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Veers oft, 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 busy'd, heard the sound
Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as us'd
To such disport before her thro' the field
From ev'ry 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 enamel'd neck,
Fawning, and lick'd the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turn'd at length
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, sov'reign Mistress, if perhaps
Thou can'st, 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 inclosure 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 should'st
A Goddess among Gods, ador'd and serv'd
By Angels numberless, thy daily train.
So gloz'd the Tempter, and his
Into the heart of Eve his words made way, 550
Tho' at the voice much marvelling. At length,
Not unamaz'd, she thus in answer spake :
What may this mean? Language of man pronounc'd
By tongue of brute, and human sense express'd!
The first at least of these I thought deny'd 555
To beasts, whom God on their creation-day
Created mute to all artic❜late sound:
The latter I demur; for in their looks
Much reas'n, 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!
Say; for such wonder claims attention due.
To whom the guileful Tempter thus reply'd: Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve, Easy to me it is to tell thee all
What thou command'st; and right thou should'st
I was at first as other beasts that graze
The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food: nor aught 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 mix'd,
Ruddy and gold. I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a sav'ry odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense 580
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at ev'n,
Unsuck'd 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,
(Pow'rful 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 595
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 pow'rs, and speech 600
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 606
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heav'nly ray
United I beheld. No fair to thine
Equivalent or second; which compell'd
Me thus, tho' 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 reply'd:
Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd.
grows the tree
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 untouch'd,
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. 639
Lead then, said Eve. He leading swiftly roll'd 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 flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil Sp'rit attends,
Hov'ring and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads th' amaz'd night-wand'rer 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 cred'lous 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 rest with thee,
Wondrous indeed, if cause of such effects. 650
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 reply'd:
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;