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Book I. After intimating he intends "no middle flight," but proposes to "justify the ways of God to man," Milton states the fall was due to the serpent, who, in revenge for being cast out of heaven with his hosts, induced the mother of mankind to sin. He adds how, hurled from the ethereal sky to the bottomless pit, Satan lands in a burning lake of asphalt. There, oppressed by the sense of lost happiness and lasting pain, he casts his eyes about him, and, flames making the darkness visible, beholds those enveloped in his doom suffering the same dire pangs. Full of immortal hate, unconquerable will, and a determination never to submit or yield, Satan, confident his companions will not fail him, and enriched by past experiences, determines to continue disputing the mastery of heaven from the Almighty.

Beside Satan, on the burning marl, lies Beelzebub, his bold compeer, who dreads lest the Almighty comes after them and further punish them. But Satan, rejoining that "to be weak is miserable, doing or suffering," urges that they try and pervert God's aims. Then, gazing upward, he perceives God has recalled his avenging hosts, that the rain of sulphur has ceased, and that lightning no longer furrows the sky. He, therefore, deems this a fitting opportunity to rise from the burning lake, reconnoitre their new place of abode, and take measures to redeem their losses.

  "Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
  The seat of desolation, void of light,
  Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
  Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
  From off the tossing of these fiery waves,
  There rest, if any rest can harbor there,
  And, reassembling our afflicted powers,
  Consult how we may henceforth most offend
  Our enemy; our own loss how repair;
  How overcome this dire calamity;
  What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
  If not, what resolution from despair."

Striding through parting flames to a neighboring hill, Satan gazes around him, contrasting the mournful gloom of this abode with the refulgent light to which he has been accustomed, and, notwithstanding the bitter contrast, concluding, "it is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," ere he bids Beelzebub call the fallen angels.

His moon-like shield behind him, Beelzebub summons the legions lying on the asphalt lake, "thick as autumn leaves that strew the brooks of Vallombroso." Like guilty sentinels caught sleeping, they hastily arise, and, numerous as the locusts which ravaged Egypt, flutter around the cope of hell before alighting at their master's feet. Among them Milton descries various idols, later to be worshipped in Palestine, Egypt, and Greece. Then, contrasting the downcast appearance of this host with its brilliancy in heaven, he goes on to describe how they saluted Satan's banner with "a shout that tore hell's conclave and beyond frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night." Next, their standards fluttering in the breeze, they perform their wonted evolutions, and Satan, seeing so mighty a host still at his disposal, feels his heart distend with pride.

Although he realizes these spirits have forfeited heaven to follow him, he experiences merely a passing remorse ere he declares the strife they waged was not inglorious, and that although once defeated they may yet repossess their native seat. He suggests that, as they now know the exact force of their opponent and are satisfied they cannot overcome him by force, they damage the new world which the Almighty has recently created, for submission is unthinkable weakness.

To make their new quarters habitable, the fallen angels, under Mammon's direction, mine gold from the neighboring hills and mould, it into bricks, wherewith they erect Pandemonium, "the high capitol of Satan and his peers." This hall, constructed with speed and ease, is brightly illuminated by means of naphtha, and, after Satan and his staff have entered, the other fallen angels crowd beneath its roof in the shape of pygmies, and "the great consult" begins.

Book II. On a throne of dazzling splendor sits Satan, surrounded by his peers. Addressing his followers, he declares that, having forfeited the highest position, he has lost more than they, and that, since he suffers the greatest pain, none will envy him his preeminence. When he bids them suggest what they shall do, Moloch votes in favor of war, stirring up his companions with a belligerent speech. Belial, who is versed in making "the worse appear the better reason," urges guile instead of warfare, for they have tested the power of the Almighty and know he can easily outwit their plans. In his turn, Mammon favors neither force nor guile, but suggests that, since riches abound in this region, they content themselves with piling up treasures.

All having been heard, the fallen angels decide, since it is impossible again to face Michael's dreaded sword, they will adopt Beelzebub's suggestion and try and find out whether they cannot settle more comfortably in the recently created world. This decided, Satan inquires who will undertake to reconnoitre, and, as no one volunteers, declares that the mission of greatest difficulty and danger rightly belongs to him, bidding the fallen angels meanwhile keep watch lest further ill befall them. This decision is so enthusiastically applauded that ever since an overwhelming tumult has been termed "Pandemonium," like Satan's hall.

The "consult" ended, the angels resume their wonted size and scatter through hell, some exploring its recesses, where they discover huge rivers, regions of fire and ice, and hideous monsters, while others beguile their time by arguing of "foreknowledge, will, fate," and discussing questions of philosophy, or join in antiphonal songs.

Meanwhile Satan has set out on his dreadful journey, wending his way straight to the gates of Hades, before which stand two formidable shapes, one woman down to the waist and thence scaly dragon, while the other, a grim, skeleton-like shape, wears a royal crown and brandishes a spear. Seeing Satan approach, this monster threatens him, whereupon a dire fight would have ensued, had not the female stepped between them, declaring she is Sin, Satan's daughter, and that in an incestuous union they two produced Death, whom even they cannot subdue. She adds that she dares not unlock the gates, but, when Satan urges that if she will only let him pass, she and Death will be supplied with congenial occupations in the new world, she produces a key, and, "rolling toward the gates on scaly folds," flings wide the massive doors which no infernal power can ever close again. Through these gaping portals one now descries Chaos, where hot and cold, moist and dry contend for mastery, and where Satan will have to make his way through the elements in confusion to reach the place whither he is bound.

The poet now graphically describes how, by means of his wings or on foot, Satan scrambles up high battlements and plunges down deep abysses, thus gradually working his way to the place where Chaos and Night sit enthroned, contemplating the world "which hangs from heaven by a golden chain." Addressing these deities, Satan commiserates them for having lost Tartarus, now the abode of the fallen angels, as well as the region of light occupied by the new world. When he proposes to restore to them that part of their realm by frustrating God's plans, they gladly speed him toward earth, whither "full fraught with mischievous revenge accursed in an accursed hour he hies."

Book III. After a pathetic invocation to light, the offspring of heaven, whose rays will never shine through his darkness, Milton expresses a hope that like other blind poets and seers he may describe all the more clearly what is ever before his intellectual sight. Then he relates how the Eternal Father, gazing downward, contemplates hell, the newly-created world, and the wide cleft between, where he descries Satan "hovering in the dun air sublime." Summoning his hosts, the Almighty addresses his Only Begotten Son,—whose arrival in heaven has caused Satan's rebellion,—and, pointing out the Adversary, declares he is bent on revenge which will redound on his own head. Then God adds that, although the angels fell by their own suggestion, and are hence excluded from all hope of redemption, man will fall deceived by Satan, so that, although he will thus incur death, he will not forever be unforgiven if some one will pay the penalty of his sin. Because none of the angels feel holy enough to make so great a sacrifice, there is "silence in heaven," until the Son of God, "in whom all fulness dwells of love divine," seeing man will be lost unless he interferes, declares his willingness to surrender to death all of himself that can die. He entreats, however, that the Father will not leave him in the loathsome grave, but will permit his soul to rise victorious, leading to heaven those ransomed from sin, death, and hell through his devotion. The angels, hearing this proposal, are seized with admiration, and the Father, bending a loving glance upon the Son, accepts his sacrifice, proclaiming he shall in due time appear on earth in the flesh to take the place of our first father, and that, just "as in Adam all were lost, so in him all shall be saved." Then, further to recompense his Son for his devotion, God promises he shall reign his equal for ever and judge mankind, ere he bids the heavenly host worship their new master. Removing their crowns of amaranth and gold, the angels kneel before Christ in adoration, and, tuning their harps, sing the praises of Father and Son, proclaiming the latter "Saviour of man."

While the angels are thus occupied, Satan, speeding through Chaos, passes through a place peopled by the idolatries, superstitions, and vanities of the world, all of which are to be punished here later on. Then, past the stairway leading up to heaven, he hurries to a passage leading down to earth, toward which he whirls through space like a tumbler pigeon, landing at last upon the sun. There, in the guise of a stripling cherub, Satan tells the archangel Uriel that, having been absent at the time of creation, he longs to behold the earth so as to glorify God. Thereupon Uriel proudly rejoins he witnessed the performance, and describes how at God's voice darkness fled and solids converged into spheres, which began to roll around their appointed orbits. Then he points out to Satan the newly-created earth, whither the Evil Spirit eagerly speeds.

  Thus said, he turned; and Satan, bowing low,
  As to superior spirits is wont in heaven,
  Where honor due and reverence none neglects,
  Took leave, and toward the coast of earth beneath,
  Down from the ecliptic, sped with hoped success,
  Throws his steep flight in many an airy wheel,
  Nor stayed, till on Niphates' top he lights.

Book IV. Wishing his voice were loud enough to warn our first parents of coming woe and thus forestall the misfortunes ready to pounce upon them, the poet describes how Satan, "with hell raging in his heart," gazes from the hill, upon which he has alighted, into Paradise. The fact that he is outcast both from heaven and earth fills Satan with alternate sorrow and fierce wrath, under impulse of which emotions his face becomes fearfully distorted. This change and his fierce gestures are seen by Uriel, who curiously follows his flight, and who now for the first time suspects he may have escaped from hell.

After describing the wonders of Eden—which far surpass all fairy tales,—Milton relates how Satan, springing lightly over the dividing wall, lands within its precincts, and in the guise of a cormorant perches upon a tree, whence he beholds two God-like shapes "in naked majesty clad." One of these is Adam, formed for contemplation and valor, the other Eve, formed for softness and grace. They two sit beneath a tree, the beasts of the earth playing peacefully around them, and Satan, watching them, wonders whether they are destined to occupy his former place in heaven, and vows he will ruin their present happiness and deliver them up to woe! After arguing he must do so to secure a better abode for himself and his followers, the fiend transforms himself first into one beast and then into another, and, having approached the pair unnoticed, listens to their conversation. In this way he learns Eve's wonder on first opening her eyes and gazing around her on the flowers and trees, her amazement at her own reflection in the water, and her following a voice which promised to lead her to her counterpart, who would make her mother of the human race. But, the figure she thus found proving less attractive than the one she had just seen in the waters, she was about to retreat, when Adam claimed her as the other half of his being. Since then, they two have dwelt in bliss in this garden, where everything is at their disposal save the fruit of one tree. Thus Satan discovers the prohibition laid upon our first parents. He immediately Dedie's to bring about their ruin by inciting them to scorn divine commands, assuring them that the knowledge of good and evil will make them equal to God, and having discovered this method of compassing his purpose, steals away to devise means to reach his ends.

