Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of Death denounced, whatever thing Death be,
Deterr'd not from achieving what might lead
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 3
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just ; not God; not foar'd then, nor obeyed :
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 seems so clear,
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 as Gods, since I as man,
Internal man, is but proportion meet ;
1, of brute, human ; ye, of human, gods.
So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off
Human, to put on gods ; Death to be wishid,
Though threaten'd, which no worse than this can bring.
And what are gods, that man may not becoine
As they participating God-like 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;
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
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.
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 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 savoury

of that fruit, which with desire, 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 assay 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 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 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 prohibitous bind not. But if Death Bind us with alter-binds, what profits then Our inward freedom ? In the day we eat Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die ! How does the serpent he hath eaten lives, And knows and speaks, and reasons, and discerns, Irrational till then. For us alone Was Death invented? or to us denied This intellectual food; for beasts reserved ?

[ocr errors]

For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but bring with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
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,
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
Earth felt the wound; and nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of wo,
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
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 thougint
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew 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
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
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 :

[graphic]

Designed & Engraved by J. Martin Esqm

Book 0. line 005.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »