In the third book: [Satan] comes to the gate of Heaven, described ascending by stairs, and the waters above the firmament that flow about it: his passage thence to the orb of the sun; he finds there Uriel the regent of that orb, but first changes himself into the shape of a meaner angel; and pretending a zealous desire to behold the new creation, and Man whom God had placed here, inquires of him the place of his habitation, and is directed; alights first on mount Niphates.
Satan now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy, and despair;
Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate,
To me alike it deals eternal woe.
Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues. —
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
But at length [Satan] confirms himself in evil, journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described, overleaps the bounds,
Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none, so thick entwined,
As one continued brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed
All path of man or beast that passed that way:
One gate there only was, and that looked east
On the other side. Which when the Arch-felon saw,
Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt,
At one slight bound high overleaped all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve,
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold;
[Satan] sits in the shape of a cormorant on the Tree of Life, as highest in the garden, to look about him. The garden described;
Thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm,
Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind,
Hung amiable — Hesperian fables true,
If true, here only — and of delicious taste.
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks
Grazing the tender herb, where interposed,
Or palmy hillock, or the flowery lap
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose.
Satan’s first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall;
Under a tuft of shade, that on a green
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain-side,
They sat them down; and, after no more toil
Of their sweet gardening labor than sufficed
To recommend cool Zephyr, and made ease
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite
More grateful, to their supper fruits they fell,
Nectarine fruits, which the compliant boughs
Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline
On the soft downy bank, damasked with flowers.
The savory pulp they chew, and in the rind,
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream;
[Satan] overhears their discourse, thence gathers that the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden them to eat of under penalty of death; and thereon intends to found his temptation by seducing them to transgress: then leaves them awhile, to know further of their state by some other means. Meanwhile Uriel descending on a sunbeam warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil spirit had escaped the Deep, and passed at noon by his sphere in the shape of a good angel down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning.
To whom the winged warrior thus returned:
“Uriel, no wonder if thy perfect sight,
Amid the sun’s bright circle where thou sittest,
See far and wide. In at this gate none pass
The vigilance here placed, but such as come
Well known from Heaven; and since meridian hour
No creature thence. If Spirit of other sort,
So minded, have o’erleaped these earthy bounds
On purpose, hard thou knowest it to exclude
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.
But if within the circuit of these walks,
In whatsoever shape he lurk, of whom
Thou tellest, by morrow dawning I shall know.”
So promised he; and Uriel to his charge
Returned on that bright beam, whose point now raised
Bore him slope downward to the sun now fallen
Beneath the Azorès;
Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest: their bower described; their evening worship. Gabriel drawing forth his bands of nightwatch to walk the round of Paradise, appoints two strong angels to Adam’s bower, less the Evil Spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping;
There [in Adam’s bower] they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel;
“Ithuriël and Zephon, with winged speed
Search through this garden, leave unsearched no nook:
But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge,
Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm.
This evening from the sun’s decline arrived
Who tells of some infernal Spirit seen
Hitherward bent — who could have thought? — escaped
The bars of Hell, on errand bad, no doubt:
Such, where ye find, seize fast and hither bring.”
So saying, on he led his radiant files,
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct
In search of whom they sought. Him there they found,
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve
Assaying by his devilish art to reach
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge
Illusions, as he list, phantasms and dreams;
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness. Up he starts
Discovered and surprised. As when a spark
Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid
Fit for the tun some magazine to store
Against a rumored war, the smutty grain
With sudden blaze diffused inflames the air:
So started up in his own shape the Fiend.
Back stepped those two fair Angels, half-amazed
So sudden to behold the grisly king;
Yet thus, unmoved with fear, accost him soon:
“Which of those rebel Spirits adjudged to Hell
Comest thou, escaped thy prison? and transformed,
Why satest thou like an enemy in wait,
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?”
By whom questioned, he [Satan] scornfully answers, prepares resistance, but, hindered by a sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.
The pendulous round earth with balanced air
In counterpoise, now ponders all events,
Battles and realms. In these he put two weights
The sequel each of parting and of fight:
The latter quick up flew, and kicked the beam,
Which Gabriel spying thus bespake the Fiend:
“Satan, I know thy strength, and thou knowest mine,
Neither our own, but given; what folly then
To boast what arms can do! since thine no more
Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now
To trample thee as mire. For proof look up,
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign,
Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist.” The Fiend looked up, and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.
Source of text: Wikisource.
Dartmouth’s superb annotated version in its John Milton Reading Room.
Pablo Auladell (2017) Paradise Lost, by John Milton, a graphic novel, Pegasus Books. ISBN 978 1 68177 362 9.
John Leonard (ed) (2000) Paradise Lost, John Milton, Penguin Classics. ISBN 978 0 140 42439 3.
Gordon Teskey (ed) (2005) Paradise Lost, John Milton, Norton Critical Editions. ISBN 978 0 393 92428 2.
Louis Schwartz (ed) (2014) The Cambridge Companion to Paradise Lost, Cambridge UP. ISBN 978 1 107 02946 0.