Meantime, near the eastern gate of Paradise, Gabriel, chief of the angelic host, watches the joyful evolutions of the guards who at nightfall are to patrol the boundaries of Paradise. While thus engaged, Uriel comes glancing down through the evening air on a sunbeam, to warn him that one of the banished crew has escaped, and was seen at noon near these gates. In return Gabriel assures Uriel no creature of any kind passed through them, and that if an evil spirit overleapt the earthly bounds he will be discovered before morning, no matter what shape he has assumed. While Uriel returns to his post in the sun, gray twilight steals over the earth, and Michael, having appointed bands of angels to circle Paradise in opposite directions, despatches two of his lieutenants to search for the hidden foe.

Our first parents, after uniting in prayer, are about to retire, when Eve, who derives all her information from Adam, asks why the stars shine at night, when they are asleep and cannot enjoy them? In reply Adam states that the stars gem the sky to prevent darkness from resuming its sway, and assures his wife that while they sleep angels mount guard, for he has often heard their voices at midnight. Then the pair enter the bower selected for their abode by the sovereign planter, where the loveliest flowers bloom in profusion, and where no bird, beast, insect, or worm dares venture.

In the course of their search, the angels Ithuriel and Zephon reach this place in time to behold a toad crouching by the ear of Eve, trying by devilish arts to reach the organs of her fancy. Touched by Ithuriel's spear,—which has the power of compelling all substances to assume their real form,—this vile creature instantly assumes a demon shape. On recognizing a fiend, Ithuriel demands how he escaped and why he is here. Whereupon Satan haughtily rejoins that the time was when none would have dared treat him so unceremoniously, nor have needed to ask his name, seeing all would instantly have known him. It is only then that Zephon recognizes their former superior, Lucifer, and contemptuously informs him his glory is so dimmed by sin, it is no wonder they could not place him. Both angels now escort their captive to Gabriel, who, recognizing the prisoner from afar, also comments on his faded splendor. Then, addressing Satan, Gabriel demands why he broke his prescribed bonds? Satan defiantly retorts that prisoners invariably try to escape, that no one courts torture, and that, if God meant to keep the fiends forever in durance vile, he should have barred the gates more securely. But, even by escaping from Tartarus, Satan cannot evade his punishment, and Gabriel warns him he has probably increased his penalty sevenfold by his disobedience. Then he tauntingly inquires whether pain is less intolerable to the archfiend's subordinates than to himself, and whether he has already deserted his followers. Wrathfully Satan boasts that, fiercest in battle, he alone had courage enough to undertake this journey to ascertain whether it were possible to secure a pleasanter place of abode. Because in the course of his reply he contradicts himself, the angel terms him a liar and hypocrite, and bids him depart, vowing, should he ever be found lurking near Paradise again, he will be dragged back to the infernal pit and chained fast so he cannot escape! This threat arouses Satan's scorn and makes him so insolent, that the angels, turning fiery red, close around him, threatening him with their spears! Glancing upward and perceiving by the position of the heavenly scales that the issue of a combat would not be in his favor, Satan wrathfully flees with the vanishing shades of night.

Book V. Morning having dawned, Adam awakens refreshed, only to notice the flushed cheeks and discomposed tresses of his companion, from whom, when he awakens her, he learns of a dream wherein a voice urged her to go forth and walk in the garden. Eve goes on to describe how, gliding beneath the trees, she came to the one bearing the forbidden fruit, and descried among its branches a winged shape, which bade her taste of the apples and not despise the boon of knowledge. Although chilled with horror at the mere suggestion, Eve admits that she yielded, because the voice assured her one taste would enable her to flutter through the air like the angels and perchance visit God! Her desire to enjoy such a privilege became so intense that when the fruit was pressed to her lips she tasted it, and had no sooner done so than she soared upward, only to sink down and awaken at Adam's touch!

Comforting his distressed consort, Adam leads her into the garden to prune over-luxuriant branches and to train vines from tree to tree. While they are thus occupied, the Almighty summons Raphael, and, after informing him Satan has escaped from hell and has found his way to Paradise to disturb the felicity of man, bids the archangel hasten down to earth, and, conversing "as friend with friend" with Adam, warn him that he had the power to retain or forfeit his happy state, and caution him against the wiles of the fiend, lest, after wilfully transgressing, man should claim he had not been forewarned.

Past choirs of angels, through the golden gate, and down the mighty stairs, Raphael flits, reaching earth in the shape of a six-winged cherub, whose iridescent plumes seem to have been dipped in heaven's own dyes. On beholding this visitor, Adam bids Eve collect her choicest fruit, and, while she hastens away on "hospitable thoughts intent," advances to meet Raphael, knowing he brings some divine message. After hailing Eve with the salutation later used for Mary, the angel proceeds to Adam's lodge and shares his meal, admitting that the angels in heaven partake of spiritual food only, although they are endowed with senses like man.

On discovering he may question Raphael,—save in regard to matters which are to be withheld for a while longer,—Adam queries about things which have troubled him. Inferring from the angel's words that their bliss is not secure, he learns that as long as he proves obedient his happiness will continue, but that, having been created as free as the angels, he can choose his lot. When Adam asks in regard to heavenly things, Raphael wonders how he can relate, in terms intelligible to finite mind, things which, even angels fail to conceive in their entirety and which it may not be lawful to reveal. Still, knowing he can vouchsafe a brief outline of all that has hitherto occurred, Raphael describes how the Almighty, after creating the Son, bade the angels bow down and worship him. He states that, during the night following this event, Lucifer, angry because he was no longer second in heaven, withdrew to that quarter of the sky entrusted to his keeping, and there suggested to Beelzebub rebellion against God, who required them to pay servile tribute to his Son! Arguing that they will be gradually reduced to slavery, Satan induces one-third of the heavenly hosts to rebel, for only one of his followers, Abdiel, refuses to believe his specious words. In his indignation, Abdiel bursts forth into flame, denounces Lucifer, and departs to report to the Almighty what he has heard. He alone proves faithful among the faithless, so, as he passes out from among them, the rebel angels, resenting his attitude, overwhelm him with their scorn.

  From amidst them forth he passed,
  Long way through hostile scorn, which he sustained
  Superior, nor of violence feared aught;
  And with retorted scorn his back he turned
  On those proud towers to swift destruction doomed.

The Almighty, however, does not require Abdiel's warning, for the all-seeing eye has already descried what, has occurred, and has pointed out to the Son how Lucifer, devoured by pride, is about to rise up against them.

Book VI. In spite of the speed with which he travels, Abdiel requires all night to cross the distance which separates the apostate angels from the heavenly throne. The news he bears being already known in heaven, the angels welcome him and conduct him to the throne, whence, from a golden cloud, issues a voice proclaiming "well done." Next God bids Michael lead forth a host equal in number to the godless crew arraying itself in battle order to dispute from the Almighty the sovereignty of heaven. The divine orders are to oppose Lucifer and hurl him into the gulf of Tartarus, whose fiery mouth will open wide to receive him. A moment later trumpets sound in heaven, and the angelic legions sally forth to battle for God and for his Messiah, hymning the Eternal Father. The evil angels, whose glory has not yet been dimmed, meet this host in squadrons, at the head of which rides Lucifer (or Satan as he is generally called after he becomes an apostate), in his sun-bright chariot. On beholding him, Abdiel marvels because he still retains a God-like semblance, and warns him he will soon pay the penalty of his folly. In return Satan terms Abdiel a common deserter, and overwhelms him with scorn, to which this angel pays little heed, realizing that by serving a divine master he is freer than independent Satan.

After exchanging Homeric taunts, these two begin fighting, and Abdiel's first dart causes the archenemy to recoil and almost sink to the ground. But, when the divine host clamor that Satan is overcome, he promptly recovers his footing, and, retreating into the ranks of his army, directs their resistance to the foe. The battle now rages with such fury that the heavens resound. Many deeds of eternal fame are wrought, for Satan proves almost equal to Michael, who with his two-handed sword strikes down whole squadrons at one blow. But wounds inflicted on angels, even when fallen, are no sooner made than healed, so those who sink down disabled are soon back in the thick of the night as strong as ever. The moment comes, however, when Michael's sword inflicts so deep a wound in Satan's side that, for the first time, he experiences pain. Seeing him fall, his adherents bear him away from the field of battle, where he is immediately healed, "for spirits, that live throughout vital in every part,… cannot but by annihilation die." Thus temporarily deprived of his greatest opponent, Michael attacks Moloch, while Uriel, Raphael and Abdiel vanquish other potent angels who have dared to rebel against God.

After describing the battle-field, strewn with shattered armor and broken chariots, the poet pictures the dismay in the ranks of the rebel angels, and describes how Satan drew away his troops so they might rest and be ready to renew the fray on the morrow. In the silence of that night, he also consults with his adherents how to fight to better advantage on the morrow, insisting that they now know they can never be permanently wounded. The demons feel confident that, granted better arms, they could secure the advantage, so, when one of their number suggests the manufacture of cannon, all gladly welcome the idea. Under Satan's direction some of the evil angels draw from the ground metal, which, molten and poured into moulds, furnishes the engines of destruction they are seeking. Meanwhile others collect ingredients for ammunition, and, when morning dawns, they have a number of weapons ready for use, which they cunningly conceal in the centre of their fourfold phalanx as they advance.

In the midst of the second encounter, Satan's squadrons suddenly draw aside to let these cannons belch forth the destruction with which they are charged, an unexpected broadside which fells the good angels by thousands; but, although hosts of them are thus laid low, others spring forward to take their place. On seeing the havoc wrought by their guns, Satan and his host openly rejoice; but the good angels, perceiving arms are useless against this artillery, throw them away, and, picking up the hills, hurl them at their opponents, whom they bury beneath the weight of mountains. In fact, had not the Almighty checked this outburst of righteous anger, the fiends would doubtless have been buried so deep they never would have been able to reappear!

