I.—The Army of the Rebel Angels
The poem opens with an invocation to the Heavenly Muse for
enlightenment and inspiration.
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Horeb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos; or, if Sion's hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause
Moved our grand Parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and trangress his will.
The infernal serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
For nine days and nights the apostate Angel lay silent, "rolling
in the fiery gulf," and then, looking round, he discerned by his
side Beelzebub, "one next himself in power and next in crime."
With him he took counsel, and rearing themselves from off the
pool of fire they found footing on a dreary plain. Walking with
uneasy steps the burning marle, the lost Archangel made his way
to the shore of "that inflamed sea," and called aloud to his
associates, to "Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!" They
heard, and gathered about him, all who were "known to men
by various names and various idols through the heathen world,"
but with looks "downcast and damp." He—
Then straight commands that, at the warlike sound
Of trumpets loud and clarions, be upreared
His mighty standard. That proud honour claimed
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall,
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled
The imperial ensign....
At which the universal host up-sent
A shout that tore Hell's conclave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
The mighty host now circled in orderly array about "their
He, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower. His form had not yet lost
All its original brightness, nor appeared
Less than an Archangel ruined, and the excess
Of glory obscured: as when the sun new-risen
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darkened so, yet shone
Above them all the Archangel. But his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows
Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride,
He now prepared
To speak; whereat their doubled ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and half enclose him round
With all his peers. Attention held them mute.
Thrice he assayed and thrice, in spite of scorn,
Tears, such as Angels weep, burst forth; at last
Words interwove with sighs found out their way:
"O myriads of immortal Spirits! O Powers,
Matchless, but with the Almighty!—and that strife
Was not inglorious, though the event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change,
Hateful to utter. But what power of mind,
Foreseeing or presaging, from the depth
Of knowledge past or present, could have feared
How such united force of gods, how such
As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
He who reigns
Monarch in Heaven till then as one secure
Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute,
Consent, or custom, and his regal state
Put forth at full, but still his strength concealed—
Which tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall.
Henceforth his might we know, and know our own,
So as not either to provoke, or dread
New war provoked. Our better part remains
To work in close design, by fraud or guile,
What force effected not; that he no less
At length from us may find, Who overcomes
By force hath overcome but half his foe.
Space may produce more Worlds, whereof so rife
There went a fame in Heaven that He ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation whom his choice regard
Should favour equal to the Sons of Heaven.
Thither, if but to pry, shall be perhaps
Our first eruption—thither, or elsewhere;
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor the Abyss
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsel must mature. Peace is despaired;
For who can think submission? War, then, war
Open or understood, must be resolved."
He spake; and to confirm his words, out-flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim. The sudden blaze
Far round illumined Hell. Highly they raged.
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of Heaven.
The exiled host now led by Mammon, "the least erected
Spirit that fell from Heaven," proceeded to build Pandemonium,
their architect being him whom "men called Mulciber," and
The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats.
II.—The Fiends' Conclave
High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus or of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
To that bad eminence.
Here his compeers gathered round to advise. First Moloch,
the "strongest and the fiercest Spirit that fought in Heaven,"
counselled war. Then uprose Belial—"a fairer person lost not
Heaven"—and reasoned that force was futile.
"The towers of Heaven are filled
With armed watch, that render all access
Besides, failure might lead to their annihilation, and who
wished for that?
"Who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
These thoughts that wander through eternity?
They were better now than when they were hurled from
Heaven, or when they lay chained on the burning lake. Their
Supreme Foe might in time remit his anger, and slacken those
raging fires. Mammon also advised them to keep the peace,
and make the best they could of Hell, a policy received with
applause; but then Beelzebub, "than whom, Satan except, none
higher sat," rose, and with a look which "drew audience and
attention still as night," developed the suggestion previously made
by Satan, that they should attack Heaven's High Arbitrator
through His new-created Man, waste his creation, and "drive
as we are driven."
"This would surpass
Common revenge, and interrupt His joy
In our confusion, and our joy upraise
In His disturbance."
This proposal was gleefully received. But then the difficulty
arose who should be sent in search of this new world? All sat
mute, till Satan declared that he would "abroad through all
the coasts of dark destruction," a decision hailed with reverent
applause. The Council dissolved, the Infernal Peers disperse to
their several employments: some to sports, some to warlike
feats, some to argument, "in wandering mazes lost," some to
adventurous discovery; while Satan wings his way to the nine-fold
gate of Hell, guarded by Sin, and her abortive offspring,
Death; and Sin, opening the gate for him to go out, cannot shut
it again. The Fiend stands on the brink, "pondering his voyage,"
while before him appear
The secrets of the hoary Deep—on dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimension; where length, breadth, and highth,
And time, and place, are lost; where eldest Night
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
At last he spreads his "sail-broad vans for flight," and, directed
by Chaos and sable-vested Night, comes to where he can see
The empyreal Heaven, once his native seat,
And, fast by, hanging in a golden chain,
This pendent World.
III.—Satan Speeds to Earth
An invocation to Light, and a lament for the poet's blindness
now preludes a picture of Heaven, and the Almighty Father conferring
with the only Son.
Hail, holy Light, offspring of Heaven first-born!
Bright effluence of bright essence uncreate!
Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the Sun,
Before the Heavens, thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising World of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless Infinite!
............................ But thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn.
............................ With the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But clouds instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
God, observing the approach of Satan to the world, foretells
the fall of Man to the Son, who listens while
In his face
Divine compassion visibly appeared,
Love without end, and without measure grace.
The Father asks where such love can be found as will redeem
man by satisfying eternal Justice.
He asked, but all the Heavenly Quire stood mute,
And silence was in Heaven.
Admiration seized all Heaven, and "to the ground they cast
their crowns in solemn adoration," when the Son replied
"Account me Man. I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to Thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly die
Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage.
Under his gloomy power I shall not long
While the immortal quires chanted their praise, Satan drew
near, and sighted the World—the sun, earth, moon, and companion
As when a scout,
Through dark and desert ways with peril gone
All night, at last by break of cheerful dawn
Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill,
Which to his eye discovers unaware
The goodly prospect of some foreign land
First seen, or some renowned metropolis
With glistening spires and pinnacles adorned,
Which now the rising Sun gilds with his beams,
Such wonder seized, though after Heaven seen,
The Spirit malign, but much more envy seized,
At sight of all this world beheld so fair.
Flying to the Sun, and taking the form of "a stripling
Cherub," Satan recognises there the Archangel Uriel and accosts
"Brightest Seraph, tell
In which of all these shining orbs hath Man
His fixed seat."
And Uriel, although held to be "the sharpest-sighted Spirit
of all in Heaven," was deceived, for angels cannot discern
hypocrisy. So Uriel, pointing, answers:
"That place is Earth, the seat of Man....
That spot to which I point is Paradise,
Adam's abode; those lofty shades his bower.
Thy way thou canst not miss; me mine requires."
Thus said, he turned; and Satan, bowing low,
As to superior Spirits is wont in Heaven,
Where honour due and reverence none neglects,
Took leave, and toward the coast of Earth beneath,
Down from the ecliptic, sped with hoped success,
Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel,
Nor stayed till on Niphantes' top he lights.
IV.—Of Adam and Eve in Paradise
Coming within sight of Paradise Satan's conscience is aroused,
and he grieves over the suffering his dire work will entail, exclaiming
"Me miserable; which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell."
But he cannot brook submission, and hardens his heart afresh.
"So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear,
Farewell remorse! All good to me is lost;
Evil, be thou my Good."
As he approaches Paradise more closely, the deliciousness of
the place affects even his senses.
As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the Blest, with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles,
So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend.
At last, after sighting "all kind of living creatures new to
sight and strange," he descries Man.
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 shone.
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in Him.
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love's embraces met—
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve.
At the sight of the gentle pair, Satan again almost relents.
Taking the shape of various animals, he approaches to hear
them talk and finds from Adam that the only prohibition laid
on them is partaking of the Tree of Knowledge. Eve, replying,
tells how she found herself alive, saw her form reflected in the
water, and thought herself fairer even than Adam until
"Thy gentle hand
Seized mine; I yielded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelled by manly grace
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair."
While Satan roams through Paradise, with "sly circumspection,"
Uriel descends on an evening sunbeam to warn Gabriel,
chief of the angelic guards, that a suspected Spirit, with looks
"alien from Heaven," had passed to earth, and Gabriel promises
to find him before dawn.
Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray
Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.
She all night long her amorous descant sung.
Silence was pleased. Now glowed the firmament
With living sapphires; Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light,
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.
Adam and Eve talk ere they retire to rest—she questioning
"Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the Sun,
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glistening with dew; fragrant the fertile Earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night
With this her solemn bird, and this fair Moon,
And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train;
But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising Sun
On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glistening with dew; nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night,
With this her solemn bird; nor walk by moon,
Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet.
But wherefore all night long shine these? For whom
This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?"
"These have their course to finish round the Earth,
And they, though unbeheld in deep of night,
Shine not in vain. Nor think, though men were none,
That Heaven would want spectators, God want praise.
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep;
All these with ceaseless praise His works behold
Both day and night."....
Thus talking, hand in hand, alone they passed
On to their blissful bower.
Gabriel then sends the Cherubim, "armed to their night
watches," and commands Ithuriel and Zephon to search the
Garden, where they find Satan, "squat like a toad close to the
ear of Eve," seeking to taint her dreams.
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness.
Satan therefore starts up in his own person, and is conducted
to Gabriel, who sees him coming with them, "a third, of regal
port, but faded splendour wan." Gabriel and he engage in a
heated altercation, and a fight seems imminent between the
Fiend and the angelic squadrons that "begin to hem him round,"
when, by a sign in the sky, Satan is reminded of his powerlessness
in open fight, and flees, murmuring; "and with him fled
the shades of Night."
V.—The Morning Hymn of Praise
Adam, waking in the morning, finds Eve flushed and distraught,
and she tells him of her troublous dreams. He cheers
her, and they pass out to the open field, and, adoring, raise their
morning hymn of praise.
"These are Thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty! Thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair—Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable! Who sittest above these heavens
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these Thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.
Speak, ye who best can tell, ye Sons of Light,
Angels—for ye behold Him, and with songs
And chloral symphonies, day without night,
Circle His throne rejoicing—ye in Heaven;
On Earth join, all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end.
Fairest of Stars, last in the train of Night,
If better than belong not to the Dawn,
Sure pledge of Day, that crown'st the smiling morn
With thy bright circlet, praise Him in thy sphere
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.
Thou Sun, of this great World both eye and soul,
Acknowledge Him thy greater; sound His praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climb'st
And when high noon hast gained, and when thou fall'st.
Moon, that now meet'st the orient Sun, now fliest,
With the fixed Stars, fixed in their orb, that flies;
And ye five other wandering Fires, that move
In mystic dance, not without song, resound
His praise Who out of Darkness called up Light.
Ye Mists and Exhalations, that now rise
From hill or steaming lake, dusky or gray,
Till the Sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold,
In honour to the World's great Author rise;
Whether to deck with clouds the uncoloured sky,
Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers,
Rising or falling, still advance His praise.
His praise, ye Winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud; and wave your tops, ye Pines,
With every plant in sign of worship wave.
Fountains, and ye that warble as ye flow,
Melodious murmurs, warbling, tune His praise.
Join voices, all ye living souls. Ye Birds,
That, singing, up to Heaven's gate ascend,
Bear on your wings and in your notes His praise.
Hail universal Lord! Be bounteous still
To give us only good; and, if the night
Have gathered aught of evil, or concealed,
Disperse it, as now light dispels the dark."
So prayed they innocent, and to their thoughts
Firm peace recovered soon, and wonted calm.
