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Of angels in the fields of Bethlehem sung
To shepherds watching at their folds by night,
And told them the Messiah now was born,
Where they might see him; and to thee they came,
Directed to the manger where thou lay'st,
For in the inn was left no better room.

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A star, not seen before, in heaven appearing
Guided the wise men thither from the east,
To honour thee with incense, myrrh, and gold,
By whose bright course led on they found the place,
Affirming it thy star new grav'n in heaven,
By which they knew the king of Israel born.
Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warn'd
By vision, found thee in the temple, and spake,
Before the altar and the vested Priest,

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Like things of thee to all that present stood.
This having heard, straight I again revolv'd
The law and prophets, searching what was writ 260
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes

Known partly, and soon found of whom they spake
I am; this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay, even to the death,
Ere I the promis'd kingdom can attain,
Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins
Full weight must be transferr'd upon my head.
Yet, neither thus dishearten'd or dismay'd,
The time prefixt I waited, when, behold!
The Baptist, of whose birth I oft had heard,

257 vested] Virg. Æn. xii. 169. Purâque in veste sacerdos.'

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Dunster.

Not knew by sight, now come, who was to come
Before Messiah and his way prepare.

I, as all others, to his baptism came,
Which I believ'd was from above; but he

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Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaim'd
Me him, (for it was shown him so from heaven,)
Me him whose harbinger he was; and first
Refus'd on me his baptism to confer,
As much his greater, and was hardly won:
But as I rose out of the laving stream,
Heaven open'd her eternal doors, from whence
The Spirit descended on me like a dove;
And last, the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from heaven, pronounc'd me his,
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleas'd; by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes

The authority which I deriv'd from heaven.
And now by some strong motion I am led
Into this wilderness, to what intent
I learn not yet; perhaps, I need not know;
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals.
So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise,
And looking round on every side beheld
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades;

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271 knew] Hence all the pictures of Raphael and the great Italian painters, representing the infant Jesus and John, are historically false. 296 dusk] Virg. Æn. i. 165.

'Horrentique atrum nemus imminet umbra.' Dunster.

The way he came not having mark'd, return
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;

And he still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come
Lodg'd in his breast, as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society.
Full forty days he pass'd, whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient oak
Or cedar, to defend him from the dew,
Or harbour'd in one cave, is not reveal'd;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt
Till those days ended; hunger'd then at last
Among wild beasts: they at his sight grew mild, 310
Nor sleeping him nor waking harm'd; his walk
The fiery serpent fled and noxious worm,

The lion and fierce tiger glar'd aloof.
But now an aged man in rural weeds,

313 glar'd] Jul. Cæs. act i. iv. 'I met a lion

Who glar'd upon me, and went surly by.' Dunster.

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310 beasts] Giles Fletcher, in his Christ's Victorie and Triumph, ed. 1632, p. 27, says that when the beasts, in the wilderness,

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saw their Lord's bright cognizance

Shine in his face, soon did they disadvance,

And some unto him kneel, and some about him dance.' A. Dyce.

'At length an aged syre farre off he saw
Come slowly footing

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314 weeds] Spens. F. Q. i. i. 29.

'An aged man in long black weeds yclad.' Dunster. Compare Giles Fletcher's Christ's Victorie and Triumph, ed. 1632, p. 30. 32:

Following, as seem'd, the quest of some stray ewe, 315
Or wither'd sticks to gather, which might serve
Against a winter's day, when winds blow keen,
To warm him wet return'd from field at eve,
He saw approach, who first with curious eye
Perus'd him, then with words thus utter'd spake. 320

Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place
So far from path or road of men, who pass
In troop or caravan? for single none
Durst ever, who return'd, and dropt not here

His carcass, pin'd with hunger and with drought. 325 I ask the rather, and the more admire,

For that to me thou seem'st the man, whom late Our new baptizing prophet at the ford

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Of Jordan honour'd so, and call'd thee Son
Of God; I saw and heard, for we sometimes,
Who dwell this wild, constrain'd by want, come forth
To town or village nigh, (nighest is far,)
Where aught we hear, and curious are to hear,
What happens new; fame also finds us out.

To whom the Son of God. Who brought me hither
Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek.
By miracle he may, reply'd the swain,
What other way I see not, for we here

Thus on they wandred, but those holy weeds
A monstrous serpent, and no man did cover.'

In Bale's Christ's Temptation, 1538, Satan joins our Saviour in the disguise of a hermit. A. Dyce.

320 Perus'd] P. L. viii. 267, ' Myself I then perus'd;' and Hamlet (act ii. sc. 1.), 'He falls to such perusal of my face.' Dunster.

Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inur'd
More than the camel, and to drink go far,
Men to much misery and hardship born.
But if thou be the Son of God, command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread,
So shalt thou save thy self and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste. 345
He ended, and the Son of God reply'd.
Think'st thou such force in bread? is it not written,
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st,)
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
Proceeding from the mouth of God, who fed
Our fathers here with manna? in the mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat, nor drank ;
And forty days Elijah without food
Wander'd this barren waste, the same I now.
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?
Whom thus answer'd th' arch fiend now undis-

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guis'd.

'Tis true, I am that spirit unfortunate,

Who, leagu'd with millions more in rash revolt,
Kept not my happy station, but was driven
With them from bliss to the bottomless deep;
Yet to that hideous place not so confin'd
By rigour unconniving, but that oft,
Leaving my dolorous prison, I enjoy
Large liberty, to round this globe of earth,
Or range in th' air, nor from the heaven of heavens

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330 stubs] Thyer proposes shrubs,' very improperly.

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