Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Nightmare of Eve

Here it was at last. After an arduous journey across the cosmos (for the previous episode in this story, please click here), Satan looked hungrily down upon the Garden of Eden. Once the brightest of all angels, the Morning Star, thrown down from the fold of the Most High for daring to seize the Heavenly throne, Satan had resolved upon means other than open war to defy his Creator. Alone of the Fallen Angels, it had been he who first had spoken treacherous words in Heaven, and who now ventured to humble God by tearing down his most dearest Creation - Man.

Satan enters the Garden of Eden
Engraving by Gustave Doré
As he soared forth into the world of Men, and the light of the Sun touched his proud face, Satan was shaken. Not since he had served the Lord in Heaven had he felt such warmth, such invigoration, such happiness. For though treacherous, proud and deceitful, he remained an angel still, and here was a land to which he should belong:

    " O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams
       That bring to my remembrance
       from what state I fell,
       how glorious once above thy sphere;
       Till pride and worse ambition
       threw me down... "
                      - SATAN'S REMORSE

Wracked with guilt and remorse, Satan dreamt in vain that he were created a lesser being, devoid of ambition and immune to temptation. There was a moment, as the Morning Star touched upon the grass, that he even wondered whether he could know redemption, whether pardon could yet be his. Should he repent, would God forgive him of his crimes? Imagining himself, on bent knee before the Lord, surrounded by the Heavenly array, in his pride Satan thought only of the humiliation of it. Intolerable! Thinking too, of the horrors of the infernal prison from whence he had come and to where he must return, inflamed with rage once more, Satan focused his mind on the fell task he had volunteered to undertake. But his moment of inner conflict had gone not unnoticed. For there behind stood Uriel still, the angel Satan had deceived by disguise. Suspicious of seeing a pained expression in a place so pure, Uriel made haste to his brethren upon the Mount.

The Garden of Eden
Painting by Wenzel Peter
Not even the fiery heart of the Fallen One was hard to the beauty of the place he now saw. Such a verdant, sylvan scene there never was in all the cosmos! Boundless wilderness of cedar, pine and fir, towering high with the mightiest saplings groaning under the burden of their glorious fruit. The colour too! Regal golds glowing from the bounty of fruit, rich blossoms flourishing upon their boughs, bathed in the radiant glow of the high Sun. A soft breeze, a showering in the perfumed scents of the trees.  A place devoid of all sadness yet for the despair of what was to come. Not even he, that impious fiend, could hide his marvel. With a mighty leap, such as had broken the lines of Heaven in his doomed War, Satan broke through the undergrowth and penetrated to the Garden's core. His wings flared, he came to rest upon the highest tree at the very heart of the Garden, the Tree of Life, where in irony his thoughts were of nothing but death. Such a vista from that place there was no equal. The blissful fields of Paradise stretched yonder, in all their verdant glory. Nearby rose the Tree of Knowledge, from whose seed man would fall, astride a great azure river that channelled life across the Garden's plains. There, in a grove not far, laden with grapes of the deepest purple and flowers worthy only of Heaven, they lay:

                      " In naked majesty seemed lords of all,
                         And worthy seemed, for in their looks divine
                         The image of their glorious maker shone... "
                                              - ADAM AND EVE

There in regal splendour stood Adam, formed by God's own hand. Woven from Adam's own flesh, there too stood Eve, wondrous to behold. There was no flaw to be seen in the first man and woman, for they were crafted in God's own image, and here in Eden they were lord and lady to all the beasts, masters of this land in perfect innocence. Though they were unclad, there was no shame, no guilty thought of nature's wonder. Around them played all the beasts in harmony; lions, tigers, kids, bears, birds, horses all gathered in blissful serenity. Even the serpent here gave no heed of suspicion of what he would soon do. Envy and jealously raw blazed in the heart of Satan as a world in flames. Even he, the father of sin, was loath to bring such calamity upon such a scene. Pity for Adam and Eve struck him then, pity that they should suffer so much pain, when another was his foe. "Thank him who puts me to this loath revenge", he thought, "to do what else though damned I should abhor". So the proud angel justified his fell deed.

Adam and Eve
Engraving by by Gustave Doré
To learn more of this land, so that he might overturn it, Satan shifted his form once more. Now he was a lion, fierce and strong, then a tiger, stalking without sound. Approaching softly, he listened intently to the voice of Adam, noble yet oblivious. The First Man spoke in praise of the Lord, who in his benevolence had granted so much. The only sign of their obedience to God that remained was honour his command not to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, for it would bring death, "whate'er death is, some dreadful thing no doubt". To grant them both dominion over Earth, Sea and Air for such a little price, Adam raised his hands in prayer, as Eve did too, to give praise to the Lord. Jubliant, Eve embraced Adam:

                             " Aside the Devil turned,
                               For envy, yet with jealous leer malign,                         
                               Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained.                               
                               Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two,                         
                               Imparadised in one another's arms,
                               The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill,
                               Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust! "
                                                    - THE ENVY OF SATAN

Blind to all other gifts, Satan thought only of God's command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Seething once more, the Fallen one could reason nothing more than they too were but slaves to God. They were not to receive this Knowledge? "Why should their Lord envy them that? Can it be sin to know, Can it be death?", he thought. As night fell on the Garden of Eden, a dark night brought on by the presence of a spirit who was welcome not there, Satan saw at last how he could defy the Most High. He would turn God's own Creation against him.