The Almighty now sends Raphael, "the sociable Spirit," from
Heaven to warn Adam of his danger, and alighting on the
eastern cliff of Paradise, the Seraph shakes his plumes and diffuses
heavenly fragrance around; then moving through the
forest is seen by Adam, who, with Eve, entertains him, and
seizes the occasion to ask him of "their Being Who dwell in
Heaven," and further, what is meant by the angelic caution—"If
ye be found obedient." Raphael thereupon tells of the disobedience,
in Heaven, of Satan, and his fall, "from that high
state of bliss into what woe." He tells how the Divine decree
of obedience to the Only Son was received by Satan with envy,
because he felt "himself impaired"; and how, consulting with
Beelzebub, he drew away all the Spirits under their command
to the "spacious North," and, taunting them with being eclipsed,
proposed that they should rebel. Only Abdiel remained faithful,
and urged them to cease their "impious rage," and seek
pardon in time, or they might find that He Who had created them
could uncreate them.
So spake the Seraph Abdiel, faithful found;
Among the faithless faithful only he;
Among innumerable false unmoved,
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind
VI.—The Story of Satan's Revolt
Raphael, continuing, tells Adam how Abdiel flew back to
Heaven with the story of the revolt, but found it was known.
The Sovran Voice having welcomed the faithful messenger with
"Servant of God, well done!" orders the Archangels Michael
and Gabriel to lead forth the celestial armies, while the banded
powers of Satan are hastening on to set the Proud Aspirer on
the very Mount of God. "Long time in even scale the battle
hung," but with the dawning of the third day, the Father directed
the Messiah to ascend his chariot, and end the strife. "Far
off his coming shone," and at His presence "Heaven his wonted
face renewed, and with fresh flowerets hill and valley smiled."
But, nearing the foe, His countenance changed into a terror
"too severe to be beheld."
Full soon among them He arrived, in His right hand
Grasping ten thousand thunders....
They, astonished, all resistance lost,
All courage; down their idle weapons dropt....
.... Headlong themselves they threw
Down from the verge of Heaven; eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.
A like fate, Raphael warns Adam, may befall mankind if they
are guilty of disobedience.
VII.—The New Creation
The "affable Archangel," at Adam's request, continues his talk
by telling how the world began. Lest Lucifer should take a pride
in having "dispeopled Heaven," God announces to the Son that
he will create another world, and a race to dwell in it who may
Open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried,
And Earth be changed to Heaven, and Heaven to Earth,
This creation is to be the work of the Son, who, girt with
omnipotence, prepares to go forth.
Heaven opened wide
Her ever-daring gates, harmonious sound
On golden hinges moving, to let forth
The King of Glory, in his powerful Word
And Spirit coming to create new worlds.
On Heavenly ground they stood, and from the shore
They viewed the vast immeasurable Abyss
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild,
Up from the bottom turned by furious winds
And surging waves, as mountains to assault
Heaven's highth, and with the centre mix the pole.
"Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou Deep, peace!"
Said then the omnific Word. "Your discord end!"
Nor stayed; but on the wings of cherubim,
Uplifted in paternal glory rode
Far into Chaos and the World unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice....
And Earth, self-balanced on her centre hung.
The six days' creative work is then described in the order of
VIII.—The Creation of Adam
Asked by Adam to tell him about the motions of the heavenly
bodies, Raphael adjures him to refrain from thought on "matters
hid; to serve God and fear; and to be lowly wise." He
then asks Adam to tell him of his creation, he having at the
time been absent on "excursion toward the gates of Hell."
Adam complies, and relates how he appealed to God for a companion,
and was answered in the fairest of God's gifts. Raphael
warns Adam to beware lest passion for Eve sway his judgment,
for on him depends the weal or woe, not only of himself, but
of all his sons.
IX.—The Temptation and the Fall
While Raphael was in Paradise, for seven nights, Satan hid
himself by circling round in the shadow of the Earth, then,
rising as a mist, he crept into Eden undetected, and entered
the serpent as the "fittest imp of fraud," but not until once
more lamenting that the enjoyment of the earth was not for
him. In the morning, when the human pair came forth to their
pleasant labours, Eve suggested that they should work apart,
for when near each other "looks intervene and smiles," and
casual discourse. Adam replied, defending "this sweet intercourse
of looks and smiles," and saying they had been made
not for irksome toil, but for delight.