On the third day the Almighty proclaims that, as both forces are equal in strength, the fighting will never end unless he interferes. He therefore summons his only begotten Son to wield the thunder-bolts, his exclusive weapon. Ever ready to do his Father's will, the Son accepts, mounts a chariot borne by four cherubs, and sets forth, attended by twenty thousand saints, who wish to witness his triumph. On seeing him approach, the good angels exult, while the wicked are seized with terror, although they disdain to flee. Bidding the angelic host watch him triumph single-handed over the foe, the Son of God changes his benignant expression into one of wrath, and hurls his thunder-bolts to such purpose that the rebels long for the mountains to cover them as on the previous day. With these divine weapons Christ ruthlessly drives Satan and his hosts out of the confines of heaven, over the edge of the abyss, and hurls them all down into the bottomless pit, sending after them peal after peal of thunder, together with dazzling flashes of lightning, but mercifully withholding his deadly bolts, as he purposes not to annihilate, but merely to drive the rebels out of heaven. Thus, with a din and clatter which the poet graphically describes, Satan and his host fall through space and land nine days later in the fiery lake!

After pursuing the foe far enough to make sure they will not return, the Messiah re-enters heaven in triumph, greeted by saints and angels with hymns of praise. This account of the war in heaven concluded, Raphael informs Adam that Satan, leader of these fallen angels, envying his happy state, is now plotting to seduce him from his allegiance to God, and thus compel him to share his eternal misery.

  "But listen not to his temptations; warn
  Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have heard
  By terrible example the reward
  Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
  Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress."

Book VII. At Adam's request Raphael next explains how the earth was created, saying that, as Satan had seduced one-third of heaven's inhabitants, God decided to create a new race, whence angels could be recruited to repeople his realm. In terms simple enough to make himself understood, Raphael depicts how the Son of God passing through heaven's gates and viewing the immeasurable abyss, decided to evolve from it a thing of beauty. He adds that the Creator made use of the divine compasses "prepared in God's eternal store," to circumscribe the universe, thus setting its bounds at equal distance from its centre. Then his spirit, brooding over the abyss, permeated Chaos with vital warmth, until its various components sought their appointed places, and earth "self-balanced on her centre hung." Next the light evolved from the deep began to travel from east to west, and "God saw that it was good."

On the second day God created the firmament, on the third separated water from dry land, and on the fourth covered the earth with plants and trees, each bearing seed to propagate its kind. Then came the creation of the sun, moon, and stars to rule day and night and divide light from darkness, and on the fifth day the creation of the birds and fishes, whom God bade multiply until they filled the earth. Only on the sixth and last day did God call into life cattle and creeping things, which crawled out of the earth full grown and perfect limbed. Then, as there still lacked a creature endowed with reason to rule the rest, God created man in his own image, fashioning him from clay by breathing life into his nostrils. After thus creating Adam and his consort Eve, God blessed both, bidding them be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, and hold dominion over every living thing upon it. Having placed creatures so richly endowed in Paradise, God left them free to enjoy all it contained, save the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in regard to which he warned them "in the day thou eatest thereof, thou diest." Then, his work finished, the Creator returned to heaven, where he and the angels spent the seventh day resting from their work.

Book VIII. Not daring to intrude upon the conversation of Adam and Raphael, Eve waits at a distance, knowing her husband will tell her all she need learn. Meanwhile, further to satisfy his curiosity, Adam inquires how the sun and stars move so quietly in their orbit? Raphael rejoins that, although the heavens are the book of God, wherein man can read his wondrous works, it is difficult to make any one understand the distances separating the various orbs. To give Adam a slight idea of them, Raphael declares that he—whose motions are not slow—set out from heaven at early morn and arrived at Eden only at midday. Then he describes the three rotations to which our earth is subject, names the six planets, and assures Adam God holds them all in his hand and prescribes their paths and speed.

In his turn, Adam entertains Raphael with a description of his amazement when he awoke on a flowery hillside, to see the sky, the woods, and the streams; his gradual acquaintance with his own person and powers, the naming of the animals, and his awe when the divine master led him into Paradise and warned him not to touch the central tree. After describing his loneliness on discovering that all living creatures went about in pairs, Adam adds that, after he had complained to the Creator, a deep sleep fell upon him, during which a rib was removed from his side from which to fashion Eve. Joined by the Creator himself to this "bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh," Adam declares since then they have enjoyed nuptial bliss, and artlessly inquires whether angels marry and are given in marriage too. Whereupon Raphael rejoins that in heaven love so refines the thoughts and enlarges the heart that none save spiritual communion is necessary to secure perfect bliss. Then, seeing the sun about to set, the angel takes leave of Adam and wends his way back to heaven, while the father of mankind rejoins his waiting wife.
Book IX. The poet warns us there will be no more question of talk between man and angels, as his song must now change to a tragic note, because vile distrust has entered Paradise. Then he describes how Satan, driven away from Eden by Gabriel, circles around the earth seven days and nights without rest, and at the end of that time re-enters Paradise, by means of an underground river and in the guise of a mist. Then, perched as a bird upon the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Satan decides to approach our first parents in the guise of a loathsome serpent and seek his revenge, although fully aware the consequences will recoil upon himself. Next, finding a serpent asleep, Satan enters it, and meanders along the paths of Paradise, hoping to find Adam and Eve apart, for he deems it will be easier to work his ends on one at a time.

