Page images


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, loath 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 fattery 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, familiar used To sit indulgent, and with him partake Rural repast, permitting him the while Venial discourse, unblamed ; I now must change These notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach 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 wo, 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 pursued, Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage Of Turnus, for Lavinia dis-espoused; 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, unimplored, And dictates to me slumbering, or inspires Easy my unpremeditated verse : Since first this subject, for heroic song, Pleased me, long choosing, and beginning late ; Not sedulous by nature to indite Wars, hitherto, the only argument Heroic deem'd; chief mastery, to dissect, With long and tedious havoc, fabled knights, In battles 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 marshall’d feast,

Served up in hall, with sewers, & seneschals;
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 her's, 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; & 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 improved
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, descried
His entrance, and forewarn’d the clierubim
That kept their watch; thence, full of anguish driven,
The space of seven continued 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
Where Tigris, a the foot of Paradise, [change,
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
Where to lie hid : sea he had search'd, & land,
From Eden, over Pontus, and the pool
Mæotis, up beyond the river. Ob;
Downward as far antarctic; 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 ; & with inspection deep,
Consider'd 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 pour’d.

“ O Earth! how like to Heaven, if not preferr'd
More justly, seat worthier of Gods, as built
With second thoughts, reforming what was old!
For what God, after better, worse would build ?
Terrestrial Heaven, danc'd round by other heavens,
That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps,
Light above light, for thee alone, as seems,
In thee concentring all their precious beams
Of sacred influence! As God in Heaven
Is centre, yet extends to all, so thou,
Centring, receivest from all those orbs; in thee,
Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears,
Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth
Of creatures, animate with gradual life
Of growth, sense, reason, all summ’d up

in Man. With what delight could I have walk'd thee round, If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange Of hill

, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains ; Now land, now sea, & shores with forest crown'd, Rocks, dens, and caves. But I in none of these Find place or refuge; and the more I see Pleasures about me, so much more I feel Torment within me, as from the hateful siege. Of contraries; all good to me becomes Bane, & in Heaven mụch worse would be niy

state. But neither here seek I, no, nor in Heaven To dwell, unless by mastering Heaven's Supreme; Nor hope to be myself less miserable By what I seek, but others to make such As I, though thereby worse to me redound; For only in destroying I find ease To my relentless thoughts; and him destroy'd, Or won, to what may work his utter loss,

For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him link'd in weal or wo;
In wo then, that destruction wide may range.
To me shall be the glory sole, among
The infernal powers, in one day to have marr'd,
What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making, and who knows how long
Before had been contriving ; though perhaps
Not longer than since I, in one night, freed
From servitude inglorious well nigh half
The angelic name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers. He, to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers, thus impair'd,
Whether such virtue, spent of old, now fail'd
More angels to create, if they at least
Are his created, or, to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature form’d of earth, & him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heavenly spoils, our spoils. What he decreed,
He effected; Man he made, and for him built
Magnificent, this world, and earth his seat;
Him lord pronounced ; and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service angel wings,
And flaming ministers, to watch and tend
Their earthy charge. Of these the vigilance
I dread; and to elude, thus, wrapt in mist
Of midnight vapour, glide obscure, and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find
The serpent sleeping, in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With gods to sit the highest, am now constrain'd
Into a beast, and mix'd with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the height of deity aspired ;
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? who aspires, must down as low
As high he soar'd, obnoxious, first or last,
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet
Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils ;
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aim'd,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy; this new favourite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite;
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust : spite then with spite is best repaid."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »