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Of tafting thofe fair apples, I refolv'd
Nor to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Pow'rful perfuaders, quicken'd at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me fo keen.
About the moffy trunk I wound me foon ;
For high from ground the branches would require 590
Thy utmost reach, or Adam's: round the tree
All other beafts that faw, with like defire
Longing and envying food, but could not reach.
Amid the tree now got, where plenty hung
Tempting fo nigh, to pluck and eat my fill
I fpar'd not; for fuch 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 reafon in my inward powers, and fpeech.
Wanted not long, though to this shape retain'd.
Thenceforth to fpeculations high or deep
I turn'd my thoughts, and, with capacious mind,
Confider'd all things vifible in heaven,
Or earth, or middle, all things fair and good; 605
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 fecond, which compell'd
Me thus, tho' importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee, of right declar'd
Sov'reign of creatures, univerfal dame.
So talk'd the fpirited fly fnake; and Eve,
Yet more amaz'd, unwary thus reply'd.
Serpent, thy overpraifing leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd:
But fay, where grows the tree, from hence how far?
For many are the trees of God that grow
In Paradife, and various, yet unknown
To us; in fuch abundance lies our choice,
As leaves a greater flore of fruit untouch'd,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provifion, and more hands
Help to disburden nature of her birth.
To whom the wily adder, blithe and glad.
Emprefs, the way is ready, and not long,
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
Faft by a fountain, one fmall thicket paft
Of blowing myrrh and balm; if thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither foon.
Lead then, faid Eve. He leading fwiftly roll'd In tangles, and made intricate feem strait, To mifchief fwift. Hope elevates, and joy Brightens his creft; as when a wand'ring fire, Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night 635 Condenfes, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they fay, fome evil fpi'rit attends,
Hovering, and blazing with delufive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wand'rer from his way, 640
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
There fwallow'd up and loft, from fuccour far.
So glifter'd the dire fnake, and into fraud
Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the tree
Of prohibition, root of all our woe;
Which when the faw, thus to her guide the fpake.
Serpent, we might have spar'd our coming hither, Fruitless to me, tho' fruit be here to' excefs, The credit of whofe virtue reft with thee, Wond'rous indeed, if cause of such effects. But of this tree we may not tafte nor touch; God fo commanded, and left that command Sole daughter of his voice; the reft, we live Law to ourselves, our reafon is our law.
To whom the tempter guilefully reply'd.
Indeed! hath God then faid that of the fruit
Of all these garden-trees ye fhall not eat,
Yet lords declar'd of all in earth or air?
To whom thus Eve yet finlefs. 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 faid, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor fhall ye touch it, lest ye die.
She scarce had faid, tho' brief, when now more bold
The tempter, but with fhow of zeal and love
To man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
Fluctuates difturb'd, yet comely and in act
Rais'd, as of fome great matter to begin.
As when of old fome orator renown'd
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish'd, fince mute, to fome great caufe addrefs'd
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 ftanding, moving, or to height up grown,
The tempter all impaflion'd thus began.
O facred, wife, and wifdom-giving plant,
Mother of fcience, now I feel thy power
Within me clear, not only to difcern
Things in their causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest agents, deem'd however wife.
Queen of this universe, do not believe
Thofe rigid threats of death; ye fhall not die: 685
How should you? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge; by the threat'ner? look on me,
Me who have touch'd and tafted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have attain'd than fate
Meant me, by vent'ring higher than my lot.
Shall that be fhut to man, which to the beast
Is open? or will God incenfe his ire
For fuch a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounc'd, whatever thing death be, 695
Deterr'd not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how juft of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, fince eafier fhunn'd?
God therefore cannot hurt you, and be just;
Not just, not God; not 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 yê low and ignorant,
His worshippers: he knows, that in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes that feem fo clear,
Yet are but dim, fhall perfectly be then
Open'd and clear'd, and ye fhall be as gods,
Knowing both good and evil as they know :
That ye fhall be as gods, fince 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,
Tho' threaten'd, which no worse than this can bring.
And what are gods that man may not become
As they, participating godlike food?
The gods are first, and that advantage ufe
On our belief, that all from them proceeds:
I queftion it; for this fair earth I fee,
Warm'd by the fun, producing every kind,
Them nothing: if they all things, who inclos'd
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whofo eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies 725 Th' offence, that man fhould thus attain to know? What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree Impart against his will, if all be his?
Or is it envy and can envy dwell
In heavily breafis? thefe, thefe, and many more 730
Caufes, import your need of this fair fruit.
Goddess humane, reach then, and freely tafte.
He ended; and his words replete with guile
Into her heart too eafy entrance won:
Fix'd on the fruit fhe gaz'd, which to behold
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the found
Yet rung of bis perfuafive words, impregn'd
With reason, to her feeming, and with truth;
Mean while the hour of noon drew on, and wak'd
An eager appetite, rais'd by the fmell
So favoury of that fruit, which with defire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye: yet first
Paufing a while, thus to herself fhe mus'd.
Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits, 745 Tho' kept from man, and worthy to be' admir'd; Whofe tafte, too long forborn, at first assay Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise:
Thy praise he alfo who forbids thy ufe,
Conceals not from us, naming thee the Tree
Of Knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil;
Forbids us then to tafte; but this forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want:
For good unknown, fure is not had; or had,
And yet unknown, is as not had at all.
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wife?