Paradise Lost: Book IX

By John Milton 1608–1674 John Milton
No more of talk where God or Angel guest
With Man, as with his friend, familiar us'd
To sit indulgent, and with him partake
Rural repast, permitting him the while
Venial discourse unblam'd. 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 Heav'n,
Now alienated, distance and distaste,
Anger and just rebuke, and judgment giv'n,
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 wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursu'd
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd;
Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long
Perplex'd the Greek, and Cytherea's son:
If answerable style I can obtain
Of my celestial patroness, who deigns
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:
Since first this subject for heroic song
Pleas'd me, long choosing and beginning late,
Not sedulous by nature to indite
Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroic deem'd, chief maistry to dissect
With long and tedious havoc fabl'd knights
In battles feign'd—the better fortitude
Of patience and heroic martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, emblazon'd shields,
Impreses quaint, caparisons and steeds,
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast
Serv'd up in hall with sewers and seneschals,
The skill of artifice or office mean:
Not that which justly gives heroic name
To person or to poem. Me, of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains, sufficient of itself to raise
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing
Depress'd; 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 veil'd the horizon round,
When Satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On Man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless return'd.
By night he fled, and at midnight return'd
From compassing the earth, cautious of day
Since Uriel, Regent of the Sun, descried
His entrance and forewarn'd the Cherubim
That kept their watch. Thence, full of anguish, driv'n,
The space of seven continu'd nights he rode
With darkness—thrice the equinoctial line
He circl'd, four times cross'd the car of Night
From pole to pole, traversing each colure—
On the eighth return'd 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 wrought 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, involv'd in rising mist; then sought
Where to lie hid. Sea he had search'd and land
From Eden over Pontus, and the pool
Maeotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctic; and, in length,
West from Orontes to the ocean barr'd
At Darien; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus. Thus the orb he roam'd
With narrow search, and with inspection deep
Consider'd 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 revolv'd, 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 observ'd,
Doubt might beget of diabolic pow'r
Active within beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolv'd, but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus pour'd:

"O Earth, how like to Heav'n, if not preferr'd
More justly, seat worthier of Gods, as built
With second thoughts, reforming what was old!
For what God after better worse would build?
Terrestrial Heav'n, danc'd round by other heav'ns
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 Heav'n
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 summ'd up in Man.
With what delight could I have walk'd 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 crown'd,
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 Heav'n much worse would be my state.
But neither here seek I, no, nor in Heav'n,
To dwell, unless by mast'ring Heav'n'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 destroy'd,
Or won to what may work his utter loss,
For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him link'd 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 marr'd
What he, Almighty styl'd, six nights and days
Continu'd 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
Th' angelic name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers. He, to be aveng'd,
And to repair his numbers thus impair'd—
Whether such virtue, spent of old, now fail'd
More Angels to create (if they at least
Are his created), or to spite us more—
Determin'd to advance into our room
A creature form'd of earth, and him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heav'nly spoils, our spoils. What he decreed
He effected: Man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this World, and Earth his seat,
Him Lord pronounc'd, and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service Angel-wings
And flaming ministers, to watch and tend
Their earthy 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 constrain'd
Into a beast, and, mix'd with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the highth of Deity aspir'd!
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires must down as low
As high he soar'd, 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 aim'd,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heav'n, this Man of clay, son of despite,
Whom us the more to spite, his Maker rais'd
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-roll'd,
His head the midst, well stor'd with subtle wiles:
Not yet in horrid shade or dismal den,
Nor nocent yet, but on the grassy herb,
Fearless, unfear'd, he slept. In at his mouth
The Devil enter'd, and his brutal sense
In heart or head possessing, soon inspir'd
With act intelligential, but his sleep
Disturb'd not, waiting close th' approach of morn.

Now, whenas sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flow'rs, that breath'd
Their morning incense, when all things that breathe
From th' Earth's great altar send up silent praise
To the Creator, and his nostrils fill
With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,
And join'd their vocal worship to the quire
Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake
The season, prime for sweetest scents and airs;
Then commune how that day they best may ply
Their growing work—for much their work outgrew
The hands' dispatch of two gard'ning 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 flow'r,
Our pleasant task enjoin'd; 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 intermix'd
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 th' hour of supper comes unearn'd!"