Morning having come, Adam and Eve awake, and after their usual song of praise set out to attend the garden. But Eve insists that as long as they are together they allow themselves to be distracted from their labors, and proposes that they work independently until the noon hour brings them together to share their simple repast. Although reluctant at first to be parted from his beloved, Adam, hearing her exclaim he does not trust her, yields to her pleading. Thus, the serpent, ranging through the garden, perceives Eve alone among the roses, and rejoices to think he can make his first attempt upon what he rightly deems the weaker vessel. Although not without compunction, he wends his way toward her and startles her by addressing her in a human voice. When she inquires how it happens a beast can communicate with her, the serpent rejoins that, although at first speechless like other beasts, he no sooner tasted a certain fruit than he was gifted with greater knowledge than he had yet enjoyed and endowed with the power of speech. Deeming the fruit of such a tree might have equally beneficial effects upon her and make her more nearly equal to her consort, Eve longs to partake of it too, and readily follows her guide to the centre of the garden. But, when the serpent points out the forbidden tree, Eve prepares to withdraw, until the tempter assures her God's prohibition was not intended to be obeyed. He argues that, although he has tasted the fruit he continues to live and has obtained new faculties, and by this specious reasoning induces Eve to pluck and eat the fruit. As it touches her lips nature gives "signs of woe," and the guilty serpent links back into the thicket, leaving Eve to gorge upon the fruit whose taste affords her keener delight than she ever experienced before. In laudatory terms she now promises to care for the tree, and then wonders whether Adam will perceive any difference in her, and whether it will be wise to impart to him the happiness she has tasted. Although at first doubtful, Eve, fearing lest death may ensue and Adam replace her by another partner, determines to induce her husband to share this food too, for she loves Adam too dearly to live without him.

  "Confirmed then I resolve,
  Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe:
  So dear I love him, that with him all deaths
  I could endure, without him live no life."

This decision reached, Eve hastens to Adam, and volubly explains that the tree is not what God depicted, for the serpent, having tasted of its fruit, has been endowed with eloquence so persuasive that he has induced her to taste it too. Horror-stricken, Adam wails his wife is lost; then he wonders how he will be able to exist without her, and is amazed to think she should have yielded to the very first onslaught of their foe. But, after this first outburst of grief, he vows he will share her doom and die with her. Having made a decision so flattering to Eve, he accepts the fruit which she tenders, and nature again shudders, for Adam, although not deceived, yields to temptation because of his love for Eve. No sooner have both fed upon the tree than its effects become patent, for it kindles within them the never-before-experienced sense of lust. The couple therefore emerge on the morrow from their bower, their innocence lost, and overwhelmed, for the first time in their lives, by a crushing sense of shame. Good and evil being equally well known to him, Adam reproaches his wife, wailing that never more shall they behold the face of God and suggests that they weave leaf-garments to hide their nakedness. So the first couple steal into the thicket to fashion fig-leaf girdles, which they bind about them, reviling each other for having forfeited their former happy estate.

Book X. Meantime, Eve's fall has been duly reported in heaven by the angelic guards, whom the Almighty reassures, saying he knew the Evil Spirit would succeed and man would fall. Then the same voice decrees that, as man has transgressed, his sentence shall be pronounced, and that the one best fitted for such a task is the Son, man's mediator Ready to do his Father's will in heaven as upon earth, the Son departs, promising to temper justice with mercy, so that God's goodness will be made manifest, and adding that the doom of the absent Satan shall also be pronounced.

Escorted to the gates of heaven by the angelic host, the Redeemer descends alone to earth, where he arrives in the garden in the cool of the evening. At his summons Adam and Eve emerge from their hiding-place, and, when Adam shamefacedly claims they hid because they were naked, his maker demonstrates how his very words convict him of guilt, and inquires whether they have eaten of the forbidden fruit. Unable to deny his transgression, Adam states he is in a quandary, for he must either accuse himself wrongfully or lay the guilt upon the wife whom it is his duty to protect. When he adds that the woman gave him the fruit whereof he did eat, the judge sternly demands whether Adam was bound to obey his consort, reminding him that woman was made subject to man and declaring that by yielding to Eve's persuasions he incurred equal guilt. Then, turning to the woman, the judge demands what she had done, and Eve, abashed, confesses the serpent beguiled her until she ate. Having thus heard both culprits, the judge pronounces sentence upon the serpent in veiled terms, for, as yet, man is not to understand what is divinely planned. Then, having disposed of the archenemy, he predicts Eve will bring forth her children in suffering and will be subject to her husband's will, ere he informs Adam that henceforth he will have to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, for the earth will no longer bear fruit for him without labor. Having thus pronounced his judgment, the judge postpones the penalty of death indefinitely, and taking pity upon our first parents, clothes them in the skins of beasts, to enable them to bear the harsher air to which they are soon to be exposed.

Meantime Sin and Death peer forth through hell's open gateway, hoping to each some glimpse of returning Satan. Weary of waiting, Sin finally suggests to Death the folly of remaining idle, since Satan cannot fail to succeed, and proposes that they follow him over the abyss, building as they go a road to facilitate intercourse hereafter between hell and earth. This proposal charms Death, whose keen nostrils already descry the smell of mortal change, and who longs to reach earth and prey upon all living creatures. These two terrible shapes, therefore, venture out through the waste, and by making "the hard soft and the soft hard," they fashion of stone and asphalt a broad highway from the gates of hell to the confines of the newly created world.

