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Ere in the head of nations he appear,

Their king, their leader, and supreme on earth.

I, when no other durst, sole undertook

The dismal expedition to find out

And ruin Adam, and the exploit performed

Successfully; a calmer voyage now

Will waft me; and the way found prosperous once,

Induces hest to hope of like success."

He ended; and his words impression left
Of much amazement to the infernal crew,
Distracted and surprised with deep dismay
At these sad tidings; but no time was then
For long indulgence to their fears or grief:
Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this main enterprise
To him their great dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thrived
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
From Hell's deep-vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods,
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,1
Where he might likeliest find this new-declared,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try;
So to subvert whom he suspected raised
To end his reign on earth, so long enjoyed;
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfilled
The purposed counsel pre ordained and fixed
Of the Most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake:

"Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold,
Thou and all angels conversant on earth
With man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message, late
On which I sent thee to the virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear a Son
Great in renown, and called the Son of God;
Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come

1 Alluding to the habit of sorcerers and necromancers, who are preresented in some prints as girded about the middle with the skins of snakes and serpents.

The Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest

O'ershadow her: this man born and now up-grown.

To show him worthy of his birth divine

And high prediction, henceforth I expose

To Satan; let him tempt and now assay

His utmost subtlety, because he boasts

And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng

Of his apostacy: he might have learned

Less overweening, since he failed in Job,

Whose constant perseverance overcame

Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.

He now shall know I can produce a man

Of female seed, far abler to resist

All his solicitations, and at length

All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell,

Winning by conquest what the first man lost

By fallacy surprised. But first I mean

To exercise him in the wilderness;

There be shall first lay down the rudiments

Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth

To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes,

By humiliation and strong sufferance:

His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength,

And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh;

That all the angels and ethereal powers,

They now, and men hereafter, may discern,

From what consummate virtue I have chose

This perfect man, by merit called my Son,

To earn salvation for the sons of men."

So spake the eternal Father, and all Heaven
Admiring stood a space; then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures moved,
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,1 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 tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.

1 Battle, not necessarily between two parties, but for duellum, ant for Minn.

Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell,
And devilish machinations come to nought."

So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tuned:
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodged in Bethabara where John baptized,
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 walked 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 entered now the bordering desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environed round,
His holy meditations thus pursued:

"Oh, 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 compared! 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 measured 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,

To which my spirit aspired: victorious deeds
Flamed 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 restored;
Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear;


Yet this not all

At least to try, and teach the erring soul

Not wilfully misdoing, but unware

Misled; the stubborn only to subdue.

These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving,

By words at times cast forth, inly rejoiced,

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 the eternal King who rules

All Heaven and earth, angels and sons of men;

A messenger from God foretold thy birth

Conceived in me a virgin; he foretold

Thou shouldst 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, warned

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 revolved
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 promised kingdom can attain,

Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins'
Full weight must be transferred upon my head.

Yet neither thus disheartened or dismayed,

The time prefixed 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.

T as all others to his baptism came,

Which I believed was from above; but he

Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaimed

Me him (for it was shown him so from Heaven),

Me him whose harbinger he was; and first

Refused 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 wheneo

The Spirit descended on me like a dove,

And last the sum of all, my Father's voice,

Audibly heard from Heaven, pronounced me hi3,

Me his beloved Son, in whom alone

He was well pleased; 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 derived 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 marked, return

And he still on was led, hut with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come
Lodged in his breast, as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society.
Full forty days he passed, 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 harboured in one cave, is not revealed;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt
Till those days ended, hungered then at last
Among wild beasts: they at his sight grew mild,
Nor sleeping him nor waking harmed; his walk

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