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That pleas'd so well our victor's ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts deriv'd;
Ill imitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of their deities, and their own,
In fable, hymn, or song, so personating
Their gods ridiculous, and 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 prais'd 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 express'd
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 profits far beneath,
As men divinely taught, and better teaching
The solid rules of civil government,
In their majestic unaffected style,
Than all the oratory of Greece and Rome.
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learn'd,
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so;
What ruins 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'd.
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
Attends 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 powers
Not yet expir'd) and to the wilderness -
Brought back the Son of God, and left him there,
Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose,
As day-light sunk, and brought in lowering night,
Her shadowy offspring, unsubstantial both,
Privation mere of light and absent day.
Our Saviour, meek, and with untroubled mind,
After his airy jaunt, though hurried sore,
Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest,
Wherever, under some concourse of shades,
Whose branching arms thick intertwin'd right shield,
From dews and damips of night his shelter'd head,
But shelter'd slept in vain ; for at his head
The Tempter watch'd, and soon with ugly dreams
Disturbid his sleep: and either tropic now
'Gan thunder, and 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 reconcil'd: 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, and sturdiest oaks,
Bow'd their stiff necks, loaded with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer ; ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st
Unshaken: nor yet stay'd the terror there;
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round
Environ'd thee; some bowl'd, some yellid, some
Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
Sat'st unappall'd in calm and sinless peace :
Thus pass'd the night so foul, till morning fair
Come forth with pilgrim steps in amice gray,
Who with her radiant finger stillid the roar
Of thunder, chas'd the clouds, and laid the winds,
And grisly spectres, which the fiend had rais'd
To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.
And now the sun with more effectual beams
Had cheer'd the face of earth, and dried the wet
From drooping plant, or drooping tree; the birds,
Who all things now behold more fresh and green
After a night of storm so ruinous,
Clear'd up their choicest notes in bush and spray, -
To gratulate the sweet return of morn: -
Nor yet amidst this joy and 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,
Desp'rate of better course, to vent his rage
And mad despite to be so oft repell’d.
Him walking on a sunny hill he found,
Back'd 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 dang’rous 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 oft times noxious where they light On man, beast, plant, wastful and turbulent, Like turbulencies in th' 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 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 and 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 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 an hard assay 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 stay'd 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 threat'ning 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, and 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 have heard foretold
By all the prophets : of thy birth, at length
Announc'd by Gabriel, with the first I knew,
And of th' angelic song in Bethlehem field,
On thy birth-night, that sung thee Saviour born.
From that time seldom have I ceas'd 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 my fatal enemy.
Good reason then, if I beforehand seek
To understand my adversary, who
And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent;
Bv parle, or composition, truce, or league,