Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Triumph of the Morning Star

Seeing it now as nothing more or less than the greatest trial of their kinship, Eve embraced the distressed Adam, as he took the accursed fruit from her palm (for the previous episode in this story, please click here). As the first man and woman embraced, so was man’s Paradise Lost forever, or so it seemed. Triumph his at last, Satan released his grip on the Serpent, making good his escape from Eden, for well did he know the retribution that would soon be vented upon the once serene Garden.

Adam and Eve hide from the Lord
Engraving by Gustave Doré
As the flesh of the forbidden fruit was pierced by Adam’s teeth, a second time Earth groaned and Nature wailed. Storm clouds gathered over Eden, as the azure Sky turned a putrid black. Rain fell from once cloudless skies, tears wept by Nature at the original sin. The taste of the fruits flesh did intoxicate them both, and both felt ‘divinity within them breeding wings’. Knowledge of good and evil did it bring, but so too the temptation of evil, as the first man and the first woman first set lascivious eyes upon the other, and so corrupted forever the purity of their bond. So was sealed the guilt of original sin. When, not long later, both rose from their slumber, shorn of strength and bare of virtue, they were aware now of their nakedness. Anguish shook their mutual bond, as Adam despaired of their fall. ‘O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear to that false worm… How shall I behold the face henceforth of God or angel, erst with joy and rapture so oft beheld?’ In their great shame, the first man and woman took dignity of a fig tree which grew in Eden yonder, taking great boughs of leaves to gird their unclad waists. Emotions fresh now flooded both; anger, hate, mistrust, suspicion, discord, all fallout of Satan’s dark craft. Adam turned on his bride, chastising her for not remaining by his side. ‘Hadst thou been there, or here th’ attempt, thou couldst not have discerned fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake’, pleaded Eve, seduced as she had been by Satan’s honeyed words. In that moment did Adam, who chose willingly death together over immortal bliss alone, realise the folly of them both. For both had been warned by the Archangel Raphael that the Enemy lurked within the Garden, an Enemy which found them now. For many dark hours did both sit in terrified silence, dreading the judgement that was surely to come.

As fear polluted the earthly Paradise, word arrived in unearthly Paradise of Man’s transgression, for what can escape the eye of the Almighty, and what deceive the Omniscient? Satan’s ploy had run unhindered by the Most High, for to all things had he granted free will, even his first and greatest Creation, Lucifer, as he was once known. Great consternation there was in Heaven, for the angels loyal still sat distraught, for how could the Fiend have penetrated the Garden? With a crash of glorious thunder the voice of the Lord rang true, ‘Be not dismayed, nor troubled at these tidings from the Earth, which your sincerest care could not prevent’. He had not interfered, but Man had fallen still, and now judgement must be done. To his radiant Son the Lord turned, ‘Man’s friend, his Mediator, his designed both ransom and redeemer’. The Son blazed forth in ethereal glory, resplendent in the magnificence of Heaven, as he decreed that the transgressors would be judged, but one day would come their redemption with his own fall. From his mighty throne did he rise, and flash down to Earth, such purity to a now unclean land.

The voice of the Lord sounded in Eden, and Adam was afraid. In shame deplorable did Adam and Eve seek to conceal themselves from his coming within the trees. ‘Where art thou Adam, wont with joy to meet my coming seen far off?’ spoke the voice of the Lord. Terror flooding his body, the first man found no place to hide. His voice trembling, the first man replied, ‘I heard thee in the Garden, and of thy voice afraid, being naked, hid myself’. ‘My voice thou oft hast heard, and hast not feared, but still rejoiced, how is it now become so dreadful to thee? That thou art naked, who hath told thee? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I gave thee charge thou shouldst not eat?’ Throwing his head high, Adam cried, ‘O Heav’n! In evil strait this day I stand before my judge…’. He confessed it all, his crime and that of Eve, both their calamitous sin. ‘Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey?’ replied the voice of the Lord. To Eve he turned, ‘Say woman, what is this thou hast done?’ Hanging her head, the first woman told her tale, of her temptation by the Serpent, and her crime. When the Lord heard this he turned at once to the Serpent, though it was but an instrument of the Fallen Angel:

           “ Because thou hast done this, thou art accursed
             Above all cattle, each beast of the field;
             Upon thy belly grovelling thou shalt go,
             And dust shalt eat all the days of thy life.
             Between thee and the woman I will pout Enmity, and between thine and her seed;
             Her seed shall bruise thy head, and thou bruise his heel ”
                       - THE JUDGEMENT OF THE SERPENT

So ever after, all serpents crawled along the ground, and were the foe of Man. To Eve now the Lord turned, and his sentence turned:

                            “ Thy sorrow I will greatly multiply,
                               By thy conception; children thou shalt bring
                               In sorrow forth, and to thy husband’s will
                               Thine shall submit, he over thee shall rule ”
                                       - THE JUDGEMENT OF EVE

So ever after, woman was cursed to give birth only through extreme pain, and to be subservient to men. Now to Adam the Lord did turn with curse new:

                         “ Cursed is the ground for thy sake, thou in sorrow
                            Shalt eat thereof all the days of thy life;
                            Thorns also and thistles it shall bring thee forth
                            Unbid, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field,
                            In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
                            Till thou return unto the ground, for thou
                            Out of the ground was taken; know thy birth,
                            For dust thou art, and shalt to dust return… ”
                                      - THE JUDGEMENT OF ADAM

So ever after, man was cursed to need food to survive, and be able to obtain only through the sweat of his brow, labouring in the fields, cursed in the knowledge that one day he too would lie in the dust. Justice passed, the Son returned to the Most High, though pity great did he feel for the first man and woman, clothing them before he left.

