Page images
PDF
EPUB

Eve on Eastward among those trees what glorious Shape hospitable Comes this way moving; seems another morn 310 thoughts Risen on mid-noon. Some great behest from Heaven

intent

To us perhaps he brings, and will voutsafe
This day to be our guest. But go
with speed,
And what thy stores contain bring forth, and

pour

Abundance fit to honour and receive
Our heavenly stranger; well we may afford
Our givers their own gifts, and large bestow
From large bestowed, where Nature multiplies
Her fertile growth, and by disburdening grows
More fruitful; which instructs us not to spare.'
To whom thus Eve:- Adam, Earth's hal-
lowed mould,
321

Of God inspired, small store will serve where

store,

All seasons, ripe for use hangs on the stalk;
Save what, by frugal storing, firmness gains
To nourish, and superfluous moist consumes.
But I will haste, and from each bough and brake,
Each plant and juiciest gourd, will pluck such.

choice

To entertain our Angel-guest, as he
Beholding, shall confess that here on Earth
God hath dispensed his bounties as in Heaven.'

So saying, with dispatchful looks in haste 331
She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent
What choice to choose for delicacy best,
What order so contrived as not to mix
Tastes, not well joined, inelegant, but bring
Taste after taste upheld with kindliest change:
Bestirs her then, and from each tender stalk

Whatever Earth, all-bearing mother, yields
In India East or West, or middle shore
In Pontus or the Punic coast, or where
Alcinöus reigned, fruit of all kinds, in coat
Rough or smooth rined, or bearded husk, or shell,
She gathers, tribute large, and on the board
Heaps with unsparing hand. For drink the grape
She crushes, inoffensive must, and meaths
From many a berry, and from sweet kernels
pressed

She tempers dulcet creams-nor these to hold
Wants her fit vessels pure; then strews the
ground

With rose and odours from the shrub unfumed.

34°

Meanwhile our primitive great Sire, to meet His godlike guest, walks forth, without more

train

351

Accompanied than with his own complete
Perfections; in himself was all his state,
More solemn than the tedious pomp that waits
On princes, when their rich retínue long
Of horses led and grooms besmeared with gold
Dazzles the crowd and sets them all agape.
Nearer his presence, Adam, though not awed,
Yet with submiss approach and reverence meek,
As to a superior nature, bowing low, 360
Thus said:-Native of Heaven (for other place
None can than Heaven such glorious Shape
contain),

Since, by descending from the Thrones above,
Those happy places thou hast deigned a while
To want, and honour these, voutsafe with us,
Two only, who yet by sovran gift possess
This spacious ground, in yonder shady bower

Adam goes forth to meet

his guest

Eve To rest, and what the Garden choicest bears in her To sit and taste, till this meridian heat sylvan Be over, and the sun more cool decline.' lodge Whom thus the angelic Virtue answered mild:

370

Adam, I therefore came; nor art thou such
Created, or such place hast here to dwell,
As may not oft invite, though Spirits of Heaven,
To visit thee. Lead on then, where thy bower
O'ershades; for these mid-hours, till evening rise,
I have at will.' So to the sylvan lodge
They came, that like Pomona's arbour smiled,
With flowerets decked and fragrant smells. But
Eve,

379

Undecked, save with herself, more lovely fair
Than wood-nymph, or the fairest goddess feigned
Of three that in Mount Ida naked strove,
Stood to entertain her guest from Heaven; no

veil

She needed, virtue proof; no thought infirm
Altered her cheek. On whom the Angel 'Hail!'
Bestowed-the holy salutation used
Long after to blest Mary, second Eve:-

'Hail! Mother of mankind, whose fruitful
womb

Shall fill the world more numerous with thy sons
Than with these various fruits the trees of God 390
Have heaped this table!' Raised of
grassy turf
Their table was, and mossy seats had round,
And on her ample square, from side to side,
All Autumn piled, though Spring and Autumn

here

Danced hand-in-hand. A while discourse they hold

taste

No fear lest dinner cool-when thus began All things Our Author:-"Heavenly Stranger, please to created

must be

fed

These bounties, which our Nourisher, from
whom

All perfect good, unmeasured-out, descends,
To us for food and for delight hath caused 400
The Earth to yield: unsavoury food, perhaps,
To Spiritual Natures; only this I know,
That one Celestial Father gives to all.'

To whom the Angel :—Therefore, what he
gives

Whose praise be ever sung) to Man, in part
Spiritual, may of purest Spirits be found
No ingrateful food: and food alike those pure
Intelligential substances require

As doth your Rational; and both contain
Within them every lower faculty

410

Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste,

Tasting concoct, digest, assimilate,
And corporeal to incorporeal turn.

For know, whatever was created needs
To be sustained and fed. Of Elements
The grosser feeds the purer: Earth the Sea;
Earth and the Sea feed Air; the Air those Fires
Ethereal, and, as lowest, first the Moon;
Whence in her visage round those spots, un-

purged

Vapours not yet into her substance turned.
Nor doth the Moon no nourishment exhale
From her moist continent to higher Orbs.
The Sun, that light imparts to all, receives
From all his alimental recompense

420

They In humid exhalations, and at even to their viands fall

Sups with the Ocean. Though in Heaven the

trees

Of life ambrosial fruitage bear, and vines
Yield nectar-though from off the boughs each

morn

431

We brush mellifluous dews and find the ground
Covered with pearly grain-yet God hath here
Varied his bounty so with new delights
As may compare with Heaven; and to taste
Think not I shall be nice.' So down they sat,
And to their viands fell; nor seemingly
The Angel, nor in mist-the common gloss
Of theologians-but with keen dispatch
Of real hunger, and concoctive heat
To transubstantiate: what redounds transpires
Through Spirits with ease; nor wonder, if by
fire

Of sooty coal the empiric alchemist
Can turn, or holds it possible to turn,
Metals of drossiest ore to perfect gold,
As from the mine. Meanwhile at table Eve
Ministered naked, and their flowing cups
With pleasant liquors crowned. O innocence
Deserving Paradise! If ever, then,
Then had the Sons of God excuse to have been
Enamoured at that sight. But in those hearts
Love unlibidinous reigned, nor jealousy
Was understood, the injured lover's hell.

450

Thus when with meats and drinks they had
sufficed,

Not burdened nature, sudden mind arose
In Adam not to let the occasion pass,
Given him by this great conference, to know

440

« PreviousContinue »