Paradise Lost: Book IV

By John Milton 1608–1674 John Milton
O for that warning voice, which he who saw
Th' Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be reveng'd on men,
"Woe to the inhabitants on Earth!" that now,
While time was, our first parents had been warn'd
The coming of their secret foe, and scap'd,
Haply so scap'd, his mortal snare! For now
Satan, now first inflam'd with rage, came down,
The tempter, ere th' accuser, of mankind,
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss
Of that first battle and his flight to Hell;
Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt; which, nigh the birth
Now rolling, boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself. Horror and doubt distract
His troubl'd thoughts and from the bottom stir
The hell within him; for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly
By change of place. Now conscience wakes despair
That slumber'd, wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse: of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue!
Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view
Lay pleasant, his griev'd look he fixes sad;
Sometimes towards heaven and the full-blazing sun,
Which now sat high in his meridian tower:
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began:

"O thou that with surpassing glory crown'd
Look'st from thy sole dominion like the God
Of this new World—at whose sight all the stars
Hide their diminish'd heads—to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere,
Till pride and worse ambition threw me down,
Warring in Heav'n against Heav'n's matchless King:
Ah, wherefore? He deserv'd no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.
What could be less than to afford him praise,
The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks,
How due! Yet all his good prov'd ill in me,
And wrought but malice; lifted up so high,
I 'sdain'd subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burdensome, still paying, still to owe;
Forgetful what from him I still receiv'd;
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharg'd: what burden then?
O had his powerful destiny ordain'd
Me some inferior Angel, I had stood
Then happy: no unbounded hope had rais'd
Ambition. Yet why not? Some other Power
As great might have aspir'd, and me, though mean,
Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great
Fell not, but stand unshak'n, from within
Or from without to all temptations arm'd!
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?
Thou hadst. Whom hast thou then, or what, to accuse,
But Heav'n's free love dealt equally to all?
Be then his love accurs'd, since, love or hate,
To me alike it deals eternal woe.
Nay, curs'd be thou, since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav'n.
O then at last relent! is there no place
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduc'd
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue
Th' Omnipotent. Ay me! they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vain,
Under what torments inwardly I groan;
While they adore me on the throne of Hell,
With diadem and sceptre high advanc'd,
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery: such joy ambition finds!
But say I could repent, and could obtain,
By act of grace, my former state: how soon
Would highth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feign'd submission swore! Ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void—
For never can true reconcilement grow
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierc'd so deep—
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse
And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my Punisher; therefore as far
From granting he, as I from begging, peace.
All hope excluded thus, behold, instead
Of us, outcast, exil'd, his new delight,
Mankind, created, and for him this World!
So farewell Hope, and, with Hope, farewell Fear,
Farewell Remorse! All good to me is lost:
Evil, be thou my Good; by thee at least
Divided empire with Heav'n's King I hold,
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign—
As Man ere long and this new World shall know."

Thus while he spake, each passion dimm'd his face,
Thrice chang'd with pale—ire, envy, and despair,
Which marr'd his borrow'd visage and betray'd
Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld;
For heav'nly minds from such distempers foul
Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware
Each perturbation smooth'd with outward calm,
Artificer of fraud, and was the first
That practis'd falsehood under saintly show,
Deep malice to conceal, couch'd with revenge;
Yet not enough had practis'd to deceive
Uriel, once warn'd, whose eye pursu'd him down
The way he went and on th' Assyrian mount
Saw him disfigur'd, more than could befall
Spirit of happy sort: his gestures fierce
He mark'd and mad demeanour, then alone,
As he suppos'd, all unobserv'd, unseen.
So on he fares and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
Access denied; and overhead up-grew
Insuperable highth of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,
A sylvan scene and, as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung;
Which to our general sire gave prospect large
Into his nether empire neighbouring round.
And higher than that wall a circling row
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,
Appear'd, with gay enamell'd colours mix'd;
On which the Sun more glad impress'd his beams
Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow,
When God hath show'r'd the earth: so lovely seem'd
That landskip. And of pure, now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair. Now gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils. 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 pleas'd they slack their course, and many a league
Cheer'd with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles:
So entertain'd those odorous sweets the Fiend
Who came their bane, though with them better pleas'd
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamour'd, from the spouse
Of Tobit's son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Egypt, there fast bound.

