Paradise Lost – Chapter IV

Long and far have I wandered since last I read John Milton’s great work. I had forgotten how difficult it is. After many hours of puzzling, consulting Dartmouth’s fine annotated text, and looking up obscure words and place names with Duck Duck Go, I’ve finally completed the next chapter of my modern English rendition of chapter IV of the book. Here it is:

Oh, for that warning voice that St. John the Divine, who saw the apocalypse, heard cry aloud in Heaven when the dragon, routed for the second time, came down to take revenge on man in fury, bringing woe to the inhabitants of Earth! If only then, while there was time, our first ancestors had been warned of the coming of their secret foe, and had escaped his mortal snare. For now Satan, inflamed with rage, came down, the tempter before the accuser of mankind, to take revenge on innocent, frail man for his loss of the first battle and his flight to Hell. Not yet rejoicing in his speed, though bold, far off and fearless, without cause to boast, he prepared to begin his dire attempt. His plan, nearly birthed, now rolled and boiled in his tumultuous breast, and like a cannon, recoiled back on him. Horror and doubt distracted his troubled thoughts, and stirred the Hell within him up from the bottom, for he brought Hell within and about himself. One cannot step from Hell any more than one can flee from oneself by changing one’s place. His conscience woke despair that had slumbered, and the bitter memory of what he had been, what he now was, and how much worse he would become; from worse deeds, worse suffering must ensue. First he fixed his grieving look upon Eden, which now lay pleasantly in his view. Then he looked toward Heaven and the blazing sun, which now sat at high noon. Finally, in deep meditation, he began to sigh.

“Oh you who sit crowned in unsurpassed glory, looking down from your dominion like the god of this new world, at the sight of whom all the stars hide their diminished lights: I call to you, but not with a friendly voice, and add your name, Sun, to tell you how I hate your beams, which remind me of the state from which I’ve fallen. How glorious it was above your sphere, until pride and ambition threw me down for warring in Heaven against her peerless king. And why? He deserved no such thing from me, whom he created in that bright place, and never upbraided in his goodness. Nor was serving him hard. What could be easier then to give him praise, the easiest payment, and thanks, so due! Yet all his good proved evil in me, and worked only malice. Lifted up so high, I disdained subjection, and thought one step higher would make me the highest, and in a moment repay the immense debt of endless gratitude, so burdensome, that I am always paying and still owe. I had forgotten what I always received from him, not understanding that a grateful mind in owing owes nothing, but still pays, at once indebted and discharged. How is that a burden? Had his powerful destiny ordained me an inferior angel, I would have been happy; no unbounded hope would have raised my ambitions. Yet why not me? Some other great power might have aspired to the throne of Yahweh, and I, though weak, been drawn to his side. But other powers as great have not fallen; they stand unshaken from within or without, armed against all temptation. Did I have the same free will and power to stand? I did. Who or what do I have to blame but Heaven’s free love, dealt equally to all? Let His love be accursed, since love or hate both deal eternal woe to me. No, let me be cursed; since I chose of my own free will against his what it now so justly rues. Miserable wretch! Which way shall I fly? To infinite wrath or infinite despair? Any way I fly is Hell; I myself am Hell, and in the lowest depths a lower deep opens wider still, threatening to devour me, and the Hell I now suffer seems a Heaven by comparison. Relent at last!

Is there no room left for repentance, or for pardon? Nothing is left except submission, which I disdain. I dread my shame among the spirits below, whom I seduced with promises and boasts, if I were to submit after boasting I could subdue the omnipotent one. Little do they know how much I pay for that vain boast and under what torments I inwardly groan. While they adore me on the throne of Hell, with diadem and scepter raised high, I fall still lower, only supreme in misery. Such is the joy brought by ambition. But suppose I could repent and could obtain my former state by act of grace: how soon would the heights bring back my high ambitions? How soon would I break an oath sworn in feigned submission? Ease would lead me to recant vows made in pain as violent and void. For true reconciliation could never grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deeply. It would only lead me to a worse relapse and a further fall. I would pay dearly for a short intermission with twice the pain. My punisher knows this, so he will be as far from granting peace as I am from begging for it. All my hopes destroyed, I see instead of us, the outcast and exiled, his new delight, mankind, and this world he created for them. So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear and remorse. All good is lost to me; evil will be my good. At least with it I can divide this empire with the king of Heaven, and perhaps reign over more than half, as man and this new world shall see before long.”

While he spoke, passion dimmed his face as it changed three times, from fear to anger through envy to despair, which marred his borrowed face, and betrayed him as a counterfeit angel for all to see, for heavenly minds are always clear of such foul emotions. He was quickly aware of these, and smoothed each perturbation with outward calm. The artificer of fraud, Satan was the first to practice lying behind a show of saintliness, concealing deep malice, hiding it for revenge. Yet he was not practiced enough to deceive Uriel, and once warned, the angel’s eyes followed him down to mount Niphates and saw him disfigured more than an angel that had not fallen would be. He observed Satan’s fierce gestures and mad demeanor.

