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From what consummate virtue I have chose
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
Burst forth, and in celestial measures mov'd
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument:
Vict'ry 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 untried,
Against whate'er may attempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or testify, 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;
Meanwhile 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 godlike 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,
He enter'd now the bord'ring 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 myself, 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: myself 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
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 power,
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 mis-doing but unware
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 height 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 th' 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 should'st be great, and sit on David's throne,
And of thy kingdom there should be no end.
At thy nativity a glorious choir
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;
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 graven 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,
Like things of thee to all that present stood.'---
This having heard, straight 1 again revolv'd
The law aud prophets, searching what was writ
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, e'en 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 nor dismay'd,
The time préfix'd I waited, when behold
The Baptist (of whose birth I oft had heard,
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
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
Th' 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;
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 lone cave, is not revealed;
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,
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,
Following, as seem'd, the quest of stray ewe,
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:
Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this
So far from path or road of men, who pass
In troop or caravan? for single none
Durst ever, who return'd, and dropp'd not here
His carcass pin'd with hunger and with drouth.
I ask thee rather, and the more admire
For that to me thou seem'st the Man whom late
Our new baptizing Prophet at the ford
Of Jordan honour'd so, and call'd the 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 ought we hear, and curious are to hear;
What happens new: Fame also finds us out.
To whom the Son of God: "Who brought me
Will bring me bence; no other guide I seek."
"By miracle he may,” replied the swain :
"What other way I see not; for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inur'd
More than the camel, and to drink go far,
Men to such 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 thyself, and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste."
He ended, and the Son of God replied:
"Think'st thou such force is bread? Is it not written
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st)
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
I'roceeding from the mouth of God, who fed
Our fathers here with manna? In the mount
Moses was forty days, nor ate nor drank ;:
And forty days Elijah without food
Wander'd this barren waste; the same It now:
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?"
Whom thus answer'd the archfiend now undis--
"'Tis true I am that spirit unfortunate [guis'd:
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 the air; nor from the heaven of heavens
Math he excluded my resort sometimes.