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137

PARADISE REGAINED.

Book I.

The Argument. The subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy

Spirit. - The poem opens with John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus coming there is baptized; and is attested, by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from Heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this immediately flies up into the regions of the air : where, summoning his infernal council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the Wornan, destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the immediate necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting, by snares and fraud, to counteract and defeat the person, from whom they have so much to dread. This office he offers himself to undertake; and, his offer being accepted, sets out on his enterprise. - In the meantime God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan ; but foretels that the tempter shall be completely defeated by him :

- upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the

wilderness, while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of man. kind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic im. pulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother Mary, on perceiving these dispositions in him, had acquainted him with the circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own inquiries and reflections had supplied in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness, where the wild beasts become mild and harmless in his presence. Satan now appears under the form of an old peasant ; and enters into discourse with our Lord, wondering what could have brought him alone into so dangerous a place, and at the same time professing to recognize him for the person lately acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread, Jesus reproves him, and at the same time tells him that he knows who he is. Satan instantly avows himself, and offers an artful apology for himself and his conduct. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and refutes every part of his justification. Satan, with much sembiance

of humility, still endeavours to justify himself; and professing his admiration of Jesus and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation ; but is answered, that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert.

I, who ere while the happy garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recover'd Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the tempter foil'd
In all his wiles, defeated and repuls'd,
And Eden rais'd in the waste wilderness.

Thou Spirit, who ledst this glorious eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field,
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence
By proof the undoubted Son of God, inspire,
As thou art wont, my prompted song, else mute,
And bear through height or depth of Nature's

bounds, With prosperous wing full summ'd, to tell of deeds Above heroic, though in secret done, And unrecorded left through many an age ; Worthy to have not remain'd so long unsung.

Now had the great proclaimer, with a voice More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried Repentance, and Heaven's kingdom nigh at hand To all baptiz'd: to his great baptism flock'd With awe the regions round, and with them came

From Nazareth the son of Joseph deem'd
To the flood Jordan ; came, as then obscure,
Unmark'd, unknown; but him the Baptist soon
Descried; divinely warn'd, and witness bore
As to his worthier, and would have resign'd
To him his heavenly office; nor was long
His witness unconfirm'd: on him baptiz'd
Heaven open'd and in likeness of a dove
The Spirit descended, while the Father's voice
From Heaven pronounc'd him his beloved Son.
That heard the adversary, who, roving still
About the world, at that assembly fam'd
Would not be last, and, with the voice divine
Nigh thunder-struck, the exalted man, to whom
Such high attest was given, a while survey'd
With wonder ; then, with envy fraught and rage,
Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air
To council summons all his mighty peers,
Within thick clouds and dark ten-fold involv’d,
A gloomy consistory; and then amidst,
With looks aghast and sad, he thus bespake.

“ O ancient powers of air, and this wide world,
(For much more willingly I mention air,
This our old conquest, than remember Hell,
Our hated habitation,) well ye know
How many ages, as the years of men,
This universe we have possess'd, and rul'd,
In manner at our will, the affairs of Earth,
Since Adam and his facile consort Eve
Lost Paradise, deceiv'd by me; though since
With dread attending when that fatal wound
Shall be inflicted by the seed of Eve

Upon my head. Long the decrees of Heaven
Delay, for longest time to him is short ;
And now, too soon for us, the circling hours
This dreaded time have compass'd, wherein we
Must bide the stroke of that long-threaten'd wound,
(At least if so we can, and by the head
Broken be not intended all our power
To be infring'd, our freedom and our being
In this fair empire won of Earth and air,)
For this ill news I bring, the woman's seed
Destin'd to this, is late of woman born.
His birth to our just fear gave no small cause :
But his growth now to youth's full flower displaying
All virtue, grace, and wisdom to achieve
Things highest, greatest multiplies my fear.
Before him a great prophet, to proclaim
His coming, is sent harbinger, who all
Invites, and in the consecrated stream
Pretends to wash off sin, and fit them, so
Purified, to receive him pure, or rather
To do him honour as their king : all come,
And he himself among them was baptiz'd;
Not thence to be more pure, but to receive
The testimony of Heaven, that who he is
Thenceforth the nations may not doubt; I saw
The prophet do him reverence; on him, rising
Out of the water, Heaven above the clouds
Unfold her crystal doors : thence on his head
A perfect dove descend, (whate'er it meant,)
And out of Heaven the sovran voice I heard,
* This is my Son belov'd, in him am pleas’d.'
His mother then is mortal, but his Sire

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