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As dangerous to the pillar'd frame of heaven,
Or to the earth's dark basis underneath,
Are to the main as inconsiderable
And harmless, if not wholesome, as a sneeze
To man's less universe, and soon are gone;
Yet as being ofttimes noxious where they light
On man, beast, plant, wasteful, and turbulent,
Like turbulencies in the affairs of men,
Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point,
They oft fore-signify and threaten ill:
This tempest at this desert most was bent;
Of men at thee, for only thou here dwell'st.
Did I not tell thee, if thou didst reject
The perfect season offer'd with my aid
To win thy destined seat, but wilt prolong
All to the push of fate, pursue thy way
Of gaining David's throne no man knows when,
For both the when and how is nowhere told,
Thou shalt be what thou art ordain’d, no doubt ;
For angels have proclaim'd it, but concealing
The time and means; each act is rightliest done,
Not when it must, but when it may be best.
If thou observe not this, be sure to find,
What I foretold thee, many a hard essay
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 talk'd he, while the Son of God went on
And stay'd not, but in brief him answer'd thus :
Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrors, which thou speak’st of, did me none; I never fear'd 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, Obtrudest thy offer'd 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 discern'd, 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 had 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
Flock'd 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 calld
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 watch'd thy footsteps from that hour,
And follow'd 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
Froof 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 contemn’d, 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 hippogriff 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 rear'd
Her pile, far off appearing like a mount
Of alabaster, topp'd 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
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 uplift thee, lest at any time
Thou chance to dash thy foot against a stone.
To whom thus Jesus: Also it is written,
Tempt not the Lord thy God: he said and stood :
But Satan smitten with amazement fell.
As when earth's son Antæus, to compare
Small things with greatest, in Irassa strove
With Jove's Alcides, and, oft foil'd, still rose,
Receiving from his mother Earth new strength,
Fresh from his fall, and fiercer grapple join'd,
Throttled at length in the air, expired and fell;
So after many a foil the tempter proud,
Renewing fresh assaults, amidst his pride
Fell whence he stood to see his victor fall.
And as that Theban monster, 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 Ismenian 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, fetch'd from the tree of life,
And from the fount of life ambrosial drink,
That soon refresh'd him wearied, and repair’d
What hunger, if aught hunger had impair’d
Or thirst ; and, as he fed, angelic choirs
Sung heavenly anthems of his victory
Over temptation and the tempter proud:
True Image of the Father, whether throned
In the bosom of bliss, and light of light
Conceiving, or, remote from heaven, enshrined
In fleshly tabernacle and human form,
Wandering the wilderness, whatever place,
Habit, or state, or motion, still expressing
The Son of God, with god-like force endued
Against the attempter of thy Father's throne,
And thief of Paradise ; him long of old
Thou didst debel, and down from heaven cast
With all his army, now thou hast avenged
Supplanted Adam, and, by vanquishing
Temptation, hast regain'd lost Paradise,
And frustrated the conquest fraudulent,
He never more henceforth will dare set foot
In Paradise to tempt; his snares are broke:
For though that seat of earthly bliss be fail'd,
A fairer Paradise is founded now
For Adam and his chosen sons, whom thou,
A Saviour, art come down to re-install
Where they shall dwell secure, when time shall be,
Of tempter and temptation without fear.
But thou, infernal serpent, shalt not long
Rule in the clouds ; like an autumnal star
Or lightning thou shalt fall from heaven, trod down
Under his feet ; for proof, ere this thou feel'st
Thy wound, yet not thy last and deadliest wound
By this repulse received, and holdst in hell
No triumph. In all her gates Abaddon rues
Thy bold attempt ; hereafter learn with awe
To dread the Son of God; he, all unarm’d,
Shall chase thee with the terror of his voice
From thy demoniac holds, possession foul,
Thee and thy legions; yelling they shall fly,
And beg to hide them in a herd of swine,
Lest he command them down into the deep
Bound, and to torment sent before their time.
Hail, Son of the Most High, heir of both worlds,
Queller of Satan, on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind.
Thus they the Son of God our Saviour meek
Sung victor, and from heavenly feast refresh'd
Brought on his way with joy; he unobserved
Home to his mother's house private returned.
PRESENTED AT LUDLOW CASTLE.
The attendant SPIRIT, afterwards in the habit of THYRSIS.
Comus, with his crew.
SABRINA, the Nymph.
The chief persons who presented were
The Lord BRACKLEY.
Mr. THOMAS EGERTON, his brother,
The Lady Alice EGERTON.
The first scene discovers a wild wood. The Attendant SPIRIT
descends or enters. BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
mansion is, where those immortal shapes Of bright aerial spirits live insphered In regions mild of calm and serene air, Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot, Which men call Earth, and, with low-thoughted care, Confined and pester'd in this pinfold here, Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, Unmindful of the crown that virtue gives, After this mortal change, to her true servants, Amongst the enthroned gods on sainted seats. Yet some there be that by due steps aspire To lay their just hands on that golden key, That opes the palace of eternity; To such my errand is; and, but for such, I would not soil these pure ambrosial weeds With the rank vapours of this sin-worn mould.