"A Wilderness Of Sweets"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 278

Context: After an unquiet night of dreaming by Eve, Adam and Eve hymn the glory of God and all that He has created. God summons Raphael to go down to earth to instruct Adam about his duty to God and about the great command not to eat of the tree of knowledge so that if he disobeys the command, he cannot plead ignorance. Raphael is to join Adam during his noontime rest from labor and converse with him as friend with friend. He is to emphasize the fact that Adam's will is free, and happiness is within his power. He is to tell him of his danger, as Satan has broken out of hell and is on earth with the intent to ruin Adam and Eve by guile, not force. Raphael, after receiving the divine orders, looks out upon the universe from the gate of heaven and then sails down between worlds to the earth. He descends like an eagle or a phoenix. As a seraph he has six wings: two on his shoulders, two at his waist, and two at his feet. Finally, like Maia's son Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, he stands on the earth.

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Straight knew him all the bands
Of angels under watch; and to his state,
And to his message high in honor rise;
For on some message high they guessed him bound.
Their glittering tents he passed, and now is come
Into the blissful field, through groves of myrrh,
And flow'ring odors, cassia, nard, and balm;
A wilderness of sweets; for nature here
Wantoned as in her prime, and played at will
Her virgin fancies, pouring forth more sweet,
Wild above rule or art, enormous bliss.
. . .

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