They have barely finished this causeway when Satan—still in the likeness of an angel—comes flying toward them, for after seducing Eve he has lurked in the garden until from a safe hiding-place he heard the threefold sentence pronounced by the judge. He too does not grasp his doom, but, realizing that humanity is in his power, is hastening back to Hades to make the joyful fact known. On encountering Sin and Death, Satan congratulates them upon their engineering skill and sends them on to work their will in the world, while he speeds along the path they have made to tell the fallen angels all that has occurred. In obedience to his orders a number of these are mounting guard, but Satan, in the guise of a ministering spirit, passes through their midst unheeded, and only after entering Pandemonium allows his native majesty to shine forth. On becoming aware he is once more present, the demons welcome him with a mighty shout. Then by an impressive gesture Satan imposes silence and describes his journey, his success, and the ease with which they can pass to and fro now that Sin and Death have paved their way. To satisfy their curiosity he further depicts by what means he tempted woman, and, although he admits he was cursed as well as the fallen, does not appear dismayed. Raising their voices to applaud him, his adherents are now surprised to hear themselves hiss, and to discover they have all been transformed into snakes. Then Satan himself, in the form of a dragon, guides them to a grove near by, where they climb the trees and greedily feed on apples of Sodom, which offend their taste, a performance to be renewed yearly on the anniversary of the temptation.

Meanwhile, Sin and Death having entered Paradise,—where they are not yet allowed to touch human beings,—lay low herbs, fruit, flowers, and beasts, all of which are now their legitimate prey. Pointing out their ravages, the Almighty explains that, had man not disobeyed, these despoilers would never have preyed upon the newly created world, where they are now to have full sway until the Son hurls them back into Hades. On hearing these words, the angels praise the ways of the Almighty, which are ever just, and laud his Son as the destined restorer of mankind. While they are thus employed, the Almighty directs some of his attendants to move the sun, so as to subject the earth to alternate cold and heat, thus making winter follow summer. The planets, too, are to shed malignant influences upon the earth, whose axle is slightly turned, while violent winds cause devastation, and enmity is kindled between creatures which have hitherto lived in peace. Adam, on perceiving these changes, becomes conscious they are the effect of his transgression, and is plunged in such grief that God's order to increase and multiply seems horrible. In his grief he murmurs aloud, but, after a while, realizing he was left free to choose between good and evil, he acknowledges his punishment is just. The fact that God does not immediately visit upon him the penalty he has incurred does not, however, comfort him, because he longs for death to end his sorrows. On seeing her husband's grief, Eve now volunteers to go in quest of their judge, imploring him to visit upon her alone the penalty of sin. Her readiness to sacrifice herself touches Adam, who replies that, since they are one, they must share what awaits them. When Eve intimates that, since they are doomed, it will be well never to bear any children, Adam reminds her it is only through repentance they can appease their judge, and bids her not scorn life or its pleasures.

Book XI. Having reached this state of humility and repentance, our first parents are viewed compassionately by the Redeemer, who, gathering up their prayers, presents them to the Father as the first-fruits which have sprung from his mercy.

  "See, Father, what first-fruits on earth are sprung
  From thy implanted grace in man; these sighs
  And prayers, which in this golden censer, mixed
  With incense, I thy priest before thee bring,
  Fruits of more pleasing savor, from thy seed
  Sown with contrition in his heart, than those
  Which his own hand, manuring all the trees
  Of Paradise, could have produced, ere fallen
  From innocence."

In reply to the touching pleas of this advocate, the heavenly Father promises the culprits shall be forgiven, provided their repentance is sincere, but insists that meantime they be ejected from Paradise. Michael and the cherubs chosen for this office are instructed to mount guard day and night, lest the fiend return to Paradise, or the human pair re-enter and partake of the tree of life and thus escape the penalty of death. But, before driving out our first parents, Michael is to reveal to Adam all that awaits his race in the future, emphasizing the promise that salvation shall come through his seed. These orders received, the archangel wends his way down to earth, where, dawn having appeared, Adam and Eve once more issue from their bower.

Night has brought some comfort, and Adam exclaims that, since the penalty of death is to be postponed, they must show their penitence by laboring hard, working henceforth side by side as contentedly as their fallen state will allow. On the way to the scene of their wonted labors they notice an eagle pursuing another bird and see wild beasts hunting one another. Besides these ominous signs Adam, descrying a bright light travelling rapidly toward them, informs Eve some message is on its way. He is not mistaken, for Michael soon emerges from this cloud of light so, while Eve hurries off to prepare for his entertainment Adam steps forward to receive him.

Clad in celestial panoply, the angel announces he has been sent to inform Adam that although the penalty of death is indefinitely postponed, he is no longer to inhabit Paradise, but is to go forth into the world and till the ground from whence he sprang. Horror-stricken at these tidings, Adam remains mute, and Eve, hearing the decree from a distance, wails aloud at the thought of leaving home. To comfort her, the angel bids her dry her tears and follow her husband, making her home wherever he abides. Then Adam wonders whether by incessant prayer and penitence the Almighty could be induced to alter his decree and let them remain in Paradise, saying he hoped to point out to his descendants the places where he met and conversed with his Maker. But Michael rejoining he will find God everywhere invites Adam to follow him to the top of a neighboring hill, explaining he has enveloped Eve in slumbers, which will hold her entranced while he reveals to Adam the earth's kingdoms and their glory.

