Imatges de pÓgina



Then through the fiery pillar and the cloud
God looking forth will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot-wheels : when, by command,
Moses once more his potent rod extends
Over the sea ; the sea his rod obeys;
On their em battled ranks the waves return,
And overwhelm their war. The race elect
Safe towards Canaan, from the shore, advance
Through the wild desert—not the readiest way,
Lest, entering on the Canaanite alarmed,
War terrify them inexpert, and fear
Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather
Inglorious life with servitude; for life
To noble and ignoble is more sweet
Untrained in arms, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by their delay
In the wide wilderness: there they shall found
Their government, and their great senate choose
Through the twelve tribes, to rule by laws ordained.
God, from the mount of Sinai, whose gray top
Shall tremble, He descending, will Himself,
In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpet's sound,
Ordain them laws-part, such as appertain
To civil justice ; part, religious rites
Of sacrifice, informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destined seed to bruise
The serpent, by what means He shall achieve
Mankind's deliverance. But the voice of God
To mortal ear is dreadful : they beseech
That Moses might report to them His will,
And terror cease ; He grants what they besought,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without mediator, whose high office now
Moses in figure bears, to introduce
One greater, of whose day he shall foretell,
And all the prophets, in their age, the times
Of great Messiah shall sing. Thus laws and rites


240 250


Established, such delight hath God in men
Obedient to His will that He vouchsafes
Among them to set up His tabernacle—
The Holy One with mortal men to dwell.
By His prescript a sanctuary is framed
Of cedar, overlaid with gold ; therein
An ark, and in the ark His testimony,
The records of His covenant; over these
A mercy-seat of gold, between the wings
Of two bright cherubim ; before Him burn
Seven lamps, as in a zodiac representing
The heavenly fires. Over the tent a cloud
Shall rest by day, a fiery gleam by night,
Save when they journey ; and at length they come,
Conducted by His angel, to the land
Promised to Abraham and his seed. The rest
Were long to tell—how many battles fought;
How many kings destroyed, and kingdoms won ;
Or how the sun shall in mid-heaven stand still
A day entire, and night's due course adjourn,
Man's voice commanding, ‘Sun, in Gibeon stand,
And thou, Moon, in the vale of Ajalon,
Till Israel overcome !'-so call the third
From Abraham, son of Isaac, and from him
His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.”

Here Adam interposed :—"O sent from Heaven,
Enlightener of my darkness, gracious things
Thou hast revealed, those chiefly which concern
Just Abraham and his seed. Now first I find
Mine eyes true opening, and my heart much eased,
Erewhile perplexed with thoughts what would become
Of me and all mankind; but now I see
His day, in whom all nations shall be blessed-
Favour unmerited by me, who sought
Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means.
This yet I apprehend not-why to those
Among whom God will deign to dwell on earth



[ocr errors]


So many and so various laws are given.
So many laws argue so many sins
Among them; how can God with such reside ?"

To whom thus Michael :-“ Doubt not but that sin
Will reign among them, as of thee begot;
And therefore was law given them, to evince
Their natural pravity, by stirring up
Sin against law to fight, that, when they see
Law can discover sin, but not remove,
Save by those shadowy expiations weak,
The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude
Some blood more precious must be paid for man,
Just for unjust, that in such righteousness,
To them by faith imputed, they may find
Justification towards God, and peace
Of conscience, which the law by ceremonies
Cannot appease, nor man the moral part
Perform, and, not performing, cannot live.
So law appears imperfect, and but given
With purpose to resign them, in full time,
Up to a better covenant, disciplined
From shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit,
From imposition of strict laws to free
Acceptance of large grace, from servile fear
To filial, works of law to works of faith.
And therefore shall not Moses, though of God
Highly beloved, being but the minister
Of law, his people into Canaan lead ;
But Joshua, whom the Gentiles Jesus call,
His name and office bearing, who shall quell
The adversary serpent, and bring back
Through the world's wilderness long-wandered man
Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.
Meanwhile they, in their earthly Canaan placed,
Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins
National interrupt their public peace,
Provoking God to raise them enemies,




[ocr errors]

From whom as oft He saves them penitent,
By judges first, then under kings; of whom

The second, both for piety renowned
And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive
Irrevocable, that his regal throne
For ever shall endure. The like shall sing
All prophecy—that of the royal stock
Of David (so I name this king) shall rise
A Son, the woman's seed to thee foretold,
Foretold to Abraham as in whom shall trust
All nations, and to kings foretold of kings
The last, for of His reign shall be no end.

330 But first a long succession must ensue; And his next son, for wealth and wisdom famed, The clouded ark of God, till then in tents Wandering, shall in a glorious temple enshrine. Such follow him as shall be registered Part good, part bad; of bad the longer scroll : Whose foul idolatries and other faults, Heaped to the popular sum, will so incense God, as to leave them, and expose their land, Their city, His temple, and His holy ark

340 With all His sacred things, a scorn and prey To that proud city whose high walls thou saw'st Left in confusion, Babylon thence called. There in captivity He lets them dwell The space of seventy years; then brings them back, Remembering mercy, and His covenant sworn To David, 'stablished as the days of Heaven. Returned from Babylon by leave of kings, Their lords, whom God disposed, the house of God They first re-edify, and for a while

350 In mean estate live moderate, till, grown In wealth and multitude, factious they grow. But first among the priests dissension springsMen who attend the altar, and should most Endeavour peace : their strife pollution brings




Upon the temple itself; at last they seize
The sceptre, and regard not David's sons;
Then lose it to a stranger, that the true
Anointed King. Messiah might be born
Barred of His right. Yet at His birth a star,
Unseen before in heaven, proclaims Him come,
And guides the eastern sages, who inquire
His place, to offer incense, myrrh, and gold :
His place of birth a solemn angel tells
To simple shepherds, keeping watch by night;
They gladly thither haste, and by a choir
Of squadroned angels hear His carol sung.
A virgin is His mother, but His sire
The Power of the Most High. He shall ascend
The throne hereditary, and bound His reign
With earth's wide bounds, His glory with the Heavens."

He ceased, discerning Adam with such joy
Surcharged as had, like grief, been dewed in tears,
Without the vent of words; which these he breathed :-

“O prophet of glad tidings, finisher
Of utmost hope ! now clear I understand
What oft my steadiest thoughts have searched in vain-
Why our great Expectation should be called
The seed of woman. Virgin Mother, hail !

High in the love of Heaven, yet from my loins
Thou shalt proceed, and from thy womb the Son
Of God Most High; so God with man unites.
Needs must the serpent now his capital bruise
Expect with mortal pain. Say where and when
Their fight, what stroke shall bruise the Victor's heel ?"

To whom thus Michael :-"Dream not of their fight
As of a duel, or the local wounds
Of head or heel. Not therefore joins the Son
Manhood to Godhead, with more strength to foil
Thy enemy; nor so is overcome
Satan, whose fall from Heaven, a deadlier bruise,
Disabled not to give thee thy death's wound;



« AnteriorContinua »