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Of that alluring fruit, urg d me so keen.
About the mossy trunk I wound me soon,
For high from ground the branches would require
Thy utmost reach, or Adam's: round the tree
All other beasts that saw, with like desire
Longing and envying stood, but could not reach.
Amid the tree now got, where plenty hung
Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my filli
I spar'd not, for such pleasure till that hour
At feed or fountain never had I found.
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Strange alteration in me, to degree
Of reason in my inward powers, and speech
Wanted not long, though to this shape retain'd.
Thenceforth to speculations high or deep
I turn'd my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Consider'd all things visible in heaven,
Or earth, or middle, all things fair and good :
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heavenly ray,
United I beheld; no fair to ibine
Equivalent or second! which compellid
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee, of right declar'd
Sov'reign of creatures, universal dame."
So talk'd the spirited sly snake; and Eve,
Yet more amaz’d, unwary thus replied :
Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd : But say, where grows the tree, from hence bow far ? For many are the trees of God that grow In Paradise, and various, yet unknown To us; in such abundance lies our choice, As leaves a greater store of fruit untoucb'd, Still hanging incorruptible, till men Grow up to their provision, and more hands Help to disburden Nature of her birth."
To wbom the wily adder, blithe and glad :
Empress, the way is ready, and not long ;
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
Fast by a fountain, one small thicket passid
Of blowing myrrh and balm; if thou aecept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.
“Lead then,” said Eve. He leading, swiftly rolid
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest; as when a wand'ring fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a fiame,
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wand'rer from his way,
Thro’ bogs and mires, and oft thro' pond or pool,
There swallow'd up and lost, from succour 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;
Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake :
“ Serpent, we might have spard 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 :
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
Of all these garden trees ye shall not eat,
Yet lords declar'd 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
The garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'”
She scarce bad said, though brief, when now more
The tempter, but with show of zeal and love [bold,
To man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
Fluctuates disturb'd, yet comely, and in act
Rais'd, as of some great matter to begin,
As when of old some orator renown'd,
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish'd, since mute, to some great cause addressid,
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;
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
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 ye? by the fruit ? it gives you life
To knowledge : by the Threat'ner? look on me,
Me who have touch'd and tasted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have altain'd than fate
Meant me, by ventring higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast
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 denounc'd, 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?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; nor fear'd then, nor obey'd :
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why then was this forbid ? Why but to awe?
Why but to keep you low and ignorant,
His worshippers ? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so elear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Open'd and cleard, and ye shall be as gods,
Knowing both good and evil as they know.
ye shall be as gods, si ace I as man,
Internal man, is but proportion meet;
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
And what are gods that man may not become
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,
Them nothing : if they all things, who enclos'd
Koowledge of good and evil in this tree
That whoso eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave ? and wherein lies
Th' offence, that man should thus attain to know ?
What can your knowledge hurt bim, 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 gaz'd, which to behold Might tempt alone, and in her ears the sound Yet rung of bis persuasive words, imprego'd With reason, to her seeming, and with truth. Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and wak'd An eager appetite, rais'd hy the smell So savoury of that fruit, which with desire, Inclinable now grown to touch or taste, Solicited ber longing eye; yet first Pausing awhile, thus to herself she musid:
“Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits, Though kept from man, and worthy to be admir’d, 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 bad 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
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
Was death invented ? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserv'd ?
For beasts it seems : yet that one beast, which first
Hath tasted, envies not, but brings 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 binders then
To reach, and feed at once both body' and mind ?"
So saying, her rash band in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she ate !
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from ber seat,
Sighiog 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
Regarded; such delight till then, as seein'd,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; nor was Godhead from her thought
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,