                    "Know I am sent
  To show thee what shall come in future days
  To thee and to thy offspring; good with bad
  Expect to hear, supernal grace contending
  With sinfulness of men; thereby to learn
  True patience, and to temper joy with fear,
  And pious sorrow, equally inured
  By moderation either state to bear,
  Prosperous or adverse: so shalt thou lead
  Safest thy life, and best prepared endure
  Thy mortal passage when it comes. Ascend
  This hill; let Eve (for I have drenched her eyes)
  Here sleep below, while thou to foresight wakest.
  As once thou slept'st, while she to life was formed."

From a hill in Paradise,—after purging Adam's eyes with three drops of water from the well of life,—Michael vouchsafes him a glimpse of all that is to take place upon our earth. Thus, Cain and Abel first pass before their father's eyes, but death is so unintelligible to Adam that the angel has to explain what it means. Overwhelmed at the thought that so awful a thing has come into the world through his transgression, Adam is further horrified when the angel reveals all the suffering which will visit mankind, explaining that, since much of it will be due to evil living, it behooves Adam to observe temperance in food and drink. But he warns him that, in spite of all precautions, old age will come upon him as a precursor of death. In a panorama Adam sees all that is to occur until the Deluge, and, watching Noah construct the ark, wails because his progeny is to be destroyed by the flood. The angel, however, demonstrates that the righteous will be saved and that from them will descend a race more willing to obey God's commands. The dove and the rainbow, therefore, instil comfort into Adam's heart, as does God's promise that day and night, seedtime and harvest shall hold their course until new heavens and earth appear wherein the just shall dwell.

Book XII. Having depicted a world destroyed and foreshadowed a world restored, the angel shows Adam how man will migrate to a plain, where by means of bricks and bitumen an attempt will be made to erect a tower to reach heaven. When Adam expresses displeasure that one of his race should defy God, Michael assures him he rightly abhors disobedience, and comforts him by revealing how one righteous man, in whose "seed all nations shall be blest," is to be brought out of that country into the Promised Land.

Not only does the angel name Abraham, but depicts his life, the captivity in Egypt, the exodus, and the forty years in the desert. He also vouchsafes to Adam a glimpse of Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the tables of the law, and appointing the worship which the Chosen People are to offer to their Creator. When Adam wonders at the number of laws, Michael rejoins that sin has many faces, and that until blood more precious than that of the prescribed sacrifices has been shed, no suitable atonement can be made.

After describing how under the Judges and then under the Kings the people of Israel will continue their career the angel designates David as the ancestor of the Messiah, whose coming will be heralded by a star which will serve as guide to eastern sages. He adds that this Messiah will descend from the Most High by a virgin mother, that his reign will extend over all the earth, and that, by bruising the serpent's head, he will conquer Sin and Death. This promise fills Adam's heart with joy, because it partly explains the mysterious prophecy, but, when he inquires how the serpent can wound such a victor's heel, Michael rejoins that, in order to overcome Satan, the Messiah will incur the penalty of death, revealing how, after living hated and blasphemed, he will prove by his death and resurrection that Sin and Death have no lasting power over those who believe in his name. Full of joy at the promise that the Messiah will lead all ransomed souls to a happier Paradise than the one he has forfeited, Adam declares since such good is to proceed from the evil he has done he doubts whether he should repent.

Between the death of Christ and his second coming, the angel adds that the Comforter will dwell upon earth with those who love their Redeemer, helping them resist the onslaughts of Satan, and that in spite of temptation many righteous will ultimately reach heaven, to take the place of the outcast angels.

                    "Till the day
  Appear of respiration to the just,
  And vengeance to the wicked, at return
  Of him so lately promised to thy aid,
  The woman's Seed, obscurely then foretold,
  Now amplier known thy Saviour and thy Lord,
  Last in the clouds from heaven to be revealed
  In glory of the Father, to dissolve
  Satan with his perverted world, then raise
  From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined,
  New heavens, new earth, ages of endless date
  Founded in righteousness and peace and love,
  To bring forth fruits, joy, and eternal bliss."

These instructions finished, the angel bids Adam not seek to know any more, enjoining upon him to add deeds to knowledge, to cultivate patience, temperance, and love, promising, if he obeys, that Paradise will reign in his heart. Then pointing out that the guards placed around Eden are waving their flashing swords and that it is time to awaken Eve, he bids Adam gradually impart to her all that he has learned through angelic revelations. When they rejoin Eve, she explains how God sent her a dream which has soothed her heart and filled it with hope, making her realize that, although she has sinned and is unworthy, through her seed all shall be blessed.

Then the angel takes Adam and Eve by the hand and leads them out by the eastern gate into the world. Gazing backward, our first parents catch their last glimpse of Paradise and behold at the gate the angel with a flaming sword. Thus, hand in hand, dropping natural tears, they pass out into the world to select their place of rest, having Providence only for their guide.


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