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“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
“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
600 “Of reason in my inward powers; and speech

“ 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 heaven,
605 “ Or earth, or middle—all things fair, and good:

“But all that fair, and good, in thy divine
“ Semblance, and in thy beauty's heavenly ray
“ United I beheld ; no fair to thine

Equivalent, or second! which compellid
610 “Me thus, though 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 replied :

“Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
“ The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd :


the tree? from hence how far ? “For many are the trees of God that grow

“In Paradise, and various, yet unknown
620 “ 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 :


66 But


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
630 “My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.”
Lead then," said Eve.

He, leading, swiftly rollid
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight;
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy

Brightens his crest. As when a wandering fire, 635 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 spirit attends,)

Hov'ring and blazing with delusive light,
640 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 credulous mother, to the tree 645 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; 650 “ Wondrous indeed, if cause of such effects!

“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 replied:
“ 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 660 “Of each tree in the garden we may eat;

“ 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, more bold, 665 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. 670 As when of old some orator renown'd,

In Athens, or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourish'd, since mute, to some great cause address'd,
Stood in himself collected, while each part-

Each motion-act, won audience ere the tongue675 Sometimes in height began, as no delay

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, 680 - Mother of science ! now I feel thy power

“ 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 685 “ Those rigid threats of death : ye shall not die:

“ How should you ? By the fruit ? it gives you life To knowledge. By the threatener? look on me

Me, who have touch'd and tasted; yet both live,

“ And life more perfect have attain’d than fate 690 “ Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot. . “ Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast

? or will God incense his ire
“For such a petty trespass, and not praise

“Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain 695 “Of death denounc'd, (whatever thing death be,)

“ Deterr'd not from achieving 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 shunnd?


“ Is open


" That


700 “God therefore cannot hurt ye, 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 ye low and ignorant,
705 His worshippers ? He knows that in the day

“Ye eat thereof, your eyes, that seem so clear,
“Yet are but dim, shall presently be then

Open'd and clear’d, and ye shall be as gods,
“Knowing both good and evil as they know.


shall be as gods, since 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, 715 “ Though threaten'd, which no worse than this can bring!

“ And what are gods, that man may not become
As they, participating god-like food ?
“ The gods are first, and that advantage use

“On our belief that all from them proceeds : 720 “ I question it; for this fair earth I see

“ Warm’d by the sun, producing every kind;

Them, nothing: if they all things, who enclos’d “Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,

“ That whoso eats thereof forthwith attains 725 “ Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies

“ The 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 730 “ In heavenly breasts? These, these, and many more

“Causes, import your need of this fair fruit.
“Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste."

He ended ; and his words, replete with guile,

Into her heart too easy entrance won :
735 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 740 An eager appetite, rais'd by the smell

So savoury of that fruit; which with desire
Inclinable now grown to touch, or taste,
Solicited her longing eye: yet first

Pausing awhile, thus to herself she mus'd : 745 Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits !

Though kept from man, and worthy to be admir'd; “ Whose taste, too long forborne, at first assay “ Gave elocution to the mute, and taught

“ The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise : 750 “ 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 755 “ 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 ? 760 “Such prohibitions bind not. But, if death

“ 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, 765 “ And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,

“ Irrational till then! For us alone
“ Was death invented ? or to us denied
“ This intellectual food, for beasts reserv'd ?

“For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first 770 “ Hath tasted, envies not, but brings with joy

“ 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 or evil--775 “ Of God, or death—of law, or penalty?

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