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Whereby they may direct their future life.
Envy they say excites me thus to gain
Companions of my misery and woe.
At first it may be ; but long since with woe
Nearer acquainted, now I feel by proof,
That fellowship in pain divides not smart,
Nor lightens aught each man's peculiar load.
Small consolation then, were man adjoin'd:
This wounds me most, what can it less? that man,
Man fallen, shall be restored; I never more.
To whom our Saviour sternly thus replied:
Deservedly thou grievest, composed of lies
From the beginning, and in lies wilt end,
Who boast release from hell, and leave to come
Into the heaven of heavens. Thou comest, indeed,
As a poor miserable captive thrall
Comes to the place where he before had sat
Among the prime in splendour, now deposed,
Ejected, emptied, gazed, unpitied, shunn'd,
A spectacle of ruin, or of scorn,
To all the host of heaven. The happy place
Imparts to thee no happiness, no joy,
Rather inflames thy torment, representing
Lost bliss, to thee no more communicable,
So never more in hell than when in heaven.
But thou art serviceable to heaven's King.
Wilt thou impute to obedience what thy fear
Extorts, or pleasure to do ill excites?
What but thy malice moved thee to misdeem
Of righteous Job, then cruelly to afflict him
With all inflictions? but his patience won.
The other service was thy chosen task,
To be a liar in four hundred mouths;
For lying is thy sustenance, thy food.
Yet thou pretend'st to truth; all oracles
By thee are given, and what confess'd more true
Among the nations? that hath been thy craft,
By mixing sc mewhat true to vent more lies.
But what have been thy answers? what but dark,
Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding,
Which they who ask'd have seldom understood,
And, not well understood, as good not known?
Who ever, by consulting at thy shrine,
Return'd the wiser, or the more instruct
To fly or follow what concern'd him most,
And run not sooner to his fatal snare?
For God hath justly given the nations up
To thy delusions ; justly, since they fell
Idolatrous. But when his purpose is
Among them to declare his providence
To thee not known, whence hast thou then thy truth,
But from him or his angels president
In every province? who, themselves disdaining
To approach thy temples, give thee in command
What to the smallest tittle thou shalt say •
To thy adorers? thou with trembling fear,
Or like a fawning parasite, obey'st;
Then to thyself ascribest the truth foretold.
But this thy glory shall be soon retrench'd;
No more shalt thou by oracling abuse
The Gentiles; henceforth oracles are ceased,
And thou no more, with pomp and sacrifice,
Shalt be inquired at Delphos or elsewhere,
At least in vain, for they shall find thee mute.
God hath now sent his living oracle
Into the world to teach his final will,
And sends his Spirit of truth henceforth to dwell
In pious hearts, and inward oracle
To all truth requisite for men to know.
So spake our Saviour; but the subtle fiend, Though inly stung with anger and disdain, Dissembled, and this answer smooth return'd:
Sharply thou hast insisted on rebuke,
And urged me hard with doings, which not will,
Put misery, hath wrested from me; where
Easily canst thou find one miserable,
And not enforced ofttimes to part from truth;
If it may stand him more in stead to lie,
Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure?
But thou art placed above me, thou art Lord;
From thee I can, and must, submiss, endure
Check or reproof, and glad to 'scape so quit.
Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk,
Smooth on the tongue discoursed, pleasing to the
And tunable as sylvan pipe or song;
What wonder then if I delight to hear
Her dictates from thy mouth? Most men admire
Virtue, who follow not her lore: permit me
To hear thee when I come, since no man comes,
And talk at least, though I despair to attain.
Thy Father, who is holy, wise, and pure,
Suffers the hypocrite or atheous priest
To tread his sacred courts, and minister
About his altar, handling holy things,
Praying or vowing, and vouchsafed his voice
To, Balaam reprobate, a prophet yet
Inspired; disdain not such access to me.
To whom our Saviour, with unalter'd brow:
Thy coming hither, though I know thy scope,
I bid not, or forbid; do as thou find'st
Permission from above; thou canst not more
He added not; and Satan, bowing low
His gray dissimulation, disappeared
Into thin air diffused: for now began
Night with her sullen wings to double-shade
The desert; fowls in their clay nests were couch'd;
And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam.
Meanwhile the new-baptized, who yet remain'd
At Jordan with the Baptist, and had seen
Him whom they heard so late expressly call'd
Jesus, Messiah, Son of God declared,
And on that high authority had believed,
And with him talk'd, and with him lodged; I mean
Andrew and Simon, famous after known,
With others, though in holy writ not named,
Now missing him, their joy so lately found,
So lately found, and so abruptly gone,
Began to doubt, and doubted many days
And, as the days increased, increased their doubt:
Sometimes they thought he might be only shown,
And for a time caught up to God, as once
Moses was in the mount, and missing long;
And the great Tishbite, who on fiery wheels
Rode up to heaven, yet once again to come.
