« VorigeDoorgaan »
From hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,
Where he might likeliest find this new-declar'd,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try;
So to subvert whom he suspected rais'd
To end his reign on earth so long enjoy'd:
But contrary unweeting he fulfill'd
The purpos'd counsel pre-ordain'd and fixt
Of the most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake.
Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold, 130
Thou and all angels conversant on earth
With man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message late,
On which I sent thee to the virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear a son
Great in renown, and call'd the Son of God;
Then told'st her doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come
The Holy Ghost, and the Power of the Highest
O'er-shadow her: this man born, and now up-grown,
To show him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan; let him tempt and now assay
137 told'st] The sense Thou told'st her.' The language obscure, from being comprest and Latinised, 'dixisti.' Dunster.
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his apostasy; he might have learnt
Less overweening, since he fail'd in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a man
Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All his vast force, and drive him back to hell,
Winning by conquest what the first man lost
By fallacy surpriz'd. But first I mean
To exercise him in the wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth
To conquer sin and death, the two grand foes,
By humiliation and strong sufferance.
His weakness shall o'ercome satanic strength,
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;
That all the angels and æthereal powers,
They now, and men hereafter, may discern,
From what consummate virtue I have
This perfect man, by merit call'd my Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men.
So spake th' eternal Father, and all heaven Admiring stood a space, then into hymns
157 rudiments] Virg. Æn. xi. 156.
'Bellique propinqui Dura rudimenta.'
Burst forth, and in celestial measures moy'd,
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument.
Victory and triumph to the Son of God,
Now ent'ring his great duel, not of arms,
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles.
The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untry'd,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate all ye stratagems of hell,
And devilish machinations come to nought!
So they in heaven their odes and vigils tun'd: Mean while the Son of God, who yet some days Lodg'd in Bethabara where John baptiz'd, Musing and much revolving in his breast, How best the mighty work he might begin Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first Publish his god-like office now mature, One day forth walk'd alone, the Spirit leading, And his deep thoughts, the better to converse With solitude, till far from track of men, Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
171 hand sung] Tibull. El. iii. 4. 41.
'Digiti cum voce locuti.'
175 vanquish] Accent on the last syllable; so Shakesp. Hen. VI. Part 1. act iii. sc. 3.
'I am vanquish'd. These haughty words of hers,' &c. Todd. 185 revolving.] Virg. Æn. x. 890.
'Multa movens animo.' Dunster.
He enter'd now the bordering desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environ'd round,
His holy meditations thus pursu❜d.
O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awaken'd in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel my self, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears,
Ill sorting with my present state compar❜d!
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing, all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do
What might be public good; my self I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth,
All righteous things: therefore, above my years,
The law of God I read, and found it sweet,
Made it my whole delight, and in it grew
To such perfection, that, ere yet my age
Had measur'd twice six years, at our great feast 210
I went into the temple, there to hear
The teachers of our law, and to propose
What might improve my knowledge or their own,
And was admir'd by all; yet this not all
To which my spirit aspir'd; victorious deeds
Flam'd in my heart, heroic acts; one while
To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke,
Then to subdue and quell o'er all the earth
Brute violence and proud tyrannic pow'r,
Till truth were freed, and equity restor❜d:
Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear;
At least to try, and teach the erring soul,
Not wilfully misdoing, but unaware
Misled; the stubborn only to subdue.
These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving
By words at times cast forth, inly rejoic'd,
And said to me apart. High are thy thoughts
O son, but nourish them, and let them soar
To what highth sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, though above example high;
By matchless deeds express thy matchless Sire.
For know, thou art no son of mortal man;
Though men esteem thee low of parentage,
Thy father is the eternal King who rules
All heaven and earth, angels and sons of men:
A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceiv'd in me a virgin; he foretold
Thou shouldst be great, and sit on David's throne,
And of thy kingdom there should be no end.
At thy nativity a glorious quire
222 willing] Virg. Georg. iv. 561.
Per populos dat jura.'
226 subdue] All the editions, except Tonson's, 1747, read 'destroy ;' but in the errata of the first edition, the reader is desired to read 'subdue.' Newton.
233 express] So P. L. viii. 440.
'Expressing well the Spirit within thee free.' Dunster.
241 should] Tickell and Fenton, after Tonson, read 'shall.' Newton restored the right reading. Todd.