Alone and supposing himself unobserved, Satan journeyed on and came to the border of Eden. The green enclosure of that wondrous paradise was crowned by an area of open country like a rural hill, surrounded like a grotto by steep wilderness on all sides, overgrown with thickets and vines, which denied access. Over head they grew to insurmountable height and loftiest shade, cedar, pine, fir, and branching palm. Their ranks ascended, shade above shade, forming the stateliest woody theater. Even higher than their tops, the verdant wall of paradise sprung up; it gave our ancestor a wide view of the neighborhood surrounding of his empire. Higher than the wall, a row of the most attractive trees laden with fairest blossoms and golden fruits encircled Eden, mixing in glorious shining colors. The sun’s beams shone on them more gladly than on fair evening cloud, and they were more beautiful than a rainbow that appears when God has showered the earth. The landscape was lovely. Pure air met Satan as he approached, and inspired his heart with springlike delight and joy, driving away all sadness except the darkest despair. Gentle winds fanned their fragrant wings, dispensing native perfumes, and whispered of where they had stolen those balmy spoils. The fiend enjoyed these sweet odors like a sailor who has gone beyond the Cape of Good Hope, past Mozambique, and out to sea, when the northeast winds blow Sheban odors from the spicy shore of blessed Arabia. Pleased to delay, he slackens his course, and is cheered for many a league, and the old ocean smiles at the pleasant smell. Though Satan had come to destroy them, he was more pleased with these scents than Asmodeus was with the fishy smoke that drove him, though enamored, from Tobias’s wife, and chased him with a vengeance from Persia to Egypt, and bound him fast there.

Satan began to ascend the steep and savage hill pensively and slowly, but found no way up. The undergrowth of shrubs and tangling bushes was thickly entwined, a continuous wall of bracken, and it would have perplexed the path of any man or beast that passed that way. There was only one gate, and that looked east on the other side of the hill. When the arch-felon saw the entrance, he disdained it, and in contempt, in a single easy bound, leaped high over all the defenses of the hill, including the high wall, and landed on his feet within them. Like a prowling wolf, driven by hunger to seek new haunts for prey, who has watched where the shepherds pen their flocks in the evening in wattle shelters amid the secure fields, leaps over the fence with ease into the fold, or a thief bent on stealing the cash of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors, cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault, climbs over the roof tiles and in at the window, so this first grand thief climbed into God’s fold, just as so many self-serving clergymen have since climbed into His church. From where he landed, Satan flew up into the tree of life, the most central and highest tree that grew there, and perched like a cormorant. He did not regain true life from the tree, but instead sat devising death for those who lived. Rather than thinking of the virtue of that life giving plant, he merely used as a prospect that which, when used properly, gave the gift of immortality. So little do any but God know of the value right before them, but instead pervert the best things to their worst or poorest use. Beneath him he viewed with wonder the garden that exposed all the human senses to the delights of all nature’s wealth and more in one small space, a heaven on earth, the blissful paradise of God, planted by him in the east of Eden.

Eden’s border stretched from Harran in Turkey eastward to where the royal towers of great Seleucia on the Tigris would one day be built by Grecian kings, close to where the sons of Eden had dwelt long before in Telessar. In this pleasant land, God ordained this most pleasant garden. He caused all of the noblest looking, smelling, and tasting trees to grow out of the fertile soil. The tree of life stood tallest among them, bearing golden ambrosial fruit. Right next to it grew our doom, the tree of knowledge, whose knowledge of good was bought dearly by knowing evil. A large river flowed southward through Eden. Without changing its course it passed underground into the heavily forested hill, for God had molded that mountain as his garden upon the rapid current. Its waters were drawn up thirstily through veins of porous earth to rise in a fresh fountain, and fed the garden with many small streams. From there they fell united down the steep forested hill, and met the nether flood, which appeared from its dark passage, and divided into four main streams, which ran in diverse courses, wandering many famous realms and countries of which here no account is needed.