The Nightmare of Eve
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Meanwhile, high overhead, as the rays of the setting Sun levelled against the sky, the Archangel Gabriel sat enthroned upon the Mount. All around him the youth of Heaven exercised in divine sport, gilded helms, shields and spears glinting in the warm glow. Soaring through the evening rays, Uriel at last arrived. Urgently pouring out his suspicions, the Archangel confessed to Gabriel that he had granted passage to this dark newcomer, his foul thoughts veiled in fair disguise. Word too, had already reached Gabriel's ear of a breakout from Hell. But who was this stranger in their midst? The Archangel immediately sent forth the swiftest angels to find the source of this new disturbance. Far below, the night closed in, and the First Man and First Woman marvelled in the beauty of the stars and gave thanks to God, before laying down to sleep on their laurel bed. As Eve lay in slumber, little could she know as the Fallen Angel crept silently up to her, careful not to rouse Adam as he moved. Lying beside her peaceful body, Satan bent low and whispered fell incantations into her ear, channelling all manner of ghastly apparitions into her mind. As the venomed words flowed on, Eve convulsed violently in her nightmare. Soon Satan was no longer able to maintain his disguise, as no form but his true one could contain the grim phantasms within. Every doubt, every suspicion, every curious thought now gripped Eve's mind such that never again would she know innocence. Satan's senses heightened, his hour of glory approached at last.

Satan is banished from the Garden of Eden
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Just as he was about to implant the idea of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, however, the scene was suddenly interrupted. Ithuriel and Zephon, two loyal angels of Gabriel, drawn to the dark power emanating from that grove, appeared suddenly. Both spirits stood stunned, aghast to see an accursed angel here, in Paradise so very far from Hell. Recovering quickly, they demanded him to reveal his identity. Torn abruptly from his foul deed, Satan rounded on them, with a baleful gaze that would break the soul of any man. "Know ye not me?" he scornfully mocked, "Ye knew me once...". The terrible truth dawning upon them at last, Zephon valiantly rebuked Satan for his base treachery, swearing to bind him in chains if he had to. Taken aback by the young angel's boldness, Satan's anger grew greater still, anger that this young spirit clung to a virtue he never could. No bonds would be necessary, for the Morning Star flew to confront Gabriel without restraint. Recognising at once the stature of the Prince of Hell, Gabriel ordered Satan to reveal his purpose in Eden, a dwelling "God hath planted here in bliss". Both spirits , who had once held the other in great esteem, eyed each other warily. Who would not break free of Hell if they could, the Fallen One replied, what being willingly undergoes pain and torture? He simply came to admire the beauty of the place, a thing his own quarters lacked. Certain of deceit, Gabriel grew frustrated, unable to discover Satan's true intent as he was. Relentless, however, he demanded why he had come alone, why not the rest of his foul horde? For if there was pain in Hell, why had the rest not come. "Courageous chief, the first in flight from pain", Gabriel mocked. Taken aback by this insult, Satan angrily retorted that he alone had volunteered to undertake this enterprise, and he had hoped to settle here on Earth in peace.

But the Archangel Gabriel was wise to Satan's lies. "Thou sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem Patron of Liberty, who more than thou once fawneded, and servilely adored Heav'n's awful Monarch?" Gabriel angrily spat. For whilst Satan might claim to be seeking freedom for himself and his kin, his true purpose to seize God's throne was laid bare before all. The angelic host raised their glittering weapons in defiance, as Gabriel chastised him one final time, vowing to personally cast Satan back to Hell. With a shout of all his pent up guilt, rage and secret hopes of redemption now truly lost, Satan advanced on the loyal spirit. But just then, a flash of light, and bolt of thunder shook the cosmos. Sensing the gaze of the Lord, Satan turned his back on the Heavenly crew, as the angel of the Lord banished him from the Garden. Little could Gabriel see, however, the smile on the Morning Star's face. For his foul stratagem remained veiled to Heaven, and the seeds of discord had been sown. All he now needed was to complete what the angels had interrupted. He would not be able to break into the Garden personally again, that much was sure. Spying a nearby serpent however, Satan suddenly had an idea. Far away, meanwhile, Eve awoke with a pang of terror, distraught at the monstrous visions of her dreams...

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)

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