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Wrought that effect on Jove, so fables tell,
How would one look from his majestic brow
Seated as on the top of Virtue's hill,
Discount'nance her despis'd, and put to rout
All her array; her female pride deject,
Or turn to reverent awe? for beauty stands
In th' admiration only of weak minds
Led captive; cease to admire, and all her plumes
Fall flat, and shrink into a trivial toy,
At every sudden slighting quite abaslı'd :
Therefore, with manlier objects we must try
His constancy, with such as have more show
Of worth, of honour, glory, and popular praise;
Rocks whereon greatest men have oftest wreck'd:
Or that which only seems to satisfy
Lawful desires of nature, not beyond.
And now I know he hungers where no food
Is to be found, in the wide wilderness:
The rest commit to me, I shall let pass
No advantage, and his strength as oft assay."
He ceas'd, and heard their grant in loud acclaim;
Then forthwith to him takes a chosen band
Of spirits likest to himself in guile
To be at hand, and at his beck appear,
If cause were to unfold some active scene
Of various persons, each to know his part;
Then to the desert takes with these his flight;
Where still from shade to shade the Son of God
After forty day's fasting bad remain'd,
Now hung'ring first, and to himself thus said:
"Where will this end? Four times ten days I've
Wand'ring this woody maze, and human food
Nor tasted, nor had appetite: that fast
To virtue I impute not, or count part
Of what I suffer here; if Nature need not,
Or God support Nature without repast,
Though needing, what praise is it to endure?
But now I feel I hunger, which declares
Nature bath need of what she asks; yet God
Can satisfy that need some other way,
Though hunger still remain; so it remain
Without this body's wasting, I content me,
And from the sting of famine, fear no harm,
Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts, that feed
Me hung'ring, more to do my Father's will."
It was the hour of night, when thus the Son
Commun'd in silent walk, then laid him down
Under the hospitable covert nigh
Of trees thick interwoven; there he slept
And dream'd, as appetite is wont to dream,
Of meats and drinks, Nature's refreshment sweet;
Him thought, he by the brook of Cherith stood,
And saw the ravens with their horny beaks
Food to Elijah bringing even and morn,
Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they
He saw the prophet also how he fled [brought,
Into the desert, and how there be slept,
Under a juniper; then how awak'd
He found his supper on the coals prepar'd,
And by the angel was bid rise and eat,
And eat the second time after repose,
The strength whereof suffic'd him forty days;
Sometimes that with Elijah he partook,
Or as a guest with Daniel at his pulse.
Thus wore out night; and now the herald lark
Left his ground nest, high tow'ring to descry
The Morn's approach, and greet her with his song;
As lightly from his grassy couch up rose
Our Saviour, and found all was but a dream,
Fasting he went to sleep, and fasting wak’d.
Up to a hill anon his steps he rear'd,
From whose high top to ken the prospect round,
If cottage were in view, sheep-cote or herd;
But cottage, herd, or sheep-cote none he saw;
Only in a bottom saw a pleasant grove,
With chant of tuneful birds resounding loud:
Thither be bent his way; determin'd there
To rest at noon, and enter'd soon the shade
High roof'd, and walks beneath, and alleys brown,
That open'd in the midst a woody scene.
Nature's own work it seem'd, (Nature taught Art,)
And to a superstitious eye the haunt
Of wood-gods, and wood-nymphs: he view'd it round,
When suddenly a man before him stood;
Not rustic, as before, but seemlier clad,
As one in city, or court, or palace bred,
And with fair speech these words to him address'd:
"With granted leave officious I return,
But much more wonder that the Son of God
In this wild solitude so long should bide
Of all things destitute, and well I know
Not without hunger. Others of some note,
As story tells, have trod this wilderness;
The fugitive bond-woman with her son,
Outcast Nebaioth, yet found here relief
By a providing angel; all the race
Of Israel here had famish'd, had not God
Rain'd from heaven manna; and that prophet bold,
Native of Thebez, wand'ring here, was fed
Twice by a voice inviting him to eat
Of thee these forty days none hath regard,
Forty and more deserted here indeed."
