Immagini della pagina

“Raphael," said he, “thou hear'st what stir on earth, Satan, from hell 'scap'd through the darksome gulf, Hath rais'd in Paradise, and how disturb'd This night the human pair ; how he designs In them at once to ruin all mankind. Go therefore, half this day as friend with friend Converse with Adam, in what bower or shade Thou find'st him, from the heat of noon retir'd, To respite his day labour with repast, Or with repose ; and such discourse bring on, As may advise him of bis happy state, Happiness in his power left free to will, Left to his own free will; his will, though free, Yet mutable; whence warn him to beware, He swerve not, too secure. Tell him, withal, His danger, and from whom ; what enemy, Late fallen himself from heaven, is plotting now The fall of others from like state of bliss ; By violence ? no, for that shall be withstood : But by deceit and lies. This let him know, Lest wilfully transgressing he pretend Surprisal, unadmonish’d, unforewarn’d."

So spake th' eternal Father, and fulfill'd All justice : por delay'd the winged saint After his charge receir'd; but from among Thousand celestial ardours, where he stood Veild with his gorgeous wings, up-springing light, Flew thro' the midst of heaveu"; the angelic choirs On each hand parting, to his speed gave way Through all the empyreal road; till at the gate Of heaven arrivd, the gate self-open'd wide, On golden hinges turning, as by work Divine the sov'reign Architect had fram’d. From hence no cloud, or, to obstruct his sight, Star interpos’d, however small he sees, Not unconform to other shining globes, Earth, and the garden of God, with cedars crownd Above all bills. As when by night the glass Of Galileo, less assur'd, observes Imagin'd lands and regions in the moon; O: pilot, from amidst the Cycladesy

Delos or Samos first appearing, kens
A cloudy spot. Down thither prone in flight
He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
Sails between worlds and worlds; with steady wing,
Now on the polar winds, then with quick fan
Winnows the bušom air; till, within soar
Of tow'ring eagles, t' all the fowls he seems
A phenix, gaz'd by all, as that sole bird,
When to inshrine bis reliques in the sun's
Bright temple, to Egyptian Thebes he fies,
At once on th' eastern cliff of Paradise
He lights, and to his proper shape returns,
A seraph wing'd. Six wings he wore to sbade
His lineaments divine; the pair that clad
Each shoulder broad, came mantling o'er his breast
With regal ornament; the middle pair
Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
And colours dipp'd in heaven; the third his feet
Shadow'd from either heel with feather'd mail,
Sky-tinctur'd grain. Like Maia's son he stood,
And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance fill'd
The circuit wide. Straight knew him all the bands
Uf angels under watch ; and to his state,
And to his message high, in honour rise ;
For on some message high they guess'd him bound.
Their glittering tents he pass'd, and now is come
Into the blissful field, through groves of myrrh,
And flowering odours, cassia, nard, and balm;
A wilderness of sweets! for Nature here
Wanton'd as in ber prime, and play'd at will
Here virgin fancies, pouring forth more sweet,
Wild above rule or art; enormous bliss.
Him, through the spicy forest onward come,
Adam discern'd, as in the door he sat
Of bis cool bower, while now the mounted sun
Shot down direct his fervid rays to warm [needs :
Earth's inmost womb, more warmth than Adam
And Eve within, due at her hour, prepar'd
For dinner savoury fruits, of taste to please
True appetite and not disrelish thirst

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Of nect'rous draughts between, from milky stream, Berry or grape; to whom thus Adam calld :

Haste bither, Eve, and, worth thy sight behold, Eastward among those trees, what glorious shape, Comes this way moving: seems another morn Risen on mid-noon: some great behest from heaven To us perhaps he brings, and will vouchsafe This day to be our guest. But go with speed, And what thy stores contain bring forth, and pour Abundance, fit to honour and receive Our heavenly stranger: well we may afford Our givers their own gifts, and large bestow From 'large bestow'd, where nature multiplies Her fertile growth, and by disburd’ning grows More fruitful, which instructs us not to spare. To whom thus Eve: “ Adam, earth's hallow'd

mould, Of God inspir'd! small store will serve, where store, All seasons, ripe for use hangs on the stalk; Save what by frugal storing firmness gains To nourish, and superfluous moist consumes : But I will haste, and from each bough and brake, Each plant and juiciest gourd, will pluck such choice To entertain our angel guest, as he Beholding shall confess, that here on earth God hath dispens'd his bounties as in heaven."