Now to th' ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none: so thick entwin'd,
As one continu'd brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplex'd
All path of man or beast that pass'd that way.
One gate there only was, and that look'd east
On th' other side; which when th' Arch-felon saw,
Due entrance he disdain'd and, in contempt,
At one slight bound high overleap'd all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve
In hurdl'd cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o'er the fence with ease into the fold;
Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barr'd and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbs, or o'er the tiles:
So clomb this first grand Thief into God's fold:
So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb.
Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regain'd, but sat devising death
To them who liv'd; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only us'd
For prospect what, well us'd, had been the pledge
Of immortality. So little knows
Any but God alone to value right
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.
Beneath him, with new wonder, now he views,
To all delight of human sense expos'd,
In narrow room Nature's whole wealth; yea, more—
A Heaven on Earth; for blissful Paradise
Of God the garden was, by him in the east
Of Eden planted; Eden stretch'd her line
From Auran eastward to the royal tow'rs
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Or where the sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar: in this pleasant soil
His far more pleasant garden God ordain'd.
Out of the fertile ground he caus'd to grow
All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the Tree of Life,
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold; and, next to life,
Our death, the Tree of Knowledge, grew fast by—
Knowledge of good, bought dear by knowing ill.
Southward through Eden went a river large,
Nor chang'd his course, but through the shaggy hill
Pass'd underneath ingulf'd; for God had thrown
That mountain, as his garden-mould, high rais'd
Upon the rapid current, which through veins
Of porous earth with kindly thirst up-drawn
Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill
Water'd the garden; thence united fell
Down the steep glade and met the nether flood,
Which from his darksome passage now appears,
And now, divided into four main streams,
Runs diverse, wand'ring many a famous realm
And country, whereof here needs no account,
But rather to tell how, if art could tell,
How from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy error under pendent shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flow'rs worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon
Pour'd forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierc'd shade
Imbrown'd the noontide bow'rs. Thus was this place,
A happy rural seat of various view:
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm;
Others whose fruit, burnish'd with golden rind,
Hung amiable—Hesperian fables true,
If true, here only—and of delicious taste.
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks
Grazing the tender herb, were interpos'd,
Or palmy hillock; or the flow'ry lap
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,
Flow'rs of all hue, and without thorn the rose;
Another side, umbrageous grots and caves
Of cool recess, o'er which the mantling vine
Lays forth her purple grape and gently creeps
Luxuriant. Meanwhile murmuring waters fall
Down the slope hills, dispers'd, or in a lake,
That to the fringed bank with myrtle crown'd
Her crystal mirror holds, unite their streams.
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on th' eternal Spring. Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpin gath'ring flow'rs,
Herself a fairer flow'r, by gloomy Dis
Was gather'd—which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove
Of Daphne, by Orontes and th' inspir'd
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle,
Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,
Hid Amalthea and her florid son,
Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea's eye;
Nor, where Abassin kings their issue guard,
Mount Amara (though this by some suppos'd
True Paradise) under the Ethiop line
By Nilus' head, enclos'd with shining rock,
A whole day's journey high, but wide remote
From this Assyrian garden where the Fiend
Saw undelighted all delight, all kind
Of living creatures, new to sight and strange.
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
God-like erect, with native honour clad
In naked majesty, seem'd lords of all,
And worthy seem'd; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure—
Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd,
Whence true authority in men: though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seem'd;
For contemplation he and valour form'd,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him.
His fair, large front and eye sublime declar'd
Absolute rule, and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clust'ring, but not beneath his shoulders broad;
She, as a veil down to the slender waist,
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevell'd, but in wanton ringlets wav'd
As the vine curls her tendrils—which implied
Subjection, but requir'd with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best receiv'd,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then conceal'd:
Then was not guilty shame. Dishonest Shame
Of Nature's works, Honour dishonourable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubl'd all mankind
With shows instead, mere shows of seeming pure,
And banish'd from man's life his happiest life,
Simplicity and spotless innocence!
So pass'd they naked on, nor shunn'd the sight
Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill.
So hand in hand they pass'd, 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.
Under a tuft of shade that on a green
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain-side,
They sat them down; and, after no more toil
Of their sweet gard'ning labour than suffic'd
To recommend cool Zephyr, and make ease
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite
More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell—
Nectarine fruits, which the compliant boughs
Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline
On the soft downy bank damask'd with flow'rs.
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind,
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream;
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems
Fair couple link'd in happy nuptial league,
Alone as they. About them frisking play'd
All beasts of th' earth, since wild, and of all chase
In wood or wilderness, forest or den:
Sporting the lion ramp'd, and in his paw
Dandl'd the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gamboll'd before them; th' unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, us'd all his might, and wreath'd
His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly,
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His braided train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded. Others on the grass
Couch'd and, now fill'd with pasture, gazing sat,
Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,
Declin'd, was hasting now with prone career
To th' Ocean Isles, and in th' ascending scale
Of heav'n the stars that usher evening rose;
When Satan, still in gaze as first he stood,
Scarce thus at length fail'd speech recover'd sad:

