Paradise Regain'd: Book II (1671)

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MEan while the new-baptiz'd, who yet remain'dAt Jordan with the Baptist, and had seenHim whom they heard so late expresly call'dJesus Messiah Son of God declar'd,And on that high Authority had believ'd,And with him talkt, and with him lodg'd, I meanAndrew and Simon, famous after knownWith others though in Holy Writ not nam'd,Now missing him thir joy so lately found,So lately found, and so abruptly gone,Began to doubt, and doubted many days,And as the days increas'd, increas'd thir doubt:Sometimes they thought he might be only shewn,And for a time caught up to God, as onceMoses was in the Mount, and missing long;And the great Thisbite who on fiery wheelsRode up to Heaven, yet once again to come.Therefore as those young Prophets then with careSought lost Eliah, so in each place theseNigh to Bethabara; in JericoThe City of Palms, Ænon, and Salem Old,Machærus and each Town or City wall'dOn this side the broad lake Genezaret,Or in Perea, but return'd in vain.Then on the bank of Jordan, by a Creek:Where winds with Reeds, and Osiers whisp'ring playPlain Fishermen, no greater men them call,Close in a Cottage low together gotThir unexpected loss and plaints out breath'd.Alas, from what high hope to what relapseUnlook'd for are we fall'n, our eyes beheldMessiah certainly now come, so longExpected of our Fathers; we have heardHis 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 rejoyc'd, but soon our joy is turn'dInto perplexity and new amaze:For whither is he gone, what accidentHath rapt him from us? will he now retireAfter appearance, and again prolongOur expectation? God of Israel,Send thy Messiah forth, the time is come;Behold the Kings of the Earth how they oppressThy chosen, to what highth thir pow'r unjustThey have exalted, and behind them castAll fear of thee, arise and vindicateThy Glory, free thy people from thir 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 publick, and with him we have convers'd;Let us be glad of this, and all our fearsLay on his Providence; he will not failNor 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 resumeTo find whom at the first they found unsought:But to his Mother Mary, when she sawOthers return'd from Baptism, not her Son,Nor left at Jordan, tydings of him none;Within her brest, though calm; her brest though pure,Motherly cares and fears got head, and rais'dSome troubl'd thoughts, which she in sighs thus clad. O what avails me now that honour highTo have conceiv'd of God, or that saluteHale highly favour'd, among women blest;While I to sorrows am no less advanc't,And fears as eminent, above the lotOf other women, by the birth I bore,In such a season born when scarce a ShedCould be obtain'd to shelter him or meFrom the bleak air; a Stable was our warmth,A Manger his, yet soon enforc't to flyeThence into Egypt, till the Murd'rous KingWere dead, who sought his life, and missing fill'dWith Infant blood the streets of Bethlehem;From Egypt home return'd, in NazarethHath been our dwelling many years, his lifePrivate, unactive, calm, contemplative,Little suspicious to any King; but nowFull grown to Man, acknowledg'd, as I hear,By John the Baptist, and in publick shown,Son own'd from Heaven by his Father's voice;I look't for some great change; to Honour? no,But trouble, as old Simeon plain fore-told,That to the fall and rising he should beOf many in Israel, and to a signSpoken against, that through my very SoulA 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 intentConceals him: when twelve years he scarce had seen,I lost him, but so found, as well I sawHe could not lose himself; but went aboutHis Father's business; what he meant I mus'd,Since understand; much more his absence nowThus 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 thingsAnd sayings laid up, portending strange events. Thus Mary pondering oft, and oft to mindRecalling what remarkably had pass'dSince first her Salutation heard, with thoughtsMeekly compos'd awaited the fulfilling:The while her Son tracing the Desert wild,Sole but with holiest Meditations fed,Into himself descended, and at onceAll his great work to come before him set;How to begin, how to accomplish bestHis end of being on Earth, and mission high:For Satan with slye preface to returnHad