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For solitude sometimes is best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return. 250
But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
Beial thee sever'd from me ; for thou know'st
What hath been warn'd us, what malicious foe
Envying our happiness, and of his own
Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame
By sly assault; and somewhere nigh at hand
Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find
His wish and best advantage, us asunder,
Hopeless to circumvent us join'd, where each
To other speedy aid might lend at need; 260
Whether his first design be to withdraw
Our feälty from God, or to disturb
Conjugal love, than which perhaps no bliss
Enjoy'd by us excites his envy more;
Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
That gave thee be'ing, still shades thee and protects :
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.
To whom the virgin majesty of Eve, 270
As one who loves, and some unkindness meets,
With sweet austere composure thus reply'd.
Offspring of Heav'n and Earth, and all Earth's
That such an Enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee inform'd I learn,
And from the parting Angel over-heard,
As in a sbady nook I stood behind,
Just then return’d at shut of evening flowers.
But that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt
To God or thee, because we have a foe 280
May tempt it, I expected not to hear.
His violence thou fear'st not, being such
As we, not capable of death or pain,
Can either not receive, or can repel.
His fraud is then thy fear, which plain infers
Thy equal fear that my firm faith and love
Can by his fraud be shaken or seduc'd;
Thoughts which how found they harbour in thy
Adam, misthought of her to thee so dear?
To whom with healing words Adam reply'd.
Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve, 291
For such thou art, from sin and blame entire:
Not diffident of thee do I dissuade
Thy absence from my sight, but to avoid
Th' attempt itself, intended by our foe.
For he who tempts, though' in vain, at least asperses
The tempted with dishonour foul, suppos'd
Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
Against temptation : thou thyself with scorn
And anger would'st resent the offer'd wrong, 300
Though ineffectual found: misdeem not then,
If such affront I labour to avert
From thee alone, which on us both at once
The enemy, though bold, will hardly dare,
Or daring, first on me th' assault shall light.
Nor thou his malice and false guile contemn
Subtle he needs must be, who could sedice
Angels ; nor think superfluous others aid.
I from the influence of thy looks receive
Access in every virtue, in tły sight
More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were
Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on,
Shame to be overcome or over-reach'd
Would utmost vigour raise, and rais’d unite.
Why shouldst not thou like sense within thee feel
When I am present, and thy trial choose
With me, best witness of thy virtue try'd ?
So spake domestic Adam in his care
And matrimonial love; but Eve, who thought
Less attributed to her faith sincere,
320 Thus her reply with accent sweet renewid.
If this be our condition, thus to dwell In narrow circuit straiten’d by a foe, Subtle or violent, we not endued Single with like defence, wherever met, How are we happy, still in fear of harm ? But harm precedes not sin: only our foe Tempting affronts us with his foul esteem Of our integrity: his foul esteem Sticks no dishonour on our front, but turns 330 Foul on himself: then wherefore shund or fear'd By us? Who rather double honour gain From his surmise prov'd false, find peace within, Favour from Heav'n, our witness from th' event. And what is faith, love, virtue unassay'd Alone, without exterior help sustain’d?
Let us not tlien suspect our happy state
Left so imperfect by the Maker wise,
As not secure to single or combin'd.
Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
340 And Eden were no Eden thus expos’d.
To whom thus Adam fervently reply'd. O Woman, best are all things as the will Of God ordain'd them; his creating hand Nothing imperfect or deficient left Of all that he created, much less Man, Or ought that might his happy state secure, Secure from outward force ; within himself The danger lies, yet lies within his power : Against his will he can receive no harm : 350 But God left free the will, for what obeys Reason is free, and reason he made right, But bid her well beware, and still erect, Lest by some fair appearing good surpris'd She dictate false, and misinform the will To do what God expressly hath forbid. Not then mistrust, but tender love enjoins, That I should mind thee oft, and mind thou me. Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve, Since reason not impossibly may meet Some specious object by the foe suborn'd, And fall into deception unaware, Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warn'd. Seek no temptation then, which to avoid Were better, and most likely if from me Thou sever not; trial will come unsought,
Wouldst thou approve thy constancy, approve
First thy obedience; th' other who can know,
Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?
But if thou think, trial unsought may find 370
Us both securer than thus warn'd thou seera'st,
Go; for tliy stay, not free, absents thee more ;
Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue, summon all,
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.
So spake the patriarch of mankind; but Eve
Persisted, yet submiss, though last, reply'd.
With thy permission then, and thus forewarn'd
Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words
Touch'd only, that our trial, when least sought,
May find us both perhaps far less prepar'd,
The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.
Thus saying, from her husband's hand her hand
Soft she withdrew, and like a Wood-Nymph light,
Oread or Dryad, or of Delia's train,
Betook her to the groves, but Delia's self
In gait surpass'd, and Goddess-like deport,
Though not as slie with bow and quiver arm’d,
But with such gard'ning tools as art yet rude, 391
Guiltless of fire, had form’d, or Angels brought,
To Pales, or Pomona, thus adorn'd,
Likest she seem’d, Pomona when she fled
Vertumnus, or to Ceres in her prime,
Yet Virgin of Piu: copia from Jove,