Page images

And, manifold in sin, deserv'd to fall.
Up into Heaven from Paradise in haste
The angelic guards ascend, mute, and sad,
For Man; for of his state by this they knew,
Much wondering how the subtle fiend had stol'n
Entrance unseen. Soon as the unwelcome news
From Earth arrived at Heaven-gate, displeas'd
All were who heard; dim sadness did not spare
That time celestial visages, yet, mix'd
With pity, violated not their bliss.

About the new-arriv'd, in multitudes

The ethereal people ran, to hear and know
How all befell: they towards the throne supreme,
Accountable, made haste, to make appear
With righteous plea their utmost vigilance,
And easily approv'd; when the Most High
Eternal Father, from his secret cloud
Amidst, in thunder utter'd thus his voice.

"Assembled angels, and ye powers return'd
From unsuccessful charge, be not dismay'd,
Nor troubled at these tidings from the Earth,
Which your sincerest care could not prevent,
Foretold so lately what would come to pass,
When first this tempter cross'd the gulf from Hell.

I told ye then he should prevail, and speed
On his bad errand; Man should be seduc'd,
And flatter'd out of all, believing lies
Against his Maker; no decree of mine
Concurring to necessitate his fall,

Or touch with lightest moment of impúlse
His free-will, to her own inclining left
In even scale. But fall'n he is; and now

What rests, but that the mortal sentence pass

[ocr errors]

On his transgression, — death denounc'd that day? Which he presumes already vain and void,

Because not yet inflicted, as he fear'd,

By some immediate stroke; but soon shall find
Forbearance no acquittance, ere day end.

Justice shall not return as bounty scorn'd.
But whom send I to judge them? whom but thee,
Vicegerent Son? To thee I have transferr'd
All judgment, whether in Heaven, or Earth, or Hell.
Easy it may be seen that I intend

Mercy colleague with justice, sending thee
Man's friend, his Mediator, his design'd
Both ransom and Redeemer voluntary,

And destin'd Man himself to judge Man fall'n."
So spake the Father; and, unfolding bright
Toward the right hand his glory, on the Son
Blaz'd forth unclouded deity: he full
Resplendent all his Father manifest

Express'd, and thus divinely answer'd mild.

"Father Eternal, thine is to decree;

Mine, both in Heaven and Earth, to do thy will
Supreme; that thou in me, thy Son belov'd,
May'st ever rest well pleas'd. I go to judge
On Earth these thy transgressors; but thou know'st,
Whoever judg'd, the worst on me must light,
When time shall be; for so I undertook
Before thee; and, not repenting, this obtain
Of right, that I may mitigate their doom
On me deriv'd; yet I shall temper so
Justice with mercy, as may illustrate most
Them fully satisfied, and thee appease.

Attendance none shall need, nor train, where none

Are to behold the judgment, but the judg'd,

Those two; the third best absent is condemn'd,
Convict by flight, and rebel to all law :
Conviction to the serpent none belongs."

Thus saying, from his radiant seat he rose
Of high collateral glory. Him thrones, and powers,
Princedoms, and dominations ministrant,
Accompanied to Heaven-gate; from whence
Eden, and all the coast, in prospect lay.

Down he descended straight; the speed of gods

Time counts not, though with swiftest minutes


Now was the Sun in western cadence low

From noon, and gentle airs, due at their hour,

To fan the Earth now wak'd, and usher in

The evening cool; when he, from wrath more cool,
Came the mild judge, and intercessor both,
To sentence Man: the voice of God they heard
Now walking in the garden, by soft winds [heard,
Brought to their ears, while day declin'd; they
And from his presence hid themselves among
The thickest trees, both man and wife; till God,
Approaching, thus to Adam call'd aloud.

"Where art thou, Adam, wont with joy to meet My coming seen far off? I miss thee here, Not pleas'd, thus entertain'd with solitude, Where obvious duty ere while appear'd unsought: Or come I less conspicuous, or what change Absents thee, or what chance detains? Come [first


He came; and with him Eve, more loth, though

To offend; discountenanc'd both, and discompos'd;
Love was not in their looks, either to God,
Or to each other; but apparent guilt,
And shame, and perturbation, and despair,
Anger, and obstinacy, and hate, and guile.
Whence Adam, faltering long, thus answer'd brief.
"I heard thee in the garden, and of thy voice
Afraid, being naked, hid myself." To'whom
The gracious Judge without revile replied. [fear'd,
"My voice thou oft hast heard, and hast not
But still rejoic'd; how is it now become

So dreadful to thee? That thou art naked, who
Hath told thee? Hast thou eaten of the tree,
Whereof I gave thee charge thou shouldst not eat?"
To whom thus Adam sore beset replied.

"O Heaven! in evil strait this day I stand Before my judge; either to undergo Myself the total crime, or to accuse

My other self, the partner of my life;

Whose failing, while her faith to me remains,
I should conceal, and not expose to blame
By my complaint: but strict necessity
Subdues me, and calamitous constraint;
Lest on my head both sin and punishment,

However insupportable, be all

Devolv'd; though should I hold my peace, yet thou

Wouldst easily detect what I conceal.

This woman, whom thou mad'st to be my help,

And gav'st me as thy perfect gift, so good,

So fit, so acceptable, so divine,

That from her hand I could suspect no ill,

And what she did, whatever in itself,

Her doing seem'd to justify the deed;

She gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

To whom the Sovran Presence thus replied.
"Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey
Before his voice? or was she made thy guide,
Superior, or but equal, that to her

Thou didst resign thy manhood, and the place
Wherein God set thee above her made of thee,
And for thee, whose perfection far excell'd
Hers in all real dignity? Adorn'd
She was indeed, and lovely, to attract
Thy love, not thy subjection; and her gifts
Were such, as under government well seem'd ;
Unseemly to bear rule; which was thy part
And person, hadst thou known thyself aright."
So having said, he thus to Eve in few.

"Say, woman, what is this which thou hast done?"
To whom sad Eve, with shame nigh overwhelm'd,
Confessing soon, yet not before her judge
Bold or loquacious, thus abash'd replied.
"The serpent me beguil'd, and I did eat."
Which when the Lord God heard, without delay
To judgment he proceeded on the accus'd
Serpent, though brute; unable to transfer
The guilt on him, who made him instrument
Of mischief, and polluted from the end
Of his creation; justly then accurs'd,
As vitiated in nature: more to know

Concern'd not Man, (since he no further knew,)
Noi alter'd his offence; yet God at last
To Satan first in sin his doom applied,

Though in mysterious terms, judg'd as then best;
And on the serpent thus his curse let fall.

« PreviousContinue »