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Far worse, her false resemblance only meets
An empty cloud. However, many books,
Wise men have said, are wearisome; who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior,
And what he brings what needs he elsewhere seek?
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep vers’d in books, and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge ;
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
Or, if I would delight my private hours
With music or with poem, where, so soon
As in our native language, can I find
That solace ? All our law and story strew'd
With hymns, our pslams with artful terms inscribid,
Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
That pleas’d so well our victors' ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts deriv'd ;
Illimitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of their deities, and their own,
In fable, hymn, or song, so personating
Their gods ridiculous, & themselves past shame.
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
As varnish on a harlot's cheek, the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight,
Will far be found unworthy to compare
With Sion's songs, to all true tastes excelling,
Where God is praised aright, and godlike men,
The Holiest of Holies, and his saints,
Such are from God inspir’d, not such from thee, -
Unless where moral virtue is expressid
By light of nature, not in all quite lost.
Their orators thou then extoll'st, as those
The top of eloquence; statists indeed,
And lovers of their country, as may seem ;
But herein to our prophets far beneath,
As men divinely taught, and better teaching
The solid rules of civil government,
In their majestic unaffected style,
Than all th' oratory of Greece and Rome.
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt,
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so,
What ruips kingdoms, and lays cities flat;
These only with our law best form a king."
So spake the Son of God; but Satan, now
Quite at a loss, for all his darts were spent,
Thus to our Saviour with stern brow replied.
“ Since neither wealth nor honour, arms, nor arts, Kingdom nor empire pleases thee, nor aught By me propos'd in life contemplative Or active, tended on by glory or fame, What dost thou in this world? The wilderness For thee is fittest place; I found thee there, And thither will return thee; yet remember What I foretel thee, soon thou shalt have cause To wish thou never hadst rejected, thus Nicely or cautiously, my offer'd aid, Which would have set thee in short time with ease On David's throne, or throne of all the world, Now at full age, fulness of time, thy season, When prophecies of thee are best fulfill'a. Now contrary, if I read aught in Heaven, Or Heaven write aught of fate, by what the stars Voluminous, or single characters, In their conjunction met, give me to spell, Sorrows, and labours, opposition, hate Attend thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries, Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death; A kingdom they portend thee, but what kingdom, Real or allegoric, I discern not ; Nor when; eternal sure, as without end, Without beginning; for no date prefix'd Directs me in the starry rubric set.”
So saying he took, for still he knew his power Not yet expir’d, and to the wilderness Brought back the Son of God, & left him there, Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose, As day-light sunk, & brought in lowering night, Her shadowy offspring; unsubstantial both, Privation mere of light and absent day. Our Saviour meek, & with untroubled mind After his aëry jaunt, though hurried sore, Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest, Wherever under some concourse of shades, Whose branching arms thick intertwin'd might shield From dews & damps of night his shelter'd head; But, shelter'd, slept in vain : for at his head The Tempter watched, & soon with ugly dreams Disturb'd his sleep. And either tropic now 'Gan thunder, & both ends of Heaven; the clouds, From many a horrid rift, abortive pour’d Fierce rain with lightning mix’d, water with fire In ruin reconcild: nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rush'd abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vex'd wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, & sturdiest oaks,
Bow'd their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st
Unshaken ! nor yet staid the terror there :
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round (shriek’d,
Environ'd thee, some howld, some yelī’d, some
Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
Sat'st unappall'd in calm and sinless peace !
Thus passed the night so foul, till morning fair
Came forth, with pilgrim steps, in amice grey;
Who with her radiant finger still’d the roar
Of thunder, chas'd the clouds, & laid the winds,
And grissly spectres, which the fiend had rais'd
To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.
But now the sun with more effectual beams
Had cheer'd the face of earth, & dried the wet
From drooping plant, or dropping tree; the birds,
Who all things now beheld more fresh & green,
After a night of storm so ruinous,
Clear'd up their choicest notes in bush & spray,
To gratulate the sweet return of morn.
Nor yet, amidst this joy & brightest morn,
Was absent, after all his mischief done,
The Prince of Darkness ; glad would also seem
Of this fair change, and to our Saviour came;
Yet with no new device (they all were spent),
Rather by this his last affront resolv'd,
Desperate of better course, to vent his rage
And mad despite to be so oft repellid.
