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But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst
The garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
She scarce had said, though brief, when now
The Tempter, but with show of zeal and love
To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on, and as to passion mov'd,
Fluctuates disturb'd, yet comely and in act
Rais'd, as of some great matter to begin.
As when of old some orator renown'd
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish'd, since mute, to some great cause ad-
Stood in himself collected, while each part, Motion, each act won audience ere the tongue, Sometimes in height began, as no delay 675 Of preface brooking through his zeal of right: So standing, moving, or to height up grown, The Tempter, all impassion'd, thus began :
O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving Plant, Mother of science, now I feel thy pow'r Within me clear, not only to discern Things in their causes, but to trace the ways Of highest agents, deem'd however wise. Queen of this universe, do not believe Those rigid threats of death: ye shall not die. How should ye? By the fruit? It gives you To knowledge. By the threat'ner? Look on me, Me who have touch'd and tasted, yet both live; And life more perfect have attain'd than fate
Meant me, by vent'ring higher than my
Shall that be shut to Man, which to the Beast
Is open or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounc'd, whatever thing death be,
Deterr'd not from atchieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil!
Of good, how just! of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunn'd?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just. 700
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 ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers. He knows that in the day 705
Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Open'd and clear'd, and ye shall be as Gods,
Knowing both good and evil as they know.
That ye shall be as Gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet;
I of brute human, ye of human Gods.
ye shall die perhaps, by putting off Human, to put on Gods; death to be wish'd, Though threaten'd, which no worse than this
And what are Gods, that Man may not become
As they, participating Godlike food!
The Gods are first, and that advantage use
On our belief, that all from them proceeds.
I question it; for this fair earth I see,
Warm'd by the sun, producing ev'ry kind;
Them nothing. If they all things, who inclos'd
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
Th'offence, that Man should 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 heav'nly breasts? These, these and many more Causes, import your need of this fair fruit. 731 Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste.
He ended; and his words, replete with guile,
Into her heart too easy entrance won.
Fix'd on the fruit she gaz'd, which to behold
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregn'd
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth:
Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and wak'd
An eager appetite, rais'd by the smell
So sav'ry of that fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye: yet first,
Pausing a while, thus to herself she mus'd:
Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits, Tho' kept from man, and worthy to be' admir'd, Whose taste, too long forborn, at first assay Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy
Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,
Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree
Of knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil:
Forbids us then to taste; but his forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want ;
For good unknown, sure 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 wise!
Such prohibitions bind not. But if death 760
Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
Our inward freedom? 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 deny'd
This intellectual food, for beasts reserv'd?
For beasts it seems; yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted, envies not, but brings with joy 770
The good befall'n him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? Rather, What know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure 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 pluck'd, she eat!
Earth felt the wound; and Nature, from her seat
Sighing, thro' all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost! Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty Serpent, and well might, for Eve, 785
Intent now wholly on her taste, nought else
Regarded; such delight till then, as seem'd,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancy'd so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; nor was Godhead from her
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating death. Satiate at length,
And heighten'd as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began:
O sov'reign, virtuous, precious of all trees 795 In Paradise, of operation blest
To sapience, hitherto obscur'd, infam'd,
And thy fair fruit let hang, as to no end
Created; but henceforth my early care,
Not without song, each morning, and due praise,
Shall tend thee, and the fertile burden ease
Of thy full branches, offer'd free to all;
Till, dieted by thee, I grow mature
In knowledge, as the Gods who all things know;
Tho' others envy what they cannot give;
For had the gift been theirs, it had not here