Paradise Lost "The Evening Star, Love's Harbinger"

John Milton

"The Evening Star, Love's Harbinger"

Context: Michael, sent down from Heaven by God to instruct Adam in preparation for his expulsion from the garden, takes him to the top of a hill from which can be seen much of the earth and there shows him various forms of death that will kill men as a result of Adam and Eve's wickedness in eating the forbidden fruit. Adam wants to know why man, made in the divine similitude, must suffer these loathesome forms of death. Michael replies that the Maker's image forsook man when his ungoverned appetite led him astray. Man can live a temperate life and drop off easily in old age, but to do so he will have to outlive his youth, his beauty, and his strength. Man should live his life well, whether for a long or a short time, as Heaven decrees. Michael then shows Adam a new sight: a broad plain with tents and grazing cattle; the people are miners and work all sorts of metals. These people are the sons of Lamech: Jabal, Jubel, and Tubal-Cain. The scene then shifts to some dwellers in the hills, just people who worship God in a proper manner. They may be the sons of Seth, who tradition holds were the mysterious "sons of God" (Genesis 6: 2) who took wives of the daughters of men:

They on the plain
Long had not walked, when from the tents behold
A bevy of fair women, richly gay
In gems and wanton dress; to the harp they sung
Soft amorous ditties, and in dance came on:
The men though grave, eyed them, and let their eyes
Rove without rein, till in the amorous net
Fast caught, they liked, and each his liking chose;
And now of love they treat till the evening star,
Love's harbinger, appeared; then all in heat
They light the nuptial torch, and bid invoke
Hymen, then first to marriage rites invoked;
With feast and music all the tents resound.
. . .