Poetry for Lent 1: Paradise Regained

Paradise Regained, Book iv II. 155-232; 285 – 352


To whom the Tempter impudent repli’d.
I see all offers made by me how slight [ 155 ]
Thou valu’st, because offer’d, and reject’st:
Nothing will please the difficult and nice,
Or nothing more then still to contradict:
On the other side know also thou, that I
On what I offer set as high esteem, [ 160 ]
Nor what I part with mean to give for naught;
All these which in a moment thou behold’st,
The Kingdoms of the world to thee I give;
For giv’n to me, I give to whom I please,
No trifle; yet with this reserve, not else, [ 165 ]
On this condition, if thou wilt fall down,
And worship me as thy superior Lord,
Easily done, and hold them all of me;
For what can less so great a gift deserve?

Whom thus our Saviour answer’d with disdain. [ 170 ]
I never lik’d thy talk, thy offers less,
Now both abhor, since thou hast dar’d to utter
The abominable terms, impious condition;
But I endure the time, till which expir’d,
Thou hast permission on me. It is written [ 175 ]
The first of all Commandments, Thou shalt worship
The Lord thy God, and only him shalt serve;
And dar’st thou to the Son of God propound
To worship thee accurst, now more accurst
For this attempt bolder then that on Eve, [ 180 ]
And more blasphemous? which expect to rue.
The Kingdoms of the world to thee were giv’n,
Permitted rather, and by thee usurp’t,
Other donation none thou canst produce:
If given, by whom but by the King of Kings, [ 185 ]
God over all supreme? If giv’n to thee,
By thee how fairly is the Giver now
Repaid? But gratitude in thee is lost
Long since. Wert thou so void of fear or shame,
As offer them to me the Son of God, [ 190 ]
To me my own, on such abhorred pact,
That I fall down and worship thee as God?
Get thee behind me; plain thou now appear’st
That Evil one, Satan for ever damn’d.

To whom the Fiend with fear abasht reply’d. [ 195 ]
Be not so sore offended, Son of God;
Though Sons of God both Angels are and Men,
If I to try whether in higher sort
Then these thou bear’st that title, have propos’d
What both from Men and Angels I receive, [ 200 ]
Tetrarchs of fire, air, flood, and on the earth
Nations besides from all the quarter’d winds,
God of this World invok’t and world beneath;
Who then thou art, whose coming is foretold
To me so fatal, me it most concerns. [ 205 ]
The trial hath indamag’d thee no way,
Rather more honour left and more esteem;
Me naught advantag’d, missing what I aim’d.
Therefore let pass, as they are transitory,
The Kingdoms of this world; I shall no more [ 210 ]
Advise thee, gain them as thou canst, or not.
And thou thyself seem’st otherwise inclin’d
Then to a worldly Crown, addicted more
To contemplation and profound dispute,
As by that early action may be judg’d, [ 215 ]
When slipping from thy Mothers eye thou went’st
Alone into the Temple; there was found
Among the gravest Rabbies disputant
On points and questions fitting Moses Chair,
Teaching not taught; the childhood shews the man, [ 220 ]
As morning shews the day. Be famous then
By wisdom; as thy Empire must extend,
So let extend thy mind o’re all the world,
In knowledge, all things in it comprehend,
All knowledge is not couch’t in Moses Law, [ 225 ]
The Pentateuch or what the Prophets wrote,
The Gentiles also know, and write, and teach
To admiration, led by Natures light;
And with the Gentiles much thou must converse,
Ruling them by perswasion as thou mean’st, [ 230 ]
Without thir learning how wilt thou with them,
Or they with thee hold conversation meet?

To whom our Saviour sagely thus repli’d. [ 285 ]
Think not but that I know these things, or think
I know them not; not therefore am I short
Of knowing what I aught: he who receives
Light from above, from the fountain of light,
No other doctrine needs, though granted true; [ 290 ]
But these are false, or little else but dreams,
Conjectures, fancies, built on nothing firm.
The first and wisest of them all profess’d
To know this only, that he nothing knew;
to fabling fell and smooth conceits, [ 295 ]
A third sort doubted all things, though plain sense;
Others in vertue plac’d felicity,
But vertue joyn’d with riches and long life,
In corporal pleasure he, and careless ease,
The Stoic last in Philosophic pride, [ 300 ]
By him call’d vertue; and his vertuous man,
Wise, perfect in himself, and all possessing
Equal to God, oft shames not to prefer,
As fearing God nor man, contemning all
Wealth, pleasure, pain or torment, death and life, [ 305 ]
Which when he lists, he leaves, or boasts he can,
For all his tedious talk is but vain boast,
Or subtle shifts conviction to evade.
Alas what can they teach, and not mislead;
Ignorant of themselves, of God much more, [ 310 ]
And how the world began, and how man fell
Degraded by himself, on grace depending?
Much of the Soul they talk, but all awrie,
And in themselves seek vertue, and to themselves
All glory arrogate, to God give none, [ 315 ]
Rather accuse him under usual names,
Fortune and Fate, as one regardless quite
Of mortal things. Who therefore seeks in these
True wisdom, finds her not, or by delusion
Far worse, her false resemblance only meets, [ 320 ]
An empty cloud. However many books
Wise men have said are wearisom; who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior
(And what he brings, what needs he elsewhere seek) [ 325 ]
Uncertain and unsettl’d still remains,
Deep verst in books and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys,
And trifles for choice matters, worth a spunge;
As Children gathering pibles on the shore. [ 330 ]
Or if I would delight my private hours
With Music or with Poem, where so soon
As in our native Language can I find
That solace? All our Law and Story strew’d
With Hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscrib’d, [ 335 ]
Our Hebrew Songs and Harps in Babylon,
That pleas’d so well our Victors ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these Arts deriv’d;
Ill imitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of thir Deities, and thir own [ 340 ]
In Fable, Hymn, or Song, so personating
Thir Gods ridiculous, and themselves past shame.
Remove their swelling Epithetes thick laid
As varnish on a Harlots cheek, the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight, [ 345 ]
Will far be found unworthy to compare
With Sion’s songs, to all true tasts excelling,
Where God is prais’d aright, and Godlike men,
The Holiest of Holies, and his Saints;
Such are from God inspir’d, not such from thee; [ 350 ]
Unless where moral vertue is express’t
By light of Nature, not in all quite lost.


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