Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

130

140

(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 empowered,
Have found Him, viewed 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 adorned,
Perfections absolute, graces divine,
And amplitude of mind to greatest deeds.
Therefore I am returned, lest confidence
Of my success with Eve in Paradise
Deceive ye to persuasion oversure
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 overmatched."

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 allayed, yet terrible to approach,
Skilled to retire. and in retiring draw

150

160 170

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 returned :

Belial, in much uneven scale thou weigh'st
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 waylay
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 Faun, or Silvan? 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 scorned
All her assaults, on worthier things intent!
Remember that Pellean conqueror,
A youth, how all the beauties of the East
He slightly viewed, and slightly overpassed;

180

190

200

210

How he surnamed of Africa dismissed,
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 abashed.
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 wrecked);
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 wild wilderness :
The rest commit to me; I shall let pass
No advantage, and His strength as oft assay."

He ceased, and heard their grant in loud acclaim;

220

230

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;

240
Then to the desert takes with these his flight,
Where still, from shade to shade, the Son of God,
After forty days' fasting, had remained,
Now hungering first, and to Himself thus said :-

“Where will this end? Four times ten days I have passed 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 repa

250 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

260 Communed in silent walk, then laid Him down Under the hospitable covert nigh Of trees thick interwoven. There He slept, And dreamed, 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 mornThough ravenous, taught to abstain from what they brought; He saw the prophet also, how he fled

270 Into the desert, and how there he slept Under a juniper--then how, awaked,

M

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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

280
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 reared,
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.

290 Thither He bent His way, determined there To rest at noon, and entered soon the shade High-roofed, and walks beneath, and alleys brown, That opened in the midst a woody scene; Nature's own work it seemed (nature taught art), And, to a superstitious eye, the haunt Of wood-gods and wood-nymphs. He viewed 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,

300 And with fair speech these words to Him addressed :

“ With granted 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

« AnteriorContinua »