Page images

What I see excellent in good, or fair,

Or virtuous, I should so have lost all sense.

What can be then less in me than desire

To see thee and approach thee, whom I know

Declar'd the Son of God, to hear attent 385

Thy wisdom, and behold thy Godlike deeds?

Men generally think me much a foe

To all mankind: why should I .' they to me

Never did wrong or violence; by them

I lost not what I lost, rather by them 390

I gain'd what I have gain'd, and with them dwell

Copartner in these regions of the world,

If not disposer; lend them oft my aid,

Oft my advice by presages and signs,

And answers, oracles, portents and dreams, 395

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, 400

That fellowship in pain divides not smart,

Nor lightens ought each man's peculiar load.

Small consolation then, were man adjoin'd:

This wounds me most (what can it less ?) that man,

Man fall'u, shall be restor'd, I never more. 405

To whom our Saviour sternly thus reply'd: Deservedly thou griev'st, compos'd of lies From the beginning, and in lies wilt end; Who boast'st release from Hell, and leave to come Into the Heav'n of Heav'ns: thou com'st indeed,

As a poor miserable captive thrall 4.1 1

Comes to the place where he before had sat

Among the prime in splendor, now depos'd,

Ejected, emptied, gaz'd, unpitied, shunn'd,

A spectacle of ruin or of scorn 415

To all the host of Heav'n: 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 Heav'n. 4.20

But thou art serviceable to Heav'n's King.

Wilt thou impute to' obedience what thy fear

Extorts, or pleasure to do ill excites?

What but thy malice mov'd thee to misdeem

Of righteous Job, then cruelly to' afflict him 415

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 430

By thee are giv'n, and what confess'd more true

Among the nations f that hath been thy craft,

By mixing somewhat true to vent more lies.

But what have been thy answers, what but dark,

Ambiguous, and with double sense deluding, 435

Which they who ask'd have seldom understood,

And not well understood as good not known?

Whoever by consulting at thy shrine

Return'd the wiser, or the more instruct

To fly or follow what concern'd him most, 440 And run not sooner to his fatal snare?

For God hath justly giv'n the nations up

To thy delusions; justly since they fell

Idolatrous: but when his purpose is

Among them to declare his providence +45

To thee not known, whence hast thou then thy

But from him or his angels president [truth,

In every province? who themselves disdaining

To' approach thy temples, give thee in command

What to the smallest title thou shalt say 450

To thy adorers; thou with trembling fear,

Or like a fawning parasite obey'st 5

Then to thyself ascrib'st the truth foretold.

But this thy glory shall be soon retrench'd;

No more shalt thou by oracling abuse 45 5

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 460

Into the world to teach his final will,

And sends his Spi'rit 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, 465 Though inly stung with anger and disdain Dissembled, and this answer smooth return'd:

Sharply thou hast insisted on rebuke, And urg'd me hard with doings, which not will But misery hath wrested from me: where 470 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 ; 475

From thee I can and must submiss indure

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 th'

And tuneable as sylvan pipe or song; [ear,

What wonder then if I delight to hear 481

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. 4.85

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 490

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 495

Permission from above; thou canst not more.

He added not 5 and Satan bowing low His gray dissimulation, disappear'd

Into thin air diffus'd i for now began
Night with her sullen wings to double-shade 500
The desert j fowls in their clay nests were couch' d j
And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam.

The End of the First Book.

« PreviousContinue »