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-Si propius stes,
Te capiet magis-
IN pious times, ere priestcraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a sin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confin'd,
When Nature prompted, and no law denied
Promiscuous use of concubine and bride;
Then Israel's monarch, after Heaven's own heart,
His vigorous warmth did variously impart
To wives and slaves; and, wide as his command,
Scatter'd his Maker's image through the land.
Michal, of royal blood, the crown did wear,
A soil ungrateful to the tiller's care:
Not so the rest; for several mothers bore
To godlike David several sons before:
But since like slaves his bed they did ascend,
No true succession could their seed attend.
Of all the numerous progeny was none
So beautiful, so brave, as Absalom:
Whether, inspir'd by some diviner lust,
His father got him with a greater gust,
Or that his conscious destiny made way,
By manly beauty, to imperial sway;
Early in foreign fields he won renown,
With kings and states allied to Israel's crown:
In peace the thoughts of war he could remove,
And seem'd as he were only born for love.
Whate'er he did, was done with so much ease,
In him alone 'twas natural to please;
His motions all accompanied with grace,
And Paradise was open'd in his face.
With secret joy indulgent David view'd
His youthful image in his son renew'd;
To all his wishes nothing he denied,
And made the charming Annabel his bride.
What faults he had (for who from faults is free?)
His father could not, or he would not see.
Some warm excesses, which the law forebore,
Were construed youth, that purg'd by boiling o'er;
And Amnon's murder, by a specious name,
Was call'd a just revenge for injur’d fame.
Thus prais'd, and lov'd, the noble youth remain❜d,
While David undisturb'd in Sion reign'd:
But life can never be sincerely blest,
Heaven punishes the bad, and proves the best.
The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murmuring race,
As ever tried the' extent and stretch of grace;
God's pamper'd people, whom, debauch'd with ease,
No king could govern, nor no God could please;
(Gods they had tried of every shape and size
That god-smiths could produce, or priests devise :)
These Adam-wits, too fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent was found
Of men by laws less circumscrib'd and bound,
They led their wild desires to woods and caves,
And thought that all but savages were slaves.
They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow
Made foolish Ishbosheth the crown forego;
Who banish'd David did from Hebron bring,
And, with a general shout, proclaim'd him king:
Those very Jews, who, at their very best,
Their humour more than loyalty express'd,
Now wonder'd why so long they had obey'd
An idol-monarch which their hands had made;
Thought they might ruin him they could create,
Or melt him to that golden calf, a state.
But these were random bolts; no form'd design,
Nor interest, made the factious crowd to join:
The sober part of Israel, free from stain,
Well knew the value of a peaceful reign;
And looking backward, with a wise affright,
Saw seams of wounds, dishonest to the sight;
In contemplation of whose ugly scars,
They curs'd the memory of civil wars.
The moderate sort of men, thus qualified,
Inclin'd the balance to the better side;
And David's mildness manag'd it so well,
The bad found no occasion to rebel.
But when to sin our bias'd nature leans,
The careful devil is still at hand with means,
And providently pimps for ill desires;
The good old cause reviv'd a plot requires.
Plots, true or false, are necessary things
To raise up commonwealths, and ruin kings.
The' inhabitants of old Jerusalem
Were Jebusites; the town so call'd from them;
And theirs the native right-
But when the chosen people grew more strong,
The rightful cause at length became the wrong;
And every loss the men of Jebus bore,
They still were thought God's enemies the more.
Thus worn or weaken'd, well or ill content,
Submit they must to David's government:
Impoverish'd and depriv'd of all command,
Their taxes doubled as they lost their land;
And what was harder yet to flesh and blood,
Their gods disgrac'd, and burnt like common wood.
This set the heathen priesthood in a flame;
For priests of all religions are the same.
Of whatsoe'er descent their godhead be,
Stock, stone, or other homely pedigree,
In his defence his servants are as bold
As if he had been born of beaten gold.
The Jewish Rabbins, though their enemies,
In this conclude them honest men and wise:
For 'twas their duty, all the learned think,
To' espouse his cause by whom they eat and drink.
From hence began that plot, the nation's curse,
Bad in itself, but represented worse;
Rais'd in extremes, and in extremes decried,
With oaths affirm'd, with dying vows denied ;
Not weigh'd nor winnow'd by the multitude,
But swallow'd in the mass, unchew'd and crude.
Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with
To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise;
Succeeding times did equal folly call,
Believing nothing, or believing all.
The' Egyptian rites the Jebusites embrac❜d,
Where gods were recommended by their taste.
Such savoury deities must needs be good,
As serv'd at once for worship and for food.
By force they could not introduce these gods;
For ten to one, in former days, was odds.
So fraud was us❜d, (the sacrificer's trade)
Fools are more hard to conquer than persuade.
Their busy teachers mingled with the Jews,
And rak'd for converts ev'n the court and stews;
Which Hebrew priests the more unkindly took,
Because the fleece accompanies the flock.
Some thought they God's Anointed meant to slay
By guns, invented since full many a day :
Our author swears it not; but who can know
How far the devil and Jebusites may go ;
This plot, which fail'd for want of common sense,
Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence:
For as, when raging fevers boil the blood,
The standing lake soon floats into a flood,
And every hostile humour, which before
Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o'er;
So several factions, from this first ferment,
Work up to foam, and threat the government.
Some by their friends, more by themselves thought
Oppos'd the power to which they could not rise: Some had in courts been great, and thrown from
Like fiends, were harden'd in impenitence :
Some, by their monarch's fatal mercy, grown
From pardon'd rebels kinsmen to the throne,
Were rais'd in power and public office high;
Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie.
Of these the false Achitophel was first,
A name to all succeeding ages curs'd;