Paradise Regained - Book IIb (thing)
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Wed Sep 27 2000 at 17:33:19
"Where will this end? Four times ten days I have
y maze, and human food
Nor tasted, nor had appetite. That fast
To virtue I impute not, or count part
Of what I suffer here. If nature need not,
support nature without repast, 250
Though needing, what praise is it to endure?
But now I feel I
; which declares
Nature hath need of what she asks. Yet
Can satisfy that need some other way,
hunger still remain. So it remain
Without this body's wasting, I content me,
And from the sting of
Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts, that feed
Me hungering more to do my
It was the hour of night, when thus the
in silent walk, then laid him down
Of trees thick interwoven. There he slept,
And dreamed, as appetite is wont to dream,
Of meats and drinks, nature's refreshment sweet.
Him thought he by the brook of
And saw the ravens with their horny
bringing even and morn--
, taught to abstain from what they brought;
He saw the
also, how he fled 270
Into the desert, and how there he slept
--then how, awaked,
He found his supper on the coals prepared,
And by the
was bid rise and eat,
And eat the second time after repose,
The strength whereof sufficed him forty days:
Sometimes that with
Or as a guest with
at his pulse.
Thus wore out night; and now the harald
Left his ground-nest, high towering to
The Morn's approach, and greet her with his song.
As lightly from his grassy couch up rose
, and found all was but a dream;
Fasting he went to sleep, and fasting waked.
Up to a hill anon his steps he reared,
From whose high top to ken the prospect round,
If cottage were in view,
, or herd;
, none he saw--
Only in a bottom saw a
birds resounding loud. 290
Thither he bent his way, determined there
To rest at
, and entered soon the shade
High-roofed, and walks beneath, and alleys brown,
That opened in the midst a woody scene;
Nature's own work it seemed (
Nature taught Art
And, to a
, the haunt
. He viewed it round;
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 these words to him addressed:--
"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
, with her son,
, yet found here
By a providing
; all the race 310
here had famished, had not
; and that
, wandering here, was fed
Twice by a voice inviting him to eat.
Of thee those forty days none hath regard,
Forty and more deserted here indeed."
To whom thus
:--"What conclud'st thou hence?
They all had need; I, as thou seest, have none."
"How hast thou hunger then?"
"Tell me, if food were now before thee set, 320
Wouldst thou not eat?" "Thereafter as I like
the giver," answered
. "Why should that
Cause thy refusal?" said the subtle
"Hast thou not right to all created things?
Owe not all creatures, by just right, to thee
Duty and service, nor to stay till bid,
But tender all their power? Nor mention I
Meats by the law unclean, or offered first
To idols--those young
Nor proffered by an
--though who 330
Would scruple that, with want oppressed? Behold,
Nature ashamed, or, better to express,
Troubled, that thou shouldst hunger, hath purveyed
From all the elements her choicest store,
To treat thee as beseems, and as her Lord
With honour. Only
He spake no dream; for, as his words had end,
, lifting up his eyes, beheld,
In ample space under the broadest shade,
A table richly spread in
With dishes piled and meats of noblest sort
And savour--beasts of chase, or fowl of game,
built, or from the spit, or boiled,
-steamed; all fish, from sea or shore,
brook, of shell or fin,
And exquisitest name, for which was drained
Alas! how simple, to these cates compared,
Was that crude
And at a stately sideboard, by the wine, 350
That fragrant smell diffused, in order stood
Tall stripling youths rich-clad, of fairer hue
; distant more,
Under the trees now tripped, now solemn stood,
's train, and
With fruits and flowers from
And ladies of the
, that seemed
of old, or
met in forest wide
By knights of
, or of
And all the while harmonious airs were heard
Of chiming strings or charming pipes; and winds
Of gentlest gale
From their soft wings, and
's earliest smells.
Such was the splendour; and the
His invitation earnestly renewed:--
"What doubts 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
of air, and woods, and springs,
Thy gentle ministers, who come to pay
Thee homage, and acknowledge thee their
What doubt'st thou,
Son of God
? Sit down and eat."
To whom thus
"Said'st thou not that to all things I had right?
And who withholds my power that right to use? 380
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
And call swift flights of
Arrayed in glory, on my cup to attend:
Why shouldst thou, then, obtrude this
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
To whom thus answered
"That I have also power to give thou seest;
If of that power I bring thee
What I might have bestowed on whom I pleased,
And rather opportunely in this place
Chose to impart to thy apparent need,
Why shouldst 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 earned the
." With that
Both table and provision vanished quite,
With sound of
' wings and talons heard;
Only the importune
And with these words his
, that each other creature tames,
Thou art not to be harmed, therefore not moved;
For no allurement yields to
And all thy heart is set on high designs, 410
High actions. But wherewith to be achieved?
Great acts require great means of enterprise;
Thou art unknown, unfriended, low of
A carpenter thy
Bred up in
and straits at home,
Lost in a desert here and hunger-bit.
Which way, or from what hope, dost thou aspire
To greatness? whence
What followers, what retinue canst thou gain,
Or at thy heels the
Longer than thou canst feed them on thy cost?
Money brings honour, friends, conquest, and realms.
And his son
Thy throne, but
, that got him puissant friends?
Therefore, if at great things thou wouldst 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
, sit in
To whom thus
Jesus patiently replied
"Yet wealth without these three is impotent
To gain dominion, or to keep it gained--
Witness those ancient empires of the earth,
In highth of all their flowing wealth
But men endued with these have oft attained,
In lowest poverty, to highest deeds--
, and the shepherd lad
Whose offspring on the throne of
So many ages, and shall yet
That seat, and reign in
Among the Heathen (for throughout the world
To me is not unknown what hath been done
Worthy of memorial) canst thou not remember
For I esteem those names of men so poor,
Who could do mighty things, and could contemn
Riches, though offered from the hand 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?
not riches, then, the toil of fools,
The wise man's
, if not snare; more apt
To slacken virtue and abate her edge
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 shew, is but a wreath of thorns,
Brings dangers, troubles, cares, and sleepless nights, 460
To him who wears the regal
on his shoulders each man's burden lies
For therein stands the office of a
, 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
Which every wise and virtuous man attains;
And who attains not, ill
Cities of men, or headstrong
Subject himself to anarchy within,
passions in him, which he serves.
But to guide nations in the way of truth
, and from error lead
To know, and, knowing, worship
Is yet more
. This attracts the soul,
the inner man, the nobler part;
That other o'er the body only reigns,
And oft by force--which to a
So reigning can be no sincere delight. 480
Besides, to give a kingdom hath been thought
Greater and nobler done, and to lay down
, than to
Riches are needless, then, both for themselves,
And for thy reason why they should be
To gain a
, oftest better missed."
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