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Of life that sinned; what dies, but what had life
And sin? the body properly hath neither.
All of me then shall die : let this appease
The doubt, since human reach no further knows.
For though the Lord of all be infinite,
Is his wrath also ? be it; Man is not so,
But mortal doom'd. How can he exercise
Wrath without end on Man, whom death must end?
Can he make deathless death ? that were to make
Strange contradiction, which to God himself
Impossible is held, as argument
Of weakness, not of power. Will he draw out,
For anger's sake, finite to infinite
In punish'd man, to satisfy his rigour,
Satisfied never? that were to extend
His sentence beyond dust, & nature's law
By which all causes else, according still
To the reception of their matter, act,
Not to the extent of their own sphere. But say
That death be not one stroke, as I supposed,
Bereaving sense, but endless misery,
From this day onward, which I feel begun
Both in me, and without me, and so last
To perpetuity. Ah me, that fear
Comes Thundering back with dreadful revolution
On my defenceless head ! both Death and I
Am found eternal, and incorporate both;
Nor I on my part single; in me all
Posterity stands cursed. Fair patrimony
That I must leave ye, sons ! O were I able
To waste it all myself, and leave ye none !
So disinherited, how would ye bless
Me, now your curse. Ah, why should all mankind,
For one man's fault, thus guiltless, be condemn'd,
If guiltless ? But from me, what can proceed,
But all corrupt, both mind and will deprav’d,
Not to do only, but to will, the same
With me? how can they then acquitted stand
In sight of God? Him after all disputes,
Forced, I absolve : all my evasions vain,
And reasonings, though through mazes, lead me
But to my own conviction : first and last [still
On me, me only, as the source and spring
Of all corruption, all the blame lights due ;
So might the wrath. Fond wish! couldst thou support
That burden, heavier than the earth to bear,
Than all the world much heavier, though divided
With that bad woman? Thus what thou desirest,
And what thou fear’st, alike destroys all hope
Of refuge, and concludes thee miserable,
Beyond all past example, and future,
To Satan only like, both crime and doom.
O conscience, into what abyss of fears
And horrors hast thou driven me! out of which
I find no way, from deep to deeper plunged."
Thus Adam, to himself, lamented loud
Through the still night; not now, as ere man fell,
Wholesome, & cool, & mild, but with black air
Accompanied, with damps and dreadful gloom ;
Which, to his evil conscience, represented
All things with double terror. On the ground
Outstretched he lay, on the cold ground, & oft
Curs’d his creation; death as oft accused
Of tardy execution, since denounced
The day of his offence. “Why comes not death,"
Said he, “ with one thrice-acceptable stroke
To end me? Shall truth fail to keep her word ?
Justice divine not hasten to be just ?
But death comes not at call; justice divine
Mends not her slowest pace for prayers or cries.
O woods, O fountains, hillocks, dales, & bowers,
With other echo, late, I taught your shades
To answer, and resound far other song !"
Whom, thus afflicted, when sad Eve beheld,
Desolate where she sat, approaching nigh,
Soft words, to his fierce passion, she essay'd :
But her, with stern regard, he thus repell’d.
“Out of my sight, thou serpent! that name best
Befits thee, with him leagued, thyself as false
And hateful: nothing wants, but that thy shape,
Like his, and colour serpentine, may show
Thy inward fraud, to warn all creatures from thee
Henceforth; lest that too heavenly form, pretended,
To hellish falsehood snare them. But for thee,
I had persisted happy; had not thy pride
And wandering vanity, when least was safe,
Rejected my forewarning, and disdain'd
Not to be trusted, longing to be seen,
Though by the Devil himself, him overweening
To over-reach ; but, with the Serpent meeting,
Fool'd and beguil'd; by him thou, I by thee,
To trust thee from my side, imagined wise,
Constant, mature, proof against all assaults,
And understood not all was but a show
Rather than solid virtue, all but a rib,
Crooked by nature, bent, as now appears,
More to the part sinister ; from me drawn,
Well if thrown out, as supernumerary
To my just number found. why did God,
Creator wise, that peopled highest Heaven
With spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With men, as angels, without feminine ;
Or find some other way to generate
Mankind ? this mischief had not then befallen;
And more that shall befal, innumerable
Disturbances on earth, through female snares,
And strait conjunction with this sex; for either
He never shall find out fit mate, but such
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake;
Or whom he wishes most, shall seldom gain,
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gain'd
By a far worse, or, if she love, withheld
By parents; or his happiest choice too late
Shail meet, already link'd and wedlock-bound
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame;
Which infinite calamity shall cause
To human life, and household peace confound.”
