Immagini della pagina




The subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit. The poem opens with John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus, coming there is baptized; and is attested by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air ; where, summoning his internal council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting, by snares and fraud, to counteract and defeat the person from whom they have so much to dread. This office he offers himself to undertake; and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprise. In the mean time God, in the assem, bly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretells that the tempter shall be completely defeated by him ; upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of mankind. Pursuing bis meditation he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circum. stances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a per pon than the Son of God; to which be adds what his own inquiries and reflections had supplied in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts become mild and harmless in his presence. Satan aow appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into 50 dangerous a place, and at the same time professing to recognize him for the person lately acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of surporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and at the same time tells him that he knows who he is. Satan instantly avows himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his conduct. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justification. Satan, with much semblance of humility, still endeavours to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus, and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation ; but is answered, that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert.

I who erewhile the happy garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recover'd. Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
1 hrough all temptation, and the tempter.foildi
In all his wiles, defeated and repuls’d,
And Eden rais'd in the waste wilderness.

Tbou Spirit, who ledd'st this glorious eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field,
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence-
By proof th’undoubted Son of God, inspire,
A's thou art wont, my. prompted song, else mute,
And bear through height or depth of Nature's bounds-
With prosp'rous wing full summ’d, to tell of deeds.
Above heroic, though in secret done,
And unrecorded left through many an age,
Worthy t' have not remaiu'd so long unsung..

Now had the great proclaimer, with a voice More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried Repentance and heaven's kingdom nigh at hand To all baptiz'd: to his great baptism flock'd With awe the regions round, and with them came From Nazareth the son of Joseph deem'd, To the flood Jordan; came, as then obscure, Unmark’d, unknown; but him the Baptist soon. Descried, divinely warn'd, and witness bore As to his worthier, and would have resign'd To him bis heavenly office; nor was long His witness unconfirm’d: on him baptiz'd. Heaven open'd, and in likeness of a dove The Spirit descended, while tbe Father's voice From heaven pronounc'd him his beloved Son.. That heard the adversary, who roving still About the world, at that assembly fam`d Would not be last, and with the voice divine. Nigh thunder-s!ruck, th' exalted Man, to whom Such high attest was given, awhile survey'd With wonder; then with envy fraught and rageFlics o his p'a 'e, nor rests, but in mid-air, To council summons all his mighty peers, Within thick clouds and dark, ieu-fold involvely,


A gloomy consistory; and them amidst 'With looks aghast and sad he thus bespake :

“O ancient powers of air and this wide world, For much more willingly 'I mention air, This our old conquest, than remember hell, Our hated habitation ; 'well ye'know How many ages, as the years of men, This universe we have possessid, and ruld In manner at our will th' affairs of earth, Since Adam, and his facile consort Eve 'Lost Paradise, deceiv'd by me, though since With dread attending when that fatal wound Shall be inflicted by the seed of Eve Upon my head : long the decrees of beaven, Delay, for longest time to him is short: And now too soon for us the circling hours This dreaded time have compas'd, wherein we Must bide the stroke of that long threaten'd wound, At least if so we can, and by the head Broken be not intended all our power To be infring'd, our freedom and our being, In this fair empire won of earth and air ; For this ill news 'I bring, the Woman's Seed Destin'd to this, is late of woman born. His birth to our just fear gave no small cause, But his growth now to youth's full flower, displaying · All virtue, grace, and wisdom, to achieve *Things bigbest, greatest, multiplies my fear, Before him a great prophet, to proelaim His coming, is sent harbinger, who all Invites, and in the consecrated stream Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them so Purified, to receive him pure, or rather To do him honour as their king: all come, And he bimself among them was baptiz'd; Not thence to be more pure, but to receive The testimony of heaven, that who he is Thenceforth the nations may not doubt. I saw The prophet do him reverence; on him rising Out of the water, heaven above the clouds Unfold her crystal doors, thence, on bis head

A perfect dove descend, whate'er it meant,
And out of heaven the Sov’reign voice I heard,
• This is my Son, belov’d, in him am pleas'd.'
His mother then is mortal, but bis sire
He who obtains the monarchy of heaven:
And what will he not do t'advance his Son ?
His first begot, we know, and sore have felt,
When his fierce thunder drove us to the deep;
Who this is we must learn, for man he seems.
In all his liveaments, though in his face
The glimpses of his Father's glory shine.
Ye see our danger on the utmost edge
Of hazard, which admits no long debate,
But must with something sudden be opposd
Not force, but well couch'd fraud, well woven spares,
Ere in the hend of nations he appear
Their king, their leader, and supreme on earth.
I, when no other durst, sole undertook
The dismal expedition to find out
And ruin Adam, and th' exploit perform'd
Successfully; a calmer voyage now
Will waft me: and the way found prosp'rous once
Induces best to hope of like success."

He ended, and his words impression left
Of much amazement to the infernal crew,
Distracted and surpris'd with deep dismay
At these sad tidings; but no time was then
For long indulgence to their fears or grief :
Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this main enterprise
To him their great dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thriv'd
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
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 i

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

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's and fix'd
Of the Most High, who in full frequence brighé
Of angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake:

“ Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold,
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 calld the Son of God;
Then told’st her doubting how these things could be
To ber 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 upgrown,
To show him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan; let him tempt and now assay
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his apostasy; he might have learnt
Less overweeping since he fail'd in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could inventa
He now shall know I can produce a Man
Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All bis vast force, and drive him back to hell,
Winning by conquest what the first man lost,
By fallaey surpris’d. But first I mean
To exercise him in the wilderness;
There shall he 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 ethereal powers,
They now, and inen hereafter, may discern

[ocr errors]
« IndietroContinua »