Page images

Therefore, as those young prophets then with care
Sought lost Elijah, so in each place these
Nigh to Bethabara; in Jericho

The city of palms, Enon, and Salem old,
Machærus, and each town or city wall'd
On this side the broad lake Genezaret,
Or in Peraa; but return'd in vain.
Then on the bank of Jordan, by a creek
Where winds with reeds and osiers whispering play,
Plain fishermen, (no greater men them call,)
Close in a cottage low together got,
Their unexpected loss and plaints outbreath'd.

"Alas, from what high hope to what relapse
Unlook'd for are we fall'n! our eyes beheld
Messiah certainly now come, so long
Expected of our fathers: we have heard
His words, his wisdom full of grace and truth;
Now, now, for sure, deliverance is at hand,
The kingdom shall to Israel be restor❜d;
Thus we rejoic'd, but soon our joy is turn'd
Into perplexity and new amaze:

For whither is he gone, what accident
Hath rapt him from us? will he now retire
After appearance, and again prolong
Our expectation? God of Israel,
Send thy Messiah forth, the time is come;
Behold the kings of the Earth, how they oppress
Thy chosen; to what height their power unjust
They have exalted, and behind them cast
All fear of thee; arise, and vindicate
Thy glory; free thy people from their yoke.
But let us wait; thus far he hath perform'd,

Sent his anointed, and to us reveal'd him,
By his great prophet, pointed at and shown
In public, and with him we have convers'd;
Let us be glad of this, and all our fears
Lay on his providence; he will not fail,
Nor will withdraw him now, nor will recall,
Mock us with his blest sight, then snatch him hence;
Soon we shall see our hope, our joy, return."

Thus they, out of their plaints, new hope resume
To find whom at the first they found unsought:
But, to his mother Mary, when she saw
Others return'd from baptism, not her son,
Nor left at Jordan, tidings of him none, [pure,
Within her breast though calm, her breast though
Motherly cares and fears got head, and rais'd
Some troubled thoughts, which she in sighs thus clad.

"O, what avails me now that honour high To have conceiv'd of God, or that salute, 'Hail highly favour'd among women blest!' While I to sorrows am no less advanc'd, And fears as eminent, above the lot Of other women, by the birth I bore; In such a season born, when scarce a shed Could be obtain'd to shelter him or me From the bleak air; a stable was our warmth, A manger his; yet soon enforc'd to fly, Thence into Egypt, till the murderous king Were dead, who sought his life, and missing fill'd With infant blood the streets of Bethlehem; From Egypt home return'd, in Nazareth Hath been our dwelling many years; his life Private, unactive, calm, contemplative,

Little suspicious to any king; but now
Full grown to man, acknowledg'd, as I hear,
By John the Baptist, and in public shown,
Son own'd from Heaven by his Father's voice,
I look'd for some great change; to honour? no,
But trouble, as old Simeon plain foretold,
That to the fall and rising he should be
Of many in Israël, and to a sign
Spoken against, that through my very soul
A sword shall pierce: this is my favour'd lot,
My exaltation to afflictions high;
Afflicted I may be, it seems, and blest;
I will not argue that, nor will repine.
But where delays he now? some great intent
Conceals him: when twelve years he scarce had


I lost him, but so found, as well I saw
He could not lose himself, but went about
His Father's business; what he meant I mus'd,
Since understand; much more his absence now
Thus long to some great purpose he obscures.
But I to wait with patience am inur'd;

My heart hath been a store-house long of things
And sayings laid up, portending strange events.'
Thus Mary, pondering oft, and oft to mind
Recalling what remarkably had pass'd
Since first her salutation heard, with thoughts
Meekly compos'd awaited the fulfilling :
The while her son, tracing the desert wild,
Sole, but with holiest meditations fed,
Into himself descended, and at once
All his great work to come before him set;

[ocr errors]

How to begin, how to accomplish best

His end of being on Earth, and mission high:
For Satan, with sly preface to return,
Had left him vacant, and with speed was gone
Up to the middle region of thick air,
Where all his potentates in council sat;

There, without sign of boast, or sign of joy,
Solicitous and blank, he thus began.

[thrones; "Princes, Heaven's ancient sons, ethereal Demonian spirits now, from the element Each of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd Powers of fire, air, water, and earth beneath, (So may we hold our place and these mild seats Without new trouble,) such an enemy Is risen to invade us, who no less Threatens than our expulsion down to Hell; I, as I undertook, and with the vote Consenting in full frequence was impower'd, Have found him, view'd him, tasted him; but find

Far other labour to be undergone

Than when I dealt with Adam, first of men,

Though Adam by his wife's allurement fell,
However to this man inferiour far;

If he be man by mother's side, at least

With more than human gifts from Heaven adorn'd,
Perfections absolute, graces divine

And amplitude of mind to greatest deeds.
Therefore I am return'd, lest confidence
Of my success with Eve in Paradise
Deceive ye to persuasion over-sure
Of like succeeding here: I summon all
Rather to be in readiness, with hand

Or counsel to assist; lest I, who erst
Thought none my equal, now be over-match'd."
So spake the old serpent, doubting; and from all
With clamour was assured their utmost aid
At his command: when from amidst them rose
Belial, the dissolutest spirit that fell,
The sensuallest, and, after Asmodai,
The fleshliest incubus; and thus advis'd.

"Set women in his eye, and in his walk,
Among daughters of men the fairest found:
Many are in each region passing fair
As the noon sky: more like to goddesses
Than mortal creatures, graceful and discreet,
Expert in amorous arts, enchanting tongues
Persuasive, virgin majesty with mild
And sweet allay'd, yet terrible to approach,
Skill'd to retire, and, in retiring, draw
Hearts after them, tangled in amorous nets.
Such object hath the power to soften and tame
Severest temper, smooth the rugged'st brow,
Enerve, and with voluptuous hope dissolve,
Draw out with credulous desire, and lead
At will the manliest, resolutest breast,
As the magnetic hardest iron draws.
Women, when nothing else, beguil'd the heart
Of wisest Solomon, and made him build,
And made him bow, to the gods of his wives."

To whom quick answer Satan thus return'd. "Belial, in much uneven scale thou weigh'st All others by thyself; because of old

Thou thyself doat'dst on womankind, admiring
Their shape, their colour, and attractive grace,

« PreviousContinue »