Therefore, as those young prophets then with care
Sought lost Elijah, so in each place these
Nigh to Bethabara ; in Jericho
The city of palms, jEnon, and Salem old,
Machaerus, and each town or city wall'd
On this side the broad lake Gennezaret,
Or in Peraea; but return'd in vain.
Then on the bank of Jordan, by a creek,
Where winds with reeds and osiers whispering play,
Plain fishermen, no greater men them call,
Close in a cottage low together got,
Their unexpected loss and plaints outbreathed
Alas, from what high hope to what relapse
Unlook'd for are we fallen! our eyes beheld
Messiah certainly now come, so long
Expected of our fathers ; we have heard
His words, his wisdom full of grace and truth.
Now, now, for sure, deliverance is at hand,
The kingdom shall to Israel be restored;
Thus we rejoiced, but soon our joy is turn'd
Into perplexity and new amaze:
For whither is he gone? what accident
Hath wrapt him from us? will he now retire
After appearance, and again prolong
Our expectation ? God of Israel,
Send thy Messiah forth, the time is come;
Behold the kings of the earth, how they oppress
Thy chosen, to what height their power unjust
They have exalted, and behind them cast
All fear of thee. Arise and vindicate
Thy glory, free thy people from their yoke.
But let us wait; thus far he hath perform'd,
Sent his Anointed, and to us reveal'd him,
By his great prophet, pointed at and shown
In public, and with him we have conversed;
Let us be glad of this, and all our fears
Lay on his providence ; he will not fail,
Nor will withdraw him now, nor will recall,
Mock us with his blest sight, then snatch him hence;
Soon we shall see our hope, our joy, return.
Thus they, out of their plaints, new hope resume
To find whom at the first they found unsought:
But, to his mother Mary, when she saw
Others return'd from baptism, not her Son,
Nor left at Jordan, tidings of him none,
Within her breast though calm, her breast though pure,
Motherly cares and fears got head, and raised
Some troubled thoughts, which she in sighs thus clad:
Oh, what avails me now that honour high
To have conceived of God, or that salute,
Hail, highly favour'd, among women blest
While I to sorrows am no less advanced,
And fears as eminent, above the lot
Of other women, by the birth I bore,
In such a season born, when scarce a shed
Could be obtain'd to shelter him or me
From the bleak air! a stable was our warmth,
A manger his: yet soon enforced to fly
Thence into Egypt, till the murderous king
Were dead, who sought his life, and missing fill'd
With infant blood the streets of Bethlehem;
From Egypt home return'd, in Nazareth
Hath been our dwelling many years; his life
Private, unactive, calm, contemplative,
Little suspicious to any king; but now
Full grown to man, acknowledged, as I hear,
By John the Baptist, and in public shown,
Son own'd from heaven by his Father's voice;
I look'd for some great change: to honour? no,
But trouble, as old Simeon plain foretold,
That to the fall and rising he should be
Of many in Israel, and to a sign
Spoken against, that through my very sonl
A sword shall pierce. This is my favour'd lot,
My exaltations to afflictions high!
Afflicted I may be, it seems, and blest;
I will not argue that, nor will repine.
But where delays he now? some great intent
Conceals him. When twelve years he scarce had seen,
I lost him, but so found, as well I saw
He could not lose himself; but went about
His Father's business. What he meant I mused,
Since understand. Much more his absence now
Thus long to some great purpose he obscures.
But I to wait with patience am inured;
My heart hath been a storehouse long of things
And sayings laid up, portending strange events.
Thus Mar)-, pondering oft, and oft to mind
Recalling what remarkably had pass'd
Since first her salutation heard, with thoughts
Meekly composed awaited the fulfilling:
The while her Son, tracing the desert wild,
Sole, but with holiest meditations fed,
Into himself descended, and at once
All his great work to come before him set;
How to begin, how to accomplish best
His end of being on earth, and mission high:
For Satan, with sly preface to return,
Had left him vacant, and with speed was gone
Up to the middle region of thick air,
Where all his potentates in council sat;
There, without sign of boast, or sign of joy,
Solicitous and blank he thus began:
Princes, heaven's ancient sons, ethereal thrones,
Demonian spirits now, from the element
Each of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd
Powers of fire, air, water, and earth beneath,
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 empower'd,
Have found him, view'd 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 adorn'd,
Perfections absolute, graces divine,
And amplitude of mind to greatest deeds.
Therefore I am return'd, lest confidence
Of my success with Eve in Paradise
Deceive ye to persuasion over-sure
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 over-match'd.