Imatges de pÓgina

But where delays he now? some great intent
Conceals him. When twelve years he scarce had seen,
I lost him, but so found, as well I saw

He could not lose himself; but went about

His Father's business. What he meant I mused,
Since understand. Much more his absence now
Thus long to some great purpose he obscures.
But I to wait with patience am inured;
My heart hath been a storehouse long of things
And sayings laid up, portending strange events.
Thus Mary, pondering oft, and oft to mind
Recalling what remarkably had pass'd
Since first her salutation heard, with thoughts
Meekly composed awaited the fulfilling:
The while her Son, tracing the desert wild,
Sole, but with holiest meditations fed,
Into himself descended, and at once
All his great work to come before him set;
How to begin, how to accomplish best
His end of being on earth, and mission high:
For Satan, with sly preface to return,

Had left him vacant, and with speed was gone
Up to the middle region of thick air,
Where all his potentates in council sat;
There, without sign of boast, or sign of joy,

Solicitous and blank he thus began:

Princes, heaven's ancient sons, ethereal thrones, Demonian spirits now, from the element

Each of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd

Powers of fire, air, water, and earth beneath,

So may we hold our place, and these mild seats
Without new trouble; such an enemy

Is risen to invade us, who no less

Threatens than our expulsion down to hell;

I, as I undertook, and with the vote

Consenting in full frequence, was empower'd,

Have found him, view'd him, tasted him, but find

Far other labour to be undergone

Than when I dealt with Adam, first of men,

Though Adam by his wife's allurement fell,

However to this man inferior far,

If he be man by mother's side at least,

With more than human gifts from heaven adorn'd,
Perfections absolute, graces divine,

And amplitude of mind to greatest deeds.
Therefore I am return'd, lest confidence
Of my success with Eve in Paradise
Deceive ye to persuasion over-sure
Of like succeeding here; I summon all
Rather to be in readiness, with hand
Or counsel to assist; lest I, who erst
Thought none my equal, now be over-match'd.

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So spake the old serpent doubting, and from all
With clamour was assured their utmost aid
At his command; when from amidst them rose
Belial, the dissolutest spirit that fell,
The sensualest, and after Asmodai

The fleshliest incubus, and thus advised:
Set women in his eye, and in his walk,
Among daughters of men the fairest found;
Many are in each region passing fair

As the noon sky; more like to goddesses
Than mortal creatures, graceful and discreet,
Expert in amorous arts, enchanting tongues
Persuasive, virgin majesty with mild
And sweet allay'd, yet terrible to approach,
Skill'd to retire, and in retiring draw
Hearts after them, tangled in amorous nets.
Such object hath the power to soften and tame
Severest temper, smooth the rugged'st brow,
Enerve, and with voluptuous hope dissolve,
Draw out with credulous desire, and lead
At will the manliest, resolutest breast,
As the magnetic hardest iron draws.
Women, when nothing else, beguiled the heart
Of wisest Solomon, and made him build,
And made him bow, to the gods of his wives.
To whom quick answer Satan thus return'd:
Belial, in much uneven scale thou weighest
All others by thyself; because of old
Thou thyself doat'st on womankind, admiring
Their shape, their colour, and attractive grace,
None are, thou think'st, but taken with such toys.
Before the flood thou, with thy lusty crew,
False titled sons of God, roaming the earth,
Cast wanton eyes on the daughters of men,
And coupled with them, and begot a race.
Have we not seen, or by relation heard,

In courts and regal chambers how thou lurk'st,
In wood or grove by mossy fountain-side,
In valley or green meadow, to way-lay
Some beauty rare, Calisto, Clymene,

Daphne, or Semele, Antiopa,

Or Amymone, Syrinx, many more

Too long, then lay'st thy scapes on names adored,

Apollo, Neptune, Jupiter, or Pan,

Satyr, or Fawn, or Sylvan? But these haunts

Delight not all; among the sons of men,

How many have with a smile made small account
Of beauty and her lures, easily scorn'd

All her assaults, on worthier things intent!
Remember that Pellean conqueror,

A youth, how all the beauties of the East
He slightly view'd, and slightly overpass'd;


How he, surnamed of Africa, dismiss'd
In his prime youth the fair Iberian maid.
For Solomon, he lived at ease, and full
Of honour, wealth, high fare, aimed not beyond
Higher design than to enjoy his state;
Thence to the bait of women lay exposed :
But he, whom we attempt, is wiser far
Than Solomon, of more exalted mind,
Made and set wholly on the accomplishment
Of greatest things; what woman will you find,
Though of this age the wonder and the fame,
On whom his leisure will vouchsafe an eye
Of fond desire? Or should she, confident,
As sitting queen adored on beauty's throne,
Descend with all her winning charms begirt
To enamour, as the zone of Venus once
Wrought that effect on Jove, so fables tell;
How would one look from his majestic brow,
Seated as on the top of virtue's hill,
Discountenance her despised, and put to rout
All her array; her female pride deject,
Or turn to reverent awe? for beauty stands
In the admiration only of weak minds

Led captive. Cease to admire, and all her plumes
Fall flat, and shrink into a trivial toy,

At every sudden slighting quite abash'd.
Therefore with manlier objects we must try
His constancy, with such as have more show
Of worth, of honour, glory, and popular praise ;
Rocks whereon greatest men have oftest wreck'd;
Or that which only seems to satisfy
Lawful desires of nature, not beyond;

And now I know he hungers where no food

Is to be found, in the wide wilderness :

The rest commit to me; I shall let pass

No advantage, and his strength as oft essay.

