Page images

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, 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 shalt thou 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 plantane, yet methought less fair,

Less winning soft, less amiably mild,

Than that smooth watery image. Back I turned.
Thou, following, criedst aloud, Return, fair Eve;

Whom flyest thou? whom thou flyest, 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

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »