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An atom, with the firmament compar'd
And all her number'd stars, that seem to roll
Spaces incomprehensible (for such
Their distance argues, and their swift return
Diurnal) merely to officiate light
Round this opacous earth, this punctual spot,
One day and night, in all their vast survey
Useless besides; reasoning, I oft admire
How Nature, wise and frugal, could commit
Such disproportions, with superfluous hand
So many nobler bodies to create,
Greater, so manifold to this one use,



For aught appears, and on their orbs impose 30 Such restless revolution, day by day

Repeated, while the sedentary earth,


That better might with far less compass move,
Serv'd by more noble than herself, attains
Her end without least motion, and receives
As tribute, such a sumless journey brought
Of incorporeal speed, her warmth and light;
Speed, to describe whose swiftness number fails.
So spake our sire, and by his count'nance seem'd
Ent'ring on studious thoughts abstruse; which Eve
Perceiving where she sat retir'd in sight,
With lowliness majestic from her seat,
And grace that won who saw to wish her stay,
Rose, and went forth among her fruits and flow'rs,
To visit how they prosper'd, bud and bloom, 45
Her nursery: they at her coming sprung,
And, touch'd by her fair tendence, gladlier grew.


Yet went she not, as not with such discourse
Delighted, or not capable her ear

Of what was high: such pleasure she reserv'd, 50 Adam relating, she sole auditress.

Her husband, the relator, she preferr'd

Before the Angel, and of him to ask

Chose rather. He, she knew, would intermix Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute 55 With conjugal caresses: from his lip


Not words alone pleas'd her. O when meet now
Such pairs, in love and mutual honour join'd!
With Goddess-like demeanour forth she went,
Not unattended, for on her, as queen,
A pomp of winning graces waited still,
And from about her shot darts of desire
Into all eyes to wish her still in sight.
And Raphael, now to Adam's doubt propos'd,
Benevolent and facile, thus reply'd:


To ask or search I blame thee not; for Heav'n
Is as the book of God before thee set,
Wherein to read his wondrous works, and learn
His seasons, hours, or days, or months, or years.
This to attain, whether Heav'n move or Earth, 70
Imports not, if thou reckon right: the rest
From Man or Angel the Great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets, to be scann'd by them who ought
Rather admire: or if they list to try

Conjecture, he his fabric of the Heav'ns
Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move


His laughter at their quaint opinions wide
Hereafter, when they come to model Heav'n
And calculate the stars, how they will wield 80
The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive
To save appearances, how gird the sphere
With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb.




Already by thy reas'ning this I
Who art to lead thy offspring, and supposest
That bodies bright and greater should not serve
The less not bright, nor Heav'n such journies run,
Earth sitting still, when she alone receives
The benefit. Consider first, that great
Or bright infers not excellence: the earth,
Though, in comparison of Heav'n, so small,
Nor glist'ring, may of solid good contain
More plenty than the sun that barren shines,
Whose virtue on itself works no effect,
But in the fruitful earth; there first receiv'd
His beams, unactive else, their vigour find.
Yet not to earth are those bright luminaries
Officious, but to thee earth's habitant.


And for the Heav'n's wide circuit, let it speak 100
The Maker's high magnificence, who built
So spacious, and his line stretch'd out so far,
That man may know he dwells not in his own:
An edifice too large for him to fill,

Lodg'd in a small partition, and the rest 105
Ordain'd for uses to his Lord best known.
The swiftness of those circles attribute,

Though numberless, to his omnipotence,
That to corporeal substances could add


Speed almost spiritual. Me thou think'st not slow,
Who since the morning-hour set out from Heav'n,
Where God resides, and ere mid-day arriv'd
In Eden, distance inexpressible

By numbers that have name.

But this I urge,

Admitting motion in the Heav'ns, to show 115
Invalid that which thee to doubt it mov'd;
Not that I so affirm, though so it seem

To thee who hast thy dwelling here on earth.
God, to remove his ways from human sense,
Plac'd Heav'n from Earth so far, that earthly sight,
If it presume, might err in things too high, 121
And no advantage gain. What if the sun

Be centre to the world, and other stars,

By his attractive virtue and their own
Incited, dance about him various rounds?
Their wand'ring course now high, now low, then


Progressive, retrograde, or standing still,



In six thou seest, and what if sev'nth to these
The planet earth, so stedfast though she seem,
Insensibly three different motions move?
Which else to sev'ral spheres thou must ascribe,
Mov'd contrary with thwart obliquities,
Or save the sun his labour, and that swift
Nocturnal and diurnal rhomb suppos'd,
Invisible else above all stars, the wheel


Of day and night; which needs not thy belief,

If earth industrious of herself fetch day
Travelling east, and with her part averse
From the sun's beam meet night, her other part
Still luminous by his ray. What if that light, 140
Sent from her through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon, be as a star

Enlight'ning her by day, as she by night
This earth? reciprocal, if land be there,

Fields and inhabitants. Her spots thou seest 145
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her soften'd soil, for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps
With their attendant moons thou wilt descry,
Communicating male and female light,


Which too great sexes animate the world, Stor❜d in each orb perhaps with some that live, For such vast room in nature unpossess'd

By living soul, desert and desolate,

Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute

Each orb a glimpse of light, convey'd so far
Down to this habitable, which returns
Light back to them, is obvious to dispute.



But whether thus these things, or whether not;
Whether the sun predominant in Heav'n
Rise on the earth, or earth rise on the sun,
He from the east his flaming road begin,
Or she from west her silent course advance
With inoffensive pace that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces even,
And bears thee soft with the smooth air along,


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