"O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold?
Into our room of bliss thus high advanc'd
Creatures of other mould—Earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to Heav'nly Spirits bright
Little inferior—whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love so lively shines
In them divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that form'd them on their shape hath pour'd.
Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish and deliver ye to woe—
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy:
Happy, but for so happy ill secur'd
Long to continue, and this high seat, your Heav'n,
Ill-fenc'd for Heav'n to keep out such a foe
As now is enter'd; yet no purpos'd foe
To you, whom I could pity thus forlorn,
Though I unpitied. League with you I seek,
And mutual amity, so strait, so close,
That I with you must dwell, or you with me,
Henceforth. My dwelling, haply, may not please
Like this fair Paradise your sense; yet such
Accept your Maker's work; he gave it me,
Which I as freely give. Hell shall unfold,
To entertain you two, her widest gates,
And send forth all her kings; there will be room,
Not like these narrow limits, to receive
Your numerous offspring; if no better place,
Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge
On you, who wrong me not, for him who wrong'd.
And, should I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I do, yet public reason just—
Honour and empire with revenge enlarg'd
By conquering this new world—compels me now
To do what else, though damn'd, I should abhor."

So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
The tyrant's plea, excus'd his devilish deeds.
Then from his lofty stand on that high tree
Down he alights among the sportful herd
Of those four-footed kinds, himself now one,
Now other, as their shape serv'd best his end,
Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied,
To mark what of their state he more might learn
By word or action mark'd. About them round
A lion now he stalks with fiery glare;
Then as a tiger, who by chance hath spied
In some purlieu two gentle fawns at play,
Straight crouches close, then, rising, changes oft
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground,
Whence rushing he might surest seize them both
Gripp'd in each paw; when Adam, first of men,
To first of women, Eve, thus moving speech,
Turn'd him all ear to hear new utterance flow:

"Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,
Dearer thyself than all, needs must the Power
That made us, and for us this ample world,
Be infinitely good, and of his good
As liberal and free as infinite;
That rais'd us from the dust, and plac'd us here
In all this happiness, who at his hand
Have nothing merited, nor can perform
Aught whereof he hath need; he who requires
From us no other service than to keep
This one, this easy charge: of all the trees
In Paradise that bear delicious fruit
So various, not to taste that only Tree
Of Knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life:
So near grows Death to Life, whate'er death is—
Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou know'st
God hath pronounc'd it death to taste that Tree:
The only sign of our obedience left
Among so many signs of power and rule
Conferr'd upon us, and dominion giv'n
Over all other creatures that possess
Earth, air, and sea. Then let us not think hard
One easy prohibition, who enjoy
Free leave so large to all things else, and choice
Unlimited of manifold delights;
But let us ever praise him and extol
His bounty, following our delightful task,
To prune these growing plants and tend these flowers;
Which, were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet."

To whom thus Eve replied: "O thou for whom
And from whom I was form'd flesh of thy flesh,
And without whom am to no end, my guide
And head! what thou hast said is just and right.
For we to him, indeed, all praises owe,
And daily thanks—I chiefly, who enjoy
So far the happier lot, enjoying thee,
Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou
Like consort to thyself canst nowhere find.
That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak'd and found myself repos'd,
Under a shade, on flow'rs, much wond'ring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issu'd from a cave, and spread
Into a liquid plain, then stood unmov'd,
Pure as th' expanse of heav'n. I thither went
With unexperienc'd thought, and laid me down
On the green bank, to look into the clear
Smooth lake, that to me seem'd another sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite
A shape within the wat'ry gleam appear'd,
Bending to look on me. I started back,
It started back; but pleas'd I soon return'd
Pleas'd it return'd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathy and love. There I had fix'd
Mine eyes till now, and pin'd with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warn'd me: 'What thou seest
What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself:
With thee it came and goes; but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow stays
Thy coming and thy soft embraces—he
Whose image thou art; him thou shalt enjoy
Inseparably thine; to him shalt bear
Multitudes like thyself, and thence be call'd
Mother of human race.' What could I do
But follow straight, invisibly thus led?
Till I espied thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a platan; yet methought less fair,
Less winning soft, less amiably mild,
Than that smooth wat'ry image. Back I turn'd;
Thou, following, cried'st aloud, 'Return, fair Eve;
Whom fliest thou? Whom thou fliest, of him thou art,
His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart,
Substantial life, to have thee by my side
Henceforth an individual solace dear:
Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half.' With that thy gentle hand
Seiz'd mine: I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excell'd by manly grace
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair."

So spake our general mother, and, with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreprov'd,
And meek surrender, half-embracing lean'd
On our first father; half her swelling breast
Naked met his, under the flowing gold
Of her loose tresses hid. He, in delight
Both of her beauty and submissive charms,
Smil'd with superior love, as Jupiter
On Juno smiles when he impregns the clouds
That shed May flowers, and press'd her matron lip
With kisses pure. Aside the Devil turn'd
For envy; yet with jealous leer malign
Ey'd them askance, and to himself thus plain'd:

"Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two,
Imparadis'd in one another's arms,
The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill
Of bliss on bliss; while I to Hell am thrust,
Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire,
Among our other torments not the least,
Still unfulfill'd, with pain of longing pines!
Yet let me not forget what I have gain'd
From their own mouths. All is not theirs, it seems;
One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge call'd,
Forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidd'n?
Suspicious, reasonless! Why should their Lord
Envy them that? Can it be sin to know?
Can it be death? And do they only stand
By ignorance? Is that their happy state,
The proof of their obedience and their faith?
O fair foundation laid whereon to build
Their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with design
To keep them low, whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with Gods. Aspiring to be such,
They taste and die: what likelier can ensue?
But first with narrow search I must walk round
This garden, and no corner leave unspied:—
A chance, but chance may lead where I may meet
Some wand'ring Spirit of Heav'n, by fountain-side,
Or in thick shade retir'd, from him to draw
What further would be learn'd. Live while ye may,
Yet happy pair; enjoy, till I return,
Short pleasures; for long woes are to succeed!"

So saying, his proud step he scornful turn'd,
But with sly circumspection, and began
Through wood, through waste, o'er hill, o'er dale, his roam.
Meanwhile in utmost longitude, where heav'n
With earth and ocean meets, the setting sun
Slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise
Levell'd his evening rays. It was a rock
Of alabaster, pil'd up to the clouds,
Conspicuous far, winding with one ascent
Accessible from earth, one entrance high;
The rest was craggy cliff, that overhung
Still as it rose, impossible to dimb.
Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat,
Chief of th' angelic guards, awaiting night;
About him exercis'd heroic games
Th' unarmed youth of Heav'n; but nigh at hand
Celestial armoury, shields, helms, and spears,
Hung high, with diamond flaming and with gold.
Thither came Uriel, gliding through the even
On a sunbeam, swift as a shooting star
In autumn thwarts the night, when vapours fir'd
Impress the air, and shows the mariner
From what point of his compass to beware
Impetuous winds. He thus began in haste:

"Gabriel, to thee thy course by lot hath giv'n
Charge and strict watch that to this happy place
No evil thing approach or enter in.
This day at highth of noon came to my sphere
A Spirit, zealous as he seem'd to know
More of th' Almighty's works, and chiefly Man,
God's latest image. I describ'd his way
Bent all on speed, and mark'd his airy gait,
But in the mount that lies from Eden north,
Where he first lighted, soon discern'd his looks
Alien from Heav'n, with passions foul obscur'd.
Mine eye pursu'd him still, but under shade
Lost sight of him. One of the banish'd crew,
I fear, hath ventur'd from the Deep, to raise
New troubles; him thy care must be to find."

To whom the winged warrior thus return'd:
"Uriel, no wonder if thy perfect sight,
Amid the sun's bright circle where thou sitt'st,
See far and wide. In at this gate none pass
The vigilance here plac'd, but such as come
Well known from Heav'n; and since meridian hour
No creature thence. If Spirit of other sort,
So minded, have o'erleap'd these earthy bounds
On purpose, hard thou know'st it to exclude
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.
But if within the circuit of these walks,
In whatsoever shape, he lurk of whom
Thou tell'st, by morrow dawning I shall know."

So promis'd he; and Uriel to his charge
Return'd on that bright beam, whose point now rais'd
Bore him slope downward to the sun, now fall'n
Beneath th' Azores; whether the prime orb,
Incredible how swift, had thither roll'd
Diurnal, or this less volúbil earth,
By shorter flight to th' east, had left him there
Arraying with reflected purple and gold
The clouds that on his western throne attend.

Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray
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 pleas'd. Now glow'd the firmament
With living sapphires; Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen, unveil'd her peerless light
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.

When Adam thus to Eve: "Fair consort, th' hour
Of night, and all things now retir'd to rest,
Mind us of like repose, since God hath set
Labour and rest, as day and night, to men
Successive, and the timely dew of sleep
Now falling with soft slumb'rous weight inclines
Our eyelids. Other creatures all day long
Rove idle, unemploy'd, and less need rest;
Man hath his daily work of body or mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity
And the regard of Heav'n on all his ways;
While other animals unactive range,
And of their doings God takes no account.
To-morrow, ere fresh morning streak the east
With first approach of light, we must be ris'n
And at our pleasant labour, to reform
Yon flow'ry arbours, yonder alleys green,
Our walks at noon, with branches overgrown,
That mock our scant manuring, and require
More hands than ours to lop their wanton growth.
Those blossoms also, and those dropping gums,
That lie bestrewn, unsightly and unsmooth,
Ask riddance if we mean to tread with ease.
Meanwhile, as Nature wills, Night bids us rest."

To whom thus Eve, with perfect beauty adorned:
"My author and disposer, what thou bidd'st
Unargu'd I obey; so God ordains.
God is thy law, thou mine: to know no more
Is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise.
With thee conversing I forget all time,
All seasons and their change: all please alike.
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 flow'r,
Glist'ring 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 her moon,
And these the gems of heav'n, 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,
Glist'ring with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful evening mild, nor silent night,
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon
Or glittering starlight, without thee is sweet.
But wherefore all night long shine these? for whom
This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?"

To whom our general ancestor replied:
"Daughter of God and Man, accomplish'd Eve,
Those have their course to finish round the earth
By morrow evening, and from land to land
In order, though to nations yet unborn,
Minist'ring light prepar'd, they set and rise;
Lest total darkness should by night regain
Her old possession, and extinguish life
In nature and all things, which these soft fires
Not only enlighten, but with kindly heat
Of various influence foment and warm,
Temper or nourish, or in part shed down
Their stellar virtue on all kinds that grow
On earth, made hereby apter to receive
Perfection from the sun's more potent ray.
These, then, though unbeheld in deep of night,
Shine not in vain. Nor think, though men were none,
That heav'n 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. How often, from the steep
Of echoing hill or thicket, have we heard
Celestial voices to the midnight air,
Sole or responsive each to other's note,
Singing their great Creator! Oft in bands
While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk,
With heav'nly touch of instrumental sounds
In full harmonic number join'd, their songs
Divide the night and lift our thoughts to Heaven."

