Page images

Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspired
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
She disappear'd, and left me dark; I wak'd
To find her, or for ever to deplore
Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorn'd
With what all earth or heaven could bestow
To make her amiable: on she came,
Led by her heavenly Maker, tho' unseen,
And guided by his voice, not uninform'd
Of nuptial sanctity and marriage rites.
Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye,

In ev'ry gesture dignity and love.

I, overjoyed, could not forbear aloud:

"This turn hath made amends; thou hast fulfill'd

Thy words, Creator bounteous and benign,
Giver of all things fair, but fairest this
Of all thy gifts, nor enviest. I now see
Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, myself
Before me; Woman is her name, of Man
Extracted; for this cause he shall forego
Father and mother, and to his wife adhere;
And they shall be one flesh, one heart, one soul.'
She heard me thus; and, though divinely brought,
Yet innocence and virgin modesty,

Her virtue and the conscience of her worth,


to say all,
Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought,
Wrought in her so, that, seeing me, she turned;
I followed her; she what was honour'd knew,
And with obsequious majesty approv'd
My pleaded reason. To the nuptial bower
I led her blushing like the morn: all heaven,

And happy constellations on that hour
Shed their selected influence; the earth
Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs
Whisper'd it to the woods, and from their wings
Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub,
Disporting till the amorous bird of night
Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening star
On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.

Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss
Which I enjoy, and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As us'd, or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor vehement desire;

but here, Far otherwise, transported I behold, Transported touch; here passion first I felt, Commotion strange, in all enjoyments else Superior and unmoved, here only weak Against the charm of Beauty's powerful glance. Or nature fail'd in me, or left some part Not proof enough such object to sustain; Or, from my side subducting, took perhaps More than enough; at least on her bestow'd Too much of ornament

When I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems,
And in herself complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded. Wisdom in discourse with her
Loses, discountenanc'd, and like Folly shows;
Authority and Reason on her wait,
As one intended first not after made



Occasionally; and, to consummate all,
Greatness of mind, and nobleness their seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelic plac'd.

Who ever wrote like this? What poet ever spoke such language? How miserable seem all modern compositions beside these strong and magnificent conceptions! Milton takes care to keep Eve aloof, while Adam betrays his weakness to Raphael; but the inquisitive woman, concealed among the foliage, hears enough for her own ruin.

There is an inexpressible charm about Eve; she unites innocence with loveliness, but she is capricious, presuming, vain of her beauty; she insists on going alone to her morning tasks, in spite of the entreaties of Adam; she is offended with the fears he betrays, and believes herself capable of resisting the Prince of Darkness. Her weak husband yields; he sadly follows her with his eyes as she disappears among the trees. Eve has no sooner arrived at the Tree of Knowledge than she is beguiled, in spite of the warnings of Adam and of Heaven, in spite of the images presented to her in a dream, which had nevertheless alarmed her, and in which the Father of Lies had said to her what the serpent repeats. The praise of her beauty intoxicates her; she falls.

The stupor of Adam, his resolution to partake of the forbidden fruit, that he may die with Eve,

the despair of both, their reproaches, his forgiveness, the reconciliation; Eve's proposal either to destroy herself or to deny herself posterity-all is in the highest strain of pathos. Eve, moreover, reminds one of Shakspeare's females; she has an air so extremely youthful; her simplicity is almost child-like; it furnishes an excuse for a seduction which is effected with such facility.

The style of these scenes could have belonged to no one but Milton. The delicious lines in which Eve gives an account of her first waking after her creation, are well known. In the same book, the fourth, she also says to our first Father:

Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
With charms of earliest birds: pleasant the sun,
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glist'ning with dew; fragrant the fertile earth
After soft show'rs; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful evening mild; then silent night
With this her solemn bird, and this fair moon,
And these, the gems of heaven, her starry train.
But neither breath of morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds, nor rising sun
On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glist'ning with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful evening mild, nor silent night,
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon,
Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet.

Before they enter the nuptial bower, Adam pauses, and veils his expected felicity in this chaste and pious aspiration;

K 2

This delicious place

For us too large, where thy abundance wants Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground. But thou hast promised from us two a race To fill this earth, who shall with us extol Thy goodness infinite both when we wake And when we seek as now thy gift of sleep. Adam wakes before Eve in the morning, He, on his side

Leaning half rais'd, with looks of cordial love,
Hung over her enamour'd, and beheld
Beauty, which, whether waking or asleep,
Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice
Mild, as when Zephyrus or Flora breathes,
Her hand soft touching whisper'd thus: Awake
My fairest, my espous'd, my latest found,
Heaven's last best gift, my ever new delight,
Awake; the morning shines, and the fresh field
Calls us; we lose the prime.

When Raphael beholds Eve, he addresses her with this angelic salutation:

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.

Thus every thing is sanctified by religious sentiment in the hymns of this poet. These gracious pictures of blessedness are the more dramatic because they are witnessed by Satan. He learns from the very lips of the happy pair their own secret and his power to ruin them. The felicity of Adam and Eve alarms us for them; every instant of their bliss makes us tremble, since it

« EelmineJätka »