« PreviousContinue »
Subjected to his service angel-wings,
And flaming ministers to watch and tend
Their earthy charge: Of these the vigilance
I dread; and, to elude, thus wrapt in mist
Of midnight vapour glide obscure, and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find
The serpent sleeping; in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrain’d
Into a beast; and, mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the highth of deity aspir’d!
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires, must down as low
As high he soar'd; obnoxious, first or last,
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
ere long, back on
itself recoils :
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aim'd,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker rais’d
From dust : Spite then with spite is best repaid.
So saying, through each thicket dank or dry, Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on His midnight-search, where soonest he might find The serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found
In labyrinth of many a round self-rolld,
His head the midst, well stor'd with subtle wiles
Nor yet in horrid shade or dismal den,
Nor nocent yet; but on the grassy herb,
Fearless unfear'd he slept: in at his mouth
The Devil enter'd; and his brutal sense,
In heart or head, possessing, soon inspir'd
With act intelligential; but his sleep
Disturb'd not, waiting close the approach of morn,
Now, when as sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flowers, that breath'd
Their morning incense, when all things, that breathe
From the earth's great altar send up
To the Creator, and his nostrils fill
With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,
And join’d their vocal worship to the quire
Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake
The season, prime for sweetest scents and airs :
Then commune, how that day they best may ply
Their growing work: for much their work outgrew
The hands' despatch of two gardening so wide,
And Eve first to her husband thus began.
Adam, well may we labour still to dress This garden, still to tend, plant, herb, and flower, Our pleasant task enjoin'd; but, till more hands Aid us,
the work under our labour grows, Luxurious by restraint; what we by day Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,
One night or two with wanton growth derides
Tending to wild. Thou therefore now advise,
Or bear what to my mind first thoughts present :
Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind
The woodbine round this arbour, or direct
The clasping ivy where to elimb; while I,
In yonder spring of roses intermix'd
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon:
For, while so near each other thus all day
Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on; which intermits
Our day's work, brought to little, though begun
Early, and the hour of supper comes unearn’d?
To whom mild answer Adam thus return’d.
Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear!
Well hast thou motion'd, well thy thoughts em-
How we might best fulfil the work which here
God hath assign'd us; nor of me shalt pass
Unprais’d : for nothing lovelier ean be found
In woman, than to study household good,
And good works in her husband to promote.
Yet not so strictly hath our Lord impos’d
Labour, as to debar us when we need
Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,
Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse
Of looks and smiles; for smiles from reason flow,
To brute denied, and are of love the food;
Love, not the lowest end of human life.
For not to irksome toil, but to delight,
He made us, and delight to reason join'd.
These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint
Will keep from wilderness with ease, as wide
As we need walk, till younger hands ere long
Assist us: But, if much converse perhaps
Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield :
For solitude sometimes it best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
Befall thee sever'd from me; for thou know'st
What hath been warned 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 :
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
gave thee being, 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, As one who loves, and some unkindness meets, With sweet austere composure thus replied. Offspring of Heaven and Earth, and all Earth’s
Lord! 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 shady 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 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 the
breast, Adam, mis-thought of her to thee so dear?
To whom with healing words Adam replied.