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Paradise Regained: The Fourth Book

 Perplexed and troubled at his bad success
The Tempter stood, nor had what to reply,
Discovered in his fraud, thrown from his hope
So oft, and the persuasive rhetoric
That sleeked his tongue, and won so much on Eve,
So little here, nay lost.
But Eve was Eve; This far his over-match, who, self-deceived And rash, beforehand had no better weighed The strength he was to cope with, or his own.
But—as a man who had been matchless held In cunning, over-reached where least he thought, To salve his credit, and for very spite, Still will be tempting him who foils him still, And never cease, though to his shame the more; Or as a swarm of flies in vintage-time, About the wine-press where sweet must is poured, Beat off, returns as oft with humming sound; Or surging waves against a solid rock, Though all to shivers dashed, the assault renew, (Vain battery!) and in froth or bubbles end— So Satan, whom repulse upon repulse Met ever, and to shameful silence brought, Yet gives not o'er, though desperate of success, And his vain importunity pursues.
He brought our Saviour to the western side Of that high mountain, whence he might behold Another plain, long, but in breadth not wide, Washed by the southern sea, and on the north To equal length backed with a ridge of hills That screened the fruits of the earth and seats of men From cold Septentrion blasts; thence in the midst Divided by a river, off whose banks On each side an Imperial City stood, With towers and temples proudly elevate On seven small hills, with palaces adorned, Porches and theatres, baths, aqueducts, Statues and trophies, and triumphal arcs, Gardens and groves, presented to his eyes Above the highth of mountains interposed— By what strange parallax, or optic skill Of vision, multiplied through air, or glass Of telescope, were curious to enquire.
And now the Tempter thus his silence broke:— "The city which thou seest no other deem Than great and glorious Rome, Queen of the Earth So far renowned, and with the spoils enriched Of nations.
There the Capitol thou seest, Above the rest lifting his stately head On the Tarpeian rock, her citadel Impregnable; and there Mount Palatine, The imperial palace, compass huge, and high The structure, skill of noblest architects, With gilded battlements, conspicuous far, Turrets, and terraces, and glittering spires.
Many a fair edifice besides, more like Houses of gods—so well I have disposed My aerie microscope—thou may'st behold, Outside and inside both, pillars and roofs Carved work, the hand of famed artificers In cedar, marble, ivory, or gold.
Thence to the gates cast round thine eye, and see What conflux issuing forth, or entering in: Praetors, proconsuls to their provinces Hasting, or on return, in robes of state; Lictors and rods, the ensigns of their power; Legions and cohorts, turms of horse and wings; Or embassies from regions far remote, In various habits, on the Appian road, Or on the AEmilian—some from farthest south, Syene, and where the shadow both way falls, Meroe, Nilotic isle, and, more to west, The realm of Bocchus to the Blackmoor sea; From the Asian kings (and Parthian among these), From India and the Golden Chersoness, And utmost Indian isle Taprobane, Dusk faces with white silken turbants wreathed; From Gallia, Gades, and the British west; Germans, and Scythians, and Sarmatians north Beyond Danubius to the Tauric pool.
All nations now to Rome obedience pay— To Rome's great Emperor, whose wide domain, In ample territory, wealth and power, Civility of manners, arts and arms, And long renown, thou justly may'st prefer Before the Parthian.
These two thrones except, The rest are barbarous, and scarce worth the sight, Shared among petty kings too far removed; These having shewn thee, I have shewn thee all The kingdoms of the world, and all their glory.
This Emperor hath no son, and now is old, Old and lascivious, and from Rome retired To Capreae, an island small but strong On the Campanian shore, with purpose there His horrid lusts in private to enjoy; Committing to a wicked favourite All public cares, and yet of him suspicious; Hated of all, and hating.
With what ease, Endued with regal virtues as thou art, Appearing, and beginning noble deeds, Might'st thou expel this monster from his throne, Now made a sty, and, in his place ascending, A victor-people free from servile yoke! And with my help thou may'st; to me the power Is given, and by that right I give it thee.
Aim, therefore, at no less than all the world; Aim at the highest; without the highest attained, Will be for thee no sitting, or not long, On David's throne, be prophesied what will.
" To whom the Son of God, unmoved, replied:— "Nor doth this grandeur and majestic shew Of luxury, though called magnificence, More than of arms before, allure mine eye, Much less my mind; though thou should'st add to tell Their sumptuous gluttonies, and gorgeous feasts On citron tables or Atlantic stone (For I have also heard, perhaps have read), Their wines of Setia, Cales, and Falerne, Chios and Crete, and how they quaff in gold, Crystal, and myrrhine cups, imbossed with gems And studs of pearl—to me should'st tell, who thirst And hunger still.
Then embassies thou shew'st From nations far and nigh! What honour that, But tedious waste of time, to sit and hear So many hollow compliments and lies, Outlandish flatteries? Then proceed'st to talk Of the Emperor, how easily subdued, How gloriously.
I shall, thou say'st, expel A brutish monster: what if I withal Expel a Devil who first made him such? Let his tormentor, Conscience, find him out; For him I was not sent, nor yet to free That people, victor once, now vile and base, Deservedly made vassal—who, once just, Frugal, and mild, and temperate, conquered well, But govern ill the nations under yoke, Peeling their provinces, exhausted all By lust and rapine; first ambitious grown Of triumph, that insulting vanity; Then cruel, by their sports to blood inured Of fighting beasts, and men to beasts exposed; Luxurious by their wealth, and greedier still, And from the daily Scene effeminate.
What wise and valiant man would seek to free These, thus degenerate, by themselves enslaved, Or could of inward slaves make outward free? Know, therefore, when my season comes to sit On David's throne, it shall be like a tree Spreading and overshadowing all the earth, Or as a stone that shall to pieces dash All monarchies besides throughout the world; And of my Kingdom there shall be no end.
Means there shall be to this; but what the means Is not for thee to know, nor me to tell.
" To whom the Tempter, impudent, replied:— "I see all offers made by me how slight Thou valuest, because offered, and reject'st.
Nothing will please the difficult and nice, Or nothing more than still to contradict.
On the other side know also thou that I On what I offer set as high esteem, 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, given to me, I give to whom I please), No trifle; yet with this reserve, not else— 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 answered with disdain:— "I never liked thy talk, thy offers less; Now both abhor, since thou hast dared to utter The abominable terms, impious condition.
But I endure the time, till which expired Thou hast permission on me.
It is written, 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, accursed? now more accursed For this attempt, bolder than that on Eve, And more blasphemous; which expect to rue.
The kingdoms of the world to thee were given! Permitted rather, and by thee usurped; Other donation none thou canst produce.
If given, by whom but by the King of kings, God over all supreme? If given 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— 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 damned.
" To whom the Fiend, with fear abashed, replied:— "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 Than these thou bear'st that title, have proposed What both from Men and Angels I receive, Tetrarchs of Fire, Air, Flood, and on the Earth Nations besides from all the quartered winds— God of this World invoked, and World beneath.
Who then thou art, whose coming is foretold To me most fatal, me it most concerns.
The trial hath indamaged thee no way, Rather more honour left and more esteem; Me naught advantaged, missing what I aimed.
Therefore let pass, as they are transitory, The kingdoms of this world; I shall no more Advise thee; gain them as thou canst, or not.
And thou thyself seem'st otherwise inclined Than to a worldly crown, addicted more To contemplation and profound dispute; As by that early action may be judged, When, slipping from thy mother's eye, thou went'st Alone into the Temple, there wast found Among the gravest Rabbies, disputant On points and questions fitting Moses' chair, Teaching, not taught.
The childhood shews the man, As morning shews the day.
Be famous, then, By wisdom; as thy empire must extend, So let extend thy mind o'er all the world In knowledge; all things in it comprehend.
All knowledge is not couched in Moses' law, The Pentateuch, or what the Prophets wrote; The Gentiles also know, and write, and teach To admiration, led by Nature's light; And with the Gentiles much thou must converse, Ruling them by persuasion, as thou mean'st.
Without their learning, how wilt thou with them, Or they with thee, hold conversation meet? How wilt thou reason with them, how refute Their idolisms, traditions, paradoxes? Error by his own arms is best evinced.
Look once more, ere we leave this specular mount, Westward, much nearer by south-west; behold Where on the AEgean shore a city stands, Built nobly, pure the air and light the soil— Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts And Eloquence, native to famous wits Or hospitable, in her sweet recess, City or suburban, studious walks and shades.
See there the olive-grove of Academe, Plato's retirement, where the Attic bird Trills her thick-warbled notes the summer long; There, flowery hill, Hymettus, with the sound Of bees' industrious murmur, oft invites To studious musing; there Ilissus rowls His whispering stream.
Within the walls then view The schools of ancient sages—his who bred Great Alexander to subdue the world, Lyceum there; and painted Stoa next.
There thou shalt hear and learn the secret power Of harmony, in tones and numbers hit By voice or hand, and various-measured verse, AEolian charms and Dorian lyric odes, And his who gave them breath, but higher sung, Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer called, Whose poem Phoebus challenged for his own.
Thence what the lofty grave Tragedians taught In chorus or iambic, teachers best Of moral prudence, with delight received In brief sententious precepts, while they treat Of fate, and chance, and change in human life, High actions and high passions best describing.
Thence to the famous Orators repair, Those ancient whose resistless eloquence Wielded at will that fierce democraty, Shook the Arsenal, and fulmined over Greece To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
To sage Philosophy next lend thine ear, From heaven descended to the low-roofed house Of Socrates—see there his tenement— Whom, well inspired, the Oracle pronounced Wisest of men; from whose mouth issued forth Mellifluous streams, that watered all the schools Of Academics old and new, with those Surnamed Peripatetics, and the sect Epicurean, and the Stoic severe.
These here revolve, or, as thou likest, at home, Till time mature thee to a kingdom's weight; These rules will render thee a king complete Within thyself, much more with empire joined.
" To whom our Saviour sagely thus replied:— "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 professed 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 joined with riches and long life; In corporal pleasure he, and careless ease; The Stoic last in philosophic pride, By him called 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 strewed With hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscribed, Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon That pleased so well our victor's 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 epithetes, 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 expressed 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 offered 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 fulfilled.
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, Attends 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 prefixed 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 louring Night, Her shadowy offspring, unsubstantial both, Privation mere of light and absent day.
Our Saviour, meek, and with untroubled mind After hisaerie jaunt, though hurried sore, Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest, Wherever, under some concourse of shades, Whose branching arms thick intertwined might shield From dews and damps of night his sheltered head; But, sheltered, slept in vain; for at his head The Tempter watched, and soon with ugly dreams Disturbed his sleep.
And either tropic now 'Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven; the clouds From many a horrid rift abortive poured Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire, In ruin reconciled; nor slept the winds Within their stony caves, but rushed abroad From the four hinges of the world, and fell On the vexed wilderness, whose tallest pines, Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks, Bowed 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 Environed thee; some howled, some yelled, some shrieked, Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou Sat'st unappalled in calm and sinless peace.
Thus passed the night so foul, till Morning fair Came forth with pilgrim steps, in amice grey, Who with her radiant finger stilled the roar Of thunder, chased the clouds, and laid the winds, And griesly spectres, which the Fiend had raised To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.
And now the sun with more effectual beams Had cheered 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, After a night of storm so ruinous, Cleared up their choicest notes in bush and spray, To gratulate the sweet return of morn.