"But if much converse perhaps
Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield;
For solitude sometimes is best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
But other doubt possessed me, lest harm
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays
Who guards her, or the worst with her endures."
"That such an enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee informed I learn,
And from the parting Angel overheard,
As in a shady nook I stood behind,
Just then returned at shut of evening flowers."
She, however, repels the suggestion that she can be deceived.
Adam replies that he does not wish her to be tempted, and that
united they would be stronger and more watchful. Eve responds
that if Eden is so exposed that they are not secure apart, how
can they be happy? Adams gives way, with the explanation that
it is not mistrust but tender love that enjoins him to watch over
her, and, as she leaves him,
Her long with ardent look his eye pursued
Delighted, but desiring more her stay.
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated; she to him as oft engaged
To be returned by noon amid the bower,
And all things in best order to invite
Noontide repast, or afternoon's repose.
O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presumed return! Event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Found'st either sweet repast or sound repose.
The Fiend, questing through the garden, finds her
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance where she stood
Half-spied, so thick the roses bushing round
About her glowed.... Them she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,
From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.
Seeing her, Satan "much the place admired, the person more."
As one who, long in populous city pent,
Forth issuing on a summer's morn to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight—
The smell of grain, of tedded grass, of kine,
Of dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound—
If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more,
She most, and in her look seems all delight.
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone.
The original serpent did not creep on the ground, but was a
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant. Pleasing was his shape
Appearing before Eve with an air of worshipful admiration,
and speaking in human language, the arch-deceiver gains her
ear with flattery. "Empress of this fair world, resplendent
Eve." She asks how it is that man's language is pronounced
by "tongue of brute." The reply is that the power came through
eating the fruit of a certain tree, which gave him reason, and
also constrained him to worship her as "sovran of creatures."
Asked to show her the tree, he leads her swiftly to the Tree of
Prohibition, and replying to her scruples and fears, declares—
"Queen of the 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 Threatener? Look on me—
Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live
And life more perfect have attained than Fate
Meant me, by venturing 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?...
God therefore cannot hurt ye and be just.
Goddess humane, reach, then, and freely taste!"
He ended; and his words replete with guile
Into her heart too easy entrance won.
Eve herself then took up the argument and repeated admiringly
the Serpent's persuasions.
"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 reserved?
Here grows the care 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 plucked, she ate.
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty serpent.
At first elated by the fruit, Eve presently began to reflect,
excuse herself, and wonder what the effect would be on Adam.
"And I perhaps am secret. Heaven is high—
High, and remote to see from thence distinct
Each thing on Earth; and other care perhaps
May have diverted from continual watch
Our great Forbidder, safe with all his spies
About him. But to Adam in what sort
Shall I appear? Shall I to him make known
As yet my change?
But what if God have seen
And death ensue? Then I shall be no more;
And Adam, wedded to another Eve,
Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct!
A death to think! Confirmed then, I resolve
Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe,
So dear I love him that with him all deaths
I could endure, without him live no life."
Adam the while
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn
Her tresses.... Soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve amazed,
From his slack hand the garland wreathed for her
Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed.
Speechless he stood and pale, till thus at length,
First to himself he inward silence broke:
"O fairest of creation, last and best
Of all God's works, creature in whom excelled
Whatever came to sight or thought be formed,
Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet,
How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost!
Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguiled thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die.
How can I live without thee? How forego
Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly joined,
To live again in these wild words forlorn?."
Then, turning to Eve, he tries to comfort her.
"Perhaps thou shalt not die ...
Nor can I think that God, Creator wise,
Though threatening, will in earnest so destroy
Us, His prime creatures, dignified so high,
Set over all his works....
However, I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom. If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life.
Our state cannot be severed; we are one."
