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Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this main enterprise
To him, their great dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thriv'd
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march 115
From Hell's deep vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods,
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
Mis easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,

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Where he might likeliest find this new-declar'd,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try;
So to subvert whom he suspected rais'd
To end his reign on earth, so long enjoyed : 125
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfillid
The purpos'd counsel, pre-ordain’d and fix'd,
Of the most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake.

* Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold, 130
Thou and all Angels conversant on earth
With man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message, late
On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear å son,

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Great in renown, and call'd the Son of God;
Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come
The Holy Ghost, and the pow'r of the High'est
Oʻershadow her: this man, born and now up-grown,
To show him worthy of his birth divine

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And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan: let him tempt, and now assay
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great canning to the throng 145
of his apostacy: he might have learnt
Less overweening, since he fail'd in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a man,

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of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length
All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell,
Winning by conquest, what the first man lost
By fallacy surpris'd. But first I mean
To exercise him in the wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
of his great warfare, ere I send him forth
To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes,
By humiliation and strong sufferance :
His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength,
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh,
That all the Angels and ethereal Powers,
They now, and men hereafter, may discern,
From what consummate virtue I have chose
This perfect man, by merit callid my Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men.”

So spake th' eternal Father, and all Hear'n
Admiring stood a space, then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures mov'd,
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument.

“ Victory' and triumph to the Son of God,
Now entring his great duel, not of arms,
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles!
The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untry'd,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell,
And, devilish macbinations, coine to nought!"

So they in Heav'n their odes and vigils tand:
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodg'd in Bethabara, where John baptiz'd,
Musing, and much revolving in his breast,
How best the mighty work he might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish his god-ljke office, now mature,
One day forth walk'd alone, the Spi'rit leading
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse
Vol. II.

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With solitude, till, far from track of men,
'Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
He enter'd now the bord’ring desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environ'd round,
His holy meditations thus pursu'd.

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“O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awaken'd in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel myself, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears,
Ill sorting with my present state compard ! 200
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing ; all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do,
What might be public good; myself I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth, 205
All righteous things: therefore, above my years,
The law of God I read, and found it sweet,
Made it my whole delight, and in it grew
To such perfection, that, ere yet my age
Had measur'd twice six years, at our great feast 210
I went into the temple, there to hear
'The teachers of our law, and to propose
What might improve my knowledge or their own;
And was admir'd by all: yet this not all
To which my spi'rit aspir’d; victorious deeds 215
Flam'd in my heart, heroic acts; one while
To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke;
Then to subdue and quell, o'er all the earth,
Brute violence and proud tyrannic power,
Till truth were freed, and equity restord : 220
Yet held it more humane, more heav'nly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear;
At least to try, and teach the erring soul,
Not wilfully mis-doing, but unware

225 Misled; the stubborn only to subdue. These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving, By words at times cast forth, inly rejoic'd, And said to me a part ; ' High are thy thoughts, O Son, Bat nourish them, and let them soar 230

To what height sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, though above example high ;
By matchless deeds express thy matchless sire,
For know, thou art no son of mortal man;
Though men esteem thee low of parentage, 235
Thy father is th' eternal King who rules
All Heav'n and Earth, Angels, and Sons of men;
A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceiv'd in me a virgin; he foretold
Thou should'st be great, and sit on David's throne,
And of thy kingdom there should be no end. 241
At thy nativity, a glorious quire
of Angels, in the fields of Bethlehem, sung
To shepherds, watching at their folds by night,
And told them the Messiah now was born, 245
Where they might see him, and to thee they came,
Directed to the manger where thou lay'st,
For in the inn was left no better room:
A star, not seen before, in Heav'n appearing,
Guided the wise men thither from the east, 250
To honour thee with incense, myrrh, and gold ;
By whose bright course led on they found the place,
Affirming it thy star, new grav'n in Hear'n,
By which they knew the king of Israel born,
Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warn'd 255
By vision, found thee in the temple', and spake,
Before the altar and the vested priest,
Like things of thee to all that present stood,
This having heard, straight I again revolv'd
The law and prophets, searching what was writ 260
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes
Known partly, and soon found, of whom they spake
I am; this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay, ev'n to the death,
Ere I the promisd kingdom can attain,

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Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins
Full weight must be transferr'd upon my head.
Yet, neither thus dishearten'd or dismay'l,
The time prefix'd I waited; when behold
The Baptist, (of whose birth I oft had heard,

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Not knew by sight.) now come, who was to come
Before Messiah, and his way prepare!
1, as all others, to his baptism came,
Which I believ'd was from above; but he
Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaira'd
Me him, (for it was shown him so from Heav'n,) 276
Me him, whose harbinger he was; and first
Refus d on me his baptism to confer,
As much his greater, and was hardly won :
But, as I rose out of the laving stream,

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Heav'n open'd her eternal doors, from whence
The Spi'rit descended on me like a dove ;
And last, the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from Heav'n, pronounc'd me his;
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleas'd; by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes,
Th’authority which I deriv'd from Heav'n.
And now by some strong motion I am led 290
Into this wilderness, to what intent
I learn not yet; perhaps I need not know,
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals.”

So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise,
And, looking round, on every side beheld
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades;
The way he came not having mark'd, return
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;
And he still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come

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Lodgd in his breast, as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society.
Full forty days he pass’d, whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient oak,

305 Or cedar, to defend him from the dew, Or harbourd in one cave, is not reveal'd; Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt, Till those days ended; hunger'd then at last Among wild beasts : they at his sight grey mild, 310

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