Nor yet, amidst this joy and brightest morn, Was absent, after all his mischief done, The Prince of Darkness; glad would also seem Of this fair change, and to our Saviour came; Yet with no new device (they all were spent), Rather by this his last affront resolved, Desperate of better course, to vent his rage And mad despite to be so oft repelled.
Him walking on a sunny hill he found, Backed on the north and west by a thick wood; Out of the wood he starts in wonted shape, And in a careless mood thus to him said:— "Fair morning yet betides thee, Son of God, After a dismal night.
I heard the wrack, As earth and sky would mingle; but myself Was distant; and these flaws, though mortals fear them, As dangerous to the pillared frame of Heaven, Or to the Earth's dark basis underneath, Are to the main as inconsiderable And harmless, if not wholesome, as a sneeze To man's less universe, and soon are gone.
Yet, as being ofttimes noxious where they light On man, beast, plant, wasteful and turbulent, Like turbulencies in the affairs of men, Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point, They oft fore-signify and threaten ill.
This tempest at this desert most was bent; Of men at thee, for only thou here dwell'st.
Did I not tell thee, if thou didst reject The perfect season offered with my aid To win thy destined seat, but wilt prolong All to the push of fate, pursue thy way Of gaining David's throne no man knows when (For both the when and how is nowhere told), Thou shalt be what thou art ordained, no doubt; For Angels have proclaimed it, but concealing The time and means? Each act is rightliest done Not when it must, but when it may be best.
If thou observe not this, be sure to find What I foretold thee—many a hard assay Of dangers, and adversities, and pains, Ere thou of Israel's sceptre get fast hold; Whereof this ominous night that closed thee round, So many terrors, voices, prodigies, May warn thee, as a sure foregoing sign.
" So talked he, while the Son of God went on, And staid not, but in brief him answered thus:— "Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrors which thou speak'st of did me none.
I never feared they could, though noising loud And threatening nigh: what they can do as signs Betokening or ill-boding I contemn As false portents, not sent from God, but thee; Who, knowing I shall reign past thy preventing, Obtrud'st thy offered aid, that I, accepting, At least might seem to hold all power of thee, Ambitious Spirit! and would'st be thought my God; And storm'st, refused, thinking to terrify Me to thy will! Desist (thou art discerned, And toil'st in vain), nor me in vain molest.
" To whom the Fiend, now swoln with rage, replied:— "Then hear, O Son of David, virgin-born! For Son of God to me is yet in doubt.
Of the Messiah I have heard foretold By all the Prophets; of thy birth, at length Announced by Gabriel, with the first I knew, And of the angelic song in Bethlehem field, On thy birth-night, that sung thee Saviour born.
From that time seldom have I ceased to eye Thy infancy, thy childhood, and thy youth, Thy manhood last, though yet in private bred; Till, at the ford of Jordan, whither all Flocked to the Baptist, I among the rest (Though not to be baptized), by voice from Heaven Heard thee pronounced the Son of God beloved.
Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn In what degree or meaning thou art called The Son of God, which bears no single sense.
The Son of God I also am, or was; And, if I was, I am; relation stands: All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought In some respect far higher so declared.
Therefore I watched thy footsteps from that hour, And followed thee still on to this waste wild, Where, by all best conjectures, I collect Thou art to be my fatal enemy.
Good reason, then, if I beforehand seek To understand my adversary, who And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent; By parle or composition, truce or league, To win him, or win from him what I can.
And opportunity I here have had To try thee, sift thee, and confess have found thee Proof against all temptation, as a rock Of adamant and as a centre, firm To the utmost of mere man both wise and good, Not more; for honours, riches, kingdoms, glory, Have been before contemned, and may again.
Therefore, to know what more thou art than man, Worth naming the Son of God by voice from Heaven, Another method I must now begin.
