Page images
PDF

And torment less than none of what we dread;
Then, both ourselves and seed at once to free
From what we fear for both, let us make short,
I,et us seek Death, or he not found, supply
With our own hands his office on ourselves.
Why stand we longer shivering under fears,
That show no end but death, and have the power,
Of many ways to die the shortest1 choosing,
Destruction with destruction to destroy?"

She ended here, or vehement despair
Broke off the rest; so much of death her thoughts
Had entertained, as dyed her cheeks with pale
But Adam with such counsel nothing swayed,
To better hopes his more attentive mind
Labouring had raised, and thus to Eve replied:

"Eve, thy contempt of life and pleasure seemi. To argue in thee something more sublime And excellent than what thy mind contemns; But self-destruction therefore sought, refutes That excellence thought in thee, and implies, Not thy contempt, but anguish and regret For loss of life and pleasure overloved. Or if thou covet death, as utmost end Cf misery, so thinking to evade The penalty pronounced, doubt not but God Hath wiselier armed his vengeful ire than so To be forestalled; much more I fear lest death, So snatched, will not exempt us from the pain We are by doom to pay; rather such acts Of contumacy will provoke the Highest To make death in us live. Then let us seek Some safer resolution, which methinks I have in view, calling to mind with heed Part of our sentence, that thy seed shall bruise The serpent's head; piteous amends! unless Be meant, whom I conjecture, our grand foe Satan, who in the serpent hath contrived Against us this deceit: to crush his head Would be revenge indeed; which will be lost By death brought on ourselves, or childless days Resolved as thou proposest; so our foe Shall 'scape his punishment ordained, and we Instead shall double ours upon our heads.

1 i. e. the shortest way.

No more be mentioned then of violence
Against ourselves, and wilful barrenness,
That cuts us off from hope, and savours only
Rancour and pride, impatience and despite,
Reluctance against God and his j.ist yoke
Laid on our necks. Remember with what mild
And gracious temper he both heard and judged
Without wrath or reviling; we expected
Immediate dissolution, which we thought
Was meant by death that day, when lo! to thee
Pains only in child-bearing were foretold,
And hringing forth, soon recompensad with joy,
Fruit of thy womb: on me the curse aslope
Glanced on the ground: with labour I must earn
My Dread; what harm? Idleness had been worse;
My labour will sustain me; and lest cold
Or heat should injure us, his timely care
H'ith unbesought provided, and his hands
Clothed us unworthy, pitying while he judged;
How much more, if we pray him, will his ear
Be open, and his heart to pity incline,
And teach us further by what means to shun
The inclement seasons, rain, ice, hail, and snow?
Which now the sky with various face begins
To show us in this mountain, while the winds
Blow moist and keen, shattering1 the graceful locks
Of these fair-spreading trees; which bids us seek
Some better shroud, some better warmth to cherish
Our limbs benumbed, ere this diurnal stara
Leave cold the night, how we his gathered beams
Reflected, may with matter sere3 foment;
Or, by collision of two bodies, grind
The air attrite to fire, as late the clouds
Justling, or pushed with winds, rude in their shock,

1 This "shattering" is an excellent word, and very expressive of the sense, shaking or breaking to pieces; and etymologists derive it of the Belgic Schelteren; our author had used it before in his Lycidas,

"Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year." And "locks of trees" is a Latinism: "Spissa? nemorum comoe." Hor. Od. iv. iii. 11; t: arboribusque comae," iv. vii. 2.—Netvlun. 8 The sun.

8 Dry So Spenser, Shepherd's Calendar, id. ii.— "His top was bald, and wasted with worms, His honour decayed, his branches sere."

Tine' the slant lightning, whose thwart flame driven down

Kindles the gummy bark of fir or pine,

And sends a comfortable heat from far,

Which might supply the sun: such fire to use,

And what may else be remedy or cure

To evils which our own misdeeds have wrought,

He will instruct us praying, and of grace

Beseeching him, so as we need not fear

To pass commodiously this life, sustained

By him with many comforts, till we end

In dust our final rest and native home.

What better can we do, than, to the place

Repairing where he judged us, prostrate fall

Before him reverent, and there confess

Humbly our faults, and pardon beg, with tears

Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air

Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign

Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek?

Undoubtedly he will relent and turn

From his displeasure; in whose look serene,

When angry most he seemed and most severe,

What else but favour, grace, and mercy shone?"

So spake our father penitent, nor Eve
Felt less remorse: they forthwith to the place
Repairing where he judged them, prostrate fell
Before him reverent, and both confessed
Humbly their faults, and pardon begged, with tears
Watering the ground, and with their sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.

4 !.«. light, kindle, from the Saxon tynan, whence also our word tinder.

END OF THE TENTH BOOK

BOOK XL

THE ARGUMENT.

The Son of God presents to his Father the prayers of onr first parents, now repenting, and intercedes for them: God accepts them, hut declares that they must no longer abide in Paradise; sends Michael with a hand of cherubim to dispossess them; but first to reveal to Adam future things: Michael's coming down. Adam shows to Eve certain ominous signs; he discerns Michael's approach; goes out to meet him: the angel denounces their departure. Eve's lamentation. Adam pleads, but submits: the angel leads him up to a high hill; sets before him in vision what shall happen till the flood.

Thus they, in lowliest plight, repentant stood

Praying; for, from the mercy-seat above,

Prevenient grace descending had removed

The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh

Regenerate grow instead, that sighs now breathed

Unutterable, which the Spirit of prayei

Inspired, and winged for Heaven with speedier flight

Than loudest oratory; yet their port

Not of mean suitors, nor important less

Seemed their petition, than when the ancient pair

In fables old, less ancient yet than these,

Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha, to restore

The race of mankind drowned, before the shrine

Of Themis stood devout. To Heaven their prayers

Flew up, nor missed the way, by envious winds

Blown vagabond or frustrate: in they passed

Dimensionless through heavenly doors; then clad

With incense, where the golden altar fumed,

By their great Intercessor, came in sight

Before the Father's throne: them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began:

"See, Father, what first-fruits on earth are sprung
From thy implanted grace in man; these sighs
And prayers, which in this golden censer, mixed
With incense, I thy priest before thee bring,
Fruits of more pleasing sa vour, from thy seed
Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
Which his own hand, manuring all the trees
Of Paradise, could have produced, ere fallen
From innocence. Now therefore bend thine ear
To supplication; hear his sighs, though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let me
Interpret for him, me his advocate
And propitiation:1 all his works on me,
Good or not good, ingraft; my merit those
Shall perfect, and for these my death shall pay
Accept me, and in me from these receive
The smell of peace toward mankind; let him live
Before thee reconciled, at least his days
Numbered, though sad, till death, his doom (which J
To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse),
To better life shall yield him, where with me
All my redeemed may dwell in joy and bliss,
Made one with me, as I with thee am one."

To whom the Father, without cloud, serene *
"All thy request for man, accepted Son,
Obtain: all thy request was my decree;
But longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The law I gave to nature him forbids.
Those pure immortal elements that know
No gross, no unharmonious mixture foul,
Eject him tainted now, and purge him off
As a distemper, gross to air as gross,
And mortal food, as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by sin, that first
Distempered all things, and of incorrupt
Corrupted. I at first with two fair gifts
Created him endowed, with happiness
And immortality: that fondly lost,
This other served but to eternize woe,
Till I provided death; so death becomes
His final remedy, and after life

13 John ii. 15.

« PreviousContinue »