« PreviousContinue »
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 211
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 spi'rit 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 pow'r,
Till truth were freed, and equity restor'd: 220
Yet held it more humane, more heav'nly 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,
O Son, but nourish them and let them soar 230
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 Heav'n 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. 241
At thy nativity a glorious quire
Ofangels 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 Heav'n appearing,
Guided the Wise Men thither from the East, 250
To honor thee with incense, myrrh, and gold,
By whose bright course led on, they found the place,
Affirming yet thy star new grav'n in Heav'n,
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 stoodi'
This having heard, strait I again revolv'd
The Law and Prophets, searching what was writ.
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes 261
Known partly, and soon found of whom they spake
I am; this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay ev'n 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, 270
Nor 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
Strait 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 laying stream, 280
Heav'n open'd her eternal doors, from whence
The Spi'rit descended on me like a dove,
At last the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from Heav'n, 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 deriy'd from Heav'n..
And now by some strong motion I am led 290
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 300 Lodg'd in his breast, as well might recommerid 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 309 Among wild beasts: they at his sight grew mild, Nor sleeping him, nor waking harın'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 some 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 319 Perus’d him, then with words thus utter'd spake :
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 carcase, pin’d with hunger and with drought..
I ask the rather, and the more admire,
For that to me thou seem'st the Man whom late
Our new baptising Prophet at the ford
Of Jordan honor'd so, and call'd thee Son :
Of God; I saw and heard, for we sometimes 330
Who dwell this wild, constrain'd by want, come
To town or village nigh (nighest is far) [forth
Where aught we hear, and curious are to hear -
What happens new; Famę also finds us out.
To whom the Son of God. Who brought me
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 Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inur'd More than the camel, and to drink go far, 340 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 thyself and us relieve With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste.
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