Book 3

SO spake the Son of God; and Satan stood A while as mute, confounded what to say, What to reply, confuted and convinced Of his weak arguing and fallacious drift; At length, collecting all his serpent wiles, With soothing words renewed, him thus accosts:-- "I see thou know'st what is of use to know, What best to say canst say, to do canst do; Thy actions to thy words accord; thy words To thy large heart give utterance due; thy heart Contains of good, wise, just, the perfet shape. Should kings and nations from thy mouth consult, Thy counsel would be as the oracle Urim and Thummim, those oraculous gems On Aaron's breast, or tongue of Seers old Infallible; or, wert thou sought to deeds That might require the array of war, thy skill Of conduct would be such that all the world Could not sustain thy prowess, or subsist In battle, though against thy few in arms. These godlike virtues wherefore dost thou hide? Affecting private life, or more obscure In savage wilderness, wherefore deprive All Earth her wonder at thy acts, thyself The fame and glory--glory, the reward That sole excites to high attempts the flame Of most erected spirits, most tempered pure AEthereal, who all pleasures else despise, All treasures and all gain esteem as dross, And dignities and powers, all but the highest? Thy years are ripe, and over-ripe. The son Of Macedonian Philip had ere these Won Asia, and the throne of Cyrus held At his dispose; young Scipio had brought down The Carthaginian pride; young Pompey quelled The Pontic king, and in triumph had rode. Yet years, and to ripe years judgment mature, Quench not the thirst of glory, but augment. Great Julius, whom now all the world admires, The more he grew in years, the more inflamed With glory, wept that he had lived so long Ingloroious. But thou yet art not too late." To whom our Saviour calmly thus replied:-- "Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth For empire's sake, nor empire to affect For glory's sake, by all thy argument. For what is glory but the blaze of fame, The people's praise, if always praise unmixed? And what the people but a herd confused, A miscellaneous rabble, who extol Things vulgar, and, well weighed, scarce worth the praise? They praise and they admire they know not what, And know not whom, but as one leads the other; And what delight to be by such extolled, To live upon their tongues, and be their talk? Of whom to be dispraised were no small praise-- His lot who dares be singularly good. The intelligent among them and the wise Are few, and glory scarce of few is raised. This is true glory and renown--when God, Looking on the Earth, with approbation marks The just man, and divulges him through Heaven To all his Angels, who with true applause Recount his praises. Thus he did to Job, When, to extend his fame through Heaven and Earth, As thou to thy reproach may'st well remember, He asked thee, 'Hast thou seen my servant Job?' Famous he was in Heaven; on Earth less known, Where glory is false glory, attributed To things not glorious, men not worthy of fame. They err who count it glorious to subdue By conquest far and wide, to overrun Large countries, and in field great battles win, Great cities by assault. What do these worthies But rob and spoil, burn, slaughter, and enslave Peaceable nations, neighbouring or remote, Made captive, yet deserving freedom more Than those their conquerors, who leave behind Nothing but ruin wheresoe'er they rove, And all the flourishing works of peace destroy; Then swell with pride, and must be titled Gods, Great benefactors of mankind, Deliverers, Worshipped with temple, priest, and sacrifice? One is the son of Jove, of Mars the other; Till conqueror Death discover them scarce men, Rowling in brutish vices, and deformed, Violent or shameful death their due reward. But, if there be in glory aught of good; It may be means far different be attained, Without ambition, war, or violence-- By deeds of peace, by wisdom eminent, By patience, temperance. I mention still Him whom thy wrongs, with saintly patience borne, Made famous in a land and times obscure; Who names not now with honour patient Job? Poor Socrates, (who next more memorable?) By what he taught and suffered for so doing, For truth's sake suffering death unjust, lives now Equal in fame to proudest conquerors. Yet, if for fame and glory aught be done, Aught suffered--if young African for fame His wasted country freed from Punic rage-- The deed becomes unpraised, the man at least, And loses, though but verbal, his reward. Shall I seek glory, then, as vain men seek, Oft not deserved? I seek not mine, but His Who sent me, and thereby witness whence I am." To whom the Tempter, murmuring, thus replied:-- "Think not so slight