Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Extracts from Paradise Lost: Book X
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
(See full text.)
*        *        *        *        *
THUS Adam to himself lamented loud,
Through the still night; not now, as ere man fell,
Wholesome, and cool, and mild, but with black air
Accompanied; with damps and dreadful gloom,
Which to his evil conscience represented        5
All things with double terror; on the ground
Outstretch’d he lay, on the cold ground, and oft
Cursed his creation; death as oft accused
Of tardy execution, since denounced
The day of his offence. ‘Why comes not death,’        10
Said he, ‘with one thrice-acceptable stroke
To end me? Shall truth fail to keep her word,
Justice divine not hasten to be just?
But death comes not at call; justice divine
Mends not her slowest pace for prayers or cries.        15
O woods, O fountains, hillocks, dales, and bowers!
With other echo late I taught your shades
To answer, and resound far other song.’
Whom thus afflicted when sad Eve beheld,
Desolate where she sat, approaching nigh,        20
Soft words to his fierce passion she assay’d;
But her with stern regard he thus repell’d:
  ‘Out of my sight, thou serpent! That name best
Befits thee with him leagued, thyself as false
And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape,        25
Like his, and colour serpentine, may shew
Thy inward fraud; to warn all creatures from thee
Henceforth; lest that too heavenly form, pretended
To hellish falsehood, snare them! But for thee
I had persisted happy: had not thy pride        30
And wandering vanity, when least was safe,
Rejected my forewarning, and disdain’d
Not to be trusted; longing to be seen,
Though by the devil himself; him overweening
To over-reach; but, with the serpent meeting,        35
Fool’d and beguiled; by him thou, I by thee,
To trust thee from my side; imagined wise,
Constant, mature, proof against all assaults;
And understood not all was but a show,
Rather than solid virtue; all but a rib        40
Crooked by nature, bent, as now appears,
More to the part sinister, from me drawn;
Well if thrown out, as supernumerary
To my just number found. O! why did God,
Creator wise, that peopled highest heaven        45
With spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With men, as angels, without feminine;
Or find some other way to generate        50
Mankind? This mischief had not then befallen,
And more that shall befall; innumerable
Disturbances on earth through female snares,
And strait conjunction with this sex: for either
He never shall find out fit mate, but such        55
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake;
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain,
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gain’d
By a far worse; or, if she love, withheld
By parents; or his happiest choice too late        60
Shall meet, already link’d and wedlock bound
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame:
Which infinite calamity shall cause
To human life, and household peace confound.’
  He added not, and from her turn’d: but Eve,        65
Not so repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowing,
And tresses all disorder’d, at his feet
Fell humble; and, embracing them, besought
His peace, and thus proceeded in her plaint:
  ‘Forsake me not thus, Adam! witness Heaven        70
What love sincere, and reverence in my heart
I bear thee, and unweeting have offended,
Unhappily deceived! Thy suppliant
I beg, and clasp thy knees; bereave me not,
Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid,        75
Thy counsel, in this uttermost distress,
My only strength and stay; forlorn of thee,
Whither shall I betake me, where subsist?
While yet we live, scarce one short hour perhaps,
Between us two let there be peace; both joining        80
As join’d in injuries, one enmity
Against a foe by doom express assign’d us,
That cruel serpent: on me exercise not
Thy hatred for this misery befallen;
On me already lost, me than thyself        85
More miserable! both have sinn’d; but thou
Against God only, I against God and thee;
And to the place of judgment will return.
There with my cares importune Heaven; that all
The sentence, from thy head removed, may light        90
On me, sole cause to thee of all this woe;
Me, me only, just object of his ire!’
  She ended weeping; and her lowly plight,
Immoveable, till peace obtain’d from fault
Acknowledged and deplored, in Adam wrought        95
Commiseration; soon his heart relented
Towards her, his life so late, and sole delight,
Now at his feet submissive in distress;
Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid:        100
As one disarm’d, his anger all he lost,
And thus with peaceful words upraised her soon:
  ‘Unwary, and too desirous, as before,
So now of what thou know’st not, who desirest
The punishment all on thyself; alas!        105
Bear thine own first, ill able to sustain
His full wrath, whose thou feel’st as yet least part,
And my displeasure bear’st so ill. If prayers
Could alter high decrees, I to that place
Would speed before thee, and be louder heard,        110
That on my head all might be visited;
Thy frailty and infirmer sex forgiven,
To me committed, and by me exposed.