Rather I will tell, if my art can, how from that sapphire fountain the rippling brooks, rolling over oriental pearls and sands of gold, wandering maze-like under overhanging shade, ran with nectar, visiting each plant, and fed flowers worthy of paradise which lay not in artificial beds and curious knots, but, bestowed by nature, grew profusely on hill, dale, and plain, both where the morning sun first warmly struck the open field, and where the shade darkened bowers unlit even at noon. Such was this place, a pleasant rural home of varied views. Groves of rich trees wept fragrant gums and balm, and others bore fruit burnished with golden rinds, hanging amiably like those of the fabled gardens of the Hesperides, and tasting delicious. Lawns, level downs, and palmy hillocks were interposed between them, with flocks grazing the tender grasses. Here and there the flowery lap of some well watered valley spread her store of flowers in all colors, thorn-less roses. On one side, shady grottoes and cool recessed caves were covered in vines bearing purple grapes, and creeping gently but luxuriantly. Meanwhile, murmuring waters fell down the sloped hills, dispersing, or ran into the lake whose fringed banks were crowned with myrtle, holding her crystal mirror, uniting the streams.

The birds sang and springlike breezes carried the smell of fields and groves and attuned the trembling leaves, while Pan, joined in dance by the Graces and the Hours, led on the eternal spring. Neither the fair field of Enna in Sicily, where Persephone gathered flowers and was herself gathered as a fairer flower by gloomy Hades, causing Demeter so much pain as she sought her all the world over, nor the sweet grove of Daphne on the River Orontes at Antioch, nor the Castalian Spring of inspiration on Mount Parnassus, could contend with the paradise of Eden. Neither did Mount Nysa, on its island in the River Triton, where Ammon hid Amalthea and her red faced boy Dionysus from his stepmother Rhea’s eye, nor mount Amara where the Abyssinian kings guard their children, which is supposed by some the true paradise, in southern Ethiopia, on the equator, near the source of the Nile, enclosed with shining rock, a whole day’s journey high.

Satan was unmoved by all the delights of this Assyrian garden, and all the varieties of living creatures that were new to him. Two of them were far more nobly shaped, erect and tall, godlike, clad with native honor in naked majesty, and seemed worthy lords of it all. The image of their glorious creator shone in their divine looks, full of truth, wisdom, and saintliness, severe and pure, but with the true freedom of children; it was the source of true authority in men. They were not equal, as their sex differed. He meditated on and embodied valor, she sweet attractive grace. He devoted himself to God, and she to God in him. His fair high forehead and sublime eyes declared his absolute rule. Locks like those of Hyacynthus fell from his parted forelock and hung in manly curls down to his broad shoulders. She wore her unadorned golden tresses like a veil down to her slender waist. Disheveled, unruly ringlets waved like the curling tendrils of a vine, implying subjection, but requiring with their gentle sway, yielded by her, and well received by him, yielded with shy submission, modest pride, and sweet reluctant amorous delay.

Nor were their private parts concealed, for they had no guilty, impure shame of nature’s works. How dishonorable honor, bred by sin, has troubled mankind instead with mere shows of seeming pure, and banished from man this happy life of simplicity and spotless innocence. They lived naked, and did not hide from the sight of God or his angels, for they thought no wrong. Hand in hand they passed by, the loveliest pair that ever met in love’s embraces: Adam a better man than any man born since, and Eve fairer than any of her daughters.

They sat down in a tuft of shade that lay on a whispering, soft green, beside a fresh fountain. After no more toil in the sweet labor of gardening than sufficed to recommend a cool breeze, make ease more easy, and wholesome thirst and appetite more grateful, they fell to their supper of nectarine fruits which the compliant boughs had yielded to them, sitting side by side, reclining on the soft downy bank, which was dappled with flowers. They chewed the savory pulp, and, as they still thirsted, used the rind to scoop water from the brimming stream. Neither conversation, endearing smiles, nor youthful dalliance were wanting, as befits a fair couple, linked in happy nuptial league, alone as they were.

About them, all beasts of the earth played, frisking, including those that have since become wild, and chase men in woods or wilderness, forest or den. A sporting lion ramped up on his back legs, and in his paw playfully bounced a kid. Bears, tigers, lynxes, and leopards gamboled before the couple. The unwieldy elephant, to make them laugh, used all his might and twisted his lithe trunk into a wreath. Close by, the sly serpent, insinuating, wove his braided body into Gordian contortions, giving unnoticed proof of his fatal guile. Others lay on the grass and, bellies filled with it, and sat gazing, or chewed their cud as they prepared to sleep. For the sun had declined and was hastening now, careering prone toward the Azores, and on the ascending side of the heavens, the stars that usher in evening rose.

Satan still gazed, still in the same place. At length, he recovered his failed speech, though he scarcely whispered, and spoke sadly.

“Oh Hell! What do my grieving eyes behold? Into our place of bliss, these high creatures of another mold have advanced, earth born perhaps, not spirits, and yet barely inferior to bright heavenly spirits. My thoughts pursue them with wonder, and I could love them, so energetically does the divine resemblance shine in them, and such grace has the hand that formed them poured upon their shape. Ah gentle pair, you hardly know how quickly your doom approaches, when all these delights will vanish and deliver you to woe. More than woe, for you now taste more than joy. You are happy, but ill secured to continue being happy for long. Heaven has poorly fenced this high seat to keep out such a foe as has now entered. Yet I have no reason to be your enemy, forlorn and unpitied though I am. I seek a compact with you, and mutual friendship so close that I must live with you or you with me from now on. My abode may not please your senses like this fair paradise, yet it is your maker’s work. He gave it to me, and I will give as freely. Hell shall unfold her widest gates to entertain you two, and send forth all her kings. There will be room, unlike these narrow limits, to receive your numerous offspring, if not a better place. Thank the one who forces me to take this loathsome revenge on you who did nothing to me, rather than on him who wronged me. And should I melt at your harmless innocence, as I do, just public good, honor, and empire enlarged with revenge by conquering this new world now compel me now to do what otherwise though damned I should abhor.”

So the tyrant pleaded necessity to excuse his devilish deeds. Then from his lofty stand on that Satan_Watching_Adam_and_Evehigh tree, he jumped down and landed among a herd of the four-footed kind, himself becoming one, now the other, as their shape best served his ends, coming closer to view his prey, and unseen to see what more he might learn of their state by their word or action. In the form of a lion, he stalked around them round with a fiery glare. Then, like a tiger who by chance has spied in some haunt two gentle fawns at play, he lay close by, rising often to change the place from which he watched, as if choosing the ground from which he might surely rush and seize them both, each gripped in a paw. When Adam spoke to Eve, Satan paid close attention to what he said.

“Sole partner in all these joys, you are dearer than anything,” said Adam. “The power that made us, and for us this ample world, must be infinitely good, and with his good be infinitely liberal and free, to raise us up from the dust and place us here amid all this happiness, since we have merited nothing at his hand, nor can perform anything of which He has need, He who requires from us no other service then to keep this one, easy charge: of all the trees in paradise that bear delicious fruit, so various, we are forbidden only to taste the tree of knowledge, which grows next to the tree of life. Death grows so near to life, though what death is, some dreadful thing no doubt, we do not know. But as you well know, God has pronounced it death to taste the fruit of that tree. It is the only sign of our obedience left among so many signs of power and rule conferred upon us, and dominion given over all other creatures of earth, air, and sea. Let us not think one easy prohibition is hard, when we enjoy so much freedom in all other things, and unlimited choice of manifold delights. Let us forever praise him, and extol his bounty, attending to our delightful task to prune these growing plants and tend these flowers. Even if it were it toilsome, yet with you it would be sweet.”

“Oh you for whom I was formed, flesh of your flesh, without whom I have no purpose, my guide and leader, what you have said is just and right,” said Eve. “We truly owe him all praise and daily thanks. I especially, who enjoy by far the happier lot, since you are so greatly preeminent, while you cannot find a consort like yourself. I often remember the day I first awoke from sleep and found my self lying in the shade on a bed of flowers, wondering where and what I was, where I had come from, and how. Not distant from there, murmuring waters issued from a cave and spread into a liquid plain, then stood unmoving, pure as the expanse of Heaven. I went there with unexperienced thought, and laid down on the green bank, to look into the clear smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. As I bent down to look, a shape within the watery reflection appeared, bending to look at me. I started back, and it started back, but pleased, I soon returned, and it returned as quickly, with answering looks of sympathy and love. I had fixed my eyes there until now, and pined with vain desire, had not a voice warned me. ‘What you see there, fair creature is your self. With you it came and goes. Follow me, and I will bring you where no shadow awaits your coming, and your soft embraces. He whose image you are, you shall enjoy inseparably. To him you shall bear multitudes like your self, and be called mother of human race.’ What could I do, but follow immediately, led invisibly? Until I spied you, fair indeed and tall, under a planes tree. Yet I thought you less fair, less winningly soft, less amiably mild, than that smooth watery image. I turned back, and you followed, crying aloud. ‘Return fair Eve. Who are you running from? The one you flee, of him you are made, his flesh, his bone. To give you life I lent substantial life to you, taken out of my side, nearest my heart, to have you by my side from now on, an inseperable and dear solace.’ Part of my soul I sought in you, and you claimed my other half. With your gentle hand, you seized mine. I yielded, and from that time I see how beauty is excelled by manly grace and wisdom, which alone is truly fair.

Her eyes betraying innocent conjugal attraction and meek surrender, half embracing him, she leaned on Adam, and her swelling naked breast met his, hidden under the flowing gold of her loose tresses. Delighted by both her beauty and her submissive charms, he smiled with superior love, as Zeus smiles upon Here when he suffuses the clouds that shed May flowers. He pressed her lips with pure kisses. The Devil turned aside in envy, eying them askance with a jealous, malign leer, and complained to himself.

