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The Seven Temptations.

What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted. Burns.




'What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted.'


THE idea of this poem originated in a strong impression of the immense value of the human soul, and of all the varied modes of its trials, according to its own infinitely varied modifications, as existing in different individuals. We see the awful mass of sorrow and of crime in the world, but we know only in part-in a very small degree, the fearful weight of solicitations and impulses of passion, and the vast constraint of circumstances, that are brought into play against suffering humanity. In the luminous words of my


Thus, without sufficient reflection, we are furnished with data on which to condemn our fellow-creatures, but without sufficient grounds for their palliation and commiseration. It is necessary for the acquisition of that charity, which is the soul of Christianity, for us to descend into the depths of our own nature; to put ourselves into many imaginary and untried situations, that we may enable ourselves to form some tolerable notion how we might be affected by them; how far we might be tempted- how far deceivedhow far we might have occasion to lament the evil power of circumstances, to weep over our own weakness, and pray for the pardon of our crimes; that, having raised up this vivid perception of what we might do, suffer and become, we may apply the rule to our fellows, and cease to be astonished in some

degree, at the shapes of atrocity into which some of them are transformed; and learn to bear with others as brethren, who have been tried tenfold beyond our own experience, or perhaps our strength.

The evil agent whom I have employed for the working out of this moral process, in this poem, may either be regarded literally, as he is represented, according to the popular creed; or simply, as a personification of the principle of temptation, as each individual reader's own bias of sentiment may lead him to prefer: for my own part, I regard him in the latter point of view.

There may be some who may not approve of the extent of crime which I have brought into action in the course of these dramas. They may deem the experiment especially dubious in a female writer. But let such reflect, that without high temptation there could be no high crime; without high crime there could be no actual and adequate representation of human nature, as we know it to exist. And therefore to have flinched in this respect, would have been to defeat the whole object of my work. Let those reflect also, that it has not been my plan to render the description of crime alluring. In that case I should have deserved, not only all the blame the timid or the rigidly righteous could heap upon me, but also that of the philosophical observer of our nature; for my view of it then would have been false and injust. But I have painted the career of crime such as it is-one uniform downward tendency to degradation and ruinous misery; and have thereby held up to young and old, to strong and weak, to

the high and the lowly of earth, the most important moral lesson that the light and darkness of this strange life can teach to tried, allured, rational yet corruptible, intellectual yet sense-involved beings the most important we are capable of giving or receiving.

The scenes, characters, and events in these dramas are, as in human life, exceedingly various, and exceedingly diversified in their degrees of moral purity or turpitude; but if they are allowed only to be such as fall really within the scope of our nature, they need no defence, for they must be full of lessons of wisdom and of stimulus to good.


In a gloomy chaotic region of universal space inhabited by the Spirits of Evil, who, enraged at their expulsion from heaven, still endeavoured to revenge themselves upon the justice of God, by overturning or defacing the beauty of his moral creation in the spirit of man, sate three of the lower order of Spirits. Among them was, Achzib the liar, or the runner to and fro,—a restless, ambitious spirit, who, hating good, coveted distinction among the bad.

"Ay," replied Achzib, "it is an easy thing for some to obtain distinction! I have desired it for long; I have done services to merit it; but my merits, like my desires, are fruitless."

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For a long time they had sate in silence, each occupied by his own cogitations; and there is no telling how much longer they might have remained so, had not the attention of the youngest been diverted by a gloomily magnificent procession, which was dimly seen passing in the distance.

The Scholar's Room. - Evening.


Little Boy, reading. "These things I have spoken


Another of the favoured ones," said he, "is this unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the day crowned!" world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Here endeth the 16th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.

Poor Scholar. Most precious words! Now go your

"I have done much," said Achzib, "as ye all know!"

"But, if thou have failed to do this,' rejoined the other, "thou canst not have deserved the distinction thou desirest!"

"But that is soon done!" answered Achzib. "Not so soon!" interrupted the youngest spirit. "I have tried to prove it till I am weary; and now I unreluctantly make the confession, that though we are mighty, God is mightier than we-his mercy is stronger than our hate, his integrity than our craft!"

"I deny all this," said Achzib, "and I will prove it beyond controversy! I will directly ascend to the earth and of the human spirits whom I will tempt, I will win the greater number, if not all of them, to their ruin!"

ours thou murmurest against: it is for less than this that he obtained them!"


"If thou do this," said the eldest spirit, "thou wilt indeed deserve to be crowned like him whose hon

You shall see," said Achzib exultingly, "what I will do. I will select seven human beings, and tempt them according to their several natures; and if I prove not beyond dispute the superior power of evil, let me be called tenfold, Achzib the liar!" 'Be it so!" replied the other two.


Achzib was upon earth. He took up his abode in a famous city, and assuming the character of a philosopher, inquired out their most learned men. All told him of a poor scholar. Achzib saw him and conversed with him. He found him young, worn out with study, and as simple, unpractised and inexperienced in the ways of men as a child. This shall be my first essay, said Achzib; and accordingly, accumulating learned treatises and immeasurably long parchments of puzzling but unsound philosophy, he made his attempt. Whether Achzib or the Poor Scholar triumphed, shall be seen.






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