John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 9 (ctd.)

Eve absolutely has to have the last word and so says that if Adam thus gives her his permission, she will go, especially since his last words are so encouraging, because he said trial might come when they were least prepared for it, and now she feels well-prepared. Besides, she doesn’t believe that Satan, being proud, will abase himself by tempting her as the weaker one. She leaves with a lot of mutual questions and assurances that yes, she is going to be back before the noon. But of course these are the last moments of her innocence and she is not going to be back, at least not exactly in the same condition as when she left. Meanwhile Satan as the serpent slithers around the garden, looking for Adam and Eve. He can’t believe his luck when he finds Eve unexpectedly alone. But before he gets down to the tempting business, he is temporarily overcome by the beauty of Paradise and Eve herself, who is symbolically busy with propping up roses while she herself is in need of a moral prop. He feels like a city dweller who got out on a beautiful summer day into the countryside and breathes in the fresh air and the smell of hay. This, and the beauty of Eve, overcomes him and for a moment, in what is probably the best lines of the poem, “the Evil One stood/abstracted from his own evil, and for the time remained/Stupidly good” (as the Helpful Margin Note tells us, “stupidly” here means “stupefied”). But of course it doesn’t last and as soon as he remembers he is excluded from all this beauty, he again is tormented and feels the urge to ruin it for everyone, if he can’t have a share in it.


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