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Fertile of corn the glebe, of oil and wine;
With herds the pastures throng’d, with flocks the
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 Bactra 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 hath 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 and 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 winge.
He look'd, and saw what numbers numberless
The city gates out-pour’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 Candaer east,
And Margiana, to the Hyrcanian cliffs
Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales;
From Atropatia, and the neighb'ring plains
Of Adiabene, Media, and the south
Of Susiana, to Balsara's heaven.
He saw them in their forms of battle rangd,
How quick they wheel'd, and 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 indors'd with towers
Of archers, nor of lab'ring 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 wagons fraught with utensils of war.
Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp,
When Agrican with all his northern powers
Besieg'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 knights,
Both Paynim, and the peers of Charlemaine.
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 may'st 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, and 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.
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 lead 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 reinstall 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, and 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, and Rome or Cæsar need not 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: and 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 endeav'ring, 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 Isreal or for David, or his throne,
When thou stood’st up his tempter to the pride
Of numb'ring Israel, which cost the lives
Of threescore and ten thousand Israelites
By three days' pestilence ? such was thy zeal
That sole excites to high attempts, the flame
Of most erected spirits, most temper'd pure
Etherial, who all pleasures else despise,
All treasures and all gain esteem as dross,
And dignities and powers all but the highest ?
Thy years are ripe, and over-ripe ; the son
Of Macedonian Philip had ere these
Won Asia, and the throne of Cyrus held
At his dispose ; young Scipio hąd brought down
The Carthaginian pride ; young Pompey quella
The Pontic king, and in triumph had rode.
Yet years, and to ripe years judgment mature,
Quench not the thirst of glory, but augment.
Great Julius, whom now all the world admires,
The more he grew in years, the more inflam'd
With glory, wept that he had liv'd so long
Inglorious : but thou yet art not too late.
To whom our Saviour calmly thus replied:
Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth
For empire's sake, nor empire to affect
For glory's sake, by all thy argument.
For what is glory but the blaze of fame,
The people's praise, if always praise unmix'd ?
And what the people but a herd confus'd,
A miscellaneous rabble, who extol
Things vulgar, and well weigh'd, scarce worth the
praise ? They praise, and they admire they know not what, And know not whom, but as one leads the other ; And what delight to be by such extol'd, To live upon their tongues, and be their talk, Of whom to be disprais'd were no small praise ? His lot who dares be singularly good. Th’ intelligent among them and the wise Are few, and glory scarce of few is rais’d. This is true glory and renown, when God Looking on th' earth, with approbation marks The just man, and divulges him through heaven To all his angels, who with true applause