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Think not but that I know these things, or think
I know them not; not therefore am I short
Of knowing what I ought: he, who receives
Light from above, from the fountain of light,
No other doctrine needs, though granted true;
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;
The next to fabling fell, and smooth conceits;
A third sort doubted all things, though plain sense;
Others in virtue placed felicity,
But virtue join'd with riches and long life;
In corporal pleasure he, and careless ease;
The Stoic last in philosophic pride,
By him call’d virtue; and his virtuous 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,
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,
And how the world began, and how man fell
Degraded by himself, on grace depending?
Much of the soul they talk, but all awry,
And in themselves seek virtue, and to themselves
All glory arrogate, to God give none;

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,
An empty cloud. However, many books,
Wise men have said, are wearisome; 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?)
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep versed in books, and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge;
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
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 inscribed,
Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
That pleased so well our victors’ ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts derived;
Ill imitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of their Deities, and their own,
In fable, hymn, or song, so personating
Their Gods ridiculous, and themselves past shame.
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
As varnish on a harlot's cheek, the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight,

Will far be found unworthy to compare
With Sion's songs, to all true tastes excelling,
Where God is praised aright, and Godlike men,
The Holiest of Holies, and his Saints
(Such are from God inspired, not such from thee),
Unless where moral virtue is express'd
By light of Nature, not in all quite lost.
Their orators thou then extoll'st, as those
The top of eloquence; statists indeed,
And lovers of their country, as may seem;
But herein to our prophets far beneath,
As men divinely taught, and better teaching
The solid rules of civil government,
In their majestic unaffected style,
Than all the oratory of Greece and Rome.
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt,
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so,
What ruins kingdoms, and lays cities flat;
These only with our law best form a king.
So spake the Son of God; but Satan, now
Quite at a loss (for all his darts were spent),
Thus to our Saviour with stern brow replied:
Since neither wealth nor honour, arms nor arts,
Kingdom nor empire, pleases thee, nor aught,
By me proposed in life contemplative
Or active, tended on by glory or fame,
What dost thou in this world? The wilderness
For thee is fittest place; I found thee there,
And thither will return thee; yet remember
What I foretell thee, soon thou shalt have cause

To wish thou never hadst rejected, thus
Nicely or cautiously, my offer'd aid,
Which would have set thee in short time with ease
On David's throne, or throne of all the world,
Now at full age, fulness of time, thy season,
When prophecies of thee are best fulfill’d.
Now contrary, if I read aught in Heaven,
Or Heaven write aught of fate, by what the stars
Voluminous, or single characters,
In their conjunction met, give me to spell,
Sorrows, and labours, opposition, hate
Attend thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries,
Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death:
A kingdom they portend thee, but what kingdom,
Real or allegoric, I discern not;
Nor when; eternal sure, as without end,
Without beginning: for no date prefix’d
Directs me in the starry rubric set.
So saying he took (for still he knew his power
Not yet expired), and to the wilderness
Brought back the Son of God, and left him there,
Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose,
As daylight sunk, and brought in lowering Night,
Her shadowy offspring; unsubstantial both,
Privation mere of light and absent day.
Our Saviour meek, and with untroubled mind
After his aery jaunt, though hurried sore,
Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest,
Wherever, under some concóurse of shades,
Whose branching arms thick intertwined might shield

From dews and damps of night his shelter'd head; But, shelter'd, slept in vain; for at his head The Tempter watch'd, and soon with ugly dreams Disturb’d his sleep. And either tropic now 'Gan thunder, and both ends of Heaven; the clouds, From many a horrid rift, abortive pour’d Fierce rain with lightning mix’d, water with fire In ruin reconciled: nor slept the winds Within their stony caves, but rush'd abroad . From the four hinges of the world, and fell On the vex'd wilderness, whose tallest pines, Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks, Bow'd their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts, Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then, O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st Unshaken! Nor yet staid the terror there; Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round [shriek'd, Environ'd thee, some howl’d, some yell’d, some Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou Sat'st unappall'd in calm and sinless peace! Thus pass'd the night so foul, till Morning fair Came forth, with pilgrim steps, in amice gray; Who with her radiant finger still'd the roar Of thunder, chased the clouds, and laid the winds And grisly spectres, which the Fiend had raised To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire. And now the sun with more effectual beams Had cheer'd the face of earth, and dried the wet From drooping plant or dropping tree; the birds, Who all things now behold more fresh and green,

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