Thus talking, hand in hand alone they pass'd
On to their blissful bower. It was a place
Chos'n by the sovran Planter, when he fram'd
All things to Man's delightful use: the roof
Of thickest covert was inwoven shade,
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side
Acanthus and each odorous bushy shrub
Fenc'd up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower,
Iris all hues, roses, and jessamine,
Rear'd high their flourish'd heads between, and wrought
Mosaic; under foot the violet,
Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay
Broider'd the ground, more colour'd than with stone
Of costliest emblem. Other creature here,
Beast, bird, insect, or worm, durst enter none;
Such was their awe of Man. In shadier bower
More sacred and sequester'd, though but feign'd,
Pan or Silvanus never slept, nor nymph
Nor Faunus haunted. Here in close recess,
With flowers, garlands, and sweet-smelling herbs,
Espoused Eve deck'd first her nuptial bed,
And heav'nly quires the hymenæan sung,
What day the genial Angel to our sire
Brought her, in naked beauty more adorn'd,
More lovely, than Pandora, whom the Gods
Endow'd with all their gifts; and O too like
In sad event, when, to the unwiser son
Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she ensnar'd
Mankind with her fair looks, to be aveng'd
On him who had stole Jove's authentic fire.

Thus at their shady lodge arriv'd, both stood,
Both turn'd, and under open sky ador'd
The God that made both sky, air, earth, and Heav'n,
Which they beheld, the moon's resplendent globe,
And starry pole:—"Thou also mad'st the night,
Maker Omnipotent, and thou the day,
Which we, in our appointed work employ'd,
Have finish'd, happy in our mutual help
And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss
Ordain'd by thee, and this delicious place,
For us too large, where thy abundance wants
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.
But thou hast promis'd from us two a race
To fill the earth, who shall with us extol
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep."

This said unanimous, and other rites
Observing none, but adoration pure
Which God likes best, into their inmost bower
Handed they went; and, eas'd the putting-off
These troublesome disguises which we wear,
Straight side by side were laid; nor turn'd, I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refus'd—
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity, and place, and innocence,
Deeming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase; who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Hail wedded Love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety
In Paradise of all things common else!
By thee adulterous lust was driv'n from men
Among the bestial herds to range; by thee,
Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,
Relations dear, and all the charities
Of father, son, and brother, first were known.
Far be it that I should write thee sin or blame,
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,
Whose bed is undefil'd and chaste pronounc'd,
Present or past, as saints and patriarchs us'd.
Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights
His constant lamp and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of harlots, loveless, joyless, unendear'd,
Casual fruition, nor in court amours,
Mix'd dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball,
Or serenate, which the starv'd lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.
These, lull'd by nightingales, embracing slept,
And on their naked limbs the flow'ry roof
Show'r'd roses, which the morn repair'd. Sleep on,
Blest pair! and O yet happiest, if ye seek
No happier state, and know to know no more!

Now had Night measur'd with her shadowy cone
Half-way uphill this vast sublunar vault,
And from their ivory port the Cherubim,
Forth issuing at th' accustom'd hour, stood arm'd
To their night-watches in warlike parade;
When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake:
"Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the south
With strictest watch; these other wheel the north:
Our circuit meets full west." As flame they part,
Half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear.
From these, two strong and subtle Spirits he call'd
That near him stood, and gave them thus in charge:
"Ithuriel and Zephon, with wing'd speed
Search through this garden; leave unsearch'd no nook;
But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge,
Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm.
This evening from the sun's decline arriv'd
Who tells of some infernal Spirit seen
Hitherward bent (who could have thought?), escap'd
The bars of Hell, on errand bad, no doubt:
Such, where ye find, seize fasst and hither bring."

So saying, on he led his radiant files,
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct
In search of whom they sought. Him there they found
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve,
Assaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy and with them forge
Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams;
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
Th' animal spirits that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise
At least distemper'd, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires,
Blown up with high conceits engend'ring pride.
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touch'd lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness. Up he starts,
Discover'd and surpris'd. As when a spark
Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid
Fit for the tun, some magazine to store
Against a rumour'd war, the smutty grain,
With sudden blaze diffus'd, inflames the air:
So started up in his own shape the Fiend.
Back stept those two fair Angels, half amaz'd
So sudden to behold the grisly king;
Yet thus, unmov'd with fear, accost him soon:

"Which of those rebel Spirits adjudg'd to Hell
Com'st thou, escap'd thy prison? and, transform'd,
Why satt'st thou like an enemy in wait,
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?"

"Know ye not, then," said Satan, fill'd with scorn,
"Know ye not me? Ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar!
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng; or, if ye know,
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain?"
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn:
"Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminish'd brightness, to be known
As when thou stood'st in Heav'n upright and pure.
That glory then, when thou no more wast good,
Departed from thee, and thou resembl'st now
Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul.
But come; for thou, be sure, shalt give account
To him who sent us whose charge is to keep
This place inviolable and these from harm."

So spake the Cherub; and his grave rebuke,
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace
Invincible. Abash'd the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely—saw and pin'd
His loss, but chiefly to find here observ'd
His lustre visibly impair'd; yet seem'd
Undaunted. "If I must contend," said he,
"Best with the best—the sender, not the sent,
Or all at once: more glory will be won,
Or less be lost." "Thy fear," said Zephon bold,
"Will save us trial what the least can do
Single against thee, wicked and thence weak."

The Fiend replied not, overcome with rage;
But, like a proud steed rein'd, went haughty on,
Champing his iron curb. To strive or fly
He held it vain; awe from above had quell'd
His heart, not else dismay'd. Now drew they nigh
The western point, where those half-rounding guards
Just met and, closing, stood in squadron join'd,
Awaiting next command. To whom their chief,
Gabriel, from the front thus call'd aloud:

''O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;
And with them comes a third, of regal port,
But faded splendour wan, who by his gait
And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell—
Not likely to part hence without contést.
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours."

He scarce had ended, when those two approach'd,
And brief related whom they brought, where found,
How busied, in what form and posture couch'd.
To whom, with stern regard, thus Gabriel spake:
"Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescrib'd
To thy transgressions, and disturb'd the charge
Of others who approve not to transgress
By thy example, but have power and right
To question thy bold entrance on this place,
Employ'd, it seems, to violate sleep and those
Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss?"

To whom thus Satan, with contemptuous brow:
"Gabriel, thou hadst in Heav'n th' esteem of wise,
And such I held thee; but this question ask'd
Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain?
Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,
Though thither doom'd? Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change
Torment with ease, and soonest recompense
Dole with delight, which in this place I sought:
To thee no reason, who know'st only good,
But evil hast not tried. And wilt object
His will who bound us? Let him surer bar
His iron gates if he intends our stay
In that dark durance. Thus much what was ask'd;
The rest is true: they found me where they say;
But that implies not violence or harm."

Thus he in scorn. The warlike Angel mov'd,
Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied:
"O loss of one in Heav'n to judge of wise
Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,
And now returns him from his prison scap'd,
Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise
Or not who ask what boldness brought him hither
Unlicens'd from his bounds in Hell prescrib'd!
So wise he judges it to fly from pain,
However, and to scape his punishment!
So judge thou still, presumptuous, till the wrath
Which thou incurr'st by flying meet thy flight
Sevenfold and scourge that wisdom back to Hell,
Which taught thee yet no better that no pain
Can equal anger infinite provok'd.
But wherefore thou alone? Wherefore with thee
Came not all Hell broke loose? Is pain to them
Less pain, less to be fled? or thou than they
Less hardy to endure? Courageous chief,
The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleg'd
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive."

