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She scarce had said, though brief, when now more The Tempter, but with show of zeal and love [bold 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 670 In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence Flourish'd, since mute, to some great cause address'd Stood in himself collected, while each part, Motion, each act won audience ere the tongue, Sometimes in heighth began, as no delay Of preface brooking through his zeal of right: So standing, moving, or to heighth up grown, The Tempter all impassion'd thus began :
O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving Plant, Mother of science, now I feel thy power
680 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 you ? by the fruit ? it gives you life 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 lot. 690 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 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 shunn'd?
God therefore cannot hurt you, and be just; 700
Not just, not God; nor 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
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,
So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off
Human to put on gods; death to be wishid,
Though threaten'd, which no worse than this car
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;
I question it, for this fair earth I see, 720
Warm’d by the sun, producing every 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 740
So savory 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, Though 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 praise : Thy praise he also who forbids thy use, 750 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
Binds us with after-bands, what pròfits 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 eat'n 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 170
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?
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 780 Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck’d, she eat : Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty serpent, and well might, for Eve,
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 thought.
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint, 791
And knew not eating death : satiate at length,
And highten’d as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began :
O sovran, virtuous, precious of all trees
In Paradise, of operation bless'd
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 801
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;
Though others envy what they cannot give;
For had the gift been theirs, it had not here
Thus grown. Experience, next to thee I owę.
Best guide; not following thee, I had remain'd
In ignorance : thou open'st Wisdom's way,
And giv'st access, though secret she retire, 810
And I perhaps am secret; Heav'n is high,
High, and remote to see from thence distinct