of glory, therein least Resembling thy great Father. He seeks glory, And for his glory all things made, all things Orders and governs; nor content in Heaven, By all his Angels glorified, requires Glory from men, from all men, good or bad, Wise or unwise, no difference, no exemption. Above all sacrifice, or hallowed gift, Glory he requires, and glory he receives, Promiscuous from all nations, Jew, or Greek, Or Barbarous, nor exception hath declared; From us, his foes pronounced, glory he exacts." To whom our Saviour fervently replied: "And reason; since his Word all things produced, Though chiefly not for glory as prime end, But to shew forth his goodness, and impart His good communicable to every soul Freely; of whom what could He less expect Than glory and benediction--that is, thanks-- The slightest, easiest, readiest recompense From them who could return him nothing else, And, not returning that, would likeliest render Contempt instead, dishonour, obloquy? Hard recompense, unsuitable return For so much good, so much beneficience! But why should man seek glory, who of his own Hath nothing, and to whom nothing belongs But condemnation, ignominy, and shame-- Who, for so many benefits received, Turned recreant to God, ingrate and false, And so of all true good himself despoiled; Yet, sacrilegious, to himself would take That which to God alone of right belongs? Yet so much bounty is in God, such grace, That who advances his glory, not their own, Them he himself to glory will advance." So spake the Son of God; and here again Satan had not to answer, but stood struck With guilt of his own sin--for he himself, Insatiable of glory, had lost all; Yet of another plea bethought him soon:-- "Of glory, as thou wilt," said he, "so deem; Worth or not worth the seeking, let it pass. But to a Kingdom thou art born--ordained To sit upon thy father David's throne, By mother's side thy father, though thy right Be now in powerful hands, that will not part Easily from possession won with arms. Judaea now and all the Promised Land, Reduced a province under Roman yoke, Obeys Tiberius, nor is always ruled With temperate sway: oft have they violated The Temple, oft the Law, with foul affronts, Abominations rather, as did once Antiochus. And think'st thou to regain Thy right by sitting still, or thus retiring? So did not Machabeus. He indeed Retired unto the Desert, but with arms; And o'er a mighty king so oft prevailed That by strong hand his family obtained, Though priests, the crown, and David's throne usurped, With Modin and her suburbs once content. If kingdom move thee not, let move thee zeal And duty--zeal and duty are not slow, But on Occasion's forelock watchful wait: They themselves rather are occasion best-- Zeal of thy Father's house, duty to free Thy country from her heathen servitude. So shalt thou best fulfil, best verify, The Prophets old, who sung thy endless reign-- The happier reign the sooner it begins. Rein then; what canst thou better do the while?" To whom our Saviour answer thus returned:-- "All things are best fulfilled in their due time; And time there is for all things, Truth hath said. If of my reign Prophetic Writ hath told That it shall never end, so, when begin The Father in his purpose hath decreed-- He in whose hand all times and seasons rowl. What if he hath decreed that I shall first Be tried in humble state, and things adverse, By tribulations, injuries, insults, Contempts, and scorns, and snares, and violence, Suffering, abstaining, quietly expecting Without distrust or doubt, that He may know What I can suffer, how obey? Who best Can suffer best can do, best reign who first Well hath obeyed--just trial ere I merit My exaltation without change or end. But what concerns it thee when I begin My everlasting Kingdom? Why art thou Solicitous? What moves thy inquisition? Know'st thou not that my rising is thy fall, And my promotion will be thy destruction?" To whom the Tempter, inly racked, replied:-- "Let that come when it comes. All hope is lost Of my reception into grace; what worse? For where no hope is left is left no fear. If there be worse, the expectation more Of worse torments me than the feeling can. I would be at the worst; worst is my port, My harbour, and my ultimate repose, The end I would attain, my final good. My error was my error, and my crime My crime; whatever, for itself condemned, And will alike be punished, whether thou Reign or reign not--though to that gentle brow Willingly I could fly, and hope thy reign, From that placid aspect and meek regard, Rather than aggravate my evil state, Would stand between me and thy Father's ire (Whose ire I dread more than the fire of Hell) A shelter and a kind of shading cool Interposition, as a summer's cloud. If I, then, to the worst that can be haste, Why move thy feet so slow to what is best? Happiest, both to thyself and all the world, That thou, who worthiest art, shouldst be their King! Perhaps thou linger'st in deep thoughts detained Of the enterprise so hazardous and high! No wonder; for, though in thee be united What of perfection can in Man be found, Or human nature can receive, consider Thy life hath yet been private, most part spent At home, scarce viewed the Galilean towns, And once a year Jerusalem, few days' Short sojourn; and what thence couldst thou observe? The world thou hast not seen, much less her glory, Empires, and monarchs, and their radiant courts-- Best school of best experience, quickest in sight In all things that to greatest actions lead. The wisest, unexperienced, will be ever Timorous, and loth, with novice modesty (As he who, seeking asses, found a kingdom) Irresolute, unhardy, unadventrous. But I will bring thee where thou soon shalt quit Those rudiments, and see before thine eyes The monarchies of the Earth, their pomp and state-- Sufficient introduction to inform Thee, of thyself so apt, in regal arts, And regal mysteries; that thou may'st know How best their opposition to withstand." With that (such power was given him then), he took The Son of God up to a mountain high. It was a mountain at whose verdant feet A spacious plain outstretched in circuit wide Lay pleasant; from his side two rivers flowed, The one winding, the other straight, and left between Fair champaign, with less rivers interveined, Then meeting joined their tribute to the sea. Fertil of corn the glebe, of oil, and wine; With herds the pasture thronged, with flocks the hills; Huge cities and high-towered, that well might seem The seats of mightiest monarchs; and so large The prospect was that here and there was room For barren desert, fountainless and dry. To this high mountain-top the Tempter brought Our Saviour, and new train of words began:-- "Well have we speeded, and o'er hill and dale, Forest, and field, and flood, temples and towers, Cut shorter many a league. Here thou behold'st Assyria, and her empire's ancient bounds, Araxes and the Caspian lake; thence on As far as Indus east, Euphrates west, And oft beyond; to south the Persian bay, And, inaccessible, the Arabian drouth: Here, Nineveh, of length within her wall Several days' journey, built by Ninus old, Of that first golden monarchy the seat, And seat of Salmanassar, whose success Israel in long captivity still mourns; There Babylon, the wonder of all tongues, As ancient, but rebuilt by him who twice Judah and all thy father David's house Led captive, and Jerusalem laid waste, Till Cyrus set them free; Persepolis, His city, there thou seest, and Bactra there; Ecbatana her structure vast there shews, And Hecatompylos her hunderd gates; There Susa by Choaspes, amber stream, The drink of none but kings; of later fame, Built by Emathian or by Parthian hands, The great Seleucia, Nisibis, and there Artaxata, Teredon, Ctesiphon, Turning with easy eye, thou may'st behold. All these the Parthian (now some ages past By great Arsaces led, who founded first That empire) under his dominion holds, From the luxurious kings of Antioch won. And just in time thou com'st to have a view Of his great power; for now the Parthian king In Ctesiphon hath gathered all his host Against the Scythian, whose incursions wild Have wasted Sogdiana; to her aid He marches now in haste. See, though from far, His thousands, in what martial equipage They issue forth, steel bows and shafts their arms, Of equal dread in flight or in pursuit-- All horsemen, in which fight they most excel; See how in warlike muster they appear, In rhombs, and wedges, and half-moons, and wings." He looked, and saw what numbers numberless The city gates outpoured, light-armed troops In coats of mail and military pride. In mail their horses clad, yet fleet and strong, Prauncing their riders bore, the flower and choice Of many provinces from bound to bound-- From Arachosia, from Candaor east, And Margiana, to the Hyrcanian cliffs Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales; From Atropatia, and the neighbouring plains Of Adiabene, Media, and the south Of Susiana, to Balsara's haven. He saw them in their forms of battle ranged, How quick they wheeled, and flying behind them shot Sharp sleet of arrowy showers against the face Of their pursuers, and overcame by flight; The field all iron cast a gleaming brown. Nor wanted clouds of foot, nor, on each horn, Cuirassiers all in steel for standing fight, Chariots, or elephants indorsed with towers Of archers; nor of labouring pioners A multitude, with spades and axes armed, To lay hills plain, fell woods, or valleys fill, Or where plain was raise hill, or overlay With bridges rivers proud, as with a yoke: Mules after these, camels and dromedaries, And waggons fraught with utensils of war. Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp, When Agrican, with all his northern powers, Besieged Albracea, as romances tell, The city of Gallaphrone, from thence to win The fairest of her sex, Angelica, His daughter, sought by many prowest knights, Both Paynim and the peers of Charlemane. Such and so numerous was their chivalry; At sight whereof the Fiend yet more presumed, And to our Saviour thus his words renewed:-- "That thou may'st know I seek not to engage Thy virtue, and not every way secure On no slight grounds thy safety, hear and mark To what end I have brought thee hither, and shew All this fair sight. Thy kingdom, though foretold By Prophet or by Angel, unless thou Endeavour, as thy father David did, Thou never shalt obtain: prediction still In all things, and all men, supposes means; Without means used, what it predicts revokes. But say thou wert possessed of David's throne By free consent of all, none opposite, Samaritan or Jew; how couldst thou hope Long to enjoy it quiet and secure Between two such enclosing enemies, Roman and Parthian? Therefore one of these Thou must make sure thy own: the Parthian first, By my advice, as nearer, and of late Found able by invasion to annoy Thy country, and captive lead away her kings, Antigonus and old Hyrcanus, bound, Maugre the Roman. It shall be my task To render thee the Parthian at dispose, Choose which thou wilt, by conquest or by league. By him thou shalt regain, without him not, That which alone can truly reinstall thee In David's royal seat, his true successor-- Deliverance of thy brethren, those Ten Tribes Whose offspring in his territory yet serve In Habor, and among the Medes dispersed: The sons of Jacob, two of Joseph, lost Thus long from Israel, serving, as of old Their fathers in the land of Egypt served, This offer sets before thee to deliver. These if from servitude thou shalt restore To their inheritance, then, nor till then, Thou on the throne of David in full glory, From Egypt to Euphrates and beyond, Shalt reign, and Rome or Caesar not need fear." To whom our Saviour answered thus, unmoved:-- "Much ostentation vain of fleshly arm And fragile arms, much instrument of war, Long in preparing, soon to nothing brought, Before mine eyes thou hast set, and in my ear Vented much policy, and projects deep Of enemies, of aids, battles, and leagues, Plausible to the world, to me worth naught. Means I must use, thou say'st; prediction else Will unpredict, and fail me of the throne! My time, I told thee (and that time for thee Were better farthest off), is not yet come. When that comes, think not thou to find me slack On my part aught endeavouring, or to need Thy politic maxims, or that cumbersome Luggage of war there shewn me--argument Of human weakness rather than of strength. My brethren, as thou call'st them, those Ten Tribes, I must deliver, if I mean to reign David's true heir, and his full sceptre sway To just extent over all Israel's sons! But whence to thee this zeal? Where was it then For Israel, or for David, or his throne, When thou stood'st up his tempter to the pride Of numbering Israel--which cost the lives of threescore and ten thousand Israelites By three days' pestilence? Such was thy zeal To Israel then, the same that now to me. As for those captive tribes, themselves were they Who wrought their own captivity, fell off From God to worship calves, the deities Of Egypt, Baal next and Ashtaroth, And all the idolatries of heathen round, Besides their other worse than heathenish crimes; Nor in the land of their captivity Humbled themselves, or penitent besought The God of their forefathers, but so died Impenitent, and left a race behind Like to themselves, distinguishable scarce From Gentiles, but by circumcision vain, And God with idols in their worship joined. Should I of these the liberty regard, Who, freed, as to their ancient patrimony, Unhumbled, unrepentant, unreformed, Headlong would follow, and to their gods perhaps Of Bethel and of Dan? No; let them serve Their enemies who serve idols with God. Yet He at length, time to himself best known, Remembering Abraham, by some wondrous call May bring them back, repentant and sincere, And at their passing cleave the Assyrian flood, While to their native land with joy they haste, As the Red Sea and Jordan once he cleft, When to the Promised Land their fathers passed. To his due time and providence I leave them." So spake Israel's true King, and to the Fiend Made answer meet, that made void all his wiles. So fares it when with truth falsehood contends.