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SATAN having encompassed the Earth, with meditated guile returns, as a mist, by night into Paradise; enters into the serpent sleeping. Adam and Eve in the morning go forth to their labours, which Eve proposes to divide in several places, each labouring apart: Adam consents not, alleging the danger, lest that enemy, of whom they were forewarned, should attempt her found alone. Eve, loth to be thought not circumspect or firm enough, urges her going apart, the rather desirous to make trial of her strength; Adam at last yields: the serpent finds her alone: his subtle approach, first gazing, then speaking; with much flattery extolling Eve above all other creatures. Eve, wondering to hear the serpent speak, asks how he attained to human speech, and such understanding, not till now: the serpent answers, that by tasting of a certain tree in the garden he attained both to speech and reason, till then void of both: Eve requires him to bring her to that tree, and finds it to be the tree of knowledge forbidden; the serpent, now grown bolder, with many wiles and arguments, induces her at length to eat; she, pleased with the taste, deliberates awhile whether to impart thereof to Adam or not; at last brings him of the fruit; relates what persuaded her to eat thereof: Adam, at first amazed, but perceiving her lost, resolves, through vehemence of love, to perish with her; and, extenuating the trespass, eats also of the fruit: the effects thereof in them both; they seek to cover their nakedness; then fall to variance and accusation of one another.

No more of talk where God or angel guest
With Man, as with his friend, familiar1 used
To sit indulgent, and with him partake

Rural repast; permitting him the while

Venial discourse 2 unblamed. I now must change
Those notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach

1 Where God or angel guest with Man...familiar, &c.-The sense seems to be, where God, or rather the angel sent by him, and acting as his proxy, used to sit familiarly with man, &c.

2 Venial discourse,-allowed, permitted; here equivalent to familiar, unrestrained.

Disloyal, on the part of Man; revolt,

And disobedience: on the part of Heaven
Now alienated, distance and distaste;

Anger, and just rebuke, and judgment given,
That brought into this world a world of woe,—
Sin and her shadow Death,1 and Misery,
Death's harbinger. Sad task! yet argument
Not less, but more heroic,2 than the wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespoused;
Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long
Perplexed the Greek, and Cytherea's son;
If answerable style I can obtain




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Pleased me, long choosing and beginning late;3

Not sedulous by nature to indite

Wars, hitherto the only argument1

Heroic deemed; chief mastery to dissect

1 Sin and her shadow Death,-a striking picture of the inseparable connexion of death with sin.

2 Argument not less, but more heroic, &c.-The subject of Milton's poem-God's anger, and Adam's distress-is more sublime than the wrath of Achilles, who pursued his foe Hector thrice round the walls of Troy, as described by Homer in the Iliad; or the rage of Turnus for Lavinia disespoused, having been first betrothed to him, and afterwards promised to Eneas, according to Virgil in the Eneid; or Neptune's ire against the Greek Ulysses, as in the Odyssey; or Juno's ire, that so long vexed Eneas, son of Venus, called Cytheria, from the island of Cythera, famed for her worship. All these were fabulous, more or less, and the gods concerned were false gods; whereas Milton's subject was a real transaction with the true God.

3 Pleased me, long choosing and beginning late;-having designed to write an epic poem, Milton proposed the story of King Arthur for its subject; but he laid it aside, probably for the reasons hinted at in the context.

4 Wars, hitherto the only argument, &c.,—i. e. wars being deemed the only fit subject for a heroic poem; and the poet's chief mastery being supposed to be, to depict fabled knights, or describe their wounds as a surgeon.

With long and tedious havoc fabled knights,
In battles feigned; (the better fortitude
Of patience and heroic martyrdom
Unsung;)1 or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, emblazoned shields,3
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds,
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshalled feast
Served 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 skilled nor studious, higher argument
Remains ;3 sufficient of itself to raise

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That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing4
Depressed; 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 veiled the horizon round;

▲ Unsung,-i. e. being unsung—as before, 1. 28, note.