To which the Fiend thus answer'd, frowning stern:
"Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,
Insulting Angel! well thou know'st I stood
Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid
The blasting volley'd thunder made all speed
And seconded thy else not dreaded spear.
But still thy words at random, as before,
Argue thy inexperience what behoves,
From hard assays and ill successes past,
A faithful leader—not to hazard all
Through ways of danger by himself untried.
I, therefore, I alone, first undertook
To wing the desolate Abyss and spy
This new-created World, whereof in Hell
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find
Better abode, and my afflicted powers
To settle here on earth, or in mid-air;
Though for possession put to try once more
What thou and thy gay legions dare against,
Whose easier business were to serve their Lord
High up in Heav'n, with songs to hymn his throne,
And practis'd distances to cringe, not fight."

To whom the warrior Angel soon replied:
"To say and straight unsay, pretending first
Wise to fly pain, professing next the spy,
Argues no leader, but a liar trac'd,
Satan; and couldst thou 'faithful' add? O name,
O sacred name of faithfulness profan'd!
Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew?
Army of fiends, fit body to fit head!
Was this your discipline and faith engag'd,
Your military obedience, to dissolve
Allegiance to th' acknowledg'd Power Supreme?
And thou, sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem
Patron of liberty, who more than thou
Once fawn'd, and cring'd, and servilely ador'd
Heav'n's awful Monarch? wherefore, but in hope
To dispossess him, and thyself to reign?
But mark what I aread thee now: Avaunt!
Fly thither whence thou fledd'st. If from this hour
Within these hallow'd limits thou appear,
Back to th' infernal Pit I drag thee chain'd,
And seal thee so as henceforth not to scorn
The facile gates of Hell too slightly barr'd."

So threat'n'd he; but Satan to no threats
Gave heed, but waxing more in rage, replied:
"Then, when I am thy captive, talk of chains,
Proud limitary Cherub! but ere then
Far heavier load thyself expect to feel
From my prevailing arm, though Heaven's King
Ride on thy wings and thou with thy compeers,
Us'd to the yoke, draw'st his triumphant wheels
In progress through the road of Heav'n star-pav'd."

While thus he spake, th' angelic squadron bright
Turn'd fiery red, sharp'ning in mooned horns
Their phalanx, and began to hem him round
With ported spears, as thick as when a field
Of Ceres, ripe for harvest, waving bends
Her bearded grove of ears which way the wind
Sways them, the careful ploughman doubting stands,
Lest on the thrashing-floor his hopeful sheaves
Prove chaff. On th' other side, Satan, alarm'd,
Collecting all his might, dilated stood,
Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremov'd:
His stature reach'd the sky, and on his crest
Sat Horror plum'd; nor wanted in his grasp
What seem'd both spear and shield. Now dreadful deeds
Might have ensu'd; nor only Paradise,
In this commotion, but the starry cope
Of heav'n perhaps, or all the elements
At least, had gone to wrack, disturb'd and torn
With violence of this conflict, had not soon
Th' Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in heav'n his golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astraea and the Scorpion sign,
Wherein all things created first he weigh'd—
The pendulous round Earth with balanc'd Air
In counterpoise—now ponders all events,
Battles and realms. In these he put two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight:
The latter quick up flew and kick'd the beam;
Which Gabriel spying thus bespake the Fiend:

"Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine,
Neither our own, but giv'n; what folly then
To boast what arms can do! since thine no more
Than Heav'n permits, nor mine, though doubl'd now
To trample thee as mire. For proof look up,
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign,
Where thou art weigh'd, and shown how light, how weak
If thou resist." The Fiend look'd up and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more, but fled
Murmuring; and with him fled the shades of night.

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Poet John Milton 1608–1674

POET’S REGION England

Subjects God & the Divine, Christianity, Religion

Poetic Terms Blank Verse, Epic

 John  Milton

Biography

John Milton’s career as a writer of prose and poetry spans three distinct eras: Stuart England; the Civil War (1642-1648) and Interregnum, including the Commonwealth (1649-1653) and Protectorate (1654-1660); and the Restoration. When Elizabeth I, the so-called Virgin Queen and the last of the Tudors, died, James VI, King of Scots, was enthroned as Britain’s king. Titled James I, he inaugurated the House of Stuart. His son and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT God & the Divine, Christianity, Religion

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Blank Verse, Epic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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