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Yet with no new device (they all were spent)—
Rather by this his last affront resolved,
Desperate of better course, to vent his rage
And mad despite to be so oft repelled.
Him walking on a sunny hill he found,
Backed on the north and west by a thick wood ;
Out 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; and these flaws, though mortals fear them,
As dangerous to the pillared 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
460 On man, beast, plant, wasteful and turbulent, Like turbulencies in the affairs of men, Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point, They oft fore-signify 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 offered with my aid To win thy destined seat, but wilt prolong All to the push of fate, pursue thy way
470 Of gaining David's throne no man knows when (For both the when and how is nowhere told), Thou shalt be what thou art ordained, no doubt ; For Angels have proclaimed it, but concealing The time and 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 assay
Of dangers, and adversities, and pains,
Ere thou of Israel's sceptre get fast hold ;
Whereof this ominous night that closed thee round,
So many terrors, voices, prodigies,
May warn thee, as a sure foregoing sign.”
So talked he, while the Son of God went on,
And staid not, but in brief him answered thus :-
“Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrors which thou speak'st of did me none. I never feared they could, though noising loud And threatening nigh: what they can do as signs Betokening or ill-boding I contemn
490 As false portents, not sent from God, but thee; Who, knowing I shall reign past thy preventing, Obtrud'st thy offered aid, that I, accepting, At least might seem to hold all power of thee, Ambitious Spirit ! and would'st be thought my God And storm'st, refused, thinking to terrify Me to thy will ! Desist (thou art discerned, 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 !
500 For Son of God to me is yet in doubt. Of the Messiah I have heard foretold By all the Prophets ; of thy birth, at length Announced 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
510 Flocked to the Baptist, I among the rest (Though not to be baptized) by voice from Heaven
Heard thee pronounced the Son of God beloved.
Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn
In what degree or meaning thou art called
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 declared.
Therefore I watched thy footsteps from that hour,
And followed thee still on to this waste wild,
Where, by all best conjectures, I collect
Thou art to be my fatal enemy.
Good reason, then, if I beforehand seek
To understand my adversary, who
And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent;
By parle or composition, truce or league,
To win him, or win from him what I can.
And opportunity I here have had
To try thee, sift thee, and 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 and good,
Not more ; for honours, riches, kingdoms, glory,
Have been before contemned, 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, and, 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 reared
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, and highest placed : highest is best.
Now show thy progeny; if not to stand,
Cast thyself down. Safely, if Son of God ,
For it is written, 'He will give command
Concerning thee to his Angels; in their hands
They shall uplift thee, lest at any time
Thou chance to dash thy foot against a stone.'
To whom thus Jesus: “Also it is written, 560 'Tempt not the Lord thy God.'” He said, and stood ; But Satan, smitten with amazement, fell. As when Earth's son, Antæus (to compare Small things with greatest), in Irassa strove With Jove's Alcides, and, oft foiled, still rose, Receiving from his mother Earth new strength, Fresh from his fall, and fiercer grapple joined, Throttled at length in the air expired and fell, So, after many a foil, the Tempter proud, Renewing fresh assaults, amidst his pride
570 Fell whence he stood to see his victor fall ; And, as that Theban monster that proposed Her riddle, and him who solved it not devoured, That once found out and solved, for grief and spite Cast herself headlong from the Ismenian steep, So, strook with dread and anguish, fell the Fiend, And to his crew, that sat consulting, brought Joyless triumphals of his hoped success, Ruin, and desperation, and dismay, Who durst so proudly tempt the Son of God. So Satan fell; and straight a fiery globe Of Angels on full sail of wing flew nigh,
Who on their plumy vans received Him soft
From his uneasy station, and upbore,
As on a floating couch, through the blithe air ;
Then, in a flowery valley, set him down
On a green bank, and set before him spread
A table of celestial food, divine
Ambrosial fruits fetched from the Tree of Life,
And from the Fount of Life ambrosial drink,
That soon refreshed him wearied, and repaired
What hunger, if aught hunger, had impaired,
Or thirst; and, as he fed, Angelic quires
Sung heavenly anthems of his victory
Over temptation and the Tempter proud
“True Image of the Father, whether throned
In the bosom of bliss, and light of light
Conceiving, or, remote from Heaven, enshrined
In fleshly tabernacle and human form,
Wandering the wilderness—whatever place,
Habit, or state, or motion, still expressing
The Son of God, with Godlike force endued
Against the attempter of thy Father's throne
And thief of Paradise! Him long of old
Thou didst debel, and down from Heaven cast
With all his army; now thou hast avenged
Supplanted Adam, and, by vanquishing
Temptation, hast regained lost Paradise,
And frustrated the conquest fraudulent.
He never more henceforth will dare set foot
In Paradise to tempt; his snares are broke.
For, though that seat of earthly bliss be failed,
A fairer Paradise is founded now
For Adam and his chosen sons, whom thou,
A Saviour, art come down to reinstall;
Where they shall dwell secure, when time shall be,
Of tempter and temptation without fear.