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A foe so proud will first the weaker seek?
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse."
Thus saying, from her husband's hand her hand
Soft she withdrew, and like a wood-nymph light,
Oread, or Dryad, or of Delia's train,
Betook her to the groves; but Delia's self
In gait surpass'd, and goddess-like deport;
Though not as she, with bow and quiver arm'd,
But with such gard'ning tools as Art yet rude,
Guiltless of fire, had form'd, or angels brought.
To Pales, or Pomona, thus adorn'd,
Likest she seem'd Pomona when she fled
Vertumnus, or to Ceres in her prime,
Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.
Her long with ardent look his eye pursu'd
Delighted, but desiring more her stay.
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated, she to him as oft engag'd
To be return'd by noon amid the bower,
And all things in best order to invite
Noontide repast, or afternoon's repose.
O much deceiv'd, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presum'd return! event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Found'st either sweet repast, or sound repose;
Such ambush hid among sweet flowers and shades
Waited with hellish rancour imminent
To intercept thy way, or send thee back
Despoil'd of innocence, of faith, of bliss!
For now, and since first break of dawn the fiend,
Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come,
And on his quest where likeliest he might find
The only two of mankind, but in them
The whole included race, his purpos'd prey.
In bower and field he sought, where any tuft
Of grove or garden-plot more pleasant lay,
Their tendance, or plantation for delight;
By fountain or by shady rivulet
He sought them both, but wish'd his hap might find
Eve separate; he wish'd, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanc'd, when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veil'd in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses blushing round
About her glow'd; oft stooping to support
Each flower of tender stalk, whose head tho' gay
Carnation, purple', azure, or speck'd with gold
Hung drooping, unsustain'd; them she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,
From her best prop so far, and storms so nigh.
Nearer he drew and many a walk travers'd
Of stateliest covert, cedar, pine, or palm;
Then voluble and bold, now hid, now seen,
Among thick-woven arborets and flowers
Imborder'd on each bank, the hand of Eve:
-Spot more delicious than those gardens feign'd
Or of reviv'd Adonis, or renown'd
Alcinous, host of old Laertes' son;
Or that, not mystic, where the sapient king
Held dalliance with his fair Egyptian spouse.
Much he the place admir'd, the person more.
As one who long in populous city pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing, on a summer's morn, to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoin'd, from each thing met conceives delight,
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or dairy', each rural sight, each rural sound;
If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seem'd, for her now pleases more,
She most, and in her look sums all delight.
Such pleasure took the serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone; her heavenly form
Angelic, but more soft and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture, or least action, overaw'd
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereav'd
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought:
That space the evil one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remain'd
Stupidly good, of enmity disarm'd,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge;
But the hot hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain'd: then soon
Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts
Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites :
"Thoughts, whither have ye led me? with what Compulsion thus transported to forget
[sweet What hither brought us? hate, not love, nor hope. Of Paradise for hell, hope here to taste Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy Save what is in destroying; other joy To me is lost. Then let me not let pass Occasion which now smiles. Behold alone The woman, opportune to all attempts; Her husband, (for I view far round,) not nigh, Whose higher intellectual more I shun, And strength, of courage haughty, and of limb Heroic built, though of terrestrial mould; Foe not informidable, exempt from wound, I not; so much hath hell debas'd, and pain Enfeebled me, to what I was in heaven. She fair, divinely fair, fit love for gods! Not terrible, though terror be in love And beauty, not approach'd by stronger hate, Hate stronger, under show of love well feiga'd, The way which to her ruin now I tend."
So spake the enemy of mankind, enclos'd, In serpent, inmate bad, and toward Eve Address'd his way, not with indented wave, Prone on the ground, as since; but on his rear, Circular base of rising folds, that tower'd Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes; With burnish'd neck of verdant gold, erect Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape, And lovely; never since of serpent kind Lovelier; not those that in Illyria chang'd R
Hermoine and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus; nor to which transform'd
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline was seen;
He with Olympias, this with her who bore
Scipio, the height of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but fear'd
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a ship, by skilful steersman wrought,
Nigh river's mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shift her sail:
So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curl'd many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye.
She busied, heard the sound
Of rustling leaves, but minded not, as us'd
To such disport before her through the field, -
From every beast, more duteous at her call,
Than at Circean call the herd disguis'd.
He bolder now, uncall'd before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bow'd
His turret crest, and sleek enamell'd neck,
Fawning, and lick'd the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turn'd at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he glad
Of her attention gain'd, with serpent tongue
Organic, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began:
"Wonder not, sov'reign mistress, if perhaps Thou can'st, who art sole wonder; much less arm Thy looks, the heaven of mildness, with disdain, Displeas'd that I approach thee thus, and gaze Insatiate; I thus single, nor have fear'd Thy awful brow, more awful thus retir'd. Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair! Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine By gift, and thy celestial beauty' adore With ravishment beheld! there best beheld Where universally admir'd; but here In this enclosure wild, these beasts among, Beholders rude, and shallow to discern Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who should'st be
A goddess among gods, ador'd and serv'd
By angels numberless, thy daily train."
So gloz'd the tempter, and his proem tun'd:
Into the heart of Eve his words made way,
Though at the voice much marvelling: at length
Not unamaz'd she thus in answer spake :
"What may this mean? language of man pronounc'd
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 cam'st 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
[obey'd. What thou command'st, and right thou should'st be I was at first as other beasts that graze
The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food; nor ought but food discern'd
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high;
Till on a day, roving the field, I chanc'd
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 fenel, 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