He ceased, and heard their grant in loud acclaim; Then forthwith to him takes a chosen band

Of spirits, likest to himself in guile,

To be at hand, and at his beck appear,

If cause were to unfold some active scene

Of various persons, each to know his part;

Then to the desert takes with these his flight;

Where still, from shade to shade, the Son of God,
After forty days' fasting had remain'd,

Now hungering first, and to himself thus said:
Where will this end? four times ten days I've pass'd
Wandering this woody maze, and human food
Nor tasted, nor had appetite: that fast
To virtue I impute not, or count part
Of what I suffer here. If nature need not,
Or God support nature without repast,


Though needing, what praise is it to endure?
But now I feel I hunger, which declares
Nature hath need of what she asks; yet God
Can satisfy that need some other way,
Though hunger still remain : so it remain
Without this body's wasting, I content me,
And from the sting of famine fear no harm,
Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts, that feed
Me, hungering, more to do my Father's will.

It was the hour of night, when thus the Son
Communed in silent walk, then laid him down
Under the hospitable covert nigh

Of trees thick interwoven; there he slept,
And dream'd, as appetite is wont to dream,
Of meats and drinks, nature's refreshment sweet:
Him thought, he by the brook of Cherith stood,
And saw the ravens with their horny beaks
Food to Elijah bringing, even and morn,
Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they brought.
He saw the prophet also, how he fled

Into the desert, and how there he slept
Under a juniper; then how, awaked,
He found his supper on the coals prepared,
And by the angel was bid rise and eat,
And eat the second time after repose,
The strength whereof sufficed him forty days;
Sometimes that with Elijah he partook,
Or as a guest with Daniel at his pulse.
Thus wore out night, and now the herald lark
Left his ground-nest, high towering to descry
The morn's approach, and greet her with his song
As lightly from his grassy couch up rose
Our Saviour, and found all was but a dream;
Fasting he went to sleep, and fasting waked.
Up to a hill anon his steps he rear'd,
From whose high top to ken the prospect round,
If cottage were in view, sheep-cote, or herd;
But cottage, herd, or sheep-cote none he saw,
Only in a bottom saw a pleasant grove,
With chant of tuneful birds resounding loud;
Thither he bent his way, determined there
To rest at noon, and enter'd soon the shade
High roof'd, and walks beneath, and alleys brown,
That open'd in the midst a woody scene;
Nature's own work it seem'd, nature taught art,
And, to a superstitious eye, the haunt

Of wood-gods and wood-nymphs; he view'd it round,
When suddenly a man before him stood,

Not rustic as before, but seemlier clad,

As one in city, or court, or palace bred,

And with fair speech these words to him address'd:
Withg ranted leave officious I return,

But much more wonder that the Son of God
In this wild solitude so long should bide,
Of all things destitute, and, well I know,
Not without hunger. Others of some note,
As story tells, have trod this wilderness;
The fugitive bond-woman, with her son,
Outcast Nebaioth, yet found here relief
By a providing angel; all the race

Of Israel here had famish'd, had not God
Rain'd from heaven manna; and that prophet bold,
Native of Thebez, wandering here, was fed
Twice by a voice inviting him to eat.

Of thee these forty days none hath regard,
Forty and more deserted here indeed.

To whom thus Jesus: What concludest thou hence?
They all had need; I, as thou seest, have none.
How hast thou hunger then? Satan replied.

Tell me, if food were now before thee set,
Wouldst thou not eat? Thereafter as I like
The giver, answer'd Jesus. Why should that
Cause thy refusal? said the subtle fiend.
Hast thou not right to all created things?
Owe not all creatures by just right to thee
Duty and service, nor to stay till bid,
But tender all their power? Nor mention I
Meats by the law unclean, or offer'd first
To idols, those young Daniel could refuse;
Nor proffer'd by an enemy, though who
Would scruple that, with want oppress'd? Behold,
Nature ashamed, or, better to express,

Troubled that thou shouldst hunger, hath purvey'd
From all the elements her choicest store,
To treat thee as beseems, and as her Lord,
With honour; only deign to sit and eat.

He spake no dream; for, as his words had end,
Our Saviour, lifting up his eyes, beheld,
In ample space under the broadest shade,
A table richly spread, in regal mode,
With dishes piled, and meats of noblest sort
And savour, beasts of chase, or fowl of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boil'd,
Gris-amber-steam'd; all fish from sea or shore,
Freshet or purling brook, of shell or fin,
And exquisitest name, for which was drain'd
Pontus, and Lucrine bay, and Afric coast.
Alas! how simple, to these cates compared,
Was that crude apple that diverted Eve!
And at a stately sideboard by the wine
That fragrant smell diffused, in order stood
Tall stripling youths rich clad, of fairer hue
Than Ganymede or Hylas; distant more
Under the trees now tripp'd, now solemn stood,

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