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In me is no delay; with thee to go,
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 infernal 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 meantime God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the tempter shall be completely defeated by him:-upon which the angels sing a hymn of woumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the *rness, while he is meditating on the com*ncement of his great office of Saviour of man
kind. Pursuing his meditations 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 circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he 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 now appears under the form of an old peasant; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into so 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 supporting 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 ere while the happy garden sung
More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried
The Spirit descended, while the 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-struck, the exalted man, to whom Such high attest was given, a while survey'd With wonder; then, with envy fraught and rage, Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air To council summons all his mighty peers, Within thick clouds and dark ten-fold involv'd, A gloomy consistory; and then 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 possess'd, and rul’d, In manner at our will, the 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 Heaven Delay, for longest time to him is short; And now, too soon for us, the circling hours This dreaded time have compass'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 highest, greatest multiplies my fear Before him a great prophet, to proclaim 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 himself 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 his head A perfect dove descend, (whate'er it meant,) And out of Heaven the sovran voice I heard, “This is my Son belov'd, in him am pleas'd.” His mother then is mortal, but his Sire He who obtains the monarchy of Heaven: And what will he not do to 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 lineaments, 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 oppos'd, (Not force, but well-couch'd fraud, well-woven snares,) Ere in the head of nations he appear, Their king, their leader, and supreme on Earth.
I, when no other durst, sole undertook
To show him worthy of his birth divine
So spake the 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. “Victory and triumph to the Son of God, Now entering his great duel, not of arms, But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles! The Father knows the Son; therefore secure Wentures his filial virtue, though untried, Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce, Allure, or terrify, or undermine. Befrustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell, And, devilish machinations, come to naught!” 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 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, He enter'd now the bordering desert wild, And, with dark shades and rocks environ'd round, His holy meditations thus pursued. “O, what a multitude of thoughts at once Awakened 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 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, 0 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 is her is the Eternal King who rules * Haven 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 quire 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 I again revolv'd The law and 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, 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 prefix'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 opened 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; 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 on 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
That he might fall in Ramoth, they demurring,
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 ascrib'st the truth foretold. But this thy glory shall be soon retrench'd; No more shalt thou by oracling abuse The Gentiles; henceforth oracles are ceas'd, And thou no more with pomp and sacrifice Shalt be inquir'd 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, an 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 urg'd me with hard doings, which not will But misery hath wrested from me. Where Easily canst thou find one miserable, And not enforc'd oft-times to part from truth, If it may stand him more in stead to lie, Say and unsay, feign, flatter, or abjure? But thou art plac'd 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 discours'd, pleasing to the ear, And tuneable as sylvan pipe or song; What wonder then if I delight to hear Her dictates from thy mouth? Most men admire Wirtue, 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 vouchsafd his voice To Balaam reprobate, a prophet yet Inspir'd: 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, disappear'd Into thin air diffus'd : 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.
The disciples of Jesus, uneasy at his long absence, **on amongst themselves concerning it. Mary * gives vent to her maternal anxiety: in the
cumstances respecting the birth and early life of her son.— Satan again meets his infernal council, reports the bad success of his first temptation of our blessed Lord, and calls upon them for counsel and assistance. Belial proposes the tempting of Jesus with women. Satan rebukes Belial for his dissoluteness, charging on him all the profligacy of that kind ascribed by the poets to the heathen gods, and rejects his proposal as in no respect likely to succeed. Satan then suggests other modes of temptation, particularly proposing to avail himself of the circumstance of our Lord's hungering; and, taking a band of chosen spirits with him, returns to resume his enterprise. — Jesus hungers in the desert. – Night comes on ; the manner in which our Saviour passes the night is described. — Morning advances. – Satan again appears to Jesus, and, after expressing wonder that he should be so entirely neglected in the wilderness, where others had been miraculously fed, tempts him with a sumptuous banquet of the most luxurious kind. This he rejects, and the banquet vanishes. – Satan, finding our Lord not to be assailed on the ground of appetite, tempts him again by offering him riches, as the means of acquiring power: this Jesus also rejects, producing many instances of great actions performed by persons under virtuous poverty, and specifying the danger of riches, and the cares and, pains inseparable from power and greatness.
MEAN while the new-baptiz'd, who yet remain'd
***on of which she recapitulates many cir
Into perplexity and new amaze;