But rise; let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blamed enough elsewhere; but strive        115
In offices of love, how we may lighten
Each other’s burden, in our share of woe;
Since this day’s death denounced, if aught I see,
Will prove no sudden, but a slow-paced evil;
A long day’s dying to augment our pain,        120
And to our seed (O hapless seed!) derived.’
  To whom thus Eve, recovering heart, replied:
‘Adam, by sad experiment I know
How little weight my words with thee can find,
Found so erroneous; thence by just event        125
Found so unfortunate: nevertheless,
Restored by thee, vile as I am, to place
Of new acceptance, hopeful to regain
Thy love, the sole contentment of my heart
Living or dying, from thee I will not hide        130
What thoughts in my unquiet breast are risen,
Tending to some relief of our extremes,
Or end; though sharp and sad, yet tolerable,
As in our evils, and of easier choice.
If care of our descent perplex us most,        135
Which must be born to certain woe, devour’d
By death at last; and miserable it is,
To be to others cause of misery,
Our own begotten, and of our loins to bring
Into this cursed world a woeful race,        140
That after wretched life must be at last
Food for so foul a monster; in thy power
It lies, yet ere conception to prevent
The race unblest, to being yet unbegot.
Childless thou art, childless remain: so Death        145
Shall be deceived his glut, and with us two
Be forced to satisfy his ravenous maw.
But if thou judge it hard and difficult,
Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain
From love’s due rites, nuptial embraces sweet;        150
And with desire to languish without hope,
Before the present object languishing
With like desire; which would be misery
And torment less than none of what we dread;
Then, both ourselves and seed at once to free        155
From what we fear for both, let us make short,
Let us seek Death; or, he not found, supply
With our own hands his office on ourselves.
Why stand we longer shivering under fears
That shew no end but death, and have the power,        160
Of many ways to die the shortest choosing,
Destruction with destruction to destroy?’
  She ended here, or vehement despair
Broke off the rest; so much of death her thoughts
Had entertain’d, as dyed her cheeks with pale.        165
But Adam with such counsel nothing sway’d,
To better hopes his more attentive mind
Labouring had raised; and thus to Eve replied:
  ‘Eve, thy contempt of life and pleasure seems
To argue in thee something more sublime        170
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.        175
Or if thou covet death, as utmost end
Of misery, so thinking to evade
The penalty pronounced; doubt not but God
Hath wiselier arm’d his vengeful ire, than so
To be forestall’d; much more I fear lest death,        180
So snatch’d, 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        185
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        190
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 ordain’d, and we        195
Instead shall double ours upon our heads.
No more be mention then of violence
Against ourselves; and wilful barrenness
That cuts us off from hope; and savours only
Rancour and pride, impatience and despite,        200
Reluctance against God and his just 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        205
Was meant by death that day: when, lo! to thee
Pains only in childbearing were foretold,
And bringing forth; soon recompensed with joy,
Fruit of thy womb: on me the curse aslope
Glanced on the ground; with labour I must earn        210
My bread; what harm? Idleness had been worse;
My labour will sustain me; and, lest cold
Or heat should injure us, his timely care
Hath, unbesought, provided; and his hands
Clothed us unworthy, pitying while he judged;        215
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        220
To shew us in this mountain; while the winds
Blow moist and keen, shattering the graceful locks
Of these fair-spreading trees; which bids us seek
Some better shroud, some better warmth to cherish
Our limbs benumb’d, ere this diurnal star        225
Leave cold the night, how we his gathered beams
Reflected may with matter sere foment,
Or, by collision of two bodies, grind
The air attrite to fire; as late the clouds
Justling, or push’d with winds, rude in their shock,        230
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        235
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, sustain’d
By him with many comforts, till we end        240
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        245
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,        250
When angry most he seem’d 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        255
Before him reverent; and both confess’d
Humbly their faults, and pardon begg’d; with tears
Watering the ground, and with their sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.
*        *        *        *        *
        260
 
 
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors