Paradise Lost, Book IV, [The Argument]
Satan, now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions—fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil; journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described; overleaps the bounds; sits, in the shape of a Cormorant, on the Tree of Life, as highest in the Garden, to look about him. The Garden described; Satan’s first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall; overhears their discourse; thence gathers that the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden them to eat of under penalty of death, and thereon intends to found his temptation by seducing them to transgress; then leaves them a while, to know further of their state by some other means. Meanwhile Uriel, descending on a sunbeam, warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil Spirit had escaped the Deep, and passed at noon by his Sphere, in the shape of a good Angel, down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest; their bower described; their evening worship. Gabriel, drawing forth his bands of night—watch to walk the rounds of Paradise, appoints two strong Angels to Adam’s bower, lest the evil Spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping: there they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel; by whom questioned, he scornfully answers; prepares resistance; but, hindered by a sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.
O for that warning voice, which he who saw The Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud, Then when the Dragon, put to second rout, Came furious down to be revenged on men, Woe to the inhabitants on Earth! that now, While time was, our first parents had been warned The coming of their secret Foe, and scaped, Haply so scaped, his mortal snare! For now Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down, The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind, To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell. Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast, Begins his dire attempt; which, nigh the birth Now rowling, boils in his tumultuous breast, And like a devilish engine back recoils Upon himself. Horror and doubt distract His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir The hell within him; for within him Hell He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell One step, no more than from Himself, can fly By change of place. Now conscience wakes despair That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory Of what he was, what is, and what must be Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue! Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixes sad; Sometimes towards Heaven and the full-blazing Sun, Which now sat high in his meridian tower: Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began:— "O thou that, with surpassing glory crowned, Look’st from thy sole dominion like the god Of this new World—at whose sight all the stars Hide their diminished heads—to thee I call, But with no friendly voice, and add thy name, O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams, That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere, Till pride and worse ambition threw me down, Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King! Ah, wherefore? He deserved no such return From me, whom he created what I was In that bright eminence, and with his good Upbraided none; nor was his service hard. What could be less than to afford him praise, The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks, How due? Yet all his good proved ill in me, And wrought but malice. Lifted up so high, I ’sdained subjection, and thought one step higher Would set me highest, and in a moment quit The debt immense of endless gratitude, So burthensome, still paying, still to owe; Forgetful what from him I still received; And understood not that a grateful mind By owing owes not, but still pays, at once Indebted and discharged—what burden then? Oh, had his powerful destiny ordained Me some inferior Angel, I had stood Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised Ambition. Yet why not? Some other Power As great might have aspired, and me, though mean, Drawn to his part. But other Powers as great Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within Or from without to all temptations armed! Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand? Thou hadst. Whom has thou then, or what, to accuse, But Heaven’s free love dealt equally to all? Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate, To me alike it deals eternal woe. Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will Chose freely what it now so justly rues. Me miserable! which way shall I fly Infinite wrauth and infinite despair? Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell; And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep Still threatening to devour me opens wide, To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven. O, then, at last relent! Is there no place Left for repentence, none for pardon left? None left but by submission; and that word Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced With other promises and other vaunts Than to submit, boasting I could subdue The Omnipotent. Aye me! they little know How dearly I abide that boast so vain, Under what torments inwardly I groan. While they adore me on the throne of Hell, With diadem and sceptre high advanced, The lower still I fall, only supreme In misery: such joy ambition finds! But say I could repent, and could obtain, By act of grace, my former state; how soon Would highth recal high thoughts, how soon unsay What feigned submission swore! Ease would recant Vows made in pain, as violent and void (For never can true reconcilement grow Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep) Which would but lead me to a worse relapse And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear Short intermission, bought with double smart. This knows my Punisher; therefore as far From granting he, as I from begging, peace. All hope excluded thus, behold, instead Of us, outcast, exiled, his new delight, Mankind, created, and for him this World! So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear, Farewell remorse! All good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my Good: by thee at least Divided empire with Heaven’s King I hold, By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign; As Man ere long, and this new World, shall know." Thus while he spake, each passion dimmed his face, Thrice changed with pale—ire, envy, and despair; Which marred his borrowed visage, and betrayed Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld: For Heavenly minds from such distempers foul Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware Each perturbation smoothed with outward calm, Artificer of fraud; and was the first That practised falsehood under saintly shew, Deep malice to conceal, couched with revenge: Yet not enough had practised to deceive Uriel, once warned; whose eye pursued him down The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount Saw him disfigured, more than could befall Spirit of happy sort: his gestures fierce He marked and mad demeanour, then alone, As he supposed, all unobserved, unseen. So on he fares, and to the border comes Of Eden, where delicious Paradise, Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green, As with a rural mound, the champain head Of a steep wilderness whose hairy sides With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild. Access denied; and overhead up-grew Insuperable highth of loftiest shade, Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm, A sylvan scene, and, as the ranks ascend Shade above shade, a woody theatre Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung; Which to our general Sire gave prospect large Into his nether empire neighbouring round. And higher than that wall a circling row Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue, Appeared, with gay enamelled colours mixed; On which the sun more glad impressed his beams Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow, When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed That lantskip. And of pure now purer air Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires Vernal delight and joy, able to drive All sadness but despair. Now gentle gales, Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow Sabean odours from the spicy shore Of Araby the Blest, with such delay Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles; So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend Who came their bane, though with them better pleased Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent From Media post to Ægypt, there fast bound. Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow; But further way found none; so thick entwined, As one continued brake, the undergrowth Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed All path of man or beast that passed that way. One gate there only was, and that looked east On the other side. Which when the Arch-Felon saw, Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt, At one slight bound high overleaped all bound Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf, Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey, Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve, In hurdled cotes amid the field secure, Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold; Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors, Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault, In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles; So climb this first grand Thief into God’s fold: So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb. Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life, The middle tree and highest there that grew, Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true life Thereby regained, but sat devising death To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought Of that life-giving plant, but only used For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge Of immortality. So little knows Any, but God alone, to value right The good before him, but perverts best things To worst abuse, or to their meanest use. Beneath him, with new wonder, now he views, To all delight of human sense exposed, In narrow room Nature’s whole wealth; yea, more— A Heaven on Earth: for blissful Paradise Of God the garden was, by him in the east Of Eden planted. Eden stretched her line From Auran eastward to the royal towers Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings, Or where the sons of Eden long before Dwelt in Telassar. In this pleasant soil His far more pleasant garden God ordained. Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste; And all amid them stood the Tree of Life, High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit Of vegetable gold; and next to life, Our death, the Tree of Knowledge, grew fast by— Knowledge of good, bought dear by knowing ill. Southward through Eden went a river large, Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill Passed underneath ingulfed; for God had thrown That mountain, as his garden-mould, high raised Upon the rapid current, which, through veins Of porous earth with kindly thirst updrawn, Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill Watered the garden; thence united fell Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood, Which from his darksome passage now appears, And now, divided into four main streams, Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm And country whereof here needs no account; But rather to tell how, if Art could tell How, from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks, Rowling on orient pearl and sands of gold, With mazy error under pendant shades Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon Poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain, Both where the morning sun first warmly smote The open field, and where the unpierced shade Imbrowned the noontide bowers. Thus was this place, A happy rural seat of various view: Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm, Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind, Hung amiable—Hesperian fables true, If true, here only—and of delicious taste. Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks Grazing the tender herb, were interposed, Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap Of some irriguous valley spread her store, Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose. Another side, umbrageous grots and caves Of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps Luxuriant; meanwhile murmuring waters fall Down the slope hills dispersed, or in a lake, That to the fringèd bank with myrtle crowned Her crystal mirror holds, unite their streams. The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs, Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune The trembling leaves, while universal Pan, Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance, Led on the eternal Spring. Not that fair field Of Enna, where Proserpin gathering flowers, Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis Was gathered—which cost Ceres all that pain To seek her through the world—nor that sweet grove Of Daphne, by Orontes and the inspired Castalian spring, might with this Paradise Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle, Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham, Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove, Hid Amalthea, and her florid son, Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye; Nor, where Abassin kings their issue guard, Mount Amara (though this by some supposed True Paradise) under the Ethiop line By Nilus’ head, enclosed with shining rock, A whole day’s journey high, but wide remote From this Assyrian garden, where the Fiend Saw undelighted all delight, all kind Of living creatures, new to sight and strange. Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall, God—like erect, with native honour clad In naked majesty, seemed lords of all, And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine The image of their glorious Maker shon, Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure— Severe, but in true filial freedom placed, Whence true authority in men: though both Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed; For contemplation he and valour formed, For softness she and sweet attractive grace; He for God only, she for God in him. His fair large front and eye sublime declared Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin locks Round from his parted forelock manly hung Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad: She, as a veil down to the slender waist, Her unadornèd golden tresses wore Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved As the vine curls her tendrils—which implied Subjection, but required with gentle sway, And by her yielded, by him best received— Yielded, with coy submission, modest pride, And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay. Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed: Then was not guilty shame. Dishonest shame Of Nature’s works, honour dishonourable, Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind With shews instead, mere shews of seeming pure And banished from man’s life his happiest life, Simplicity and spotless innocence! So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill: So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair That ever since in love’s embraces met— Adam the goodliest man of men since born His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve. Under a tuft of shade that on a green Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain—side. They sat them down; and, after no more toil Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed To recommend cool Zephyr, and make ease More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell— Nectarine fruits, which the complaint boughs Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline On the soft downy bank damasked with flowers. The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind, Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems Fair couple linked in happy nuptial league, Alone as they. About them frisking played All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase In wood or wilderness, forest or den. Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards, Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant, To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly, Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine His breaded train, and of his fatal guile Gave proof unheeded. Others on the grass Couched, and, now filled with pasture, gazing sat, Or bedward ruminating; for the sun, Declined, was hastening now with prone career To the Ocean Isles, and in the ascending scale Of Heaven the stars that usher evening rose: When Satan, still in gaze as first he stood, Scarce thus at length failed speech recovered sad:— "O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold? Into our room of bliss thus high advanced Creatures of other mould—Earth-born perhaps, Not Spirits, yet to Heavenly Spirits bright Little inferior—whom my thoughts pursue With wonder, and could love; so lively shines In them divine resemblance, and such grace The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured. Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh Your change approaches, when all these delights Will vanish, and deliver ye to woe— More woe, the more your taste is now of joy: Happy, but for so happy ill secured Long to continue, and this high seat, your Heaven, Ill fenced for Heaven to keep out such a foe As now is entered; yet no purposed foe To you, whom I could pity thus forlorn, Though I unpitied. League with you I seek, And mutual amity, so strait, so close, That I with you must dwell, or you with me, Henceforth. My dwelling, haply, may not please, Like this fair Paradise, your sense; yet such Accept your Marker’s work; he gave it me, Which I as freely give. Hell shall unfold, To entertain you two, her widest gates, And send forth all her kings; there will be room, Not like these narrow limits, to receive Your numerous offspring; if no better place, Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge On you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged. And, should I at your harmless innocence Melt, as I do, yet public reason just— Honour and empire with revenge enlarged By conquering this new World—compels me now To do what else, though damned, I should abhor." So spake the Fiend, and with necessity, The tyrant’s plea, excused his devilish deeds. Then from his lofty stand on that high tree Down he alights among the sportful herd Of those four-footed kinds, himself now one, Now other, as their shape served best his end Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied, To mark what of their state he more might learn By word or action marked. About them round A lion now he stalks with fiery glare; Then as a tiger, who by chance hath spied In some pourlieu two gentle fawns at play, Straight crouches close; then rising, changes oft His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground, Whence rushing he might surest seize them both Griped in each paw: when Adam, first of men. To first of women, Eve, thus moving speech, Turned him all ear to hear new utterance flow:— "Sole partner and sole part of all these joys, Dearer thyself than all, needs must the Power That made us, and for us this ample World, Be infinitely good, and of his good As liberal and free as infinite; That raised us from the dust, and placed us here In all this happiness, who at this hand Have nothing merited, nor can perform Aught whereof he hath need; he who requires From us no other service than to keep This one, this easy charge—of all the trees In Paradise that bear delicious fruit So various, not to taste that only Tree Of Knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life; So near grows Death to Life, whate’er Death is— Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou know’st God hath pronounced it Death to taste that Tree: The only sign of our obedience left Among so many signs of power and rule Conferred upon us, and dominion given Over all other creatures that possess Earth, Air, and Sea. Then let us not think hard One easy prohibition, who enjoy Free leave so large to all things else, and choice Unlimited of manifold delights; But let us ever praise him, and extol His bounty, following our delightful task, To prune these growing plants, and tend these flowers; Which, were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet." To whom thus Eve replied:—"O thou for whom And from whom I was formed flesh of thy flesh, And without whom am to no end, my guide And head! what thou hast said is just and right. For we to him, indeed, all praises owe, And daily thanks—I chiefly, who enjoy So far the happier lot, enjoying thee Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou Like consort to thyself canst nowhere find. That day I oft remember, when from sleep I first awaked, and found myself reposed, Under a shade, on flowers, much wondering where And what I was, whence thither brought, and how. Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound Of waters issued from a cave, and spread Into a liquid plain; then stood unmoved, Pure as the expanse of Heaven. I thither went With unexperienced thought, and laid me down On the green bank, to look into the clear Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, just opposite A Shape within the watery gleam appeared, Bending to look on me. I started back, It started back; but pleased I soon returned Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks Of sympathy and love. There I had fixed Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire, Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest, What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself; With thee it came and goes: but follow me, And I will bring thee where no shadow stays Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces—he Whose image thou art; him thou shalt enjoy Inseparably thine; to him shalt bear Multitudes like thyself, and thence be called Mother of human race.’ What could I do, But follow straight, invisibly thus led? Till I espied thee, fair, indeed, and tall, Under a platan; yet methought less fair, Less winning soft, less amiably mild, That that smooth watery image. Back I turned; Thou, following, cried’st aloud, ‘Return, fair Eve; Whom fliest thou? Whom thou fliest, of him thou art, His flesh, his bone, to give thee being I lent Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart, Substantial life, to have thee by my side Henceforth an individual solace dear: Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim My other half.’ With that thy gentle hand Seized mine: I yielded, and from that time see How beauty is excelled by manly grace And wisdom, which alone is truly fair." So spake our general mother, and, with eyes Of conjugal attraction unreproved, And meek surrender, half-embracing leaned On our first father; half her swelling breast Naked met his, under the flowing gold Of her loose tresses hid. He, in delight Both of her beauty and submissive charms, Smiled with superior love, as Jupiter On Juno smiles when he impregns the clouds That shed May flowers, and pressed her matron lip With kisses pure. Aside the Devil turned For envy; yet with jealous leer malign Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained:— "Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two, Imparadised in one another’s arms, The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill Of bliss on bliss; while I to Hell am thrust, Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire, Among our other torments not the least, Still unfulfilled, with pain of longing pines! Yet let me not forget what I have gained From their own mouths. All is not theirs, it seems; One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge called, Forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidden? Suspicious, reasonless! Why should their Lord Envy them that? Can it be sin to know? Can it be death? And do they only stand By ignorance? Is that their happy state, The proof of their obedience and their faith? O fair foundation laid whereon to build Their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds With more desire to know, and to reject Envious commands, invented with design To keep them low, whom knowledge might exalt Equal with gods. Aspiring to be such, They taste and die: what likelier can ensue? But first with narrow search I must walk round This garden, and no corner leave unspied; A chance but chance may lead where I may meet Some wandering Spirit of Heaven, by fountain-side, Or in thick shade retired, from him to draw What further would be learned. Live while ye may, Yet happy pair; enjoy, till I return, Short pleasures; for long woes are to succeed!" So saying, his proud step he scornful turned, But with sly circumspection, and began Through wood, through waste, o’er hill, o’er dale, his roam. Meanwhile in utmost longitude, where Heaven With Earth and Ocean meets, the setting Sun Slowly descended, and with right aspect Against the eastern gate of Paradise Levelled his evening rays. It was a rock Of alabaster, piled up to the clouds, Conspicuous far, winding with one ascent Accessible from Earth, one entrance high; The rest was craggy cliff, that overhung Still as it rose, impossible to climb. Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat, Chief of the angelic guards, awaiting night; About him exercised heroic games The unarmed youth of Heaven; but nigh at hand Celestial armoury, shields, helms, and spears, Hung high, with diamond flaming and with gold. Thither came Uriel, gliding through the even On a sunbeam, swift as a shooting star In autumn thwarts the night, when vapours fired Impress the air, and shews the mariner From what point of his compass to beware Impetuous winds, He thus began in haste:— "Gabriel, to thee thy course by lot hath given Charge and strict watch that to this happy place No evil thing approach or enter in. This day at highth of noon came to my sphere A Spirit, zealous, as he seemed, to know More of the Almighty’s works, and chiefly Man, God’s latest image. I described his way Bent all on speed, and marked his aerie gait, But in the mount that lies from Eden north, Where he first lighted, soon discerned his looks Alien from Heaven, with passions foul obscured. Mine eye pursued him still, but under shade Lost sight of him. One of the banished crew, I fear, hath ventured from the Deep, to raise New troubles; him thy care must be to find." To whom the wingèd Warrior thus returned:— "Uriel, no wonder if thy perfect sight, Amid the Sun’s bright circle where thou sitt’st, See far and wide. In at this gate none pass The vigilance here placed, but such as come Well known from Heaven; since meridian hour No creature thence. If Spirit of other sort, So minded, have o’erleaped these earthly bounds On purpose, hard thou know’st it to exclude Spiritual substance with corporeal bar. But, if within the circuit of these walks, In whatsoever shape, he lurk of whom Thou tell’st, by morrow dawning I shall know." So promised he; and Uriel to his charge Returned on that bright beam, whose point now raised Bore him slope downward to the Sun, now fallen Beneath the Azores; whether the Prime Orb, Incredible how swift, had thither rowled Diurnal, or this less volúbil Earth By shorter flight to the east, had left him there Arraying with reflected purple and gold The clouds that on his western throne attend. Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray Had in her sober livery all things clad; Silence accompanied; for beast and bird, They to their grassy couch, these to their nests Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale. She all night longer her amorous descant sung: Silence was pleased. Now glowed the firmament With living Saphirs; Hesperus, that led The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon, Rising in clouded majesty, at length Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light, And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw; When Adam thus to Eve:—"Fair consort, the hour Of night, and all things now retired to rest Mind us of like repose; since God hath set Labour and rest, as day and night, to men Successive, and the timely dew of sleep, Now falling with soft slumberous weight, inclines Our eye-lids. Other creatures all day long Rove idle, unimployed, and less need rest; Man hath his daily work of body or mind Appointed, which declares his dignity, And the regard of Heaven on all his ways; While other animals unactive range, And of their doings God takes no account. To—morrow, ere fresh morning streak the east With first approach of light, we must be risen, And at our pleasant labour, to reform Yon flowery arbours, yonder alleys green, Our walk at noon, with branches overgrown, That mock our scant manuring, and require More hands than ours to lop their wanton growth. Those blossoms also, and those dropping gums, That lie bestrown, unsightly and unsmooth, Ask riddance, if we mean to tread with ease. Meanwhile, as Nature wills, Night bids us rest." To whom thus Eve, with perfect beauty adorned:— "My author and disposer, what thou bidd’st Unargued I obey. So God ordains: God is thy law, thou mine: to know no more Is woman’s happiest knowledge, and her praise. With thee conversing, I forget all time, All seasons, and their change; all please alike. Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet, With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the Sun, When first on this delightful land he spreads His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower, Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertil Earth After soft showers; and sweet the coming on Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night, With this her solemn bird, and this fair Moon, And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train: But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends With charm of earliest birds; nor rising Sun On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower, Glistering with dew; nor fragrance after showers; Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night, With her solemn bird; nor walk by moon, Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet. But wherefore all night long shine these? for whom This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?" To whom our general ancestor replied:— "Daughter of God and Man, accomplished Eve, Those have their course to finish round the Earth By morrow evening, and from land to land In order, though to nations yet unborn, Ministering light prepared, they set and rise; Lest total Darkness should by night regain Her old possession, and extinguish life In nature and all things; which these soft fires Not only enlighten, but with kindly heat Of various influence foment and warm, Temper or nourish, or in part shed down Their stellar virtue on all kinds that grow On Earth, made hereby apter to receive Perfection from the Sun’s more potent ray. These then, though unbeheld in deep of night, Shine not in vain. Nor think, though men were none, That Heaven would want spectators, God want praise. Millions of spiritual creatures walk the Earth Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep: All these with ceaseless praise his works behold Both day and night. How often, from the steep Of echoing hill or thicket, have we heard Celestial voices to the midnight air, Sole, or responsive each to other’s note, Singing their great Creator! Oft in bands While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk, With heavenly touch of instrumental sounds In full harmonic number joined, their songs Divide the night, and lift our thoughts to Heaven." Thus talking, hand in hand along they passed On to their blissful bower. It was a place Chosen by the sovran Planter, when he framed All things to Man’s delightful use. The roof Of thickest covert was inwoven shade, Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side Acanthus, and each odorous bushy shrub, Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower, Iris all hues, roses, and gessamin, Reared high their flourished heads between, and wrought Mosaic; under foot the violet, Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay Broidered the ground, more coloured than with stone Of costliest emblem. Other creature here, Beast, bird, insect, or worm, durst enter none; Such was their awe of Man. In shadier bower More sacred and sequestered, though but feigned, Pan or Sylvanus never slept, nor Nymph For Faunus haunted. Here, in close recess, With flowers, garlands, and sweet—smelling hearbs Espousèd Eve decked first her nuptial bed, And heavenly choirs the hymenæan sung, What day the genial Angel to our Sire Brought her, in naked beauty more adorned, More lovely, than Pandora, whom the gods Endowed with all their gifts; and, O! too like In sad event, when, to the unwiser son Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she ensnared Mankind with her fair looks, to be avenged On him who had stole Jove’s authentic fire. Thus at their shady lodge arrived, both stood, Both turned, and under open sky adored The God that made both Sky, Air, Earth, and Heaven, Which they beheld, the Moon’s resplendent globe, And starry Pole:—"Thou also madest the Night, Maker Omnipotent; and thou the Day, Which we, in our appointed work imployed, Have finished, happy in our mutual help And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss Ordained by thee; and this delicious place, For us too large, where thy abundance wants Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground. But thou hast promised from us two a race To fill the Earth, who shall with us extol Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake, And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep." This said unanimous, and other rites Observing none, but adoration pure, Which God likes best, into their inmost bower Handed they went, and, eased the putting-off These troublesome disguises which we wear, Straight side by side were laid; nor turned, I ween, Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites Mysterious of connubial love refused: Whatever hypocrites austerely talk Of purity, and place, and innocence, Defaming as impure what God declares Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all. Our Maker bids increase; who bids abstain But our destroyer, foe to God and Man? Hail, wedded Love, mysterious law, true source Of human offspring, sole propriety In Paradise of all things common else! By thee adulterous lust was driven from men Among the bestial herds to raunge; by thee, Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure, Relations dear, and all the charities Of father, son, and brother, first were known. Far be it that I should write thee sin or blame, Or think thee unbefitting holiest place, Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets, Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced, Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used. Here Love his golden shafts imploys, here lights His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings, Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile Of harlots—loveless, joyless, unindeared, Casual fruition; nor in court amours, Mixed dance, or wanton mask, or midnight bal, Or serenate, which the starved lover sings To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain. These, lulled by nightingales, imbracing slept, And on their naked limbs the flowery roof Showered roses, which the morn repaired. Sleep on, Blest pair! and, O! yet happiest, if ye seek No happier state, and know to know no more! Now had Night measured with her shadowy cone Half-way up-hill this vast sublunar vault, And from their ivory port the Cherubim Forth issuing, at the accustomed hour, stood armed To their night-watches in warlike parade; When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake:— "Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the south With strictest watch; these other wheel the north: Our circuit meets full west." As flame they part, Half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear. From these, two strong and subtle Spirits he called That near him stood, and gave them thus in charge:— "Ithuriel and Zephon, with winged speed Search through this Garden; leave unsearched no nook; But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge, Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm. This evening from the Sun’s decline arrived Who tells of some infernal Spirit seen Hitherward bent (who could have thought?), escaped The bars of Hell, on errand bad, no doubt: Such, where ye find, seize fast, and hither bring." So saying, on he led his radiant files, Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct In search of whom they sought. Him there they found Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve, Assaying by his devilish art to reach The organs of her fancy, and with them forge Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams; Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint The animal spirits, that from pure blood arise Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise, At least distempered, discontented thoughts, Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires, Blown up with high conceits ingendering pride. Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure Touch of celestial temper, but returns Of force to its own likeness. Up he starts, Discovered and surprised. As, when a spark Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid Fit for the tun, some magazine to store Against a rumoured war, the smutty grain, With sudden blaze diffused, inflames the air; So started up, in his own shape, the Fiend. Back stept those two fair Angels, half amazed So sudden to behold the griesly King; Yet thus, unmoved with fear, accost him soon:— "Which of those rebel Spirits adjudged to Hell Com’st thou, escaped thy prison? and, transformed, Why satt’st thou like an enemy in wait, Here watching at the head of these that sleep?" "Know ye not, then," said Satan, filled with scorn, "Know ye not me? Ye knew me once no mate For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar! Not to know me argues yourselves unknown, The lowest of your throng; or, if ye know, Why ask ye, and superfluous begin Your message, like to end as much in vain?" To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn:— "Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same, Or undiminished brightness, to be known As when thou stood’st in Heaven upright and pure. That glory then, when thou no more wast good, Departed from thee; and thou resemblest now Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul. But come; for thou, be sure, shalt give account To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep This place inviolable, and these from harm." So spake the Cherub; and his grave rebuke, Severe in youthful beauty, added grace Invincible. Abashed the Devil stood, And felt how awful goodness is, and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely—saw, and pined His loss; but chiefly to find here observed His lustre visibly impaired; yet seemed Undaunted. "If I must contend," said he, "Best with the best—the sender, not the sent; Or all at once: more glory will be won, Or less be lost." "Thy fear," said Zephon bold, "Will save us trial what the least can do Single against thee wicked, and thence weak." The Fiend replied not, overcome with rage; But, like a proud steed reined, went haughty on, Chaumping his iron curb. To strive or fly He held it vain; awe from above had quelled His heart, not else dismayed. Now drew they nigh The western point, where those half—rounding guards Just met, and, closing, stood in squadron joined, Awaiting next command. To whom their chief, Gabriel, from the front thus called aloud:— "O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade; And with them comes a third, of regal port, But faded splendour wan, who by his gait And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell— Not likely to part hence without contest’. Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours." He scarce had ended, when those two approached, And brief related whom they brought, where found, How busied, in what form and posture couched. To whom, with stern regard, thus Gabriel spake:— "Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed To thy transgressions, and disturbed the charge Of others, who approve not to transgress By thy example, but have power and right To question thy bold entrance on this place; Imployed, it seems to violate sleep, and those Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss?" To whom thus Satan, with contemptuous brow:— "Gabriel, thou hadst in Heaven the esteem of wise; And such I held thee; but this question asked Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain? Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell, Though thither doomed? Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt, And boldly venture to whatever place Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change Torment with ease, and soonest recompense Dole with delight; which in this place I sought: To thee no reason, who know’st only good, But evil hast not tried. And wilt object His will who bound us? Let him surer bar His iron gates, if he intends our stay In that dark durance. Thus much what was asked: The rest is true; they found me where they say; But that implies not violence or harm." Thus he in scorn. The warlike Angel moved, Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied:— "O loss of one in Heaven to judge of wise, Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew, And now returns him from his prison scaped, Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise Or not who ask what boldness brought him hither Unlicensed from his bounds in Hell prescribed! So wise he judges it to fly from pain However, and to scape his punishment! So judge thou still, presumptuous, till the wrauth, Which thou incurr’st by flying, meet thy flight Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to Hell, Which taught thee yet no better that no pain Can equal anger infinite provoked. But wherefore thou alone? Wherefore with thee Came not all Hell broke loose? Is pain to them Less pain, less to be fled? or thou than they Less hardy to endure? Courageous chief, The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleged To thy deserted host this cause of flight, Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive." To which the Fiend thus answered, frowning stern:— "Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain, Insulting Angel! well thou know’st I stood Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid The blasting volleyed thunder made all speed And seconded thy else not dreaded spear. But still thy words at random, as before, Argue thy inexperience what behoves, From hard assays and ill successes past, A faithful leader—not to hazard all Through ways of danger by himself untried. I, therefore, I alone, first undertook To wing the desolate Abyss, and spy This new-created World, whereof in Hell Fame is not silent, here in hope to find Better abode, and my afflicted Powers To settle here on Earth, or in mid Air; Though for possession put to try once more What thou and thy gay legions dare against; Whose easier business where to serve their Lord High up in Heaven, with songs to hymn his throne, And practiced distances to cringe, not fight." To whom the Warrior-Angel soon replied:— "To say and straight unsay, pretending first Wise to fly pain, professing next to spy, Argues no leader, but a liar traced, Satan; and couldst thou ‘faithful’ add? O name, O sacred name of faithfulness profaned! Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew? Army of fiends, fit body to fit head! Was this your discipline and faith ingaged, Your military obedience, to dissolve Allegiance to the acknowledged Power Supreme? And thou, sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem Patron of liberty, who more than thou Once fawned, and cringed, and servilely adored Heaven’s awful Monarch? wherefore, but in hope To dispossess him, and thyself to reign? But mark what I areed thee now: Avaunt! Fly thither whence thou fledd’st. If from this hour Within these hallowed limits thou appear, Back to the Infernal Pit I drag thee chained, And seal thee so as henceforth not to scorn The facile gates of Hell too slightly barred." So threatened he; but Satan to no threats Gave heed, but waxing more in rage, replied:— "Then, when I am thy captive, talk of chains, Proud limitary Cherub! but ere then Far heavier load thyself expect to feel From my prevailing arm, though Heaven’s King Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy Compeers, Used to the yoke, draw’st his triumphant wheels In progress through the road of Heaven star—paved." While thus he spake, the angelic squadron bright Turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns Their phalanx and began to hem him round With ported spears, as thick as when a field Of Ceres ripe for harvest waving bends Her bearded grove of ears which way the wind Sways them; the careful ploughman doubting stands Lest on the threshing-floor his hopeful sheaves Prove chaff. On the other side, Satan, alarmed, Collecting all his might, dilated stood, Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremoved: His stature reached the sky, and on his crest Sat Horror plumed; nor wanted in his grasp What seemed both spear and shield. Now dreadful deeds Might have ensued; nor only Paradise, In this commotion, but the starry cope Of Heaven perhaps, or all the Elements At least, had gone to wrack, disturbed and torn With violence of this conflict, had not soon The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray, Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales, yet seen Betwixt Astræa and the Scorpion sign, Wherein all things created first he weighed, The pendulous round Earth with balanced air In counterpoise, now ponders all events, Battles and realms. In these he put two weights, The sequel each of parting and of fight: The latter quick up flew, and kicked the beam; Which Gabriel spying thus bespake the Fiend: "Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know’st mine, Neither our own, but given; what folly then To boast what arms can do! since thine no more Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now To trample thee as mire. For proof look up, And read thy lot in yon celestial sign, Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak If thou resist." The Fiend looked up, and knew His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled Murmuring; and with him fled the shades of Night.
This poem is in the public domain.
John Milton was born in London on December 9, 1608, into a middle-class family.
Date Published: 1667-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/paradise-lost-book-iv-argument