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THE ARGUMENT. Satan having compass'd the Earth, with meditated
guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise, enters into the Serpent sleeping. Adam and Eve in the morning go forth to their labors, which Eve proposes to divide in several places, each laboring apart: Adam consents not, alledging the danger, left that enemy, of whom they were forewarn'd, should attempt her found alone : Eve, loath to be thought not circumspect or firm enough, urges her going apart, the rather desirous to make trial of her strength; Adam at last yields: The Serpent finds her alone; his fubtle approach, first gazing, then speaking, with much flattery extolling Eve above all other creatures. Eve, wondering to hear the Serpent speak, alks how he attain'd to human speech and such understanding not till now; the Serpent answers, that by tasting of a certain tree in the garden he attain’d both to speech and reason, till then void of both: Eve requires him to bring her to that tree, and finds it to be the tree of knowledge forbidden : The Serpent now grown bolder, with many wiles and arguments induces her at length to eat; she pleas'd with the taste deliberates a while whether to impart thereof to Adam or not, at last brings him of the fruit, relates what perfuaded her to eat thereof: Adam at first amaz’d, but perceiving her lost, resolves through vehemence of love to perish with her; and extenuating the trespass eats also of the fruit: The effects thereof in them both; they seek to cover their nakedness; then fall to variance and accusation of one another.
O more of talk where God or Angel guest
With Man, as with his friend, familiar us'd
10 That brought into this world a world of woe, Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery Death's harbinger : Sad task, yet argument Not less but more heroic than the wrath Of stern Achilles on his foe pursu'd Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd, Or Neptune's ire or Juno's, that so long Perplex'd the Greek and Cytherea's fon; If answerable stile I can obtain Of my celestial patroness, who deigns Her nightly visitation unimplor'd B 2
And dictates to me Numb'ring, or inspires
30 In battels feign’d; the better fortitude of patience and heroic martyrdom Unsung; or to describe races and games, Or tilting furniture, imblazon'd fields, Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds;
35 Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights At joust and torneament; then marshal'd feast Serv'd up in hall with fewers, and seneshals; The skill of artifice or office mean, Not that which justly gives heroic name
40 To person or to poem. Me of these Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument Remains, fufficient of itself to raise That name, unless an age too late, or cold Climate, or years damp my intended wing
45 Depress’d, and much they may, if all be mine, Not hers who brings it nightly to my ear.
The sun was sunk, and after him the star Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter
50 'Twixt day and night, and now from end to end Night's hemisphere had veil'd th’horizon round: