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Useful ; whence, haply, mention may arise
Of something not unseasonable to ask,
By sufferance, and thy wonted favour, deigned.
Thee I have heard relating what was done
Ere my remembrance ; now hear me relate
My story, which, perhaps, thou hast not heard.
And day is yet not spent ; till then thou seest
How subtly to detain thee I devise,
Inviting thee to hear while I relate-
Fond, were it not in hope of thy reply.
For, while I sit with thee, I seem in Heaven ;
And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
Than fruits of palm-tree, pleasantest to thirst
And hunger both, from labour, at the hour
Of sweet repast. They satiate, and soon fill,
Though pleasant; but thy words, with grace divine
Imbued, bring to their sweetness no satiety."
To whom thus Raphael answered, heavenly meek:-
“ Nor are thy lips ungraceful, Sire of Men,
Nor tongue ineloquent ; for God on thee
Abundantly his gifts hath also poured,
Inward and outward both, his image fair :
Speaking, or mute, all comeliness and grace
Attends thee, and each word, each motion, forms.
Nor less think we in Heaven of thee on Earth
Than of our fellow-servant, and inquire
Gladly into the ways of God with Man;
For God, we see, hath honoured thee, and set
On Man his equal love. Say therefore on;
For I that day was absent, as befell,
Bound on a voyage uncouth and obscure, 230
Far on excursion toward the gates of Hell,
Squared in full legion (such command we had),
To see that none thence issued forth a spy
Or enemy, while God was in his work,
Lest he, incensed at such eruption bold,
Destruction with Creation might have mixed.
Not that they durst without his leave attempt ;
But us he sends upon his high behests
For state, as sovran King, and to inure
Our prompt obedience. Fast we found, fast shut, 240
The dismal gates, and barricadoed strong,
But, long ere our approaching, heard within
Noise, other than the sound of dance or song-
Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage.
Glad we returned up to the coasts of Light
Ere Sabbath-evening ; so we had in charge.
But thy relation now; for I attend,
Pleased with thy words no less than thou with mine."
So spake the godlike Power, and thus our Sire :“ For Man to tell how human life began
250 Is hard ; for who himself beginning knew ? Desire with thee still longer to converse Induced me. As new-waked from soundest sleep, Soft on the flowery herb I found me laid, In balmy sweat, which with his beams the Sun Soon dried, and on the reeking moisture fed. Straight toward Heaven my wondering eyes I turned, And gazed a while the ample sky, till, raised By quick instinctive motion, up I sprung, As thitherward endeavouring, and upright 260 Stood on my feet. About me round I saw Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains, And liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these, Creatures that lived and moved, and walked or flew, Birds on the branches warbling : all things smiled ; With fragrance and with joy my heart o’erflowed. Myself I then perused, and limb by limb Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran With supple joints, as lively vigour led ; But who I was, or where, or from what cause, 270 Knew not. To speak I tried, and forth with spake;
My tongue obeyed, and readily could name
Whate'er I saw. 'Thou Sun,' said I, "fair light,
And thou enlightened Earth, so fresh and gay,
Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains,
that live and move, fair creatures, tell,
Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here !
Not of myself; by some great Maker then,
In goodness and in power pre-eminent.
Tell me how may I know him, how adore, 280
From whom I have that thus I move and live,
And feel that I am happier than I know !'
While thus I called, and strayed I knew not whither,
From where I first drew air, and first beheld
This happy light, when answer none returned,
On a green shady bank, profuse of flowers,
Pensive I sat me down. There gentle sleep
First found me, and with soft oppression seized
My drowsed sense, untroubled, though I thought
I then was passing to my former state
290 Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve : When suddenly stood at my head a dream, Whose inward apparition gently moved My fancy to believe I yet had being, And lived. One came, methought, of shape divine, And said, “Thy mansion wants thee, Adam ; rise, First Man, of men innumerable ordained First father! called by thee, I come thy guide To the Garden of Bliss, thy seat prepared.' So saying, by the hand he took me, raised, 300 And over fields and waters, as in air Smooth sliding without step, last led me up A woody mountain, whose high top was plain, A circuit wide, enclosed, with goodliest trees Planted, with walks and bowers, that what I saw Of Earth before scarce pleasant seemed. Each tree Loaden with fairest fruit, that hung to the eye
Tempting, stirred in me sudden appetite
To pluck and eat; whereat I waked, and found
Before mine eyes all real, as the dream
Had lively shadowed. Here had new begun
My wandering, had not He who was my guide
Up hither from among the trees appeared,
Presence Divine. Rejoicing, but with awe,
In adoration at his feet I fell
Submiss. He reared me, and, “Whom thou sought'st
Said mildly, “Author of all this thou seest
Above, or round about thee, or beneath.
This Paradise I give thee; count it thine
To till and keep, and of the fruit to eat.
Of every tree that in the Garden grows
Eat freely with glad heart ; fear here no dearth.
But of the tree whose operation brings
Knowledge of good and ill, which I have set,
The pledge of thy obedience and thy faith,
Amid the garden by the Tree of Life-
Remember what I warn thee-shun to taste,
And shun the bitter consequence : for know,
The day thou eat'st thereof, my sole command
Transgressed, inevitably thou shalt die,
330 From that day mortal, and this happy state Shalt lose, expelled from hence into a world Of woe and sorrow!' Sternly he pronounced The rigid interdiction, which resounds Yet dreadful in mine ear, though in my choice Not to incur ; but soon his clear aspect Returned, and gracious purpose thus renewed : * Not only these fair bounds, but all the Earth To thee and to thy race I give; as lords Possess it, and all things that therein live, 340 Or live in sea or air, beast, fish, and fowl. In sign whereof, each bird and beast behold
After their kinds; I bring them to receive
From thee their names, and pay thee fealty
With low subjection. Understand the same
Of fish within their watery residence,
Not hither summoned, since they cannot change
Their element to draw the thinner air.'
As thus he spake, each bird and beast behold
Approaching two and two_these cowering low 350
With blandishment; each bird stooped on his wing.
I named them as they passed, and understood
Their nature ; with such knowledge God endued
My sudden apprehension. But in these
I found not what methought I wanted still,
And to the Heavenly Vision thus presumed :-
"O, by what name—for Thou above all these,
Above mankind, or aught than mankind higher,
Surpassest far my naming—how may I
Adore thee, Author of this Universe,
And all this good to Man, for whose well-being
So amply, and with hands so liberal,
Thou hast provided all things ? But with me
I see not who partakes. In solitude
What happiness? who can enjoy alone,
Or, all enjoying, what contentment find ?'
Thus I, presumptuous ; and the Vision bright,
As with a smile more brightened, thus replied :-