heaven, of SATAN, and his fall, 'from that high state of bliss into what woe.' He tells how the Divine decree of obedience to the Only Son was received by SATAN with envy, because he felt 'himself impaired'; and how, consulting with BEELZEBUB, he drew away all the spirits under their command to the 'spacious North,' and taunting them with being eclipsed, proposed that they should rebel. Only Abdiel remained faithful, and urged them to cease their 'impious rage,' and seek pardon in time, or they might find that he who had created them could uncreate them.]
So spake the Seraph Abdiel, faithful found;
Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth or change his constant mind
[Raphael, continuing, tells Adam how Abdiel flew back to Heaven with the story of the revolt, but found it was known. The Sovran Voice, having welcomed the faithful messenger with 'Servant of God, well done!' orders the Arch- angels Michael and Gabriel to lead forth the celestial armies, while the banded powers of SATAN are hastening on to set the Proud Aspirer on the very Mount of God. 'Long time in even scale the battle hung,' but with the dawning of the third day, the Father directed the Messiah to ascend his chariot, and end the strife. 'Far off his coming shone.' and at his presence 'Heaven his wonted face renewed, and with fresh flowerets hill and valley smiled.' But nearing the foe, his countenance changed into a terror 'too severe to be beheld.']
Among them he arriv'd, in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand thunders, which he sent
Before him, such as in their souls infixed
Plagues; they, astonished, all resistance lost.
All courage; down their idle weapons, dropt.
The monstrous sigh, Struck them with horror;
headlong them selves they threw
Down from the verge of Heaven; eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.
[A like fate, Raphael warns Adam, may befall mankind if they are guilty of disobedience. The 'affable Archangel,' at Adam's request, continues his talk by telling how the world began. Lest Lucifer should lake a pride in having 'dispeopled Heaven,' God announces to the Son that he will create another world, and a race to dwell in it who may]
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tri'd,
And Earth be chang'd to Heaven, & Heav'n to Earth,
One Kingdom, Joy and Union without end.
Mean while inhabit laxe, ye Powers of Heav'n,
And thou my Word, begotten Son, by thee
This I perform, speak thou, and be it done:
My overshadowing Spirit and might with thee
I send along; ride forth, and bid the Deep
Within appointed bounds be Heaven and Earth,
Boundless the deep, because I am who fill
Infinitude, nor vacuous the space.
Though I uncircumscrib'd myself retire,
And put not forth my goodness, which is free
To act or not; necessity and chance
Approach not me. and what I will is fate."
So spake th' Almighty, and to what he spake
His word, the Filial Godhead, gave effect.
Immediate are the acts of God, more swift
Than time or motion, but to human ears
Cannot without process of speech be told,
So (old as earthly notion can receive.
Great triumph and rejoicing was in Heaven
When such was heard declared th' Almighty's will;
Glory they sung to God most high.
Heaven opened wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound
On golden hinges moving to let forth
The King of Glory, in his powerful Word
And Spirit coming to create new worlds.
On heavenly ground they stood, and from the shore
They viewed the vast immeasurable abyss,
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains to assault
Heaven's highth, and with the centre mix the pole.
"Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace!"
Said then the omnific Word. "Your discord end!"
Nor stayed; but on the wings of Cherubim,
Uplifted in paternal glory rode
Far into CHAOS and the World unborn;
For CHAOS heard his voice. ....
And Earth, self-balanced on her centre hung.
[The six days' creative work is then described in the order of Genesis. Asked by Adam to tell him about the motions of the heavenly bodies, Raphael adjures him to refrain from thought on 'matters hid; to serve God and fear; and to be lowly wise.' He then asks Adam to tell him of his creation, he having at the time been absent on 'excursion towards the gates of Hell.' Adam complies, and relates how he appealed to God for a companion, and was answered in the fairest of God's gifts. Raphael warns Adam to beware lest passion for Eve sway his judgement, for on him depends the weal or woe of himself and all his sons.
While Raphael was in Paradise, for seven nights SATAN hid himself in the shadow of the Earth. Then, rising as a mist, he crept into EDEN undetected, and entered the serpent as 'fittest imp of fraud,' but not until he had once more lamented that the environ of the earth was not for him. In the morning, when the human pair were at their pleasant labours, Eve decided they should work apart, for when near each other 'looks intervene and smiles,' and casual discourse. Adam replied, defending 'this sweet intercourse of looks and smiles,' because they had been made not for irksome toil, but for delight.]
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. ....
[Eve, 'with sweet austere composure,' replies.]
"That such an enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee informed I learn,
And from the parting Angel overheard.
[She, however, repels the suggestion that she can be deceived. Adam replies that he does not wish her to be tempted, and that united they would be stronger and more watchful. Eve responds that if EDEN is so exposed that they are not secure apart, how can they be happy? Adam gives way.]
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.
[The Fiend, questing through the garden, finds her]
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses bushing round
About her glowed. ... Then she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,
From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.
[Seeing her, SATAN 'much the place admired, the person more.']
As one who, long in populous city pent,
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 tended 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 looks sums all delight.
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone.
[The original serpent did not creep on the ground, but was a handsome creature.]
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant. Pleasing was his shape
[Appearing before Eve with an air of worshipful admiration, and speaking in human language, the arch-deceiver gains her ear with flattery. 'Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve.' She asks how it is that man's language is pronounced by 'tongue of brute.' The reply is that the power came through eating the fruit of a certain tree, which gave him reason, and also constrained him to worship her as 'sovran of creatures.' Asked to show her the tree, he leads her swiftly to the Tree of Prohibition, and replying to her scruples and fears, declares]
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 perfect 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 pretty Trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless vertue, whom the pain
Of Death denounc't, whatever thing Death be,
Deterrd not from achieving what might leade
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 shunnd?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Goddess humane, reach, then, and freely taste!"
He ended; and his words, replete with guile.
Into her heart too easy entrance won.
[Eve herself then took up the argument and repeated admiringly the Serpent's persuasions.]
"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?
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 ate.
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.
[At first elated by the fruit. Eve presently began to reflect, excuse herself, and wonder what the effect would be on Adam.]
"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?
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."
Adam the while
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn
Her tresses. ... Soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed,
Astonished stood and blank.
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!
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 forego
Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly joined
To live again in these wild woods forlorn?"
[Then, turning to Eve, he tried to comfort her.]
Perhaps thou shalt not die ...
Now 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. ....
However, I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom. If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life.
Our state cannot be severed; we are one."
So Adam; and thus Eve to him replied:
"O glorious trial of exceeding love,
Illustrious evidence, example high!"
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 ...
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.
[The effect of the fruit on them is first to excite lust, with guilty shame following, and realizing this after 'the exhilarating vapour bland' had spent its force, Adam found utterance for his remorse...]
"O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear
To that false Worm. ....
... 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!"
[Then they cower in the woods, and clothe themselves with leaves.]
Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind
They sat them down to weep.
[But passion also took possession of them, and they began to taunt each other with recriminations, Adam, with estranged look, exclaimed:]
"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!"
"Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent
Neither had I transgressed nor thou with me."
"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."
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;
And of their vain contest appeared no end.
[The Angels left on guard now slowly return from Paradise to Heaven to report their failure, but are reminded by God that it was ordained; and the Son is sent down to judge the guilty pair, after hearing their excuses, and to punish them with the curses of toil and death. Meantime Sin and Death 'snuff the smell of mortal change' on Earth, and leaving Hell-gate 'belching outrageous flame,' erect a broad road from Hell to Earth through CHAOS, and as they come in sight of the World meet SATAN steering his way back as an angel 'between the Centaur and the Scorpion.' He makes Sin and Death his plenipotentiaries on Earth, adjuring them first to make man their thrall, and lastly kill; and as they pass to the evil work 'the blasted stars look wan.' The return to Hell is received with loud acclaim, which comes in the form of a hiss, and SATAN and all his hosts are turned into grovelling snakes. Adam is sternly resentful against Eve, but both pass to 'sorrow unfeigned and humiliation meek.' The repentance of the pair is accepted by God, who sends down the Archangel Michael, with a cohort of Cherubim, to announce that death will not come until time has been given for repentance, but Paradise can no longer be their home. Whereupon Eve laments...]
"O unexpected stroke, worse than of Death!
Must I thus leave thee. Paradise? Thus leave
Thee, native soil? These happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods, where I had hoped to spend
Quiet, though sad, the respite of that day
That must be mortal to us both? O flowers,
That never will in any other climate grow,
My early visitation and my last
At even, which I bred up with tender hand
From who now shall rear ye to the Sun, or rank
Your tribes, and water from the ambrosial fount?
Thee lastly, nuptial bower, by me adorned
With what to sight or smell was sweet; from thee
How shall I part, and whither wander down
Into the lower world, to this obscure
And wild, how shall we breathe in other air
Less pure, accustomed to immortal fruits?"
[The Angel counsels her...]
"Lament not, Eve, but patiently resign
What justly thou hast lost; nor set thy heart
Thus over-fond, on that which is not thine;
Thy going is not lonely; with thee goes
Thy husband; him to follow thou art bound;
Where he abides, think there thy native soil."
[Michael then ascending a hill with Adam shows him a vision of the world's history, and first of the ravages of death, while Eve sleeps.]
Though not of woman born; compassion quelled
His best of Man, and gave him up to tears
A space, till firmer thoughts restrained excess,
And scarce recovering words his plaint renewed.
"O miserable Mankind, to what fall
Degraded, to what wretched state reserved!
....... Can thus
Th' Image of God in man created once
To such unsightly sufferings be debased?"
[The history is continued, with its promise of redemption, until Adam exclaims:]
"Full of doubt I stand
Whether I should repent me now in sin
By me done and occasioned, or rejoice
Much more that much more food thereof shall spring -
To God more glory, more good will to men
From God, and ever wrath grace shall abound.
But say, if our deliverer up to Heaven
Must re-ascend, what will betide the few
His faithful, left among th' unfaithful herd,
The enemies of truth; who then shall guide
His people, who defend? will they not deal
Worse with his followers than with him they dealt?"
"Be sure they will." said th' Angel; "but from Heav'n
He to his own a Comforter will send,
The promise of the Father, who shall dwell
His spirit within them, and the law of Faith
Working through love, upon their hearts shall write.
To guide them in all truth, and also arm
With spiritual armour, able to resist
SATAN's assaults, and quench his fiery darts.
What Man can do against them, not afraid,
Though to the death, against such cruelties
With inward consolations recompensed,
And oft supported so as shall amaze
Their proudest persecutors: for the Spirit
Pour'd first on his Apostles, whom he sends
To evangelise the nations, then on all
Baptiz'd shall them with wondrous gifts endue
To speak all tongues, and do all miracles,
As did their Lord before them. Thus they win
Great numbers of each nation to receive
With joy the tidings brought from Heav'n: at length
Their ministry perform'd, and race well run,
Their doctrine and their story written left,
[Eve awakens from propitious dreams, it having been shown to her that...]
"Though all by me is lost
Such favour I unworthy am vouchsafed.
By me the Promised Seed shall all restore."
[The time, however, has come when they must leave. A flaming sword, 'fierce as a comet,' advances towards them before the bright array of Cherubim.]
Whereat, in either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain-then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence then guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through EDEN took their solitary way.