Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Garden of Eden

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to Mesopotamia

The Garden of Eden

By John Milton (1608–1674)

(From Paradise Lost, Book IV)

SO on he fares, and to the border comes

Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,

Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,

As with a rural mound, the champaign head

Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides

With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,

Access denied; and overhead up grew

Insuperable height of loftiest shade,

Cedar and pine and fir and branching palm,

A sylvan scene; and, as the ranks ascend

Shade above shade, a woody theatre

Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops

The verdurous wall of Paradise up sprung;

Which to our general sire gave prospect large

Into his nether empire neighboring round.

And higher than that wall a circling row

Of goodliest trees loaden with fairest fruit,

Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,

Appeared, with gay enamelled colors mixed;

On which the sun more glad impressed his beams,

Than in fair evening cloud or humid bow,

When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed

That landskip; and of pure now purer air

Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires

Vernal delight and joy, able to drive

All sadness but despair: now gentle gales,

Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense

Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole

Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail

Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are passed

Mozambic, off at sea northeast-winds blow

Sabæan odors from the spicy shore

Of Araby the blessed; with such delay

Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league

Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles.


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:

Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash

Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,

Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,

In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles:

So clomb this first grand thief into God’s fold;

So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.

Thence up he flew; and on the Tree of Life,

The middle tree and highest there that grew,

Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life

Thereby regained, but sat devising death

To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought

Of that life-giving plant, but only used

For prospect, what well used had been the pledge

Of immortality. So little knows

Any, but God alone, to value right

The good before him; but perverts best things

To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.

Beneath him with new wonder now he views,

To all delight of human sense exposed,

In narrow room, Nature’s whole wealth, yea, more,

A heaven on earth: for blissful Paradise

Of God the garden was, by him in the east

Of Eden planted: Eden stretched her line

From Auran eastward to the royal towers

Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings;

Or where the sons of Eden long before

Dwelt in Telassar. In this pleasant soil

His far more pleasant garden God ordained:

Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow

All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;

And all amid them stood the Tree of Life,

High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit

Of vegetable gold; and next to Life,

Our death, the Tree of Knowledge, grew fast by,

Knowledge of good bought dear by knowing ill.

Southward through Eden went a river large,

Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill

Passed underneath ingulfed; for God had thrown

That mountain as his garden-mould, high raised

Upon the rapid current, which through veins

Of porous earth with kindly thirst updrawn,

Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill

Watered the garden, thence united fell

Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood,

Which from his darksome passage now appears;

And now, divided into four main streams,

Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm

And country, whereof here needs no account;

But rather to tell how, if art could tell,

How from that sapphire fount the crispéd brooks,

Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,

With mazy error under pendent shades

Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed

Flowers worthy of Paradise; which not nice art

In beds and curious knots, but nature boon

Poured forth profuse on hill and dale and plain;

Both where the morning sun first warmly smote

The open field, and where the unpierced shade

Imbrowned the noontide bowers. 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, were interposed;

Or palmy hillock, or the flowery lap

Of some irriguous valley spread her store;

Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose.

Another side, umbrageous grots and caves

Of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine

Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps

Luxuriant; meanwhile murmuring waters fall

Down the slope hills, dispersed, or in a lake,

That to the fringéd bank with myrtle crowned

Her crystal mirror holds, unite their streams.

The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,

Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune

The trembling leaves; while universal Pan,

Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,

Led on the eternal spring. Not that fair field

Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,

Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis

Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain

To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove

Of Daphne by Orontes, and the inspired

Castalian spring, might with this Paradise

Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle

Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,

Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,

Hid Amalthea, and her florid son,

Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye;

Nor where Abassin kings their issue guard,

Mount Amara, though this by some supposed

True Paradise, under the Ethiop line

By Nilus’ head, enclosed with shining rock,

A whole day’s journey high, but wide remote

From this Assyrian garden, where the fiend

Saw, undelighted, all delight, all kind

Of living creatures, new to sight and strange.

Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,

Godlike erect, with native honor clad

In naked majesty, seemed lords of all;

And worthy seemed: for in their looks divine

The image of their glorious Maker shone,

Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,

Severe, but in true filial freedom placed;

Whence true authority in men: though both

Not equal, as their sex not equal, seemed;

For contemplation he and valor formed,

For softness she and sweet attractive grace;

He for God only, she for God in him.

His fair large front and eye sublime declared

Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks

Round from his parted forelock manly hung

Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:

She, as a veil, down to the slender waist

Her unadornéd golden tresses wore

Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved

As the vine curls her tendrils; which implied

Subjection, but required with gentle sway,

And by her yielded, by him best received,

Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,

And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.