left him vacant, and with speed was gonUp to the middle Region of thick Air,Where all his Potentates in Council sate;There without sign of boast, or sign of joy,Sollicitous and blank he thus began. Princes, Heavens antient Sons, Æthereal Thrones,Demonian Spirits now, from the ElementEach of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd,Powers of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth beneath,So may we hold our place and these mild seatsWithout new trouble; such an EnemyIs ris'n to invade us, who no lessThreat'ns then our expulsion down to Hell;I, as I undertook, and with the voteConsenting in full frequence was impowr'd,Have found him, view'd him, tasted him, but findFar other labour to be undergonThen when I dealt with Adam first of Men,Though Adam by his Wives allurement fell,However to this Man inferior far,If he be Man by Mothers side at least,With more then humane gifts from Heaven adorn'd,Perfections absolute, Graces divine,And amplitude of mind to greatest Deeds.Therefore I am return'd, lest confidenceOf my success with Eve in ParadiseDeceive ye to perswasion over-sureOf like succeeding here; I summon allRather to be in readiness, with handOr counsel to assist; lest I who erstThought none my equal, now be over-match'd. So spake the old Serpent doubting, and from allWith clamour was assur'd thir utmost aidAt his command; when from amidst them roseBelial the dissolutest Spirit that fell,The sensuallest, and after AsmodaiThe 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 fairAs the noon Skie; more like to GoddessesThen Mortal Creatures, graceful and discreet,Expert in amorous Arts, enchanting tonguesPerswasive, Virgin majesty with mildAnd sweet allay'd, yet terrible to approach,Skill'd to retire, and in retiring drawHearts after them tangl'd in Amorous Nets.Such object hath the power to soft'n and tameSeverest temper, smooth the rugged'st brow,Enerve, and with voluptuous hope dissolve,Draw out with credulous desire, and leadAt will the manliest, resolutest brest,As the Magnetic hardest Iron draws.Women, when nothing else, beguil'd the heartOf 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'stAll others by thy self; because of oldThou thy self doat'st on womankind, admiringThir shape, thir colour, and attractive grace,None are, thou think'st, but taken with such toys.Before the Flood thou with thy lusty Crew,False titl'd Sons of God, roaming the EarthCast wanton eyes on the daughters of men,And coupl'd with them, and begot a race.Have we not seen, or by relation heard,In Courts and Regal Chambers how thou lurk'st,In Wood or Grove by mossie Fountain side,In Valley or Green Meadow to way-laySome beauty rare, Calisto, Clymene,Daphne, or Semele, Antiopa,Or Amymone, Syrinx, many moreToo long, then lay'st thy scapes on names ador'd,Apollo, Neptune, Jupiter, or Pan,Satyr, or Fawn, or Silvan? But these hauntsDelight not all; among the Sons of Men,How many have with a smile made small accountOf beauty and her lures, easily scorn'dAll her assaults, on worthier things intent?Remember that Pellean Conquerour,A youth, how all the Beauties of the EastHe slightly view'd, and slightly over-pass'd;How hee sirnam'd of Africa dismiss'dIn his prime youth the fair Iberian maid.For Solomon he liv'd at ease, and fullOf honour, wealth, high fare, aim'd not beyondHigher design then to enjoy his State;Thence to the bait of Women lay expos'd;But he whom we attempt is wiser farThen Solomon, of more exalted mind,Made and set wholly on the accomplishmentOf greatest things; what woman will you find,Though of this Age the wonder and the fame,On whom his leisure will vouchsafe an eyeOf fond desire? or should she confident,As sitting Queen ador'd on Beauties Throne,Descend with all her winning charms begirtTo enamour, as the Zone of Venus onceWrought that effect on Jove, so Fables tell;How would one look from his Majestick browSeated as on the top of Vertues hill,Discount'nance her despis'd, and put to routAll her array; her female pride deject,Or turn to reverent awe? for Beauty standsIn the admiration only of weak mindsLed captive; cease to admire, and all her PlumesFall flat and shrink into a trivial toy,At every sudden slighting quite abasht:Therefore with manlier objects we must tryHis constancy, with such as have more shewOf worth, of