Page images
[blocks in formation]

SATAN having compassed the earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise, and 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 a while 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, familiar us'd

To sit indulgent, and with him partake
Rural repast, permitting him the while
Venial discourse unblam'd: I now must change
Those notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach
Disloyal on the part of man, revolt,
And disobedience: on the part of heav'n
Now alienated, distance and distaste
Anger, and just rebuke, and judgment giv❜n,
That brought into this world a world of woe,
Sin and her shadow death, and misery
Death's harbinger: sad task, yet argument
Not less but more heroic than the wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursu'd
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd,
Or Neptune's ire or Juno's, that so long
Perplex'd the Greek and Cytherea's son:
If answerable style I can obtain

Of my celestial patroness, who deigns
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:

Since first this subject for heroic song
Pleas'd me, long choosing and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite

11 world] Atterbury proposed reading

"That brought into this world (a world of woe),'

but such is not Milton's manner.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

11 a world of woe] See Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, ii. 178. ed. 1826.

'a private hell, a very world of woe.'

Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroic deem'd,. chief mast'ry to dissect
With long and tedious havock fabled knights
In battels feign'd; the better fortitude
Of patience and heroic martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, emblazon'd shields,
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds;
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshal'd feast
Serv'd up in hall with sewers, and seneshals;
The skill of artifice or office mean,

Not that which justly gives heroic name
To person or to poem. Me of these
Nor skill'd nor studious higher argument
Remains, sufficient of itself to raise
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing
Depress'd, 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







41 of these] The construction adopted by Milton occurs in Harrington's Ariosto, c. iv. st. 42.

'As holy men of humane manners skill'd.


45 years] Grief, want, wars, clime, or say, years. Bentl. MS. 50 arbiter] Sydney, in his Arcadia, calls the sun, about the time of the Equinox,

'An indifferent arbiter between the night and the day.'

Twixt day and night, and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veil'd the horizon round:
When Satan who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless return'd.
By night he fled, and at midnight return'd
From compassing the earth, cautious of day,
Since Uriel regent of the sun descry'd
His entrance, and forewarn'd the Cherubim
That kept their watch; thence full of anguish driv'n,
The space of seven continu'd nights he rode
With darkness, thrice the equinoctial line
He circled, four times cross'd the car of night
From pole to pole, traversing each colure;
On the eighth return'd, and on the coast averse
From entrance or Cherubic watch by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,

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

59 compassing] Sylv. Du Bartas, p. 896, of Satan,
'I come, said he, from walking in, and out,
And compassing the earthlie ball about.' Todd.

66 colure] See Lisle's Du Bartas, p. 155,

The second is, and call'd the nigh equall colure.'




Satan involv'd in rising mist, then sought
Where to lie hid; sea he had search'd and land
From Eden over Pontus, and the pool
Mæotis, up beyond the river Ob,

Downward as far Antarctick; and in length
West from Orontes to the ocean barr'd
At Darien; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus: thus the orb he roam'd
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Consider'd every creature, which of
Most opportune might serve his wiles, and found
The serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him after long debate, irresolute

Of thoughts revolv'd, 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 slights none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtilty
Proceeding, which in other beasts observ'd
Doubt might beget of diabolic pow'r
Active within beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolv'd, but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus pour'd.

O earth, how like to heav'n, if not preferr'd







75 mist] Hom. Il. i. 359, ἀνέδυ πολιῆς ἁλος, ἠΰτ ̓ ὀμιχλή, and Hymn

Mercur. v. 141.


80 Orontes] Euphrates. Bentl. MS.

99 earth] Consult Heylin's note on this passage; who considers that there is an inconsistency between this speech of Satan and b. iii. 566.


« PreviousContinue »