Page images

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 wronged.
And, should I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I do, yet public reason just—
Honour and empire with revenge enlarged

By conquering this new World-compels me now
To do what else, though damned, I should abhor.”
So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,

The tyrant's plea, excused 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 served best his end
Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied,

To mark what of their state he more might learn
By word or action marked. 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 couches close; then, rising, changes oft
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground,
Whence rushing he might surest seize them both
Griped in each paw; when Adam, first of men,
To first of women, Eve, thus moving speech,
Turned 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 raised us from the dust, and placed 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 pronounced it Death to taste that Tree:
The only sign of our obedience left

Among so many signs of power and rule
Conferred upon us, and dominion given
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 440 And from whom I was formed 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 awaked, and found myself reposed, Under a shade, on flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how. Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave, and spread


Into a liquid plain; then stood unmoved,
Pure as the expanse of Heaven. I thither went
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down
On the green bank, to look into the clear
Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky.
As I bent down to look, just opposite

A shape within the watery gleam appeared,
Bending to look on me. I started back,

It started back; but pleased I soon returned,
Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks
Of sympathy and love. There I had fixed

Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warned 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 called
Mother of human race.' What could I do,
But follow straight, invisibly thus led?
Till I espied thee, fair, indeed, and tall,
Under a platane; yet methought less fair,
Less winning soft, less amiably mild,



Than that smooth watery image. Back I turned;


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
Seized mine I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelled by manly grace


And wisdom, which alone is truly fair."

So spake our general mother, and, with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreproved,

And meek surrender, half-embracing leaned
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,
Smiled with superior love, as Jupiter

On Juno smiles when he impregns the clouds

That shed May flowers, and pressed her matron lip
With kisses pure. Aside the Devil turned
For envy; yet with jealous leer malign

Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained :


"Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two, Imparadised 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 unfulfilled, with pain of longing pines!
Yet let me not forget what I have gained
From their own mouths. All is not theirs, it seems;
One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge called,
Forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidden ?
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
Some wandering Spirit of Heaven, by fountain-side,
Or in thick shade retired, from him to draw
What further would be learned. 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 turned,

But with sly circumspection, and began


Through wood, through waste, o'er hill, o'er dale, his roam.

Meanwhile in utmost longitude, where Heaven

With Earth and Ocean meets, the setting Sun
Slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise
Levelled his evening rays. It was a rock
Of alabaster, piled 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 climb.
Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat,


Chief of the angelic guards, awaiting night;


About him exercised heroic games

The unarmed youth of Heaven; 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
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 given Charge and strict watch that to this happy place


« PreviousContinue »