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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 frem Heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, upon this imme diately 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 Woman, 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, he sets out on his enterprise. - In the mean time 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 me ditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of Mankind. Pursuing his meditations he narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and phi. lanthropic impulses 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 confirmatiou 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 hecome 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 låtely acknowledged by John, at the river Jordan, to be the Son of God. Jesus briefly replies.
atan rejoins with a description of 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. proves 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 semblance of humility, stii 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
Recover'd Paradise to all mankind,
Thou Spirit, who ledst this glorious eremite
Now bad the great Proclaimer, with a voice More awful than the sound of trumpet, cried Repentance, and Heaven's kingdom nigh at hand 20 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 bis 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
30 The Spirit descended, while the Father's voice From Heaven pronounc'd him his beloved Son. l'hat 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, th' 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
“ ( ancient Powers of air, and this wide world,
men, This universe we have possess’d, and ruld, In manner at our will, th' affairs of earth,
50 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
60 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
70 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,
He ended, and his words impression left Of much amazement to th' infernal crew, Distracted and surpris’d with deep dismay At these sad tidings; but no time was then For long indulgence to their fears or grief :