BOOK I (excerpt)
I sing the man who Judah’s sceptre bore
In that right hand which held the crook before;
Who from best poet, best of kings did grow;
The two chief gifts Heav’n could on man bestow.
Much danger first, much toil did he sustain,
Whilst Saul and Hell cross’d his strong fate in vain.
Nor did his crown less painful work afford;
Less exercise his patience, or his sword;
So long her conqueror fortunes spite pursued;
Till with unwearied virtue he subdued
All homebred malice, and all foreign boasts;
Their strength was armies, his the Lord of Hosts.
Thou, who didst David’s royal stem adorn,
And gav’st him birth from whom thy self wast born;
Who didst in triumph at death’s court appear,
And slew’st him with thy nails, thy cross and spear,
Whilst Hell’s black tyrant trembled to behold,
The glorious light he forfeited of old;
Who Heav’ns glad burden now, and justest pride,
Sit’st high enthron’d next thy great Father’s side,
(Where hallowed flames help to adorn that head
Which once the blushing thorns environed,
Till crimson drops of precious blood hung down
Like rubies to enrich thine humble crown.)
Even thou my breast with such blest rage inspire,
As mov’d the tuneful strings of David’s lyre,
Guide my bold steps with thine old travelling flame,
In these untrodden paths to sacred fame;
Lo, with pure hands thy heav’enly fires to take,
My well-chang’d Muse I a chaste vestal make!
From earth’s vain joys, and love’s soft witchcraft free,
I consecrate my Magdalene to thee!
Lo, this great work, a temple to thy praise,
On polish’d pillars of strong verse I raise!
A temple, where if thou vouchsafe to dwell,
It Solomon’s, and Herod’s shall excel.
Too long the Muses-land have heathen bin;
Their gods too long were devils, and virtues sin;
But thou, Eternal Word, has call’d forth me
Th’ apostle, to convert that world to thee;
T’ unbind the charms that in slight fables lie,
And teach that truth is purest poesy.