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Thither he 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
Out-cast 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, wandering 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.'
[hence? To whom thus Jesus: What conclud'st thou 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,
Would'st 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, nor to stay till bid, ade But tender all their power? Nor mention I Meats by the law unclean, or offer'd first ley's b 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 should'st hunger, hath purvey'd From all the elements her choicest store, To treat thee, as beseems, and as her Lord, addres 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 her 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 Ganymed 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 the' Hesperides, that seem'd Fairer than feign'd of old, or fabled since
Of faëry damsels, met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
Lancelot, or Pelleas, 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 forbidd'n; 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 temperately replied:
'Said'st 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 to' attend:
Why should'st 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 malecontent:
"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 should'st thou not accept it? but I see
What I can do or offer is suspéct;
Of these things others quickly will dispose,
Whose pains have earn'd the far-fetch'd spoil.' With
Both table and provision vanish❜d quite, [that
With sound of harpies' wings and talons heard:
Only the' impórtune Tempter still remain❜d,
And with these words his temptation pursued:
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,
Lost in a desert here and hunger-bit:
Which way, or from what hope, dost thou aspire
To greatness? whence authority deriv'st?
What followers, what retinue canst thou gain,
Or at thy heels the dizzy multitude,
Longer than thou canst feed them on thy cost? Money brings honour, friends, conquest, and realms: What rais'd Antipater the Edomite,
And his son Herod plac'd on Judah's throne,
Thy throne, but gold that got him puissant friends?
Therefore, if at great things thou would'st arrive,
Get riches first, get wealth, and treasure heap,
Not difficult, if thou hearken to me:
Riches are mine, fortune is in my hand;
They whom I favour thrive in wealth amain,
While virtue, valour, wisdom, sit in want.'
To whom thus Jesus patiently replied:
'Yet wealth, without these three, is impotent
To gain dominion, or to keep it gain'd.
Witness those ancient empires of the earth,
In height of all their flowing wealth dissolv'd:
But men endued with these have oft attain'd
In lowest poverty to highest deeds;
Gideon, and Jephtha, and the shepherd lad,
Whose offspring on the throne of Judah sat
So many ages, and shall yet regain
That seat, and reign in Israel without end.
Among the Heathen, (for throughout the world
To me is not unknown what hath been done
Worthy' of memorial) canst thou not remember
Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus?
For I esteem those names of men so poor,
Who could do mighty things, and could contemn
Riches, though offer'd from the hand of kings.
And what in me seems wanting, but that I
May also in this poverty as soon
Accomplish what they did, perhaps, and more?
Extol not riches then, the toil of fools,
The wise man's cumbrance, if not snare; more apt
To slacken Virtue, and abate her edge,
Than prompt her to do aught may merit praise.
What if with like aversion I reject
Riches and realms? yet not, for that a crown,
Golden in show, is but a wreath of thorns,
Brings dangers, troubles, cares, and sleepless nights,