« PreviousContinue »
Great acts require great means of enterprise ;
Thou art unknown, unfriended, low of birth,
A carpenter thy father known, thyself
Bred up in poverty and straights at home,
Lost in a desert here and hunger-bit :
Which way, or from what hope dost thou aspire
To greatness? whence authority deriv'st?
What followers, what retinue can'st thou gain,
Or at thy heels the dizzy multitude, 420
Longer than thou canst feed them on thy cost ?
Money brings honour, friends, conquest, and
What rais'd Antipater the Edomite, [realms ;
And his son Herod plac'd on Judah's throne,
(Thy throne) but gold that got him puissant friends?
Therefore, if at great things_thou would'st arrive,
Get riches first, get wealth, and treasure heap,
Not difficult, if thou hearken to me;
Riches are mine, Fortune is in my hand;
They whom I favour thrive in wealth amain, 430
While Virtue, Valour, Wisdom sit in want.
To whom thus Jesus patiently reply'd.
Yet wealth without these three is impotent
To gain dominion, or to keep it gain'd.
Witness those ancient empires of the earth,
In height of all their flowing wealth dissolv'd:
But men endued with these have oft attain'd
In lowest poverty to highest deeds ;
Gideon and Jephtha, and the shepherd lad,
Whose offspring on the throne of Judah sat 440
So many ages, and shall yet regain
That seat, and reign in Israel without end.
Among the Heathen (for thoughout the world
To me is not unknown what hath been done
Worthy' of memorial,) canst thou not remember
Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus;
For I esteem those names of men so poor
Who could do mighty things, and could contema
Riches though offer'd from the hands of kings.
And what in me seems wanting, but that I 450
May also in this poverty as soon
Accomplish what they did, perhaps and more ?
Extol not riches then, the toil of fools,
The wise man's cumbrance if not snare, more apt
To slacken virtue, and abate her edge,
Than prompt her to do aught may merit praise.
What if with like aversion I reject
Riches and realms; yet not for that a crown,
Golden in show, is but a wreath of thorns,
Brings dangers, troubles, cares, and sleepless nights
To him who wears the regal diadem, 461
When on his shoulders each man's burthen lies.
For therein stands the office of a king,
His honor, virtue, merit and chief praise,
That for the public all this weight he bears.
Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king;
wise and virtuous man attains :
And who attains not, ill aspires to rule
Cities of men, or headstrong multitudes, 470
Subjects himself to anarchy within,
Or lawless passions in him which he serves.
But to guide nations in the way of truth
By saving doctrine, and from error lead ;
To know, and, knowing, worship God aright,
Is yet more kingly; this attracts the soul,
Governs the inner man, the nobler part ;
That other o'er the body only reigns,
And oft by force, which to a generous mind
So reigning can be no sincere delight. 480
Besides to give a kingdom hath been thought
Greater and nobler done, and to lay down
Far more magnanimous, than to assume.
Riches are needless then, both for themselves,
And for thy reason why they should be sought,
To gain a sceptre, oftest better miss’d.
THE END OF THE SECOND BOOK,
spake the Son of God, and Satan stoodi A while as mute, confounded wbat to say, What to reply, confuted and convinc'd Of his weak arguing, and fallacious drift ; At length collecting all his serpent wiles, With soothing word renew'd, him thus accosts:
I see thou know'st what is of use to know, What best to say can say, to do can’st do ; Thy actions to thy words accord, thy words To thy large heart give utterance due, thy heart 10 Contains of good, wise, just, the perfect shape. Should kings and nations from thy mouth consult, Thy counsel would be as the oracle Urim and Thummim, those oraculous gems On Aaron's breast; or tongue of seers old Infallible; or wert thou sought to deeds That might require th' array of war, thy skill Of conduct would be such, that all the world Could not sustain thy prowess, or subsist In battle, though against thy few in arms. 20 These godlike virtues wherefore dost thou hide, Affecting private life, or more obscure In savage wilderness? wherefore deprive
All earth her wonder at thy acts, thyself
The fame and glory, glory the reward
That sole excites to high attempts, the flame
Of most erected spirits, most temper'd pure
Ethereal, who all pleasures else despise,
All treasures and all gain esteem as dross,
And dignities and powers all but the highest? 30
Thy years are ripe, and over-ripe ; the son
Of Macedonian Philip had ere these
Won Asia, and the throne of Cyrus held
At his dispose ; young Scipio had brought down
The Carthaginian pride : young Pompey quellid
The Pontic king, and in triumph had rode.
Yet years, and to ripe years judgment mature,
Quench not the thirst of glory, but augment,
Great Julius, whom now all the world admires,
The more he grew
in years, the more inflam'd 40 With glory, wept that he had liv'd so long Inglorious : but thou yet art not too late.
To whom our Saviour calmly thus reply'd: Thou neither dost persuade me to seek wealth For empire's sake, nor empire to affect For glory's sake, by all thy argument, For what is glory but the blaze of fame, The people's praise, if always praise unmix'd ? And what the people but a herd confus'd, 49 A miscellaneous rabble, who extol (praise ? Things vulgar, and well weigh’d, scarce worth the They praise, and they admire they know not what,