« PreviousContinue »
Whom thus the angelic Virtue answer'd mild.
Adam, I therefore came, nor art thou such
Created, or such place hast here to dwell,
As may not oft invite, though spirits of heav'n,
To visit thee. lead on then where thy bower
O'ershades : for these mid-hours, till ev'ning rise,
I have at wiil. So to the sylvan lodge
They came, that like Pomona's arbour smiled
With flow'rets deck'd and fragrant smells : but Eve
Undeck'd, save with her self, 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 heav'n; no veil
She needed, virtue-proof; no thought infirm
Alter'd her cheek. On whom the angel Hail
Bestow'd, the holy salutation used
Long after to blest Mary, second Eve.
Hail, mother of mankind, whose fruitful womb
Shall fill the world more numerous with thy sons,
Than with these various fruits the trees of God
Have heap'd this table. Raised of grassy turf
Their table was, and mossy seats had round,
And on her ample square from side to side
All autumn piled, though spring and autumn here
Danced hand in hand. A while discourse they hold,
No fear lest dinner cool, when thus began
Our author. Heav'nly stranger, please to taste
These bounties which our Nourisher, from whom
All perfect good unmeasured out descends,
To us for food and for delight hath caused
The 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 ingrateful 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, unpurged
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
Sups with the ocean. Though in heav'n the trees!
Of life ambrosial fruitage bear, and vines
Yield nectar; tho' from off the boughs each morn
We brush mellifluous dews, and find the ground
Cover'd with pearly grain ; ? yet God hath here
Varied his bounty so with new delights,
As may compare with heaven; and to taste
Think not I shall be nice. So down they sat,
And to their viands fell; nor seemingly
The angel, nor in mist, the common gloss
Of theologians, but with keen dispatch
Of real hunger, and concoctive heat
To transubstantiate : what redounds, transpires
Through spirits with ease; nor wonder; if by fire
Of sooty coal the empyric alchymist
Can turn, or holds it possible to turn,
Metals of drossiest ore to perfect gold
As from the mine. Meanwhile at table Eve
Minister'd naked, and their flowing cups
With pleasant liquors crown'd. O innocence
Deserving paradise ! if ever, then,
Then had the sons of God excuse to have been
Enamourd at that sight; but in those hearts
Love unlibidinous reign'd, nor jealousy
Was understood, the injured lover's hell.
Thus when with meats and drinks they had suffice
Not burden'd nature, sudden mind arose
In Adam, not to let th' occasion pass,
Given him by this great conference, to know
Of things above his world, and of their being
Who dwell in heav'n, whose excellence he saw
Transcend his own so far; whose radiant forms,
Divine effulgence, whose high power so far
Exceeded human; and his wary speech
Thus to th' empyreal minister he framed.
Inhabitant with God, now know I well Thy favour, in this honour done to man, Under whose lowly roof thou hast vouchsafed To enter, and these earthly fruits to taste, Food not of angels, yet accepted so, As that more willingly thou could'st not seem At heav'n's high feasts to have fed: yet what compare ?
To whom the winged Hierarch replied. O Adam, one Almighty is, from whom All things proceed, and up to Him return, If not depraved from good, created all Such to perfection, one first matter all, Indued with various forms, various degrees Of substance, and, in things that live, of life: But more refined, more spirituous, and pure, As nearer to Him placed, or nearer tending, Each in their several active spheres assign'd, Till body up to spirit work, in bounds Proportion'd to each kind. So from the root Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves More aery, last the bright consummate How'r Spirits odorous breathes; flowers and their fruit, Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublimed, To vital spirits aspire, to animal,
To intellectual, give both life and sense,
Fancy and understanding; whence the soul
Reason receives, and reason is her being,
Discursive or intuitive; discourse
Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours,
Differing but in degree, of kind the same.
Wonder not then, what God for you saw good
If I refuse not, but convert, as you,
To proper substance: time may come, when men
With angels may participate, and find
No inconvenient diet, nor too light fare:
And from these corporal nutriments perhaps
Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,
Improved by tract of time, and wing'd ascend
Ethereal, as we, or may at choice
Here or in heav'nly paradises dwell;
If ye be found obedient, and retain
Unalterably firm His love entire,
Whose progeny you are.
Your fill what happiness this happy state
Can comprehend, incapable of more.
To whɔm the patriarch of mankind replied. O favourable spirit, propitious guest, Well hast thou taught the way that might direct Our knowledge, and the scale of nature set From centre to circumference, whereon In contemplation of created things By steps we may ascend to God. But say, What meant that caution join'd, If ye be found Obedient? Can we want obedience then To him, or possibly his love desert, Who form'd us from the dust and placed us hero Full to the utmost measure of what bliss Human desires can seek or apprehend ?
To whom the angel. Son of heav'n and earth Attend : that thou art happy, owe to God; That thou continu'st such, owe to thyself, That is, to thy obedience; therein stand. This was that caution given thee; be advised: God made thee perfect, not immutablo:
And good He made thee, but to persevere
He left it in thy power; ordain'd thy will
By nature free, not over-ruled by fate
Inextricable, or strict necessity :
Our voluntary service he requires,
Not our necessitated, such with him
Finds no acceptance, nor can find; for how
Can hearts, not free, be tried whether they serve
Willing or no, who will but what they must
By destiny, and can no other choose ?
Myself and all th' angelic host, that stand
In sight of God enthroned, our happy state
Hold, as you yours, while our obedience holds;
On other surety none; freely we serve,
Because we freely love, as in our will
To love or not; in this we stand or fall.
And some are fall'n, to disobedience fall'n,
And so from heaven to deepest hell: 0 fall
From what high state of bliss into what woe!
To whom our great progenitor. Thy words
Attentive, and with more delighted ear,
Divine instructor, I have heard, than when
Cherubic songs by night from neighbouring hills
Aereal music send : nor knew I not
To be both will and deed created free;
Yet that we never shall forget to love
Our Maker, and obey Him whose command
Single is yet so just, my constant thoughts
Assured me, and still assure: though what thou tellist
Hath past in heav'n, some doubt within me move,
But more desire to hear, if thou consent,
The full relation, which must needs be strange,
Worthy of sacred silence to be heard ;
And we have yet large day, for scarce the sun
Hath finish'd half his journey, and scarce begins
His other half in the great zone of leav'n.
Thus Adam made request, and Raphael, After short pause, assenting thus began.
High matter thou enjoin'st me, (prime of men, Sad task and hard; for how shall I relate