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The happier reign, the sooner it begins :
Reign then; what can’st thou better do the while?”
To whom our Saviour answer thus return'd.
“ All things are best fulfill'd in their due time;
And time there is for all things. Truth hath said
If of my reign prophetic Writ hath told,
That it shall never end, so, when begin,
The Father in his purpose hath decreed;
He, in whose hand all times and seasons roll.
What if he hath decreed that I shall first
Be tried in humble state, & things adverse,
By tribulations, injuries, insults,
Contempts, & scorns, & snares, & violence,
Suffering, abstaining, quietly expecting,
Without distrust or doubt, that he may know
What I can suffer, how obey? Who best
Can suffer, best can do; best reign, who first
Well hath obey'd; just trial, ere I merit
My exaltation without change or end.
But what concerns it thee, when I begin
My everlasting kingdom? Why art thou
Solicitous ? What moves thy inquisition ?
Know'st thou not that my rising is thy fall,
And my promotion will be thy destruction ?”
To whom the Tempter, inly rack’d, replied.
“ Let that come when it comes; all hope is lost
Of my reception into grace: what worse?
For where no hope is left, is left no fear :
If there be worse, the expectation more
Of worse torments me than the feeling can.
I would be at the worst : worst is my port,
My harbour, and my ultimate repose;
The end I would attain, my final good.
My error was my error, and my crime
My crime; whatever, for itself condemn'd;
And will alike be punish'd, whether thou
Reign, or reign not; though to that gentle brow
Willingly could I fly, and hope thy reign,
From that placid aspect and meek regard,
Rather than aggravate my evil state,
Would stand between me & thy Father's ire,
Whose ire I dread more than the fire of Hell,
A shelter and a kind of shading cool
Interposition, as a summer's cloud.
If I then to the worst that can be haste,
Why move thy feet so slow to what is best,
Happiest, both to thyself and all the world,
That thou, who worthiest art, should'st be their king ?
Perhaps thou linger'st, in deep thoughts detain'd
Of the enterprise so hazardous and high ;
No wonder ; for, though in thee be united
What of perfection can in man be found,
Or human nature can receive, consider,
Thy life hath yet been private, most part spent
At home, scarce view'd the Galilean towns,
And, once a-year, Jerusalem ; few days'
Short sojourn; & what thence could'st thou observe ?
The world thou hast not seen, much less her glory,
Empires, & monarchs, & their radiant courts
Best school of best experience, quickest insight
In all things that to greatest actions lead.
The wisest, unexperienc'd, will be ever
Timorous and loath, with novice modesty,
As he who, seeking asses, found a kingdom,
Irresolute, unhardy, unadventurous :
But I will bring thee where thou soon shalt quit
Those rudiments, and see before thine eyes
The monarchies of the earth, their pomp & state ;
Sufficient introduction to inform
Thee, of thyself so apt, in regal arts
And regal mysteries; that thou may'st know
How best their opposition to withstand."
With that, such power was given him then, he took The Son of God up to a mountain high.
a mountain at whose verdant feet
A spacious plain, outstretch'd in circuit wide,
Lay pleasant; from his side two rivers flow'd,
Th' one winding, th' other straight, and left between
Fair champain with less rivers “interven’d,
Then meeting join’d their tribute to the sea ;
Fertile of corn the glebe, of oil, and wine ;
With herds the pastures throng'd, with flocks the hills;
Huge cities and high-tower'd, that well might seem
The seats of mightiest monarchs; and so large
The prospect was, that here and there was room
For barren desert, fountainless and dry.
To this high mountain top the Tempter brought
Our Saviour, and new train of words began.
“Well have we speeded, and o'er hill and dale,
Forest and field and flood, temples and towers,
Cut shorter many a league ; here thou behold’st,
Assyria, and her empire's ancient bounds,
Araxes and the Caspian lake; thence on
As far as Indus east, Euphrates west,
And oft beyond : to south the Persian bay,
And, inaccessible, the Arabian drouth :
Here Nineveh, of length within her wall
Several days' journey, built by Ninus old,
Of that first golden monarchy the seat,
And seat of Salmanassar, whose success
Israel in long captivity still mourns ;
There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues,
As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice
Judah and all thy father David's house
Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste,
Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis,
His city, there thou seest, and Bactria there ;
Ecbatana her structure vast there shows,
And Hecatompylos her hundred gates ;
There Susa by Choaspes, amber stream,
The drink of none but kings; of later fame,
Built by Emathian or by Parthian hands,
The great Seleucia, Nisibis, and there
Artaxata, Teredon, Ctesiphon,
Turning, with easy eye, thou may'st behold.
All these the Parthian, now some ages past,
By great Arsaces led, who founded first
That empire, under his dominion holds,
From the luxurious kings of Antioch won.