So saying with despatchful looks in haste She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent What choice to choose for delicacy best; What order, so contrir'd as not to mix Tastes, not well join'd, inelegant, but bring Taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change: Bestirs her then, and from each tender stalk Whatever earth, all-bearing mother, yields In India East or West, or middle shore In Pontus, or the Punic coast, or where Alcinous reign’d, fruit of all kinds, in coat Rough or smooth rind, or bearded husk, or shell, She gathers, tribute large, and on the board Heaps with unsparing hand; for drink the grape She crushes, inoffensive must, and meathes

From many a berry'; and from sweet kernels pressid She tempers dulcet creams; nor these to hold Wants her fit vessels pure; then strews the ground With rose and odours from the shrub unfum'd.

Meanwhile our primitive great sire, to meet His godlike guest, walks forth, without more train Accompanied than with his own complete Perfections: in himself was all his state, More solemn than the tedious pomp that waits On princes, when their rich retinue long Of horses led, and grooms besmear'd with gold, Dazzles the crowd, and sets them all agape. Nearer his presence Adam, though not aw'd, Yet with submiss approach, and reverence meek, As to' a superior nature, bowing low Thus said: “Native of heaven! for other place None can than heaven such glorious shape contain: Since, by descending from the thrones above, Those happy places thou hast deign'd awhile To want, and honour these, vouchsafe with us Two' only, who yet by sov’reign gift possess This spacious ground, in yonder shady bower To rest, and what the garden choicest bears To sit and taste, till this meridian heat Be over, and the sun more cool decline.''

Whom thus the angelic virtue answer'd mild : 46 Adam! I therefore came; nor art thou such Created, or such place hast here to dwell, As may not oft invite, though spirits of heaven, To visit thee. Lead on then where thy bower O'ershades; for these mid-bours, till evening rise, I have at will." So to the sylvan lodge They came, that like Pomona's arbour smild With Aowerets deck'd and fragrant smells; but Eve, Undeck'd save with herself, more lovely fair Than wood-nymph, or the fairest goddess feign'd Of three that in mount Ida naked strove, Stood to entertain her guest from heaven : no veil She needed, virtue proof; no thought infirm Alter'd her cheek. On whom the angel “ Hail!" Bestow'd, the holy salutatiou us'd

[ocr errors]


Long after to bless'd Mary, second Eve.

Hail, mother of mankind! whose fruitful womb Shall fill the world more numerous with thy sons, 'I'han with these various fruits the trees of God Have heap'd this table.” Rais'd of grassy turf Their table was, and mossy seats had round; And on her ample square from side to side All autumn pild; though spring and autumn here Danc'd hand in band. Awhile discourse they hold, No fear lest dinner cool; when thus began Our author : “ Heavenly stranger! please to taste These bounties, wbich our Nourisher, from whom All perfect good, unmeasur'd out, descends To us for food and for delight, hath causd Th' earth to yield; unsavoury food perhaps To spiritual natures: only this I know, That one celestial Father gives to all."

To whom the angel : “ Therefore what he gives (Whose praise be ever sung!) to man in part Spiritual, may of purest spirits be found No’ungrateful food: and food alike those pure Intelligential substances require, As doth your rational; and both contain Within them every lower faculty Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste, Tasting, concoct, digest, assimilate, And corporeal to incorporeal turn. For know, whatever was created, needs To be sustain’d and fed ; of elements, The grosser feeds the purer, earth the sea, Earth and the sea feed air, the air those fires Ethereal, and, as lowest, first the moon; Whence in her visage round, those spots unpurg'd Vapours not yet into her substance turn'd. Nor doth the moon no nourishment exhale From her moist continent to higher orbs. The sun, that light imparts to all, receives From all his alimental recompence In humid exhalations; and at even Sirps with the ocean. Though in heaven the trees Of life ambrosial fruitage bear, and vines

« IndietroContinua »