Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Temptation of Eve

His dark presence in Eden's verdant groves unveiled to the angels of the Lord, Satan cursed his brethren of old (for the previous episode in this story, please click here). In truth, deep down in his burdened heart, deepest sorrow welled up as his chance for redemption waned ever more remote. Now that he had seen the fields of Paradise with his own eyes, and the peace that could have been his, should have been his, his rage at the Most High burned anew, as his mind turned once again to malice...

The Angels vigilant
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Uriel, the Archangel of the Lord, unnerved by the ease at which the Morning Star had broken free of his infernal bonds, and cast his deception over him, sent word far and wide. Cherubim far and wide stood vigilant, wary that the eternal purity of the Garden, that abode of sanctity, had been breached. Meanwhile, high above, the Morning Star searched far and wide, all thought bent on bringing his fell task to fruition. For whilst he had plagued Eve with hideous nightmares, his final hand was stayed by the angels of the Lord. For seven days and seven nights he circled the Earth, casting his eye over all the Gates of Paradise, and on the eighth his vile stratagem came at last into his head. There lay not far away various of the fauna that called Eden home, and Satan cast his gaze upon them, and:

                           " With narrow search; and with inspection deep
                             Considered every creature, which of all
                             Most opportune might serve his wiles, and found
                             The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field... "
                                            - SATAN AND THE SERPENT

For within the wily snake, Satan saw its slender charm, its natural cunning and innate wit, and his mind was made. The Serpent would be the instrument of his fresh schemes, desperate to relieve his own suffering through the destruction of others as he was. Though in painful truth he remembered his humiliating fall from Heaven, he took fresh heart from the knowledge that he "in one night freed from servitude inglorious well nigh half th' angelic name". Where strength of arms failed, only by turning God's own creations against their master could he now seek solace through vengeance. Descending through the mists of the twilight, through the serpent's mouth passed that malevolent spirit as it slept. As Dawn arose over resplendent Eden, the serpent awoke, but its mind was no longer its own. "O foul descent!", Satan cried, "that I who erst contended with Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained into a beast!" As the perfumed scents of the bountiful trees swept through the Garden, the serpent froze, for it heard the footfalls of two approaching beings.

The Creation of Adam
Painting by Michelangelo
With the sun rising in the eastern skies, Adam, formed from God's own hand, and Eve, born of Adam's flesh, set about a new day in the Garden. Still shaken from the ghastly phantasmagoria which had wracked her dreams, Eve suggested to Adam that they divide their labours in Eden, so that they might better serve the command of the Lord. Adam thought back to the moment of his creation, and the Word of God to rule over the beings of the world. The warning of Raphael, however, still rang in his ears, that evil forces were at work, and that they should ever beware of its veiled presence, and stay together. Eve soothed her husband's fears however, reasoning that they themselves had inflicted no wrong upon this nameless evil. Why then, should it visit harm upon them? Reassured in his innocence, Adam, though harbouring secret fears at the back of his mind, relented. Cautioning once again on the danger of temptation of which the Archangel had spoken, Adam bade Eve farewell. As the first man strolled off into the undergrowth, little did he realise that ageless evil had already found them, and would soon bring about their utter ruin.

With Eve alone at last, Satan seized his chance. Flexing his newfound form, the Morning Star darted forward through the forest, though not on his underbelly as serpents do today, for this was an age before that accursed creature chewed the dust. There, "veiled in a cloud of fragrance", there she stood, framed by the finest roses. The striking sight before him could not fail to move the heart of Satan, for despite his betrayal and his shattered soul, he remained an angel still. Mourning that so fair a being as that before him must suffer, for God to suffer, the Morning Star came before the first woman.

As Eve stood tending the glorious wonders of the forest, her eyes caught sight of a serpent approaching. The snake licked the ground where she had stood, and his gentle expression could not help but heighten her curiosity.  To her profound amazement, the Serpent reared its slender head and spoke. "Wonder not, sov'reign mistress, if perhaps thou canst, who art sole wonder, much less arm thy looks, the Heav'n of mildness, with disdain, displeased that I approach thee thus...", spake the Serpent, and his words were straight and true, touching the heart of the first lady. "What may this mean? Language of man pronounced by tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?" she thought. How had this creature acquired the power of human speech and feeling? Sensing her question, the Serpent wove his trap:

                          " Till on a day roving the field, I chanced
                             A goodly tree far distant to behold
                             Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed... "
                                                  - SATAN SPEAKS OF THE TREE TO EVE

The Serpent told Eve of the great enlightenment that the fruit of the tree gave to him from the moment it touched his lips, how a great feeling of epiphany had gripped his coiled form, how he found the power of speech henceforth stood in place of a hiss, how a sudden realisation of a boundless new mind had come to him. Her curiosity rising further still, Eve asked the Serpent where one could find this most enchanting tree. The Serpent flattered Eve, telling her of its location, near the thicket "of blowing myrrh and balm".  "Lead then", quothed the first woman, and duly, the Serpent lead her on her road to ruin.

The Temptation of Eve
Painting by Michelangelo
When the clearing came, and Eve saw the tree of which the beguiling Serpent spoke, great was the despair that filled her. For the tree he had lead her to was the Tree of Knowledge, of which the Lord had forbidden them to eat. She told the Serpent of her fears, and the mandate of the Lord. Bracing himself greater than all the finest orators of mankind allied, and focusing his divine charisma beyond all restraint, Satan calmed her fears with soothing comfort:

   " Queen of this universe, do not believe those rigid threats of death; ye shall not die:
     How should ye? By the fruit? It gives you life to knowledge. By the Threat'ner?
     Look on me, Me who have touched and tasted, yet both live, and life more perfect
     have attained than Fate meant me, by vent'ring higher than my lot..."
                                          - THE TEMPTATION OF EVE

What harm was there, the Serpent spoke, in possessing the knowledge of good and evil? Won over by his charming words, the first woman, "her rash hand ito the fruit, she plucked, she ate: Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat sighing through all her works gave signs of woe, that all was lost...". Victory at last in his rebellious grasp, Satan took his leave from the grove, forever to haunt the destiny of man as it was, as Eve gorged greedily upon the forbidden fruit. Never before had she tasted such a sweet thing before, and never would she ever taste sweetness again.

Barely a moment passed of the new accursed age, when Adam, born of the Lord's own hand, happened upon the blackened grove. Greeting her husband merrily, Eve joyfully proclaimed, "This tree is not as we are told, a tree of danger tasted, nor to evil unknown op'ning the way, but of divine effect to open eyes, and make them gods who taste...". But when the terrible truth of Eve's deed reached Adam's ears he was :

                                " Astonied stood and blank, while horror chill
                                   ran through his veins, and all his joints relaxed;
                                   From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve
                                   down dropped, and all the faded roses shed... "
                                                 - ADAM LEARNS THE TERRIBLE TRUTH

Raw anguish and terror course through Adam's veins, as mankind first felt remorse. The serene bliss of the Garden was at once shattered by the first man's cries of broken hope. Until now immortal as the spirits high above, now forever would the dark spectre of Death haunt man's destiny. But even now, Adam could not turn away from Eve, as he cried "Should God create another Eve , and I another rib afford, yet loss of thee would never from my heart: no, no, I feel the link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh, bone of my bone thou art , and from thy state mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe". Bound together more closely than man or woman ever was, Adam resolved to share Eve's fate through doom or redemption. Seeing his Paradise now truly lost, Adam took the fruit from Eve's outstretched palm, forever resigned to the coming storm...

United Kingdom

Penguin Classics:

Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

United States

Penguin Classics:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

No comments:

Post a Comment