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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, awhile survey'd
With wonder; then, with envy fraught and rage,
Flies to his place, nor rests, but in mid air
To counsel summons all his mighty peers,
Within thick clouds and dark tenfold involv'd,
A gloomy consistory; and them 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 attending1 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

1 'Attending:' i.e., waiting.

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

He who obtains the monarchy of Heaven:

And what will he not do to advance his Son?

His first-begot we know, and sore have felt,

When his fierce thunder drove us to the deep:

Who this is we must learn; for Man he seems

In all his lineaments, though in his face

The glimpses of his Father's glory shine.

Ye see our danger on the utmost edge

Of hazard, which admits no long debate,

But must with something sudden be oppos'd

(Not force, but well-couch'd fraud, well-woven snares),

Ere in the head of nations he appear,

Their king, their leader, and supreme on earth.

I, when no other durst, sole undertook

The dismal expedition to find out

And ruin Adam; and the exploit perform'd

Successfully: a calmer voyage now

Will waft me; and the way, found prosperous once,

Induces best to hope of like success.

He ended, and his words impression left
Of much amazement to the 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:
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
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
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,
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 enjoy'd:
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfill'd
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, 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 a son, 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 power of the Highest O'ershadow her. This Man, born and now upgrown, To show him worthy of his birth divine 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 cunning to the throng Of his apostasy: 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, 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 Satanick 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 call'd my Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men.

So spake the Eternal Father, and all Heaven
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 entering 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 untried,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell,
And, devilish machinations, come to nought!

So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tun'd:
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodged in Bethabara,1 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 Godlike office now mature,
One day forth walk'd alone, the Spirit leading
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse
With solitude, till, far from track of men,
Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
He enter'd now the bordering desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environ'd round,
His holy meditations thus pursued.

O, what a multitude of thoughts at once

1 'Bethabara:' see John i. 28.

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