To whom mild answer Adam thus returned:
"Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear!
Well hast thou motion'd, well thy thoughts employ'd,
How we might best fulfil the work which here
God hath assign'd us, nor of me shalt pass
Unprais'd; 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 impos'd
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 join'd.
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, sever'd from me; for thou know'st
What hath been warn'd 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 join'd, 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
Enjoy'd 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 Heav'n and Earth, and all Earth's lord!
That such an enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee inform'd I learn,
And from the parting Angel overheard
As in a shady nook I stood behind
Just then return'd at shut of evening flow'rs.
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 shak'n or seduc'd:
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
Th' attempt itself, intended by our foe.
For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses
The tempted with dishonour foul, suppos'd
Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
Against temptation. Thou thyself with scorn
And anger wouldst resent the offer'd 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 th' assault shall light.
Nor thou his malice and false guile contemn—
Subtle he needs must be who could seduce
Angels—nor think superfluous other's 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 overreach'd,
Would utmost vigour raise, and rais'd 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 renew'd:
"If this be our condition, thus to dwell
In narrow circuit strait'n'd by a foe,
Subtle or violent, we not endu'd
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 shunn'd or fear'd
By us, who rather double honour gain
From his surmise prov'd false, find peace within,
Favour from Heav'n, our witness, from th' event?
And what is faith, love, virtue, unassay'd
Alone, without exterior help sustain'd?
Let us not then suspect our happy state
Left so imperfect by the Maker wise
As not secure to single or combin'd:
Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
And Eden were no Eden, thus expos'd."

To whom thus Adam fervently replied:
"O Woman, best are all things as the will
Of God ordain'd 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 surpris'd,
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 suborn'd
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch as she was warn'd.
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; th' other who can know?
Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?
But if thou think trial unsought may find
Us both securer than thus warn'd 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 forewarn'd,
Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words
Touch'd only, that our trial when least sought
May find us both perhaps far less prepar'd,
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 surpass'd and goddess-like deport,
Though not as she with bow and quiver arm'd,
But with such gard'ning tools as art, yet rude,
Guiltless of fire had form'd, or Angels brought.
To Pales or Pomona, thus adorn'd,
Likest she seem'd—Pomona when she fled
Vertumnus—or to Ceres in her prime,
Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.
Her long with ardent look his eye pursu'd
Delighted, but desiring more her stay;
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated; she to him as oft engag'd
To be return'd by noon amid the bower,
And all things in best order to invite
Noontide repast or afternoon's repose.
O much deceiv'd, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presum'd 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
Despoil'd 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 purpos'd 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 wish'd his hap might find
Eve separate: he wish'd, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanc'd, when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veil'd in a cloud of fragrance where she stood
Half-spied, so thick the roses bushing round
About her glow'd, oft stooping to support
Each flower of tender stalk whose head, though gay
Carnation, purple, azure, or speck'd with gold,
Hung drooping unsustain'd. Them she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flow'r,
From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.
Nearer he drew, and many a walk travers'd
Of stateliest covert, cedar, pine, or palm;
Then voluble and bold, now hid, now seen
Among thick-wov'n arborets and flow'rs
Imborder'd on each bank, the hand of Eve:
Spot more delicious than those gardens feign'd
Or of reviv'd Adonis or renown'd
Alcinous, host of old Laertes' son,
Or that, not mystic, where the sapient king
Held dalliance with his fair Egyptian spouse.
Much he the place admir'd, 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
Adjoin'd, 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 seem'd, for her now pleases more,
She most, and in her look sums all delight:
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flow'ry plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone. Her heav'nly form
Angelic, but more soft and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture or least action, overaw'd
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereav'd
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought.
That space the Evil One abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remain'd
Stupidly good, of enmity disarm'd,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge.
But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heav'n, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain'd. 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, hope 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 debas'd, and pain
Enfeebl'd me, to what I was in Heav'n.
She fair, divinely fair, fit love for Gods;
Not terrible, though terror be in love
And beauty, not approach'd by stronger hate—
Hate stronger under show of love well feign'd:
The way which to her ruin now I tend."

So spake the Enemy of Mankind, enclos'd
In serpent, inmate bad, and toward Eve
Address'd his way: not with indented wave
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds that tow'r'd
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 of serpent kind
Lovelier—not those that in Illyria chang'd
Hermione and Cadmus, or the God
In Epidaurus: nor to which transform'd
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 fear'd
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
Curl'd many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye. She, busied, heard the sound
Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as us'd
To such disport before her through the field
From every beast, more duteous at her call
Than at Circean call the herd disguis'd.
He, bolder now, uncall'd before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring. Oft he bow'd
His turret crest and sleek enamell'd neck,
Fawning, and lick'd the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turn'd at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad
Of her attention gain'd, 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 heav'n of mildness, with disdain,
Displeas'd that I approach thee thus and gaze
Insatiate, I thus single, nor have fear'd
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retir'd.
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 admir'd; 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, ador'd and serv'd
By Angels numberless, thy daily train?"

