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Under the hospitable covert nigh,
Of trees thick interwoven; there he slept,
And dream'd as appetite is wont to dream,
Of meats and drinks, Nature's refreshment sweet,
Him thought, he by the brook of Cherith stood;
And saw the ravens with their horney beaks
Food to Elijah bringing ev'n and morn,
Tho'rav’nous, taught to abstain from what they
He saw the Prophet also how he fled [brought :
Into the desert, and how there he slept
Under a juniper; then how awak'd
He found his supper on the coals prepar'd,
And by the angel was bid rise and eat,
And eat the second time after repose,
The strength whereof suffic'd him forty days;
Sometimes that with Elijah he partook,
Or as a guest with Daniel at his pulse.
Thus wore out night, and now the herald lark Left his ground-nest, high tow'ring to descry 280 The Morn's approach, and greet her with his song As lightly from his grassy couch uprose Our Saviour, and found all was but a dream, Fasting he went to sleep, and fasting wak’d; Up to a hill anon his steps he rear’d, From whose high top to ken the prospect round, If cottage were in view, sheep-cote or herd; But cottage, herd, or sheep-cote none he saw, Only' in a bottom saw a pleasant grove, With chaunt of tuneful birds resounding loud; 290 Thither he bent his way, determin'd there
To rest at noon, and enter'd soon the shade
High roofd, and walks beneath, and alleys brown,
That open'd in the midst a woody scene :
Nature's own work it seem'd (Nature taught Art)
And to superstitious eye the haunt [round,
Of wood-gods and wood-nymphs; he view'd it
When suddenly a man before him stood,
Not rustic as before, but seemlier clad,
As one in city' or court, or palace bred, 300
And with fair speech to him these words address’d.
With granted leave officious I return,
But much more wonder that the Son of God
In this wild solitude so long should bide
Of all things destitute, and well I know
Not without hunger. Others of some note,
As story tells, have trod this wilderness;
The fugitive bond-woman with her son
Outcast Nabaioth, yet found here relief
By a providing angel; all the race
Of Israel here had famish’d, had not God
Rain'd from Heav'n manna; and that prophet bold
Native of Thebez, wand'ring here was fed
Twice by a voice inviting him to eat:
Of thee these forty days none hath regard,
Forty and more deserted here indeed.
[hence ? To whom thus Jesus. What conclud'st thou They all had need, I as thou seest have none,
How hast thou hunger then ? Satan reply'd : Tell me if food were now before thee set, 320 Would'st thou not eat? Thereafter as I like.
The giver, answer'd Jesus. Why should that
Cause thy refusal ? said the subtle fiend.
Hast thou not right to all created things ?
Owe not all creatures by just right to thee
Duty and service not to stay till bid,
But tènder all their power ? nor mention I
Meats by the law unclean, or offer'd first
To idols, those young Daniel could refuse ;
Nor proffer'd by an enemy, though who 330
Would scruple that, with want oppressd ? Behold
Nature asham'd, or better to express,
Troubled that thou should'st hunger, hath purvey'd
From all the elements her choicest store
To treat thee as beseems, and as her Lord
With honor, only deign to sit and eat.
He spake no dream, for as his words had end, Our Saviour lifting up
In ample space under the broadest shade
A table richly spread, in regal mode, 340
With dishes pil'd, and meats of noblest sort
And savor, beasts of chase, or fowl of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boild,
Gris-amber steam'd; all fish from sea or shore,
Freshest, or purling brook, of shell or fin,
And exquisitest name,
for which was drain'd Pontus, and Lucrine bay, and Afric coast. Alas how simple, to these cates compar'd, Was that crude apple that diverted Eve! And at a stately side-board by the wine 350 That fragrant smell diffus'd, in order stood
Tall stripling youths rich clad, of fairer hue
Then Ganymed or Hylas; distant more
Under the trees now tripp’d, now solemn stood
Nymphs of Diana's train, and Naiades
With fruits and flower's from Almathea's horn,
And ladies of th' Hesperides, that seem'd
Fairer than feign'd of old, or fabled since
Of faery damsels met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones, 360
Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pelenore :
And all the while harmonious airs were heard
Of chiming strings, or charming pipes, and winds
Of gentlest gale Arabian odors fann'd
From their soft wings, and Flora's earliest smells.
Such was splendour, and the Tempter now
His invitation earnestly renew'd.
What donbts the Son of God to sit and eat? These are not fruits forbidden; no interdict Defends the touching of these viands pure ;
370 Their taste no knowledge works at least of evil, But life preserves, destroys life's enemy, Hunger, with sweet restorative delight. All these are spi'rits of air, and woods, and springs, Thy gentle ministers, who come to pay Thee homage, and acknowledge thee their Lord & What doubt'st thou Son of God? sit down and eat.
To whom thus Jesus, temp’rately reply'd Said'st thou not that to all things I had right? And who withholds my power that right to use? 388 Shall I receive by gift what of my own,
When and where likes me best, I can command ?
I can at will, doubt not, as soon as thou,
Command a table in this wilderness,
And cali swift flights of angels ministrant
Array'd in glory on my cup to attend :
Why should'st thou then obtrude this diligence,
In vain, where no acceptance it can find;
And with my hunger what hast thou to do ?
Thy pompous delicacies I contemn,
390 And count thy specious gifts no gifts but guiles.
To whom thus answer'd Satan malecontent: That I have also power to give thou seest ; If of that pow'r I bring thee voluntary What I might have bestow'd on whom I pleasid, And rather opportunely in this place Chose to impart to thy apparent need, Why should'st thou not accept it? but I see What I can do or offer is
suspect; Of these things others quickly will dispose, 400 Whose pains have earn'd the far fet spoil. With that Both table and provision vanish'd quite With sounds of Harpies' wings, and talons heard; Only th’ importune Tempter still remain’d, And with these words his temptation pursu'd.
By hunger, that each other creature tames, Thou art not to be harm’d; therefore not mov'd; Thy temperance invincible besides, For no allurement yields to appetite, And all thy heart is set on high designs, 410 High actions ; but wherewith to be achiev'd ?