John Milton , - THE ARGUMENT Satan, now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions—fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil; journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described; overleaps the bounds; sits, in the shape of a Cormorant, on the Tree of Life, as highest in the Garden, to look about him.
Meanwhile Uriel, descending on a sunbeam, warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil Spirit had escaped the Deep, and passed at noon by his Sphere, in the shape of a good Angel, down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest; their bower described; their evening worship. O for that warning voice, which he who saw The Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud, Then when the Dragon, put to second rout, Came furious down to be revenged on men, Woe to the inhabitants on Earth!
For now Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down, The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind, To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell. Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast, Begins his dire attempt; which, nigh the birth Now rowling, boils in his tumultuous breast, And like a devilish engine back recoils Upon himself. Horror and doubt distract His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir The hell within him; for within him Hell He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell One step, no more than from Himself, can fly By change of place.
Now conscience wakes despair That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory Of what he was, what is, and what must be Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue! Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixes sad; Sometimes towards Heaven and the full-blazing Sun, Which now sat high in his meridian tower: Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began: He deserved no such return From me, whom he created what I was In that bright eminence, and with his good Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.
What could be less than to afford him praise, The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks, How due? Yet all his good proved ill in me, And wrought but malice. Oh, had his powerful destiny ordained Me some inferior Angel, I had stood Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised Ambition. Some other Power As great might have aspired, and me, though mean, Drawn to his part. But other Powers as great Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within Or from without to all temptations armed! Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?
Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate, To me alike it deals eternal woe. Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
O, then, at last relent! Is there no place Left for repentence, none for pardon left? None left but by submission; and that word Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced With other promises and other vaunts Than to submit, boasting I could subdue The Omnipotent.
While they adore me on the throne of Hell, With diadem and sceptre high advanced, The lower still I fall, only supreme In misery: But say I could repent, and could obtain, By act of grace, my former state; how soon Would highth recal high thoughts, how soon unsay What feigned submission swore! Ease would recant Vows made in pain, as violent and void For never can true reconcilement grow Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep Which would but lead me to a worse relapse And heavier fall: This knows my Punisher; therefore as far From granting he, as I from begging, peace.
All hope excluded thus, behold, instead Of us, outcast, exiled, his new delight, Mankind, created, and for him this World! So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear, Farewell remorse! All good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my Good: For Heavenly minds from such distempers foul Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware Each perturbation smoothed with outward calm, Artificer of fraud; and was the first That practised falsehood under saintly shew, Deep malice to conceal, couched with revenge: Yet not enough had practised to deceive Uriel, once warned; whose eye pursued him down The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount Saw him disfigured, more than could befall Spirit of happy sort: So on he fares, and to the border comes Of Eden, where delicious Paradise, Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green, As with a rural mound, the champain head Of a steep wilderness whose hairy sides With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild.
Access denied; and overhead up-grew Insuperable highth of loftiest shade, Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm, A sylvan scene, and, as the ranks ascend Shade above shade, a woody theatre Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung; Which to our general Sire gave prospect large Into his nether empire neighbouring round. And higher than that wall a circling row Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue, Appeared, with gay enamelled colours mixed; On which the sun more glad impressed his beams Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow, When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed That lantskip.
And of pure now purer air Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires Vernal delight and joy, able to drive All sadness but despair. Now gentle gales, Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole Those balmy spoils. Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow; But further way found none; so thick entwined, As one continued brake, the undergrowth Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed All path of man or beast that passed that way.
One gate there only was, and that looked east On the other side. Which when the Arch-Felon saw, Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt, At one slight bound high overleaped all bound Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within Lights on his feet. So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb. Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life, The middle tree and highest there that grew, Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true life Thereby regained, but sat devising death To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought Of that life-giving plant, but only used For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge Of immortality.
So little knows Any, but God alone, to value right The good before him, but perverts best things To worst abuse, or to their meanest use. In this pleasant soil His far more pleasant garden God ordained. Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste; And all amid them stood the Tree of Life, High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit Of vegetable gold; and next to life, Our death, the Tree of Knowledge, grew fast by— Knowledge of good, bought dear by knowing ill.
Thus was this place, A happy rural seat of various view: Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm, Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind, Hung amiable—Hesperian fables true, If true, here only—and of delicious taste. Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks Grazing the tender herb, were interposed, Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap Of some irriguous valley spread her store, Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose.
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs, Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune The trembling leaves, while universal Pan, Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance, Led on the eternal Spring. Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall, God—like erect, with native honour clad In naked majesty, seemed lords of all, And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine The image of their glorious Maker shon, Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure— Severe, but in true filial freedom placed, Whence true authority in men: His fair large front and eye sublime declared Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin locks Round from his parted forelock manly hung Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad: Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed: Then was not guilty shame.