“What a hateful, tormenting sight! These two, blissful in one another’s arms in happy Eden, enjoy their fill of bliss upon bliss, while I am cast into Hell, where neither joy nor love, but only fierce desire, among our other torments not the least, pines, still unfulfilled, with the pain of longing. Let me not forget what I have learned from their own mouths. All is not theirs it seems. One fatal tree stands, the Tree of Knowledge, forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidden? Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord envy them that? Can it be sin to know? Can it be death? And do they only stay by ignorance in their happy state, proving their obedience and their faith? What a fair foundation on which to build their ruin! I will excite their minds with the desire to know, and to reject envious commands designed to keep them low when knowledge might exalt them to be equal with gods. Aspiring to be such, they will taste it and die. What could be likelier? But first I must walk round this garden, searching it carefully, and leave no corner unchecked. Chance may lead me to may meet some wandering spirit of Heaven, beside a fountain or retiring in thick shade, and to draw from him what further can be learned. Live while you may, happy couple; enjoy, until I return, your brief pleasures, for long woes are to succeed them.”

He stepped proudly, scornful but with sly circumspection, and began roaming through wood an waste, over hill and dale. Meanwhile, at the westernmost longitude, where Heaven meets earth and ocean, the setting sun slowly descended, and leveled its evening rays against the eastern gate of paradise. There, a white rock, piled up to the clouds, conspicuous from afar, supported one winding ascent accessible from earth to a single high entrance. The rest was craggy cliff, that overhung as it rose, impossible to climb. Between two rocky pillars Gabriel, the leader of the angelic guards, sat awaiting night. About him, the unarmed youth of Heaven engaged in heroic games. Near at hand lay a celestial armory: shields, helmets, and spears, hung high and studded with flaming diamonds and gold. Uriel arrived, gliding through the evening on a sun beam, swift as a shooting star that traverses the autumn night sky, when heat lightning oppresses the air, and shows a mariner the point of his compass from which to beware impetuous winds.

“Gabriel, you have been strictly charged to watch this happy place so that no evil thing approaches or enters,” said Uriel. “This day at height of noon a spirit came to my sphere, zealous to know more of the Almighty’s works, and chiefly man, God’s latest creation. I watched him make his way, at full speed, and marked his aerie gait. But on the mountain that lies north of Eden, where he first alighted, I discerned in his looks something alien from Heaven as they were distorted by foul passions. I continued to follow him still with my eyes, but lost sight of him in the shade. One of the banished crew, I fear, has ventured from the deep, to raise new troubles. You must take care to find him.

“Uriel, no wonder if your perfect sight, amid the Sun’s bright circle where you sit, sees far and wide,” said Gabriel. “None pass the vigilant who guard this gate except those who come well known from Heaven. Since noon, no creature has come here. If a spirit of another sort, so minded, has leaped over these earthy bounds on purpose, you know it is hard to exclude spiritual substance with a corporeal barrier. But if, within the circuit of these wall, in whatever shape, he of whom you speak lurks, by tomorrow’s dawning I shall know.”

With this promise, Uriel returned to his station on the Sun’s bright beam, which bore him downhill to the sun, which had fallen beneath the Azores. Whether the solar orb had revolved there incredibly swiftly, or the rotating earth in a shorter movement to the east had left it there, the sun sat, arrayed with reflected purple and gold clouds that attend it, on its western throne. The still evening came on, and gray twilight gray clad all things in her sober livery. Silence accompanied it for beast and bird, and they slunk to their grassy couches and their nests, all but the wakeful nightingale. All night long, she sang her amorous melody. Silence was pleased, and the firmament glowed with living sapphires. The evening star led the starry host, and rode brightest, until the moon, rising in clouded majesty, the manifest queen, unveiled her peerless light, and threw her silver mantle over the dark.

“Fair consort, the hour of night, and all things now retired to rest, makes me think of repose, since God has made labor and rest, like day and night, successive to men, and the timely dew of sleep now falls and with soft slumberous weight presses on our eyelids,” Adam said to Eve. “Other Creatures rove all day long, idle and unemployed, and less need rest. Man has his appointed daily work of body or mind, which gives him his dignity and the regard of Heaven on all he does. While other animals range inactive, God takes no account of their doings. Tomorrow, before the fresh morning streaks the east with first approach of light, we must be risen and at our pleasant labor, to reform the flowery arbors. The green alleys we walk at noon, are overgrown with branches that mock our scant cultivation, and require more hands then ours to trim back their wanton growth. The Blossoms and dropping gums that lie strewn unsightly and rough, must be removed if we mean to walk with ease. Meanwhile, as nature wishes, night bids us rest.”

“My originator and arranger, when you command, I obey without argument,” replied Eve. “So God ordains; God is your law, you mine. To know no more is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise. Conversing with you, I forget all time, and all hours please me equally. The breath of morning is sweet as it rises with charm of the earliest birds. The sun is pleasant when on first rising, it spreads its oriental beams on this delightful land, on herbs, trees, fruit, and flowers, glistening with dew. The fertile earth is fragrant after soft showers. How sweet is the coming of grateful, mild evening, then silent night with the solemn nightingale, the fair moon, and these the gems of Heaven, its starry train. But neither breath of morning when it ascends with the charm of earliest birds, the sun rising on this delightful land, the dewy herbs, fruits, and flowers, the fragrance after showers, the mild evening, silent night, nor walking by moon or glittering starlight is sweet without you. But why all night long, do the stars shine? Who is this glorious sight for, when sleep has shut all eyes?”

“Daughter of God and man, accomplished Eve, they have their course to finish, round the earth, by tomorrow evening. From land to land, over nations yet unborn, ministering light, they set and rise, lest total darkness should by night regain her old possession, and extinguish life in nature and all things. These soft fires not only brighten the night, but with their kindly radiance, foment, warm, temper, and nourish, shedding their stellar virtue on all things that grow on earth, which are made by it apter to receive perfection from the sun’s more potent rays,” said Adam. “Though unseen in the deep of night, they do not shine in vain. Do not think that if there were no men, that Heaven would want for spectators, or God want for praise. Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep. All these ceaselessly praise His works, beholding both day and night. How often from the steep slopes of the echoing hill or the depths of the thicket have we heard celestial voices on the midnight air, alone or responding to each to others voices, singing of their great creator. Often in bands while they keep watch, or nightly walk around, joined by heavenly instrumental sounds in full harmonic number, their songs divide the night, and lift our thoughts to Heaven.

Talking, hand in hand and alone, they passed on to their blissful bower. It was a place chosen by the sovereign planter, when he framed all things to mans delightful use. The roof of the thick covert was interwoven shade laurel and myrtle, and what grew higher of firm and fragrant leaf. On either side grew Acanthus, and the fragrant bushy shrubs fenced the verdant wall. Beautiful flowers, Irises of all hues, Roses, and Jasmine, reared their blooming heads high between them, and wrought a mosaic. Underfoot, violets, crocuses, and hyacinth richly embroidered the ground, more colorfully than with inlaid stone. No other creature, beast, bird, insect, or worm, dared enter, such was their awe of man. Pan never slept in a shadier bower, more sacred and sequestered, nor any nymph nor faun. Here in close recess, with flowers, garlands, and sweet smelling herbs, Eve decked first her nuptial bed, and heavenly choirs sung of marriage on the day an angel brought her to Adam in naked beauty, yet more adorned and lovely then Pandora, whom the gods endowed with all their gifts, and in too similar

a sad event, when brought by Hermes to Epimethius, the foolish brother of Prometheus, she ensnared mankind with her fair looks to tale revenge on the one who had stolen Zeus’s authentic fire.

Arriving at their shady lodge, both stood, turned, and, under the open sky, adored the God that made the sky, the air, the earth, the heavens which they beheld, the moon’s resplendent globe, and the starry sky.

“You made the night, omnipotent creator, and the day, which we, employed in our appointed work, have finished happy in our mutual help and mutual love, the crown of all our bliss, ordained by you, and this delicious place, for us too large, where your abundance lacks partakers, and unpicked fruit falls to the ground. You have promised that we two will bear a race to fill the earth, who shall extol your infinite goodness with us, both when we are awake and when we seek, as now, your gift of sleep.”

Having said this together, observing no other rites but pure adoration pure, which God likes best, they went hand in hand into their inmost bower. Relieved of the need to take off the troublesome disguises which we wear, they lay down side by side. Adam did not turn from his fair spouse, nor did Eve the refuse the mysterious rites of connubial love. While hypocrites austerely talk of purity and innocence, defaming as impure what God declares pure, commands to some, and leaves free to all, our maker bids us increase. Who bids us abstain but our destroyer, foe to God and man? Hail wedded love, mysterious law, true source of human offspring, sole property, the one thing in common with paradise. By it, adulterous lust is driven from men to range among the bestial herds. By it, founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure, dear relations, and all the charities of father, son, and brother first were known. Far be it that I should call it sin, or think it unbefitting of the holiest place, this perpetual fountain of domestic sweetness, whose bed is undefiled and pronounced chaste as Saints and the Patriarchs used to. Here Eros employs his golden arrows, lights his constant lamp, and waves his purple wings. He reigns here and revels, not in the bought smile of a harlot, or loveless, joyless, unloved, casual sex, nor in court romances, mixed dance, wanton masque, midnight, ball or serenade, which the starved lover sings to his proud, fair woman, all best avoided with disdain.

