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“Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me so keen.
Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my fill
At feed, or fountain, never had I found.
“Strange alteration in me, to degree
“ Wanted not long; though to this shape retain'd.
“ Consider'd all things visible in heaven,
“But all that fair, and good, in thy divine
Equivalent, or second! which compellid
“ And gaze, and worship thee, of right declar'd
So talk'd the spirited sly snake; and Eve,
“Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
the tree? from hence how far ? “For many are the trees of God that grow
“In Paradise, and various, yet unknown
“ As leaves a greater store of fruit untouch'd,
Empress! the way is ready, and not long ;
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
“Of blowing myrrh and balm : if thou accept
He, leading, swiftly rollid
Brightens his crest. As when a wandering fire, 635 Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Hov'ring and blazing with delusive light,
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the tree 645 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 rest with thee; 650 “ Wondrous indeed, if cause of such effects!
“But of this tree we may not taste, nor touch;
To whom the tempter guilefully replied:
« Of the fruit 660 “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
She scarce had said, though brief, when now, more bold, 665 The tempter, but with show of zeal and love
To man, and indignation at his wrong,
Rais'd, as of some great matter to begin. 670 As when of old some orator renown'd,
In Athens, or free Rome, where eloquence
Each motion-act, won audience ere the tongue675 Sometimes in height began, as no delay
Of preface brooking, through his zeal of right:
“O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving plant, 680 - 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 685 “ 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 690 “ Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot. . “ Shall that be shut to man, which to the beast
? or will God incense his ire
“Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain 695 “Of death denounc'd, (whatever thing death be,)
“ Deterr'd not from achieving what might lead
“ Is open
700 “God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
"Not just, not God—not fear'd then, nor obey'd :
Why then was this forbid ? Why, but to awe?
Why, but to keep ye low and ignorant,
“Ye eat thereof, your eyes, that seem so clear,
Open'd and clear’d, and ye shall be as gods,
shall be as gods, since I as man-
Human, to put on gods ; death to be wish’d, 715 “ Though threaten'd, which no worse than this can bring!
“ And what are gods, that man may not become
“On our belief that all from them proceeds : 720 “ 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 725 “ 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 730 “ In heavenly breasts? These, these, and many more
“Causes, import your need of this fair fruit.
He ended ; and his words, replete with guile,
Into her heart too easy entrance won :
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth.
Meanwhile the hour of noon drew on, and wak'd 740 An eager appetite, rais'd by the smell
So savoury of that fruit; which with desire
Pausing awhile, thus to herself she mus'd : 745 “Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits !
Though kept from man, and worthy to be admir'd; “ Whose taste, too long forborne, at first assay “ Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
“ The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise : 750 “ Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,
“Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree
“ Commends thee more, while it infers the good 755 “ By thee communicated, and our want;
“For good unknown sure is not had ; or, had
“Forbids us good-forbids us to be wise ? 760 “Such prohibitions bind not. But, if death
“ Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
“How dies the serpent? he hath eaten and lives, 765 “ And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
“ Irrational till then! For us alone
“For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first 770 “ Hath tasted, envies not, but brings with joy
“ The good befall'n him-author unsuspect-
“ Under this ignorance of good or evil--775 “ Of God, or death—of law, or penalty?