" So saying, he caught him up, and, without wing Of hippogrif, bore through the air sublime, Over the wilderness and o'er the plain, Till underneath them fair Jerusalem, The Holy City, lifted high her towers, And higher yet the glorious Temple reared Her pile, far off appearing like a mount Of alablaster, topt with golden spires: There, on the highest pinnacle, he set The Son of God, and added thus in scorn:— "There stand, if thou wilt stand; to stand upright Will ask thee skill.
I to thy Father's house Have brought thee, and highest placed: highest is best.
Now shew thy progeny; if not to stand, Cast thyself down.
Safely, if Son of God; For it is written, 'He will give command Concerning thee to his Angels; in their hands They shall uplift thee, lest at any time Thou chance to dash thy foot against a stone.
'" To whom thus Jesus: "Also it is written, 'Tempt not the Lord thy God.
'" He said, and stood; But Satan, smitten with amazement, fell.
As when Earth's son, Antaeus (to compare Small things with greatest), in Irassa strove With Jove's Alcides, and, oft foiled, still rose, Receiving from his mother Earth new strength, Fresh from his fall, and fiercer grapple joined, Throttled at length in the air expired and fell, So, after many a foil, the Tempter proud, Renewing fresh assaults, amidst his pride Fell whence he stood to see his victor fall; And, as that Theban monster that proposed Her riddle, and him who solved it not devoured, That once found out and solved, for grief and spite Cast herself headlong from the Ismenian steep, So, strook with dread and anguish, fell the Fiend, And to his crew, that sat consulting, brought Joyless triumphals of his hoped success, Ruin, and desperation, and dismay, Who durst so proudly tempt the Son of God.
So Satan fell; and straight a fiery globe Of Angels on full sail of wing flew nigh, Who on their plumy vans received Him soft From his uneasy station, and upbore, As on a floating couch, through the blithe air; Then, in a flowery valley, set him down On a green bank, and set before him spread A table of celestial food, divine Ambrosial fruits fetched from the Tree of Life, And from the Fount of Life ambrosial drink, That soon refreshed him wearied, and repaired What hunger, if aught hunger, had impaired, Or thirst; and, as he fed, Angelic quires Sung heavenly anthems of his victory Over temptation and the Tempter proud:— "True Image of the Father, whether throned In the bosom of bliss, and light of light Conceiving, or, remote from Heaven, enshrined In fleshly tabernacle and human form, Wandering the wilderness—whatever place, Habit, or state, or motion, still expressing The Son of God, with Godlike force endued Against the attempter of thy Father's throne And thief of Paradise! Him long of old Thou didst debel, and down from Heaven cast With all his army; now thou hast avenged Supplanted Adam, and, by vanquishing Temptation, hast regained lost Paradise, And frustrated the conquest fraudulent.
He never more henceforth will dare set foot In paradise to tempt; his snares are broke.
For, though that seat of earthly bliss be failed, A fairer Paradise is founded now For Adam and his chosen sons, whom thou, A Saviour, art come down to reinstall; Where they shall dwell secure, when time shall be, Of tempter and temptation without fear.
But thou, Infernal Serpent! shalt not long Rule in the clouds.
Like an autumnal star, Or lightning, thou shalt fall from Heaven, trod down Under his feet.
For proof, ere this thou feel'st Thy wound (yet not thy last and deadliest wound) By this repulse received, and hold'st in Hell No triumph; in all her gates Abaddon rues Thy bold attempt.
Hereafter learn with awe To dread the Son of God.
He, all unarmed, Shall chase thee, with the terror of his voice, From thy demoniac holds, possession foul— Thee and thy legions; yelling they shall fly, And beg to hide them in a herd of swine, Lest he command them down into the Deep, Bound, and to torment sent before their time.
Hail, Son of the Most High, heir of both Worlds, Queller of Satan! On thy glorious work Now enter, and begin to save Mankind.
" Thus they the Son of God, our Saviour meek, Sung victor, and, from heavenly feast refreshed, Brought on his way with joy.
He, unobserved, Home to his mother's house private returned.

Poem by John Milton
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Book: Shattered Sighs