So gloz'd the Tempter, and his proem tun'd.
Into the heart of Eve his words made way,
Though at the voice much marvelling; at length,
Not unamaz'd, she thus in answer spake:

"What may this mean? Language of Man pronounc'd
By tongue of brute, and human sense express'd?
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 endu'd;
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 obey'd.
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 discern'd
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high:
Till on a day roving the field, I chanc'd
A goodly tree far distant to behold,
Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mix'd,
Ruddy and gold. I nearer drew to gaze,
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at ev'n,
Unsuck'd of lamb or kid, that tend their play.
To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolv'd
Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quick'n'd at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urg'd 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 spar'd 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 retain'd.
Thenceforth to speculations high or deep
I turn'd my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Consider'd all things visible in Heav'n,
Or Earth, or Middle, all things fair and good.
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heav'nly ray,
United I beheld—no fair to thine
Equivalent or second; which compell'd
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee of right declar'd
Sovran of creatures, universal Dame!"

So talk'd the spirited sly Snake; and Eve,
Yet more amaz'd, unwary thus replied:
"Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd.
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 untouch'd,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provision, and more hands
Help to disburden Nature of her birth."

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 roll'd
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest. As when a wand'ring fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindl'd through agitation to a flame
(Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends),
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wanderer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
There swallow'd up and lost, from succour far:
So glister'd 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 spar'd 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 declar'd 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 show of zeal and love
To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
Fluctuates disturb'd, yet comely, and in act
Rais'd, as of some great matter to begin.
As when of old some orator renown'd
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish'd, since mute, to some great cause address'd,
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 impassion'd, 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, deem'd 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 Threat'ner? look on me,
Me who have touch'd and tasted, yet both live
And life more perfect have attain'd than Fate
Meant me, by vent'ring 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 denounc'd, whatever thing death be,
Deterr'd 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 shunn'd?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not fear'd then, nor obey'd:
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 worshippers? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof your eyes, that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Open'd and clear'd, 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 wish'd,
Though threat'n'd, 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,
Warm'd by the sun, producing every kind,
Them nothing. If they all things, who enclos'd
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
Th' 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 Heav'nly 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.
Fix'd on the fruit she gaz'd, which to behold
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregn'd
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth.
Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on and wak'd
An eager appetite, rais'd 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 mus'd:

"Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
Though kept from Man, and worthy to be admir'd,
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 had, 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 eat'n, 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 reserv'd?
For beasts it seems; yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befall'n 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 pluck'd, 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 wholly on her taste, naught else
Regarded: such delight till then, as seem'd,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so through expectation high
Of knowledge: nor was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating death. Satiate at length,
And height'n'd as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began:

"O sovran, virtuous, precious of all trees
In Paradise! of operation blest
To sapience, hitherto obscur'd, infam'd,
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 fertile burden ease
Of thy full branches, offer'd 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 remain'd
In ignorance; thou open'st Wisdom's way
And giv'st access, though secret she retire.
And I perhaps am secret: Heav'n 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! Confirm'd 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 turn'd:
But first, low reverence done as to the Power
That dwelt within, whose presence had infus'd
Into the plant sciential sap, deriv'd
From nectar, drink of Gods. Adam the while,
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flow'rs a garland, to adorn
Her tresses and her rural labours crown,
As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen.
Great joy he promis'd to his thoughts, and new
Solace in her return, so long delay'd;
Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill,
Misgave him: he the falt'ring 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 smil'd,
New gather'd, and ambrosial smell diffus'd.
To him she hasted; in her face excuse
Came prologue, and apology to prompt,
Which with bland words at will she thus address'd:

"Hast thou not wonder'd, Adam, at my stay?
Thee I have miss'd, and thought it long, depriv'd
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
Op'ning 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 restrain'd as we, or not obeying,
Hath eat'n of the fruit, and is become
Not dead, as we are threat'n'd, but thenceforth
Endu'd with human voice and human sense,
Reasoning to admiration, and with me
Persuasively hath so prevail'd that I
Have also tasted, and have also found
Th' 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 unshar'd 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 count'nance blithe her story told;
But in her cheek distemper flushing glow'd.
On th' other side, Adam, soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve, amaz'd,
Astonied stood and blank, while horror chill
Ran through his veins and all his joints relax'd.
From his slack hand the garland wreath'd for Eve
Down dropp'd, 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 excell'd
Whatever can to sight or thought be form'd
Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet!
How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost,
Defac'd, deflow'r'd, and now to death devote!
Rather, how hast thou yielded to transgress
The strict forbiddance, how to violate
The sacred fruit forbidd'n? Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguil'd thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruin'd; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die.
How can I live without thee? how forgo
Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly join'd,
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 disturb'd,
Submitting to what seem'd remediless,
Thus in calm mood his words to Eve he turn'd:
"Bold deed thou hast presum'd, advent'rous Eve,
And peril great provok'd, who thus hast dar'd
Had it been only coveting to eye
That sacred fruit, 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 heinous now—foretasted fruit,
Profan'd first by the Serpent, by him first
Made common and unhallow'd ere your 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 threat'ning, 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 conceiv'd of God; who, though his power
Creation could repeat, yet would be loath
Us to abolish, lest the Adversary
Triumph and say: 'Fickle their state whom God
Most favours; who can please him long? Me first
He ruin'd, now mankind; whom will he next?'—
Matter of scorn not to be given the Foe.
However, I with thee have fix'd 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 in 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!
Engaging 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 resolv'd,
Rather than death, or aught than death more dread,
Shall separate us, link'd 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 menac'd 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 assur'd
Remarkably so late of thy so true,
So faithful, love unequall'd. But I feel
Far otherwise th' event—not death, but life
Augmented, op'n'd eyes, new hopes, new joys,
Taste so divine that what of sweet before
Hath touch'd 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 embrac'd him, and for joy
Tenderly wept, much won that he his love
Had so ennobl'd, 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 scrupl'd not to eat,
Against his better knowledge, not deceiv'd,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Earth trembl'd from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky lour'd 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 fear'd, the more to soothe
Him with her lov'd 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 display'd,
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 purvey'd.
Much pleasure we have lost, while we abstain'd
From this delightful fruit, nor known till now
True relish, tasting. If such pleasure be
In things to us forbidd'n, it might be wish'd
For this one tree had been forbidden ten.
But come; so well refresh'd, 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, adorn'd
With all perfections, so inflame 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 seiz'd, and to a shady bank,
Thick overhead with verdant roof embow'r'd,
He led her, nothing loath; flow'rs 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 guilt the seal,
The solace of their sin, till dewy sleep
Oppress'd them, wearied with their amorous play.

Soon as the force of that fallacious fruit,
That with exhilarating vapour bland
About their spirits had play'd and inmost powers
Made err, was now exhal'd, and grosser sleep,
Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams
Encumber'd, now had left them, up they rose
As from unrest, and each the other viewing,
Soon found their eyes how op'n'd, and their minds
How dark'n'd. Innocence, that as a veil
Had shadow'd them from knowing ill, was gone,
Just confidence and native righteousness
And honour, from about them: naked left
To guilty Shame—he cover'd, but his robe
Uncover'd more. So rose the Danite strong,
Herculean Samson, from the harlot-lap
Of Philistean Dalilah, and wak'd
Shorn of his strength:-they destitute and bare
Of all their virtue. Silent, and in face
Confounded, long they sat, as struck'n mute;
Till Adam, though not less than Eve abash'd,
At length gave utterance to these words constrain'd:

"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 promis'd rising, since our eyes
Op'n'd 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 soil'd and stain'd,
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 Heav'nly Shapes
Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze
Insufferably bright. O might I here
In solitude live savage, in some glade
Obscur'd, 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 from other that seem most
To shame obnoxious, and unseemliest seen—
Some tree, whose broad smooth leaves, together sew'd,
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 counsell'd he, and both together went
Into the thickest wood. There soon they chose
The fig-tree—not that kind for fruit renown'd,
But such as at this day, to Indians known,
In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
Branching so broad and long that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade
High overarch'd, 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 gather'd, broad as Amazonian targe,
And with what skill they had together sew'd,
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 th' American, so girt
With feather'd cincture, naked else and wild,
Among the trees on isles and woody shores.
Thus fenc'd and, as they thought, their shame in part
Cover'd, but not at rest or ease of mind,
They sat them down to weep. Nor only tears
Rain'd 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 toss'd and turbulent:
For Understanding rul'd not, and the Will
Heard not her lore, both in subjection now
To sensual Appetite, who, from beneath
Usurping over sovran Reason, claim'd
Superior sway. From thus distemper'd breast
Adam, estrang'd in look and alter'd style,
Speech intermitted, thus to Eve renew'd:

"Would thou hadst heark'n'd to my words, and stay'd
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange
Desire of wand'ring, this unhappy morn,
I know not whence possess'd thee! We had then
Remain'd still happy—not, as now, despoil'd
Of all our good, sham'd, 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 mov'd with touch of blame, thus Eve:
"What words have pass'd 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 happ'n'd thou being by,
Or to thyself perhaps? Hadst thou been there,
Or here th' attempt, thou couldst not have discern'd
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 fix'd in thy dissent,
Neither had I transgress'd, nor thou with me."

To whom, then first incens'd, Adam replied:
"Is this the love, is this the recompense
Of mine to thee, ingrateful Eve, express'd
Immutable when thou wert lost, not I—
Who might have liv'd and joy'd 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 warn'd thee, I admonish'd 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 err'd in overmuch admiring
What seem'd in thee so perfect that I thought
No evil durst attempt thee; but I rue
That error now, which is become my crime,
And thou th' 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 appear'd no end.

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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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