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Of dangers, and adversities, and pains,
Ere thou of Israel's sceptre get fast hold;
Whereof this ominous night that closed thee round,
So many terrors, voices, prodigies,
May warn thee, as a sure foregoing sign."
So talked he; while the Son of God went on And stayed not, but in brief him answered thus:
"Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrors which thou speak'st of did me none; I never feared they could, though noising loud And threatening nigh; what they can do as signs Betokening, or ill boding, I contemn As false portents, not sent from God, but thee; Who knowing I shall reign past thy preventing, Obtrud'st thy offered aid, that I accepting, At least might seem to hold all power of thee, Ambitious spirit, and wouldst be thought my God, And storm'st refused, thinking to terrify Me to thy will. Desist, thou art discerned, And toil'st in vain, nor me in vain molest."
To whom the fiend, now swollen with rage, replied: "Then hear, O Son of David, virgin-born; For Son of God to me is yet in doubt: Of the Messiah I have heard foretold By all the prophets; of thy birth at length Announced by Gabriel with the first I knew, And of the angelic song in Bethlehem field, On thy birth-night, that sung thee Saviour born. From that time seldom have I ceased to eye Thy infancy, thy childhood, and thy youth, Thy manhood last, though yet in private bred; Till at the ford of Jordan, whither all Flocked to the Baptist, I among the rest, Though not to be baptized, by voice from Heaven Heard thee pronounced the Son of God beloved. Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn In what degree or meaning thou art called The Son of God, which bears no single sense; The son of God I also am, or was, And if I was, I am; relation stands; All men are sons of God; yet thee I thought In some respect far higher so declared. Therefore I watched thy footsteps from that hour,
And followed thee still on to this waste wild;
Where by all best conjectures I collect
Thou art to be my fatal enemy.
Good reason then, if I beforehand seek
To understand my adversary, who
And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent;
By parle, or composition, truce, or league
To win him, or win from him what I can.
And opportunity I here have had
To try thee, sift thee, and confess have found thee
Proof against all temptation, as a rock
Of adamant, and as a centre, firm,
To the utmost of mere man both wise and good,
Not more; for honours, riches, kingdoms, glory,
Have been before contemned, and may again:
Therefore to know what more thou art than man,
Worth naming Son of God by voice from Heaven,
Another method I must now begin."
So saying, he caught him up, and, without wing
Of hippogrif,1 bore through the air sublime
Over the wilderness and o'er the plain;
Till underneath them fair Jerusalem,
The holy city, lifted high her towers,
And higher yet the glorious temple reared
Her pile, far off appearing like a mount
Of alabaster, topped with golden spires:
There on the highest pinnacle he set
The Son of God, and added thus in scorn:
"There stand, if thou wilt stand; to stand upright
Will ask thee skill; I to thy Father's house
Have brought thee, and highest placed, highest is best;
Now show thy progeny; if not to stand,
Cast thyself down; safely, if Son of God;
For it is written, ' He will give command
Concerning thee to his angels, in their hands
They shall up-lift thee, lest at any time
Thou chance to dash thy foot against a stone.'"
Tempt not the Lord thy God:" he said and stood:
But Satan, smitten with amazement, fell.
As when earth's son, Antaeus (to compare
1 A quiz upon Ariosto, with whom this horse-griffin monster is a great favourite. ,
Small things with greatest) in Irassa1 strove
With Jove's Alcides, and oft foiled still rose,
Receiving from his mother earth new strength,
Fresh from his fall, and fiercer grapple joined;
Throttled at length in tfm air, expired and fell;
So after many a foil the .jmpter proud,
Renewing fresh assaults, amidst his pride
Fell whence he stood to see his victor fall.
And as that Theban monster3 that proposed
Her riddle, and him who solved it not devoured,
That once found out and solved, for grief and spite
Cast herself headlong from the Ismenian3 steep.;
So struck with dread and anguish fell the fiend,
And to his crew, that sat consulting, brought
Joyless triumphals of his hoped success,
Ruin, and desperation, and dismay,
Who durst so proudly tempt the Son of God.
So Satan fell; and straight a fiery globe
Of angels on full sail of wing flew nigh,
Who on their plumy vans received him soft
From his uneasy station, and upbore,
As on a floating couch, through the blithe air,
Then in a flowery valley set him down
On a green bank, and set before him spread
A table of celestial food, divine,
Ambrosial fruits, fetched from the tree of life,
And from the fount of life ambrosial drink,
That soon refreshed him wearied, and repaired
What hunger, if aught hunger had impaired,
Or thirst; and as he fed, angelic quires
Sung heavenly anthems of his victory
Over temptation, and the tempter proud.
"True image of the Father, whether throned
» A city in Libya. 2 The Sphinx. 3 Theban
4 War down, subdue, from the Latin debellare.