Page images
PDF
EPUB

To which my spirit aspired, victorious deeus
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 pow'r,
Till truth were freed, and equity restored :
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 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 highth sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, thou 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 heav'n and earth, angels and sons of men:
A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceived 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 heav'n 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,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 Lykę i. 30-35,

? Luke ii. 8 and following vs.

3 Matt. II,

Affirming it thy star new grav'n in heay'ń,
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 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 transferr'd upon my liead.
Yet, neither thus dishearten'd or dismay'd,
The time prefixt 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 believed was from above; but he
Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaim'd
Me Him (for it was shown him so from heav'n), -
Me Him whose harbinger he was; and first
Refused on me his baptism to confér,
As much his greater, and was hardly won : :
But as I rose out of the laving stream,
Heaven open’d 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 heav'n, pronounced me His,
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 heav'n.

[ocr errors]

1 St. John was brought up in a different part of the country from Jesus, and first

saw his divine cousin at his baptism. John i. 31, 32. “I knew him not.

he

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 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
Lodged in his breast, as well might recommend
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 revea”d;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt
Till those days ended, hunger'd then at last
Among wild beasts: they at his sight grew mild,
Nor sleeping him nor waking harm’d; his walk
The fiery serpent fled and noxious worm,
The lion and fierce tiger glared aloof.
But now an agèd 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
Perused 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 carcass, pined 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 baptizing prophet at the ford
Of Jordan honour'd so, and call'd-thee Son

Of God; I saw and heard, for we sometimes,
Who dwell this wild, constrain'd by want, come forth
To town or village nigh, (nighest is far,)
Where aught we hear, and curious are to hear,
What happens new; fame also finds us out.

To whom the Son of God. Who brought me hither Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek.

By miracle he may, replied the swain,
What other way I see not, for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inured
More than the camel, and to drink go far,
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 replied.
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
Our fathers here with Manna ? in the mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat, nor drank;
And forty days Elijah without food
Wander'd this barren waste, the same I now,
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust,
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art ?

Whom thus answer'd the arch fiend now undisguised. 'Tis true, I am that spirit unfortunate, Who leagued with millions more in rash revolt, Kept not my happy station, but was driv'n With them from bliss to the bottomless deep; Yet to that hideous place not so confined By rigour unconniving, but that oft, Leaving my dolorous prison, I enjoy Large liberty, to round this globe of earth, Or range in the air, nor from the heav'n of heap'ns Hath he excluded my resort sometimes. Í

came among the sons of God, when he Gave up

1

hands Uzzean Job

into my

To prove him, and illustrate his high worth ;
And when to all his angels he proposed
To draw the proud king Ahab into fraud,
That he might fall in Ramoth, they demurring,
I undertook that office, and the tongues
Of all his flattering prophets glibb'd with lies!
To his destruction, as I had in charge ;
For what He bids I do. Though I have lost
Much lustre of my native brightness, lost
To be beloved of God, I have not lost
To love, at least contemplate and admire,
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
Declared the Son of God, to hear attent
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
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,
Whereby they may direct their future life.2
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,
That fellowship in pain divides not smart,
Nor lightens aught each man's peculiar load.

1 1 Kings xxii. 19 and following vs.
2 The following passage of Cicero re-
flects so much light on these lines as
would incline one to think that Milton
had it in his mind. “ Multa cernunt
baruspices ; multa pugures provident,
multa oraculis declarantur, inuita vati.

cinationibus, multa somniis, multa por,
tentis : quibus cognitis, multæ sæpe
res hominum sententia atque utilitato
partæ" (or, as Lambinus reads, "ex
animi sententia atque utilitate partæe");
"multa etiam pericula depulsa sunt."
De Nat. Deor. II. 65.-NEWTON,

« PreviousContinue »