So Adam; and thus Eve to him replied:
"O glorious trial of exceeding love,
Illustrious evidence, example high!"
So saying she embraced him, and for joy
Tenderly wept, much won that he his love
Had so ennobled as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.
In recompense ...
She gave him of that fair enticing fruit
With liberal hand. He scrupled not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
The effect of the fruit on them is first to excite lust with
guilty shame following, and realising this after "the exhilarating
vapour bland" had spent its force, Adam found utterance for
"O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear
To that false Worm....
... How shall I behold the face
Henceforth of God or Angel, erst with joy
And rapture so oft beheld? Those Heavenly shapes
Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze
Insufferably bright. Oh, might I here
In solitude live savage, in some glade
Obscured, where highest winds, impenetrable
To star or sunlight, spread their umbrage broad,
And brown as evening! Cover me, ye pines!
Ye cedars, with innumerable boughs
Hide me, where I may never see them more!"
Then they cower in the woods, and clothe themselves with
Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind
They sat them down to weep.
But passion also took possession of them, and they began to
taunt each other with recriminations. Adam, with estranged
"Would thou hadst hearkened to my words, and stayed
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange
Desire of wandering, this unhappy morn,
I know not whence possessed thee! We had then
Remained still happy!"
"Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent,
Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me."
"What could I more?
I warned thee, I admonished thee, foretold
The danger, and the lurking enemy
That lay in wait; beyond this had been force."
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;
And of their vain contest appeared no end.
X.—Sin and Death Triumph
The Angels left on guard now slowly return from Paradise
to Heaven to report their failure, but are reminded by God that
it was ordained; and the Son is sent down to judge the guilty
pair, after hearing their excuses, and to punish them with the
curses of toil and death. Meantime Sin and Death "snuff the
smell of mortal change" on Earth, and leaving Hell-gate "belching
outrageous flame," erect a broad road from Hell to Earth
through Chaos, and as they come in sight of the World meet
Satan steering his way back as an angel, "between the Centaur
and the Scorpion." He makes Sin and Death his plenipotentiaries
on Earth, adjuring them first to make man their thrall, and
lastly kill; and as they pass to the evil work "the blasted stars
look wan." The return to Hell is received with loud acclaim,
which comes in the form of a hiss, and Satan and all his hosts
are turned into grovelling snakes. Adam, now in his repentance,
is sternly resentful against Eve, who becomes submissive, and
both pass from remorse to "sorrow unfeigned and humiliation
XI.—Repentance and the Doom
The repentance of the pair is accepted by God, who sends
down the Archangel Michael, with a cohort of cherubim, to
announce that death will not come until time has been given
for repentance, but Paradise can no longer be their home.
Whereupon Eve laments.
"O unexpected stroke, worse than of Death!
Must I thus leave thee, Paradise? Thus leave
Thee, native soil? These happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods, where I had hoped to spend
Quiet, though sad, the respite of that day
That must be mortal to us both? O flowers,
That never will in any other climate grow,
My early visitation and my last
At even, which I tied up with tender hand
From the first opening bud and gave ye names,
Who now shall rear ye to the Sun, or rank
Your tribes, and water from the ambrosial fount?
... How shall we breathe in other air
Less pure, accustomed to immortal fruits?"
The Angel reminds her:
"Thy going is not lonely; with thee goes
Thy husband; him to follow thou art bound.
Where he abides think there thy native soil."
Michael then ascending a hill with Adam shows him a vision
of the world's history, while Eve sleeps.
XII.—Paradise Behind, the World Before
The history is continued, with its promise of redemption, until
"Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done and occasioned, or rejoice
Much more that much more good thereof shall spring—
To God more glory, more good-will to men."
Eve awakens from propitious dreams, it having been shown
to her that—
"Though all by me is lost,
Such favour I unworthy am vouchsafed.
By me the Promised Seed shall all restore."
The time, however, has come when they must leave. A flaming
sword, "fierce as a comet," advances towards them before
the bright array of cherubim.
In either hand the hastening angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff so fast
To the subjected plain—then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful forces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.