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I turn'd my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Consider'd all things visible in heaven,
Or earth, or middle; all things fair and good :
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heavenly ray,
United I beheld: no fair to thine
Equivalent or second! which compellid
Me thus, though importune, perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee, of right declared
Sovereign of creatures, universal dame!”

So talk'd the spirited sly snake; and Eve,
Yet more amazed, unwary thus replied:

“Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt The virtue of that fruit, in thee first proved: But say, where grows the tree? from hence how

For many are the trees of God that grow
In Paradise, and various yet unknown
To us; in such abundance lies our choice,
As leaves a greater store of fruit untouch’d,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provision, and more hands
Help to disburden Nature of her birth.”

To whom the wily adder, blithe and glad:
Empress, the way is ready, and not long;
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
Fast by a fountain, one small thicket pa
Of blowing myrrh and balm: if thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon."
Lead, then,” said Eve. He, leading, swiftly

In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest. As when a wandering fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads the amazed night-wanderer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
There swallow'd up and lost, from succour far;
So glister'd the dire snake, and into fraud
Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the tree
Of prohibition, root of all our woe;
Which, when she saw, thus to her guide she spake:
“Serpent, we might have spared our coming

Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess,
The credit of whose virtue rest with thee;
Wondrous, indeed, if cause of such effects!
But of this tree we may not taste nor touch;
God so commanded, and left that command
Sole daughter of his voice: the rest, we live
Law to ourselves; our reason is our law.”

To whom the tempter guilefully replied:
“ Indeed! hath God then said that of the fruit
Of all these garden-trees ye shall not eat,
Yet lords declared of all in earth or air?

To whom thus Eve, yet sinless: “Of the fruit
Of each tree in the garden we may eat:
But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst

The garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'”
She scarce had said, though brief, when now

more bold
The tempter, but, with show of zeal and love
To man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on; and, as to passion moved,
Fluctuates disturb’d, yet comely, and in act
Raised, as of some great matter to begin.
As when, of old, some orator renown'd,
In Athens, or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish’d, since mute, to some great cause address’d,
Stood in himself collected; while each part,
Motion, each act, won audience ere the tongue
Sometimes in height began, as no delay
Of preface brooking, through his zeal of right:
So standing, moving, or to height upgrown,
The tempter, all impassion’d, thus began:

“O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving plant, Mother of science! now I feel thy power Within me clear; not only to discern Things in their causes, but to trace the ways Of highest agents, deem'd, however, wise. Queen of this universe! do not believe Those rigid threats of death: ye shall not die; How should ye? by the fruit ? it gives you life To knowledge: by the Threatener ? look on me, Me, who have touch'd and tasted; yet both live, And life more perfect have attain'd than fate Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot. Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast

Is open

? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,
Deterr'd not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how just ? of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunn'd?
God, therefore, cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not fear’d then, nor obey'd:
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why, then, was this forbid? Why, but to awe;
Why, but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers. He knows that, in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes, that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall presently be then
Open'd and clear'd, and ye shall be as gods,
Knowing both good and evil, as they know.

ye shall be as gods, since I as man,
Internal man, is but proportion meet;
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, gods.

ye shall die, perhaps, by putting off Human, to put on gods; death to be wish’d, Though threaten’d, which no worse than this can

bring. And what are gods, that man may not become As they, participating godlike food ? The gods are first, and that advantage use On our belief, that all from them proceeds. I question it ; for this fair earth I see, Warm’d by the sun, producing every kind;

Them, nothing: if they all things, who enclosed
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
The offence, that man should thus attain to know?
What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree
Impart against his will, if all be his ?
Or is it envy? and can envy dwell
In heavenly breasts? These, these, and many


Causes import your need of this fair fruit. Goddess humane, reach, then, and freely taste.”

He ended; and his words, replete with guile, Into her heart too easy entrance won : Fix'd on the fruit she gazed, which to behold Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregn’d With reason, to her seeming, and with truth: Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and waked An eager appetite, raised by the smell So savoury of that fruit, which, with desire, Inclinable now grown to touch or taste, Solicited her longing eye; yet first, Pausing awhile, thus to herself she mused:

“Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits, Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired; Whose taste, too long forborne, at first assay Gave elocution to the mute, and taught The tongue, not made for speech, to speak thy

praise. Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,

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