And just in time thou com’st to have a view
Of his great power; for now the Parthian king
In Ctesiphon bath gather'd all his host
Against the Scythian, whose incursions wild
Have wasted Sogdiana; to her aid
He marches now in haste ; see, though from far,
His thousands, in what martial equipage
They issue forth, steel bows & shafts their arms,
Of equal dread in flight, or in pursuit ;
All horsemen, in which fight they most excel;
See how in warlike muster they appear,
In rhombs, and wedges, and half-moons, and wings."
He look’d, and saw what numbers numberless
The city gates outpour’d, light-armed troops
In coats of mail and military pride ;
In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong,
Prancing their riders bore, the flower and choice
Of many provinces from bound to bound;
From Arachosia, from Candaor east,
And Margiana to the Hyrcanian cliffs
Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales ;
From Atropatio and the neighbouring plains
Of Adiabene, Media, and the south
Of Susiana, to Balsara's haven.
He saw them in their forms of battle rang'd,
How quick they wheel'd, & flying behind them shot
Sharp sleet of arrowy showers against the face
Of their pursuers, and overcame by flight;
The field all iron cast a gleaming brown;
Nor wanted clouds of foot, nor on each horn
Cuirassiers all in steel for standing fight,
Chariots, or elephants endors’d with towers
Of archers; nor of labouring pioneers
A multitude, with spades and axes arm’d
To lay hills plain, fell woods, or valleys fill
Or where plain was raise hill, or overlay
With bridges rivers proud, as with a yoke,
Mules after these, camels and dromedaries,
And waggons, fraught with utensils of war.
Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp,
When Agrican with all his northern powers
Beseig'd Albracca, as romances tell,
The city of Gallaphrone, from whence to win
The fairest of her sex Angelica,
His daughter, sought by many prowest nights,
Both Paynim, and the peers of Charlemain.
Such and so numerous was their chivalry :
At sight whereof the fiend yet more presum’d,
And to our Saviour thus his words renew’d.
“ That thou mayst know I seek not to engage
Thy virtue, and not every way secure
On no slight grounds thy safety; hear and mark
To what end I have brought thee hither, & shown
All this fair sight: thy kingdom, though foretold
By Prophet or by Angel, unless thou
Endeavour, as thy father David did,
Thou never shalt obtain ; prediction still
In all things, and all men, supposes means ;
Without means us'd, what it predicts revokes.
But, say thou wert possess'd of David's throne,
By free consent of all, none opposite,
Samaritan or Jew; how couldst thou hope
Long to enjoy it, quiet and secure,
Between two such enclosing enemies,
Roman and Parthian? Therefore one of these
Thou must make sure thy own; the Parthian first
By my advice, as nearer, and of late
Found able by invasion to annoy
Thy country, and captive leod away her kings,
Antigonus and old Hyrcanus, bound,
Maugre the Roman : it shall be my task
To render thee the Parthian at dispose,
Choose which thou wilt, by conquest or by league :
By him thou shalt regain, without him not,
That which alone can truly re-install thee
In David's royal seat, his true successor,
Deliverance of thy brethren, those ten tribes,
Whose offspring in his territory yet serve,
In Habor, & among the Medes dispers'd :
Ten sons of Jacob, two of Joseph, lost
Thus long from Israel, serving, as of old
Their fathers in the land of Egypt serv'd,
This offer sets before thee to deliver.
These if from servitude thou shalt restore
To their inheritance, then, nor till then,
Thou on the throne of David in full glory,
From Egypt to Euphrates, and beyond,
Shalt reign, & Rome or Cæsar not need fear.”
To whom our Saviour answer'd thus, unmov’d.
“Much ostentation vain of fleshly arm
And fragile arms, much instrument of war,
Long in preparing, soon to nothing brought,
Before mine eyes thou hast set ; & in my ear
Vented much policy, and projects deep
Of enemies, of aids, battles and leagues,
Plausible to the world, to me worth nought.
Means I must use, thou say’st, prediction else
Will unpredict, and fail me of the throne :
My time, I told thee, and that time for thee
Were better farthest off, is not yet come :
When that comes, think not thou to find me slack
On my part aught endeavouring, or to need
Thy politic maxims, or that cumbersome
Luggage of war there shown me, argument
Of human weakness rather than of strength.
My brethren, as thou call'st them, those ten tribes
I must deliver, if I mean to reign
David's true heir, and his full sceptre sway
To just extent over all Israel's sons.
But whence to thee this zeal? Where was it then
For Israel, or for David, or his throne,
When thou stood’st up his tempter to the pride
Of numbering Israel, which cost the lives
Of threescore and ten thousand Israelites
By three days' pestilence? Such was thy zeal
To Israel then; the same that now to me!