He added not, & from her turn'd. But Eve, Not so repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowAnd tresses all disordered, at his feet [ing Fell humble, and embracing them, besought His peace, and thus proceeded in her plaint.
“ Forsake me not thus, Adam ; witness Heaven, What love sincere, and reverence, in my heart I bear thee; and unweeting have offended, Unhappily deceived; thy suppliant I beg, and clasp thy knees; bereave me not, Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid, Thy counsel; in this uttermost distress, My only strength and stay: forlorn of thee, Whither shall I betake me, where subsist ? While yet we live, scarce one short hour perhaps, Between us two, let there be peace; both joining, As join'd in injuries, one enmity. Against a foe, by doom express assign'd us, That cruel Serpent. On me exercise not Thy hatred, for this misery befallen; On me, already lost, me, than thyself More miserable; both have sinn'd; but thou
Against God only, I against God and thee; And to the place of judgment will return, There with my cries, importune Heaven, that all The sentence, from thy head removed, may light On me, sole cause to thee of all this woe, Me, me only, just object of his ire.”
She ended weeping; and her lowly plight, Immoveable till peace obtain'd from fault Acknowledged & deplored, in Adam wrought Commiseration; soon his heart relented Towards her, his life so late and sole delight, Now at his feet submissive, in distress, Creature so fair, his reconcilement seeking, His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid; As one disarm’d, his anger all he lost, And thus, with peaceful words, upraised her soon.
“Unwary, and too desirous, as before, So now,
of what thou know'st not, thou desirest The punishment all on thyself; alas, Bear thine own first, ill able to sustain His full wrath, whose thou feel'st as yet least part, And my displeasure bear'st so ill. If prayers Could alter high decrees, I to that place Would speed before thee, & be louder heard, That on my head all might be visited, Thy frailty and infirmer sex forgiven, To me committed, and by me exposed. But rise, let us no more contend, nor blame Each other, blamed enough elsewhere ; but strive, In offices of love, how we may lighten Each other's burden, in our share of woe ; Since this day's death denounced, if aught I see, Will prove no sudden, but a slow-paced evil, A long day's dying to augment our pain, And to our seed, O hapless seed ! deriv'd."
To whom thus Eve, recovering heart, replied. “ Adam, by sad experiment, I know How little weight my words with thee can find, Found so erroneous, thence, by just event, Found so unfortunate; nevertheless, Restored by thee, vile as I am, to place of new acceptance, hopeful to regain Thy love, the sole contentment of my heart, Living or dying, from thee I will not hide What thoughts in my unquiet breast are risen, Tending to some relief of our extremes, Or end, though sharp and sad, yet tolerable,
As in our evils, and of easier choice.
If care of our descent perplex us most,
Which must be born to certain woe, devour'd
By death at last; and miserable it is
To be to others cause of misery
Our own begotten, and of our loins to bring
Into this cursed world a woful race,
That after wretched life, must be, at last,
Food for so foul a monster; in thy power
It lies, yet ere conception, to prevent
The race unblest, to being yet unbegot.
Childless thou art, childless remain : so death
Shall be deceived his glut, and with us two
Be forced to satisfy his ravenous maw.
But if thou judge it hard and difficult,
Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain
From love's due rites, nuptial embraces sweet,
And with desire to languish, without hope,
Before the present object, languishing
With like desire, which would be misery
And torment, less than none of what we dread ·
Then, both ourselves and seed at once to free
From what we fear for both, let us make short,
Let us seek death, or, he not found, supply,
With our own hands, his office on ourselves.
Why stand we longer shivering under fears,
That show no end but death, & have the power
Of many ways to die, the shortest choosing,
Destruction with destruction to destroy ?"
She ended here, or vehement despair
Broke off the rest; so much of death her thoughts
Had entertain'd, as dy'd her cheeks with pale.
But Adam, with such counsel nothing sway'd
To better hopes his more attentive mind,
Labouring, had raised; and thus to Eve replied.
“Eve, thy contempt of life, & pleasure, seems To argue in thee something more sublime, And excellent, than what thy mind contemns; But self-destruction, therefore sought, refutes That excellence, thought in thee, and implies, Not thy contempt, but anguish and regret, For loss of life and pleasure, overloved. Or if thou covet death, as utmost end Of misery, so thinking to evade The penalty pronounced, doubt not but God Hath wiselier arm’d his vengeful ire, than so To be forestall’d; much more I fear lest death,