And O fair Plant, said he, with fruit surcharg’d,
Deigns none to ease thy load and taste thy sweet,
Nor God, nor Man; is Knowledge so despis’d?
Why sleepst thou Eve? now is the pleasant time
The cool, the silent, save where silence yields
To the night-warbling Bird, that now awake
Tunes sweetest his love-labor’d song; now reignes
Full Orb’d the Moon, and with more pleasing light
Shadowie sets off the face of things; in vain,
If none regard;…
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should thir Lord
Envie them that? can it be sin to know,
Can it be death? and do they onely stand
By Ignorance, is that thir happie state,
The proof of thir obedience and thir faith?
Hence will I excite thir minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with designe
To keep them low whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with Gods;…
(wherein Milton tries to make curiosity the bogeyman by giving one of the most thoughtful passages to Satan)
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
(Alan Lightman recalls this in Mr. g)
So man in vain futilities toils on
Forever and wastes in idle care his years—
Because, of very truth, he hath not learnt
What the true end of getting is, nor yet
At all how far true pleasure may increase.
…better far in quiet to obey,
Than to desire chief mastery of affairs
And ownership of empires. Be it so;
And let the weary sweat their life-blood out
All to no end, battling in hate along
The narrow path of man’s ambition;
Since all their wisdom is from others’ lips,
And all they seek is known from what they’ve heard
And less from what they’ve thought. Nor is this folly
Greater to-day, nor greater soon to be,
Than ‘twas of old.
In that long-ago
The wheel of the sun could nowhere be discerned
Flying far up with its abounding blaze,
Nor constellations of the mighty world,
Nor ocean, nor heaven, nor even earth nor air.
Nor aught of things like unto things of ours
Could then be seen—but only some strange storm
And a prodigious hurly-burly mass
Compounded of all kinds of primal germs,
Whose battling discords in disorder kept
Interstices, and paths, coherencies,
And weights, and blows, encounterings, and motions,
Because, by reason of their forms unlike
And varied shapes, they could not all thuswise
Remain conjoined nor harmoniously
Have interplay of movements. But from there
Portions began to fly asunder, and like
With like to join, and to block out a world,…
O what emoluments could it confer
Upon Immortals and upon the Blessed
That they should take a step to manage aught
For sake of us?
…naught is harder than to separate
Plain facts from dubious, which the mind forthwith
Adds by itself.
…Wherefore, it’s surer testing of a man
In doubtful perils—mark him as he is
Amid adversities; for then alone
Are the true voices conjured from his breast,
The mask off-stripped, reality behind.