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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
Of each tree in the garden we may eat;
But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst

660

The garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [bold

She scarce had said, though brief, when now more
The Tempter, but with show of zeal and love
To Man, and indignation at his wrong,

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
Be real, why not known, since easier shunn'd?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not feard then, nor obey’d: 700
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, 705
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Open'd and clear'd, and ye shall be as Gods,
Knowing both good and evil, as they know.
That ye shall be as Gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet;

710
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, Gods.
So 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 715
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; 720
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 726
Impart against his will, if all be his?
Or is it envy? and can envy dwell
In heavenly breasts?—These, these, and many more
Causes import your need of this fair fruit. 730
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 735
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 savory of that fruit, which with desire, 740
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 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
The good befall’n him, author unsuspect, 770
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather, what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine, 775
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: What hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?

So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she eat! 780
Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty Serpent; and well might; for Eve,
Intent now wholly on her taste, nought else 785
Regarded; such delight till then, as seem'd,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; nor was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,

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:

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