honour, glory, and popular praise;Rocks whereon greatest men have oftest wreck'd;Or that which only seems to satisfieLawful desires of Nature, not beyond;And now I know he hungers where no foodIs to be found, in the wide Wilderness;The rest commit to me, I shall let passNo advantage, and his strength as oft assay. He ceas'd, and heard thir grant in loud acclaim;Then forthwith to him takes a chosen bandOf Spirits likest to himself in guileTo be at hand, and at his beck appear,If cause were to unfold some active SceneOf 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 GodAfter forty days fasting had remain'd,Now hungring first, and to himself thus said. Where will this end? four times ten days I have pass'dWandring this woody maze, and humane foodNor tasted, nor had appetite; that FastTo Vertue I impute not, or count partOf what I suffer here; if Nature need not,Or God support Nature without repastThough needing, what praise is it to endure?But now I feel I hunger, which declares,Nature hath need of what she asks; yet GodCan satisfie that need some other way,Though hunger still remain: so it remainWithout this bodies wasting, I content me,And from the sting of Famine fear no harm,Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts that feedMee hungring more to do my Fathers will. It was the hour of night, when thus the SonCommun'd in silent walk, then laid him downUnder the hospitable covert nighOf Trees thick interwoven; there he slept,And dream'd, as appetite is wont to dream,Of meats and drinks, Natures refreshment sweet;Him thought, he by the Brook of Cherith stoodAnd saw the Ravens with their horny beaksFood to Elijah bringing Even and Morn,Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they brought:He saw the Prophet also how he fledInto the Desert, and how there he sleptUnder a Juniper; then how awakt,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 LarkLeft his ground-nest, high towring to descryThe morns approach, and greet her with his Song:As lightly from his grassy Couch up roseOur 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 chaunt of tuneful Birds resounding loud;Thither he bent his way, determin'd thereTo rest at noon, and entr'd soon the shadeHigh rooft and walks beneath, and alleys brownThat open'd in the midst a woody Scene,Natures own work it seem'd (Nature taught Art)And to a Superstitious eye the hauntOf 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 GodIn this wild solitude so long should bideOf 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 SonOut cast Nebaioth, yet found he reliefBy a providing Angel; all the raceOf Israel here had famish'd, had not GodRain'd from Heaven Manna, and that Prophet boldNative of Thebes wandring here was fedTwice 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 reply'd,Tell me if Food were now before thee set,Would'st thou not eat? Thereafter as I likeThe giver, answer'd Jesus. Why should thatCause thy refusal, said the subtle Fiend,Hast thou not right to all Created things,Owe not all Creatures by just right to theeDuty and Service, nor to stay till bid,But tender all their power? nor mention IMeats by the Law unclean, or offer'd firstTo Idols, those young Daniel could refuse;Nor proffer'd by an Enemy, though whoWould scruple that, with want opprest? beholdNature asham'd, or better to express,Troubl'd that thou shouldst hunger, hath purvey'dFrom all the Elements her choicest storeTo treat thee as beseems, and as her LordWith honour, only deign to sit and eat. He spake no dream, for as his words had end,Our Saviour lifting up his eyes beheldIn ample space under the broadest shadeA Table richly spred, in regal mode,With dishes pill'd, and meats of noblest sortAnd savour, Beasts of chase, or Fowl of game,In pastry built, or from the spit, or boyl'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'dPontus 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 wineThat fragrant smell diffus'd, in order stoodTall stripling youths rich clad, of fairer hewThen Ganymed or Hylas, distant moreUnder the Trees now trip'd, now solemn stoodNymphs of Diana's train, and NaiadesWith fruits and flowers from Amalthea's horn,And Ladies of th' Hesperides, that seem'dFairer then feign'd of old, or fabl'd sinceOf Fairy Damsels met in Forest wideBy Knights of Logres, or of Lyones,Lancelot