Lulled by nightingales, they slept in each other’s embrace, and the flowery roof showered roses on their naked limbs, which the morning repaired. Sleep on, blessed pair, and yet happiest if you seek no happier state, and seek to know no more. Now night cast her shadow half way up the vast sublunar vault, and from their ivory gate the Cherubim issued forth at the accustomed hour, and stood armed for their night watches in warlike parade.

“Uzziel, take half of our forces, and guard the south, keeping strictest watch,” said Gabriel to his second in command. “I will take the others and circle north, and our circuits will meet in the west.”

They parted like flames, half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear. From these, two strong and subtle spirits he called that stood near him, and gave them a charge.

“Ithuriel and Zephon, with winged speed, searched through the Garden, leaving no nook unsearched, but look chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge, now laying asleep, secure from harm. This Evening at the sun’s setting, Uriel arrived, telling of some infernal spirit seen coming this way–who could have thought?–escaped from the bars of Hell, on an evil errand, no doubt. If you find such, seize him fast, and bring him here.”

He led his radiant troop north, dazzling the moon. Ithuriel and Zephon when directly to the bower in search of the one they sought.

They found Satan there, squatting like a toad, close to the ear of Eve, tying by his devilish arts to reach the organ of her imagination, and with it forge illusions as he wished, phantasms and dreams, or if, inspiring venom, he might taint the animal spirits that rise from pure blood like gentle breaths from pure rivers, and thus raise at least ill tempered, discontented thoughts, vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires blown up with high thoughts, engendering pride. While he was intent on this, Ithuriel touched him lightly with his spear. No falsehood can endure the touch of celestial steel, but returns by force to its own likeness. Up he started, discovered and surprised. Like when a spark lands on a heap of gunpowder, laid ready to be stored in a cask in anticipation of a rumored war, and the grain is with diffused with a sudden blaze, igniting in the air, so the fiend started up in his own shape. The two Angels stepped back, half amazed to so suddenly behold the grisly king. Yet unmoved with fear, they quickly accosted him.

“Which of those rebel spirits condemned to Hell are you, escaped from your prison and transformed?” demanded Ithuriel. “Why do you sit like an enemy in wait here, watching at the head of these that sleep?”

“Do you not know?” said Satan, filled with scorn, “Don’t you know me? You knew me once no equal to you, sitting where you dared not soar. If you do not know me, this means you are unknown, the lowest of your throng. If you do know, why do you ask, and begin your message superfluously, likely to end it as much in vain?”

“Do not think, revolting spirit, that your shape is the same, or your brightness undiminished, to allow you to be known from when you stood in Heaven, upright and pure,” said Zephon, answering scorn with scorn. “The glory you had then left you when you were no longer good. It departed from you, and you now resemble your sin and your place of doom, dark and foul. Come, you, be sure, shall give account to he who sent us, whose charge is to keep this place inviolable, and these humans from harm.”

The Cherub’s grave rebuke, delivered in youthful beauty with invincible grace, was severe. Abashed, the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is, and saw how lovely the shape of virtue; saw, and pined for his loss, but chiefly to have exposed how his luster was visibly impaired; yet he seemed undaunted.

“If I must contend,” he said, “let it be with the best, the sender not the sent, or all at once. More glory will be won, or less be lost.”

“Your fear,” said Zephon boldly, “Will save us testing what the least can do alone against you, who are wicked, and thus weak.”

The fiend did not reply, overcome with rage. But like a proud steed led by the reins, went haughtily on, chomping at his iron restraint. To strive or fly he held in vain. Awe from above had quelled his heart, not otherwise dismayed. As they drew near to the western point, where the two troops of guards had just met, and closing, stood in joined ranks, awaiting their next command. Their chief Gabriel called from the front.

“Oh friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet making haste this way, and now by glimpse discern Ithuriel and Zephon through the gloom. With them comes a third of regal comport, but with wan faded splendor. By his gait and fierce demeanor, he seems the prince of Hell. He is not likely to leave without a fight. Stand firm, for he has a look of defiance.”

He had scarcely finished, when the two approached and briefly related whom they brought, where he was found, what he had been doing, and in what form and posture he was found.

“Satan, why have you broken the bonds prescribed for your transgressions, and disturbed our charges. We do not approve of your transgression, but have the power and right to question your bold entrance into this place,” said Gabriel, “trying, it seems, to violate the sleep of those whose dwelling God has planted here in bliss?”