So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill: Under a tuft of shade that on a green Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain—side. They sat them down; and, after no more toil Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed To recommend cool Zephyr, and make ease More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell— Nectarine fruits, which the complaint boughs Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline On the soft downy bank damasked with flowers.
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind, Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems Fair couple linked in happy nuptial league, Alone as they.
About them frisking played All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase In wood or wilderness, forest or den. Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards, Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant, To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly, Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine His breaded train, and of his fatal guile Gave proof unheeded.
Others on the grass Couched, and, now filled with pasture, gazing sat, Or bedward ruminating; for the sun, Declined, was hastening now with prone career To the Ocean Isles, and in the ascending scale Of Heaven the stars that usher evening rose: When Satan, still in gaze as first he stood, Scarce thus at length failed speech recovered sad: Into our room of bliss thus high advanced Creatures of other mould—Earth-born perhaps, Not Spirits, yet to Heavenly Spirits bright Little inferior—whom my thoughts pursue With wonder, and could love; so lively shines In them divine resemblance, and such grace The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured.
Happy, but for so happy ill secured Long to continue, and this high seat, your Heaven, Ill fenced for Heaven to keep out such a foe As now is entered; yet no purposed foe To you, whom I could pity thus forlorn, Though I unpitied. League with you I seek, And mutual amity, so strait, so close, That I with you must dwell, or you with me, Henceforth. Hell shall unfold, To entertain you two, her widest gates, And send forth all her kings; there will be room, Not like these narrow limits, to receive Your numerous offspring; if no better place, Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge On you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged.
And, should I at your harmless innocence Melt, as I do, yet public reason just— Honour and empire with revenge enlarged By conquering this new World—compels me now To do what else, though damned, I should abhor. Then from his lofty stand on that high tree Down he alights among the sportful herd Of those four-footed kinds, himself now one, Now other, as their shape served best his end Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied, To mark what of their state he more might learn By word or action marked.
About them round A lion now he stalks with fiery glare; Then as a tiger, who by chance hath spied In some pourlieu two gentle fawns at play, Straight crouches close; then rising, changes oft His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground, Whence rushing he might surest seize them both Griped in each paw: To first of women, Eve, thus moving speech, Turned him all ear to hear new utterance flow: The only sign of our obedience left Among so many signs of power and rule Conferred upon us, and dominion given Over all other creatures that possess Earth, Air, and Sea.
Then let us not think hard One easy prohibition, who enjoy Free leave so large to all things else, and choice Unlimited of manifold delights; But let us ever praise him, and extol His bounty, following our delightful task, To prune these growing plants, and tend these flowers; Which, were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet. For we to him, indeed, all praises owe, And daily thanks—I chiefly, who enjoy So far the happier lot, enjoying thee Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou Like consort to thyself canst nowhere find.
That day I oft remember, when from sleep I first awaked, and found myself reposed, Under a shade, on flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how. Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave, and spread Into a liquid plain; then stood unmoved, Pure as the expanse of Heaven.
I thither went With unexperienced thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, just opposite A Shape within the watery gleam appeared, Bending to look on me. I started back, It started back; but pleased I soon returned Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love. There I had fixed Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire, Had not a voice thus warned me: Till I espied thee, fair, indeed, and tall, Under a platan; yet methought less fair, Less winning soft, less amiably mild, That that smooth watery image.
Whom thou fliest, of him thou art, His flesh, his bone, to give thee being I lent Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart, Substantial life, to have thee by my side Henceforth an individual solace dear: Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim My other half.
I yielded, and from that time see How beauty is excelled by manly grace And wisdom, which alone is truly fair. He, in delight Both of her beauty and submissive charms, Smiled with superior love, as Jupiter On Juno smiles when he impregns the clouds That shed May flowers, and pressed her matron lip With kisses pure. Aside the Devil turned For envy; yet with jealous leer malign Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained: Yet let me not forget what I have gained From their own mouths.
All is not theirs, it seems; One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge called, Forbidden them to taste. Why should their Lord Envy them that? Can it be sin to know? Can it be death? And do they only stand By ignorance? Is that their happy state, The proof of their obedience and their faith? O fair foundation laid whereon to build Their ruin!
Hence I will excite their minds With more desire to know, and to reject Envious commands, invented with design To keep them low, whom knowledge might exalt Equal with gods. Aspiring to be such, They taste and die: But first with narrow search I must walk round This garden, and no corner leave unspied; A chance but chance may lead where I may meet Some wandering Spirit of Heaven, by fountain-side, Or in thick shade retired, from him to draw What further would be learned.
Live while ye may, Yet happy pair; enjoy, till I return, Short pleasures; for long woes are to succeed! Meanwhile in utmost longitude, where Heaven With Earth and Ocean meets, the setting Sun Slowly descended, and with right aspect Against the eastern gate of Paradise Levelled his evening rays.