Sin and Death
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Far below the earthly sphere sat Sin and Death before the Gates of Hell. Change in the air did they sense, a weakening of their bonds. The Gates flew open wide ‘belching outrageous flame far into Chaos, since the Fiend passed through’. Sin, mother to Death, turned to her son, and declared ‘Methinks I feel new strength within me rise, wings growing and dominion giv’n me large’. Sensing the triumph of the Morning Star, they rejoiced, hailing the Dark Prince as their Saviour new. Bound in the infernal keep no longer, Earth now was their kingdom, and man their servants. A strange attraction overcame them both, attraction to this new realm. Turning his cold nose to the stars, Death caught scent of life afar, passion firing anew. Ecstasy was theirs, and in their joy they raised a deplorable bridge, forever binding the world of men with the world of Hell, spanning the chasm of Chaos once crossed by the Fallen Angel.

A blinding light, a shout of triumph, both heralds of Satan’s return, coming now resplendent as a burning angel of Heaven. Jubilation was his, and greater still, when he saw the mighty bridge now yonder, craft of his children. Hell, his daughter proud, exclaimed with joy her foreknowledge of his triumphs, for Hell could bind them no longer. The Great Liberator they hailed now. Their great defeat had been avenged. Satan smiled upon his kin, proclaiming Eden theirs forever to rule, bidding them go forth and grant their Dominion to the race of Men. Bidding them make all haste, the Morning Star sped on down into the depths, unguarded as they were, for all the Infernal host had gained word of their leader’s victory.

To Pandaemonium the fiery city did he soar, summoning High Council amongst his brethren, one third of the angelic host of Heaven of old, blackened by the soot of Hell. Blazing with regal glory, all that was left of his once Heavenly brilliance, he marched forth, and deafening was his acclaim. ‘I call ye and declare ye now, returned successful beyond hope, to lead ye forth, triumphant out of this infernal Pit, abominable, accursed, the house of woe, and dungeon of our Tyrant’. Proud of his craft, Satan told his story:

                             “ The new created world, which fame in Heav’n
                                Long had foretold, a fabric wonderful
                               Of absolute perfection, therein man
                               Placed in a Paradise, by our exile
                               Made happy: him by fraud I have seduced
                               From his Creator, and the more to increase
                               Your wonder, with an apple; he thereat
                               Offended, worth your laughter, hath giv’n up
                               Both his beloved man and all his world,
                               To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us… ”
                                      - THE TRIUMPH OF SATAN

The Fallen Angels Metamorphise
Engraving by Gustave Doré
A while the Fallen One stood, expecting a rousing shout and highest applause. But Satan heard not cries of glee, but ‘a dismal, universal hiss’, as though of scorn. Not long did he have to wonder at this noise, for he presently felt a shocking sensation. His flesh suddenly drawn tight to his form, his arms clung to his ribs and his legs intertwined each other, he powerless to resist the force which contorted him savagely now. His metamorphoses complete, the Fallen Angel fell to the ground, now a monstrous serpent. Punished now in the shape by which he sinned, Satan would have spoke, perhaps cried out anguish and rage, but his forked tongue flickered and only a hiss emerged, one among the many, for all the fallen angels were now as snakes. ‘Dreadful was the din’, as hideous contortions broke out hither and thither, the shape of all manner of nightmarish creatures did they take. In their midst, the bane of Man was nigh on rent asunder as his form was twisted into a monstrous dragon, mightier than any wyrm that trod the Earth, but undampened was his resolve, nor his power over the others. The rebel angels looked amongst each other, expecting to see their dread leader bedecked in glory, fresh from triumph, but saw in horror and sorrow only vile serpents all around. Spear and shield fell to the ground, useless now for bodies with no hands.

Then in their midst sprung up a grove, not unlike the Forbidden Tree of Eden, instrument of Man’s demise. Suddenly the power of the Lord waxed strong again, and his retribution terrible. Each one among them felt a ‘scalding thirst and hunger fierce’, as fruit burst forth from the seductive boughs of the Tree. Desperate from their pangs, they fell upon it, each and all, and sunk their razor teeth into the fruit. But here fell God’s curse anew, as the fruit turned to bitter ashes in their mouths. Each among them spat in frustrated agony. Thus was the fallen host ‘plagued and worn with famine, long and ceaseless hiss’, until the time came they assumed their former shapes. Once a year, on the anniversary of the temptation of the first man and woman, the spirits of the Pit undergo this transformation, ‘to dash their pride, and joy for man seduced’…

United Kingdom

Paradise Lost:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(A sweeping epic poem telling the story of mankind's fall and Satan's rebellion against God)

United States

Paradise Lost:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(A sweeping epic poem telling the story of mankind's fall and Satan's rebellion against God)

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