“Gabriel, in Heaven you had the esteem of wise, and so I held you,” said Satan contemptuously, “but this question you ask puts me in doubt. Who lives who loves pain? Who would not, finding a way, break free from Hell, though doomed to be there? You would your self, no doubt, and boldly venture to whatever place was furthest from pain, where you might hope to exchange torment with ease, and most quickly repay sadness with delight, which is what I sought in this place. To you this is no reason, who knows only good, but has not tried evil, and will object that I do not bow to the will of the one who bound us? Let him more surely bar his Iron Gates, if he intends us to stay in that dark prison. The rest is true. They found me where they say, but that does not mean I intended violence or harm.”

“We are lost for one in Heaven to judge the wise, since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,” said Gabriel with a disdainful half smile. “And now you return, escaped from your prison, gravely in doubt of the wisdom of those who ask what boldness brought you here unreleased from your prescribed bonds in Hell. You judge it wise to fly from pain by any means, and to escape punishment. You still believe this, presumptuous, until the wrath that you incur by escaping meets your flight, and scourges your ‘wisdom’ and sends you back to Hell, which has taught you as yet no better, that no pain can equal the infinite anger you provoke. But why are you alone? Why has not all Hell broken loose and come with you? Is pain to them less to be fled, or are you less able to endure than they? You, their courageous chief, the first in flight from pain? Had you revealed to your deserted host this as the cause of your flight, you surely would not be the sole fugitive.”

“I am no less willing to endure, nor do I shrink from pain,” said the fiend, frowning sternly. “You know well that I withstood your worst, when in battle the Thunderer had to come to your aid, seconding your otherwise undreaded spear. But still your words, as before, argue your inexperience. It behooves a faithful leader, as I have learned from hard trials and past failures, not to risk all through ways of danger he has not himself tried. Therefore, I alone first undertook to wing from the desolate Abyss, and spy this newly created world, which is not unknown in Hell. I came here in hope of finding a better home, and to settle my afflicted forces here on Earth, or in mid air. For its possession, I would put to the test once more what you and your showy legions would dare fight against. Your easier business is to serve your Lord high in Heaven, with songs and hymns to his throne, and practice bowing from a distance, not fighting.”

“First you say one thing, then directly contradict it, pretending first that you were wise to flee pain, professing next to spy,” said Gabriel. “You are no leader, but have been shown to be a liar, Satan, and now you claim to be faithful? How you profane the sacred name of faithfulness! Faithful to whom? To your rebellious crew? That army of fiends make a fit body to you, their fit head. Where was your discipline and faith, your military obedience, when you dissolved your allegiance to the acknowledged supreme power? You sly hypocrite, you now wish to seem a patron of liberty, yet who more then you fawned, and cringed, and servilely adored Heaven’s awful monarch? Why but in hope to dispossess him, and yourself to reign? But mark what I say to you now: Depart! Fly back from where you fled. If you appear again within these hallowed limits, I will drag you back to the infernal pit in chains, and seal you there, and you will no longer scorn the gates of Hell as too weakly barred.”

Gave heed, but waxing more in rage repli’d.

“When I am your captive, talk of chains, proud guardian cherub,” said Satan, ignoring Gabriel’s threats and growing more enraged, “but before that, expect to feel a far heavier load from my prevailing army, though Heaven’s king rides on your wings, and you with your peers, used to the yoke, draw his triumphant wheels in procession along the star paved road of Heaven.”

As he spoke, the bright angelic squadron turned fiery red, forming their ranks into a wide crescent, and began to hem him round with readied spears, as thick as the ears of wheat in one of the fields of Demeter, ripe for harvest, bending in the wind. The careful plowman stands doubting, lest on the threshing floor his sheaves prove chaff. On the other side, Satan, alarmed, collected all of his might and stood tall, like Mount Teneriff or Atlas. His grew as tall the sky, and a plumed horror sat atop his head. Nor did his grasp want for what seemed both spear and shield. Dreadful deeds might have ensued, not only paradise but the starry dome of the heavens perhaps, or at least the elements would have fallen in ruins in this confrontation, disturbed and torn by violent conflict, had not Yahweh, to prevent this horrid fray, revealed in Heaven his golden scales, which can yet seen between Virgo and Scorpio, in which all things that he created he first weighed, balancing the pendulous round earth with air as a counterweight, weighs all events, battles, and realms. In them he put two weights, weighing the outcome of the two sides parting, and of them fighting. The latter flew upward quickly, and kicked the beam.

“Satan, I know your strength, and you know mine, and neither is our own, but is what we have been given,” said Gabriel. “What folly then to boast what arms can do, since you have no more than Heaven permits, nor do I, and my strength is doubled, allowing me to trample you in the mud. For proof, look up, and read your fate in the celestial sign, which weighs you and shown how light, how weak, you will be if you resist”

The Fiend looked up and knew his mounted scale aloft. He stood fast no more, but fled, murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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