Paradise Lost "Not To Know Me Argues Yourselves Unknown"

John Milton

"Not To Know Me Argues Yourselves Unknown"

Context: As Adam and Eve sleep in their bower, Gabriel, leader of the night watch, tells Uzziel to take a number of angels to guard the south side of the garden. Next he tells Ithuriel and Zephon to search through the garden, and especially around Adam and Eve's bower, as an infernal spirit escaped from hell has been seen at evening approaching the garden. The two soon find Satan in the likeness of a toad close by the head of Eve, endeavoring to penetrate her fancy with illusions. Ithuriel touches him with his spear and, as no falsehood can endure the celestial touch, he returns to his own likeness. Like a pile of gunpowder into which a spark falls, he starts up in his own shape. The two angels, amazed to see the grisly king, but entirely unmoved by fear, soon accost him: The quoted line means: "You know me as well as you know yourselves."

"Which of those rebel spirits adjudged to hell
Com'st thou, escaped thy prison, and transformed,
Why sat'st thou like an enemy in wait
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?"
"Know ye not, then," said Satan, filled with scorn,
"Know ye not me? Ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar;
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
The lowest of your throng; or if ye know,
Why aske ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain?"
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn.
"Think not, revolted spirit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminished brightness, to be known
As when thou stood'st in heaven upright and pure."
. . .