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"What may this mean? language of man pro


By tongue of brute, and human sense express'd ?.
The first, at least, of these I thought denied
To beasts; whom God, on their creation-day,
Created mute to all articulate sound:

The latter I demur: for in their looks
Much reason, and in their actions, oft appears,
Thee, serpent, subtlest beast of all the field

I knew, but not with human voice endued;
Redouble then this miracle, and say.

How camest thou speakable of mute, and how
To me so friendly grown above the rest
Of brutal kind, that daily are in sight?
Say, for such wonder claims attention due."
To whom the guileful Tempter thus replied:
"Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve!
Easy to me it is to tell thee all
[be obey'd:
What thou command'st; and right thou shouldst
I was at first as other beasts that graze

The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food; nor aught but food discern'd
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high:
Till, on a day roving the field,


A goodly tree far distant to behold

Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mix'd,
Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleas'd my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at even,
Unsuck'd of lamb or kid, that tend their play
To satisfy the sharp desire I had

Of tasting those fair apples, I resolv'd
Not to defer: hunger and thirst at once.
Powerful persuaders, quicken'd at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urg d me so keen.
About the mossy trunk I wound me soon:
For, high from ground, the branches would requis

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 1 found.
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Strange alteration in me, to degree

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,

Or earth, or middle; all things fair and good :
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in tay beauty's heavenly ray,
United I beheld; no fair to thine
Equivalent or second! which compell'd
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee of right declar'd
Sovran of creatures, universal dame !"

So talk'd the spirited sly snake; and Eve,
Yet more amaz'd, unwary thus replied:

66 Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt The virtue of that fruit, in thee first prov'd: But say, where grows the tree? from hence how For many are the trees of God that grow [far? In Paradise, and various, yet unknown 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 : "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
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon."
Lead then," said Eve. He, leading, swiftly

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roll'd In tangles, and made intricate seem straight, To inischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy. Brightens his crest. As when a wandering fire, 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, Hovering and blazing with delusive light, Misleans the amaz'd` night-wanderer 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 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 rests with thee;
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 ?"

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To whom thus Eve, yet sinless: Of the fruit 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

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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 highth began, as no delay

Of preface brooking, through his zeal of right:
So standing, moving, or to highth up-grown,
The Tempter, all impassion'd, thus began :
"O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving plant,
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
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
Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.
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 ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not fear'd then, nor obey'de
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 wish'd,
Though threaten'd, which no worse than this can

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 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
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

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:
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

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