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Empress, the way is ready, and not long;
625 Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat, Fast by a fountain, one small thicket pass’d Of blowing myrrh and balm: if thou accept My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.
Lead then, said Eve. He, leading, swiftly rollid 630 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 vapor, which the night Condenses, and the cold environs round,
635 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; 640 There swallow'd up and lost, from succor 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;
644 Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake:
Serpent, we might have spared our coming hither, 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; 650 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
655 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
The garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
She scarce had said, though brief, when now more
665 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
670 Flourish’d, since mutel 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: 675 So standing, moving, or to height up grown, 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
680 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 you? by the fruit? it gives you life 685 To knowledge; by the threatener? look on me, Me, who have touch'd and tasted; yet both live, And life more perfect have attained than Fate Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot. Shall that be shut to Man, which to the Beast 690 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 695 To happier life, knowledge of good and evil.
Of good, how just! of evil, if what is evil
Into her heart too easy entrance won:
eager appetite, raised by the smell
Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits, Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired; Whose taste, too long forborne, at first essay 746 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, Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree 750 Of knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil; Forbids us then to taste! but his forbidding Commends thee more, while it infers the good By thee communicated, and our want; For good unknown sure is not had: or, had 755 And yet unknown is as not had at all. In plain then, what forbids he but to know, Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise? Such prohibitions bind not. But if death Bind us with after-bands, what profits then 760 Our inward freedom? In the day we eat Of this fair fruit, our doom is we shall die! How dies the Serpent? he hath eaten, and lives, And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns, Irrational till then. For us alone
765 Was death invented? or to us denied This intellectual food, for beasts reserved? For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hạth tasted envies not, but brings with joy
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
790 And new not eating death. Satiate at length, And heighten'd as with wine, jocund and boon, Thus to herself she pleasingly began:
O sov'reign, virtuous, precious of all trees In Paradise! of operation bless’d
795 To sapience, hitherto obscured, infamed, And thy fair fruit let hang, as to no end Created; but henceforth my early care, Not without song, each morning, and due praise, Shall tend thee, and the fertile burden ease 800 Of thy full branches offer'd free to all; Till, dieted by thee, I grow mature In knowledge, as the Gods, who all things know;' Though others envy what they cannot give: