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TO THE COURTEOUS READER.
Having satiated and fatigued my eyes, gentle reader, by too intent an observation of what is passing on earth ; and raising therefore my thoughts to higher contemplations, to the wonders diffused by the Supreme Being, for the benefit of man, through the universe; I felt my heart penetrated by a certain Christian compunction, in reflecting how his inexpressible goodness, though perpetually and grievously offended by us, still shows itself in the highest degree indulgent towards us in preserving those wonders with a continual influence to our advantage; and how on the first provocation to vengeance, Almighty power does not enlarge the ocean to pass its immense boundary, does not obscure the light of the sun, does not impress sterility on the earth, to engulf us, to blind us, and finally to destroy us. Softened and absorbed in these divine emotions, I felt myself transported and hurried by a delightful violence into a terrestrial paradise, where I seemed to behold the first man Adam, a creature dear to God, the friend of Angels, the heir of heaven, familiar with the stars, a compendium of all created things, the ornament of all, the miracle of nature, the lord of the animals, the only inhabitant of the universe, and enjoyer of a scene so wonderfully grand. Whence charmed more than ever, I resolved with the favour of the blessed God, to usher into the light of the world, .vhat I bore in the darkness of my imagination; both to render it known in some measure, that, I know myself, and the infinite obligations that I have to God; and that others, who do not know, may learn, the true nature of man, and from the low contemplation of earthly things, may raise their minds to things celestial and divine.
I remained, however, a considerable time in doubt if I ought, or if I were able to undertake a composition most difficult to me on many accounts, since in beginning the sacred subject from man's creation to the point where he is driven from the terrestrial paradise, a period of six years (as St. Augustine relates in his book on the City of God), I did not clearly perceive how an action so brief could be formed into five acts, especially allowing to every act the number of at least six or seven scenes,—difficult from the dispute that the Devil maintained with Eve, first, that he might induce her to eat the apple, since we have only the text that mentions it, in saying, "nequaquam moriemini, el eriHs sicut Dii scientcs bonum d malum"—difficult from the words of Eve in persuading Adam (who had indeed the gift of knowledge infused) to taste the apple; —but difficult above all, from my own infirmity, since the composition must remain deprived of those poetic ornaments so dear to the muses ; deprived of the power to draw comparisons from implements of art introduced in the course of years, since in the time of the first man there was no such thing : deprived also of naming (at least while Adam speaks, or discourse is held with him), for example, bows, arrows, hatchets, urns, knives, swords, spears, trumpets, drums, trophies, banners, lists, hammers, torches, bellows, funeral piles, theatres, exchequers, infinite things of a like nature, introduced by the necessities of sin; and yet, as circumstances of affliction and punishment, they ought not to pass through the mind or through the lips of Adam, although he had knowledge infused into him, as one who lived most happy in a state of innocence: deprived moreover of introducing points of history sacred or profane, of relating fictions of fabulous deities, of rehearsing loves, furies, sports of hunting or fishing, triumphs, shipwrecks, conflagrations, enchantments, and things of a like nature, that are in truth the ornament and the soul of poetry: difficult from not knowing in what style Adam ought to speak, since in respect to his knowledge it might be proper to assign to him verses of a high majestic and flowing style; but considering him as a shepherd and inhabitant of the woods, it appears that he should be simple and sweet in his discourse, and I endeavoured on that account to render it such, as much as I could by variety of versification. And here, taking courage in my greatest doubt, I formed, I know not how, a beginning; I advanced, if I may say so, without any determinate plan : and arrived at the end before I was aware. Whence I am inclined to believe that the favour of God, regarding rather my good intention than my defects, (for, as he often withdraws the heart of man from evil, so he conducts it insensibly to good,) gave direction to my hand, and completed my work. Wherefore to that alone I am indebted for the little grace that may perhaps be found in the present labour ; knowing that, as Omnipotence is accustomed to produce wonders from the rude and unformed chaos, so, from the still ruder chaos of my mind, it may have called forth this production, if not for any other purpose, yet to be sacred and to make as it were a mute speak in my person, in despite of poverty of genius, as on the other hand it is accustomed to strike mute the most eloquent tongues when they employ themselves on subjects low and profane. Let it be surveyed, therefore, with an eye of indulgence, and blame not the poverty of style, the want of dignity in the conduct of the circumstances, sterility of conceits, weakness of spirit, insipid jokes and extravagant episodes, to mention, (without speaking of an infinitude of other things.) m that the world, the flesh, and the devil, present themselves in human shapes to tempt Adam, since there was then in the universe no other man or woman, and the serpent discovered himself to Eve with a human similitude; moreover this is done, that the subject may be comprehended by the understanding through the medium of the senses: since the great t. mptations that Adam and Eve at once sustained were indeed in the interior of their own mind, but could not be so comprehended by the spectator; nor is it to be believed that the serpent held a long dispute with Eve, since he tempted her rather by a suggestion to her mind than by the conference, saying these words, "nequaquam moriemini, et eritis sieut Dii scientcs bonum et malum" and yet it will be necessary, in order to express those internal contentions, to find some expedient to give them an outward representation. But, if it is permitted to the painter, who is a dumb poet, to express by colours God the Father under the person of a man silvered by age, and to describe under the image of a white dove the purity of the Spirit, and to figure the divine messengers or Angels in the shape of winged youths; why is it not permitted to the poet, who is a speaking painter, to represent in his theatrical production another man and another woman besides Adam and Eve, and to represent their internal conflicts through the medium of images and voices entirely human? not to mention that it appears more allowable to introduce in this work the Devil under a human shape than it is to introduce into it the Eternal Father, and even an Angel; and if this is permitted, and seen every day exhibited in sacred representations, why should it not be allowed in the present, where, if the greater evil is allowable, surely the lesser should be allowed? Attend therefore, gentle reader, more to the substance than to the accident, considering in the work the great end of introducing into the theatre of the soul the misery and lamentation of Adam to make your heart a spectator of them, in order to raise it from these dregs of earth to the magnificence of heaven, through the medium of virtue and the assistance of God; by whom may you be blessed!
Chorus of Seraphim; Cherubim, and
A Cherub, the Guardian of Adam.
Volano, an Infernal Messenger.
CHORUS OF ANGELS
SINGING THE GLORY OF GOD.
To Heaven's bright lyre let Iris be the bow,
Adapt the spheres for chords, for notes the stars;
Hence to new Music of the eternal Lyre
O Thou who ere the World or Heaven was made,
O Thou of sovereign love almighty source,
Who knowest to make thy works thy love express;
Then shalt thou hear how, when the world began,
Raise from this dark abyss thy horrid visage,
O Lucifer ! aggrieved by light so potent,
Shrink from the blaze of these refulgent planet"
And pant beneath the rays of no fierce sun;
Read in the sacred volumes of the sky,
The mighty wonders of a hand divine.
Behold, thou frantic rebel,
How easy is the task,
To the great Sire of Worlds,
To raise his empyrean seat sublime:
Thither whence pride hath fallen.
From thence with bitter grief,
Inhabitant of fire, and mole of darkness,
Let the perverse behold,
Despairing his escape and my compassion,
His own perdition in another's good,
And Heaven now closed to him, to others oDened;
And sighing from the bottom of his heart,
Let him in homage to my power exclaim,
Ah, this creative Sire,
(Wretch as I am) I see,
Hath need of nothing but himself alone
To re-establish all.
THE SERAPHIM SING.
Man to fond contemplation
THE CHERUBIM SING.
The volume of the stars,
The sovereign Author planned,
Inscribing it with his eternal hand,
And his benignant aim
Their beams in lucid characters proclaim;
And man in these delighting,
Feels their bright beams inviting,
And seems, though prisoned in these mortal bars,
Walking on earth to mingle with the stars.
GOD THE FATHER.
Angels, desert your Heaven! with you to Earth,
That Power descends, whom Heaven accompanies;
Let each spectator of these works sublime
Behold, with meek devotion,
Earth into flesh transformed, and clay to man,
Man to a sovereign lord,
And souls to seraphim.
THE SERAPHIM SING.
Now let us cleave the sky with wings of gold,
The world be paradise,
Since to its fruitful breast
Now the great Sovereign of our quire descends;
Now let us cleave the sky with wings of gold;
Strew yourselves flowers beneath the step divine,
Ye rivals of the stars!
Summoned from every sphere
Ye gems of heaven, heaven's radiant wealth appear;
Now let us cleave the sky with wings of gold!
GOD THE FATHER.
THE ANGELS SING,
The creature doomed to fill thy radiant seat!