To whom thus Jesus: "What conclud'st thou hence?
They all had need; I, as thou seest, have none."
"How hast thou hunger then?" Satan replied:
"Tell me, if food were now before thee set,
Wouldst thou not eat?" "Thereafter as I like
The giver," answer'd Jesus. Why should that
Cause thy refusal?" said the subtle fiend.
"Hast thou not right to all created things?
Owe not all creatures by just right to thee
Duty and service, not to stay till bid,
But tender all their power? Nor mention I
Meats by the law unclean, or offer'd first
To idols, those young Daniel could refuse;
Nor proffer'd by an enemy; though who
Would scruple that, with want oppress'd? Behold
Nature asham'd, or better to express,
Troubled, that thou shouldst hunger, hath purvey'd
From all the elements her choicest store
To treat thee as beseems, and as her Lord
With honour; only deign to sit and eat.'
He spake no dream; for as his words had end,
Our Saviour, lifting up his eyes, beheld
In ample space, under the broadest shade,
A table richly spread, in regal mode,
With dishes pil'd, and meats of noblest sort
And savour, beasts of chase, or fowl of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boil'd,
Gris amber steam'd; all fish from sea or shore,
Freshet, or purling brook, of shell or fin,
And exquisitest name, for which was drain'd
Pontus, and Lucrine bay, and Afric coast,
Alas! how simple, to these cates compar'd,
Was that crude apple that diverted Eve!
And at a stately side-board, by the wine,
That fragrant smell diffus'd, in order stood
Tall stripling youths rich clad, of fairer hue
Than Ganymede or Hylas; distant more
Under the trees, now tripp'd, now solemn stood,
Nymphs of Diana's train, and Naiades
With fruits and flowers from Amalthea's horn,
And ladies of th' Hesperides, that seem'd,
Fairer than feign'd of old, or fabled since
Of fairy damsels met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
Lancelot, or Peileas, or Pellenore :
And all the while harmonious airs were heard
Of chiming strings, or charming pipes: and winds
Of gentlest gale Arabian odours fann'd
From their soft wings, and Flora's earliest smells.
Such was the splendour, and the tempter now
His invitation earnestly renew'd.
"What doubts the Son of God to sit and eat? These are not fruits forbidden: no interdict Defends the touching of these viands pure; Their taste no knowledge works at least of evil, But life preserves, destroys life's enemy,
Hunger, with sweet restorative delight.
All these are spirits of air, and woods, and springs,
Thy gentle ministers, who come to pay
Thee homage, and acknowledge thee their Lord:
What doubt'st thou, Son of God? sit down and eat."
To whom thus Jesus temp'rately replied:
"Saidst thou not that to all things I had right?
And who withholds my power that right to use?
Shall I receive by gift what of my own,
When and where likes me best, I can command?
I can at will, doubt not, as soon as thou,
Command a table in this wilderness,
And call swift flights of angels ministrant
Array'd in glory on my cup t' attend:
Why shouldst thou then obtrude this diligence,
In vain where no acceptance it can find?
And with my hunger what hast thou to do?
Thy pompous delicacies I contemn,
And count thy specious gifts no gifts, but guiles."
To whom thus answer'd Satan malcontent:
"That I have also power to give thou seest;
If of that power I bring thee voluntary
What I might have bestow'd on whom I pleas'd,
And rather opportunely in this place
Chose to impart to thy apparent need,
Why shouldst thou not accept it?
What I can do or offer is suspect;
Of these things others quickly will dispose
Whose pains have earn'd the far-fet spoil." With that
Both table and provision vanish'd quite,
With sound of harpies' wings and talons heard;
Only th' importunate tempter still remain'd,
And with these words his temptation pursu'd:
"By hunger that each other creature tames,
Thou art not to be harm'd; therefore, not mov'd:
Thy temperance invincible besides,
For no allurement yields to appetite,
And all thy heart is set on high designs,
High actions; but wherewith to be achiev'd?
Great acts require great means of enterprise;
Thou art unknown, unfriended, low of birth,
A carpenter thy father known, thyself
Bred up in poverty and straits at home,