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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 ; & now the herald lark
Left his ground-nest, high towering to descry
280 The Morn's approach, & 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,
285 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 :
290 Thither he bent his way, determin'd there To rest at noon, and enter'd soon the shade High-roof'd, & walks beneath, & alleys brown, That open'd in the midst a woody scene; Nature's own work it seem'd, Nature taught Art, 295 And, to a superstitious eye, the haunt Of Wood-Gods & Wood-Nymphs : he viewed 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,
300 And with fair speech these words to him addressed :
“ 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
305 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
310 Of Israel here had famish’d, had not God Rain'd from Heaven manna ; & 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,
315 Forty & 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 tho'ı hunger then?" Satan replied.
"Tell me, if food were now before thee set,
Would'st thou not eat.”—“Thereafter as I like
The giver,” answered 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,
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 pild, and meats of noblest sort
And savour ; beasts of chase, or fowl of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boild,
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 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 fairy 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, & winds
Of gentlest gale Arabian odours fann'd
From their soft wings, & Flora's earliest smells
Such was the splendour; & the Tempter now
His invitation earnestly renewed :
“ 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 & 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 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 spacious 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 should'st thou not accept it > but I see
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 the importune 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 can'st 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
Quintus, Fabricus, 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,
To him who wears the regal diadem,
When on his shoulders each man's burden lies;
For therein stands the office of a king,
His honour, virtue, merit, and chief praise,
That for the public all this weight he bears.
Yet he, who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king;
Which every wise and virtuous man attains;
And who attains not, ill aspires to rule
Cities of men, or headstrong multitudes,
Subject himself to anarchy within,
Or Lawless passions in him, which he serves.
But to guide nations in the way of truth
By saving doctrine, and from error lead
To know, and knowing, worship God aright
Is yet more kingly ? this attracts the soul,
Governs the inner man, the nobler part;
That other o'er the body only reigns,
And oft by force, which, to a generous mind,
So reigning, can be no sincere delight.
Besides, to give a kingdom hath been thougat
Greater and nobler done, and to lay down
Far more magnanimous, than to assume.
Riches are needless then, both for themselves,
And for thy reason why they should be sought,
To gain a sceptre, oftest better miss’d.”