or Pelleas, or Pellenore,And all the while Harmonious Airs were heardOf chiming strings, or charming pipes and windsOf gentlest gale Arabian odors fann'dFrom their soft wings, and Flora's earliest smells.Such was the Splendour, and the Tempter nowHis invitation earnestly renew'd. What doubts the Son of God to sit and eat?These are not Fruits forbidden, no interdictDefends the touching of these viands pure,Thir 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 payThee homage, and acknowledge thee thir Lord:What doubt'st thou Son of God? sit down and eat. To whom thus Jesus temperately reply'd:Said'st thou not that to all things I had right?And who withholds my pow'r 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 ministrantArray'd in Glory on my cup to attend:Why shouldst thou then obtrude this diligence,In vain, where no acceptance it can find,And with my hunger what has 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 pow'r I bring thee voluntaryWhat I might have bestow'd on whom I pleas'd,And rather opportunely in this placeChose to impart to thy apparent need,Why shouldst thou not accept it? but I seeWhat I can do or offer is suspect;Of these things others quickly will disposeWhose pains have earn'd the far fet spoil. With thatBoth Table and Provision vanish'd quiteWith sound of Harpies wings, and Talons heard;Only the importune 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 atchiev'd?Great acts require great means of enterprise,Thou art unknown, unfriended, low of birth,A Carpenter thy Father known, thy selfBred up in poverty and streights at home;Lost in a Desert here and hunger-bit:Which way or from what hope dost thou aspireTo greatness? whence Authority deriv'st,What Followers, what Retinue canst thou gain,Or at thy heels the dizzy Multitude,Longer then 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 Juda's Throne;(Thy throne) but gold that got him puissant friends?Therefore, if at great things thou wouldst 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 reply'd;Yet Wealth without these three is impotent,To gain dominion or to keep it gain'd.Witness those antient Empires of the Earth,In highth of all thir flowing wealth dissolv'd:But men endu'd with these have oft attain'dIn lowest poverty to highest deeds;Gideon and Jephtha, and the Shepherd lad,Whose off-spring on the Throne of Juda satSo many Ages, and shall yet regainThat seat, and reign in Israel without end.Among the Heathen, (for throughout the WorldTo me is not unknown what hath been doneWorthy of Memorial) canst thou not rememberQuintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus?For I esteem those names of men so poorWho could do mighty things, and could contemnRiches though offer'd from the hand of Kings.And what in me seems wanting, but that IMay also in this poverty as soonAccomplish what they did, perhaps and more?Extol not Riches then, the toyl of Fools,The wise mans cumbrance if not snare, more aptTo slacken Virtue, and abate her edge,Then prompt her to do aught may merit praise.What if with like aversion I rejectRiches and Realms; yet not for that a Crown,Golden in shew, is but a wreath of thorns,Brings dangers, troubles, cares, and sleepless nightsTo him who wears the Regal Diadem,When on his shoulders each mans burden lies;For therein stands the office of a King,His Honour, Vertue, Merit and chief Praise,That for the Publick all this weight he bears.Yet he who reigns within himself, and rulesPassions, Desires, and Fears, is more a King;Which every wise and vertuous man attains:And who attains not, ill aspires to ruleCities of men or head-strong Multitudes,Subject himself to Anarchy within,Or lawless passions in him which he serves.But to guide Nations in the way of truthBy saving Doctrine, and from errour leadTo know, and knowing worship God aright,Is yet more Kingly, this attracts the Soul,Governs the inner man, the nobler part,That other o're the body only reigns,And oft by force, which to a generous mindSo reigning can be no sincere delight.Besides to give a Kingdom hath been thoughtGreater and nobler done, and to lay downFar more magnanimous, then to assume.Riches are needless then, both for themselves,And for thy reason why they should be sought,To gain a Scepter, oftest better miss't.

The End of the Second Book.

© John Milton