Him walking on a sunny hill he found,
Back'd on the north & west by a
Dut of the wood he starts in wonted shape,
And in a careless mood thus to him said.
“ Fair morning yet betides thee, Son of God,
After a dismal night: I heard the wrack,
As earth and sky would mingle; but myself
Was distant; & these flaws, though mortals fear them
As dangerous to the pillar'd frame of Heaven,
Or to the earth's dark basis underneath,
Are to the main as inconsiderable
And harmless, if not wholesome, as a sneeze
To man's less universe, and soon are gone;
Yet, as being ofttimes noxious where they light
On man, beast, plant, wasteful and turbulent,
Like turbulences in the affairs of men.
Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point,
They oft foresignify and threaten ill:
This tempest at this desert most was bent;
Of men at thee, for only thou here dwell'st.
Did I not tell thee, if thou didst reject
The perfect season offer'd with my aid
To win thy destin'd seat, but wilt prolong
All to the push of fate, pursue thy way
Of gaining David's throne, no man knows when,
For both the when & how is no where told ?
Thou shalt be what thou art ordain'd, no doubt ;
For Angels have proclaim'd it, but concealing
The time & means. Each act is rightliest done,
Not when it must, but when it may be best :
If thou observe not this, be sure to find,
What I foretold thee, many a hard essay
Of dangers, and adversities, and pains,
Ere thou of Israel's sceptre get fast hold;
Whereof this ominous night, that clos'd thee round,
So many terrors, voices, prodigies,
May warn thee, as a sure foregoing sign."
So talk'd he, while the Son of God went on
And staid not, but in brief him answer'd thus:
“ Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrors, which thou speak’st of, did me none; I never fear’d they could, though noising loud And threatening nigh : what they can do, as signs Betokening, or ill boding, I contemn As false portents, not sent from God, but thee; Who, knowing I shall reign past thy preventing, Obtrud'st thy offer'd aid, that I, accepting, At least might seem to hold all power of thee, Ambitious spirit! & wouldst be thought my God; And storm'st refus'd, thinking to terrify Me to thy will! desist, thou art discern'd, And toil'st in vain, nor me in vain molest.”
To whom the fiend, now swoln with rage, replied : “Then hear, O Son of David, Virgin-born, For Son of God to me is yet in doubt; Of the Messiah I had heard foretold By all the prophets ; of thy birth at length, Announc'd by Gabriel, with the first I knew, And of the angelic song in Bethlehem field, On thy birth-night that sung thee Saviour born. From that time seldom have I ceased to eye
Thy infancy, thy childhood, and thy youth,
Thy manhood last, though yet in private bred;
Till at the ford of Jordan, whither all
Flock to the Baptist, I, among the rest,
Though not to be baptiz'd, by voice from Heaven
Heard thee pronounc'd the Son of God belov’d.
Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn
In what degree or meaning thou art call’d
The Son of God; which bears no single sense.
The son of God I also am, or was;
And if I was, I am; relation stands;
All men are sons of God; yet thee I thought
In some respect far higher so declar'd:
Therefore I watch'd thy footsteps from that hour,
And follow'd thee still on to this waste wild;
Where, by all best conjectures, I collect
Thou art to be
Good reason then, if I beforehand seek
To understand my adversary, who
And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent ;
By parl or composition, truce or league,
To win him, or win from him what
And opportunity I here have had
To try thee, sift thee, & confess have found thee
Proof against all temptation, as a rock
Of adamant, and, as a centre, firm ;
To the utmost of mere man both wise & good,
Not more; for honours, riches, kingdoms, glory,
Have been before contemn'd, and may again.
Therefore, to know what more thou art than man,
Worth naming Son of God by voice from Heaven,
Another method I must now begin.'
So saying he caught him up, &, without wing Of hippogrif, bore through the air sublime, Over the wilderness and o'er the plain, Till underneath them fair Jerusalem, The holy city, lifted high her towers, And higher yet the glorious temple rearst Her pile, far off appearing like a mount Of alabaster, topt with golden spires : There, on the highest pinnacle, he set The Son of God; and added thus in scorn.
“There stand, if thou wilt stand ; to stand upright Will ask thee skill ; I to thy father's house Have brought thee, & highest plac'd: highest is best : Now show thy progeny; if not to stand,