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His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought :
That space the Evil One abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remain'd
Stupidly good, of enmity disarm'd,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge ;
But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heav'n, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain'd. Then soon
470 Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites.
'Thoughts, whither have ye led me ? with what sweet Compulsion thus transported to forget What hither brought us? hate, not love, nor hope 475 Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy; Save what is in roying, other joy To me is lost. Then let me not let pass Occasion which now smiles; behold alone The woman, opportune to all attempts, Her husband, for I view far round, not nigh, Whose higher intellectual more I shun, And strength, of courage haughty, and of limb Heroic built, though of terrestrial mould,
485 Foe not informidable, exempt from wound, I not; so much hath Hell debas'd, and pain Enfeebld me, to what I was in Heav'n. She fair, divinely fair, fit love for gods, Not terrible, though terror be in love
490 And beauty, not approach’t by stronger hate, Hate stronger, under show of love well feign'd, The way which to her ruin now I tend.'
So spake the Enemy of mankind, enclos'd In serpent, inmate bad; and toward Eve
495 Address'd his way, not with indented wave, Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear, Circular base of rising folds, that towr'd Fold above fold a surging maze; his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes ;
With burnisht neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape,
And lovely, never since of serpent kind
Lovelier, not those that in Illyria changed
Hermione and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus; nor to which transform'd
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline was seen,
He with Olympias, this with her who bore
Scipio the highth of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but fear'd
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a ship by skilful steersman wrought
Nigh river's mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers off, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail ;
So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curl'd many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye; she busied heard the sound
Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as us'd
To such disport before her through the field,
From every beast, more duteous at her call,
Than at Circean call the herd disguis’d.
He bolder now, uncall'd before her stood;
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bow'd
His turret crest, and sleek enamell’d neck,
Fawning; and lick'd the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turn'd at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he glad
Of her attention gain'd, with serpent tongue
Organic, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began.
“Wonder not, sovran mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole wonder, much less arm
Thy looks, the Heav'n of mildness, with disdain,
Displeas'd that I approach thee thus, and gaze
Insatiate, I thus single, nor have fear'd
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retir'd.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore
With ravishment beheld, there best beheld
Where universally admir’d; but here
In this enclosure wild, these beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discern
Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
545 Who sees thee? (and what is one ?) who shouldst be seen A goddess among gods, ador'd and serv'd By angels numberless, thy daily train.'
So gloz’d the Tempter, and his proem tun'd; Into the heart of Eve his words made way,
550 Though at the voice much marvelling; at length Not unamaz'd she thus in answer spake.
What may this mean? language of Man pronounc't
By tongue of brute, and human sense exprest?
The first at least of these I thought deni'd
To beasts, whom God on their creation-day
Created mute to all articulate sound;
The latter I demur, for in their looks
Much reason, and in their actions oft appears.
Thee, Serpent, subtlest beast of all the field
I knew, but not with human voice endu'd;
Redouble then this miracle, and say
How cam'st thou speakable of mute, and how
To me so friendly grown above the rest
Of brutal kind, that daily are in sight ?
565 Say, for such wonder claims attention due.'
To whom the guileful Tempter thus repli’d. ‘Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve, Easy to me it is to tell thee all What thou commandst, and right thou shouldst be obey'd. 570 I was at first as other beasts that graze The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low, As was my food, nor ought but food discern'd Or sex, and apprehended nothing high : Till on a day roving the field, I chanc'd
A goodly tree far distant to behold
Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixt
Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at ev'n,
Unsuckt of lamb or kid, that tend their play.
To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolv'd
Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quicken'd at the scent
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 fill
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 Heav'n,
Or Earth, or middle, all things fair and good ;
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's Heav'nly ray
United I beheld; no fair to thine
Equivalent or second, which compellid
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee, of right declar'd
Sovran of creatures, universal Dame.'
So talk'd the spirited sly Snake; and Eve
Yet more amaz'd unwary thus repli’d.
“Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd :
But say, where grows the tree, from hence how 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 untoucht,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provision, and more hands
Help to disburden nature of her birth.'
To whom 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 past
Of blowing myrrh and balm ; if thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.'
• Lead then,' said Eve. He leading swiftly rollid
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Bright'ns his crest, as when a wandring fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindld through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wanderer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through 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 spar'd our coming hither,
Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess,
The credit of whose virtue rests with thee,
Wondrous indeed, if cause of such effects.
But of this tree we may not taste nor touch ;