2 Emblazoned shields,-glancing at the Italian poets, who were too minute in describing such things. Impresses quaint,-emblems on the shield, alluding to the name, the condition, or the fortune of the wearer. Bases, an embroidered mantle, reaching from the middle down to the knees, or lower, worn by knights on horseback. Marshalled, sewers,

seneschals; the marshal placed the guests according to their rank, and saw that they were properly served; the sewer marched in before the meats, and arranged them on the table; and the seneschal was the household steward.

3 Remains,-awaits, as elsewhere used by Milton, after the Latin idiom. 4 Or years, damp my intended wing,—It is indeed wonderful that, on the borders of sixty years of age, and after the troublous times he had seen, he should have had so much poetical fire as to have produced the grandest poem that had ever been written. Intended,-stretched out, preparatory to flight.

5 Hesperus,- a brother of Atlas, fabled to have been a great astronomer, who, having ascended Mount Atlas to take observations, was blown away by a tempest, and seen no more. Hence the story that he was transformed into the evening star.

When Satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improved

In meditated fraud and malice,-bent

On man's destruction, maugre1 what might hap
Of heavier on himself,-fearless returned.
By night be fled, and at midnight returned
From compassing the Earth; cautious of day,
Since Uriel, regent of the Sun, descried
His entrance, and forewarned the Cherubim

That kept their watch; thence, full of anguish, driven,
The space of seven continued nights he rode 2
With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line

He circled; four times crossed the car of Night
From pole to pole, traversing3 each colure;

On the eighth returned; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or cherubic watch, by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,

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Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change, 70
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, involved in rising mist; then sought

1 Maugre,-in spite of, notwithstanding.


2 The space of seven continuous nights he rode, &c.,-keeping on the dark side of the earth during that time, for fear of being again discovered.

3 Traversing each colure;-Satan first travelled with the night three times round the equator; moving round for three days, from east to west as the sun does, but always on the opposite side of the globe, in darkness: four times crossed the car of Night from pole to pole,-did not move directly with the night, as before, but crossed from the northern pole to the southern, and again from the southern to the northern. As the equator is a great circle encompassing the earth from east to west, and from west to east again, so the colúres are two great circles compassing the earth in the direction from north to south, at right angles to each other, and mutually intersecting in the two poles of the world; and, therefore, as Satan was moving from pole to pole at the same time that the car of night was moving from east to west, if he would still keep within the shade of night, as he desired, he could not move directly from north to south, but must take an oblique course, and so cross the two colures. These colures, at their opposite points of intersection with the ecliptic, divide it into four equal parts.

4 See b. iv. 1. 223, &c.

Where to lie hid: sea he had searched, and land,
From Eden over Pontus,1 and the pool

Mæotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctic;2 and in length,
West from Orontes3 to the Ocean barred


At Darien; thence to the land where flows

Ganges and Indus: thus the orb he roamed

With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Considered 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 revolved, 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 observed,
Doubt might beget of diabolic power
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolved; but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus poured:

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Pool Mæotis,

1 From Eden over Pontus, &c.--Pontus, the Black Sea. the Sea of Azof, a marshy lake north-east of the Black Sea, and connected with it by the Cimmerian Bosphorus, or Straits of Caffa or Yenikale. Ob, or Oby,- a large river in Siberia, discharging itself into a gulf of the same name to the east of Nova Zembla.

2 Downward as far antarctic;-as the northern regions are called Arctic, from Arctos, the Greek name for the Great Bear, the most conspicuous constellation near the north pole, the southern regions are called Antarctic, as being in the opposite quarter of the earth. The south is spoken of as downward, in allusion to the usua! position of the terrestrial globe.

3 Orontes,-a famous river in Syria, rising in Mount Lebanon, and watering the city of Antioch on its way to the Levant.

4 Darien,--the isthmus of that name, connecting North and South America, and barring the Atlantic Ocean from mingling its waters with the Pacific. Compare Job xxxviii. 10.

5 The serpent subtlest beast,--See Gen. iii. 1.

Fittest imp of fraud,-"imp," a young shoot of a tree such as is removed for the purpose of being grafted on a tree of a different species; used here to signify "tool," "instrument."

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