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ON THE MORNING OF CHRISTS NATIVITY

by John Milton

 

Compos'd 1629 -

I

THIS is the Monthand this the happy morn

Wherin the Son of Heav'ns eternal King

Of wedded Maidand Virgin Mother born

Our great redemption from above did bring;

For so the holy sages once did sing

That he our deadly forfeit should release

And with his Father work us a perpetual peace. -

II

That glorious Formthat Light unsufferable

And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty

Wherwith he wont at Heav'ns high Councel-Table

To sit the midst of Trinal Unity

He laid aside; and here with us to be

Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day

And chose with us a darksom House of mortal Clay. -

III

Say Heav'nly Museshall not thy sacred vein

Afford a present to the Infant God?

Hast thou no versno hymnor solemn strein

To welcom him to this his new abode

Now while the Heav'n by the Suns team untrod

Hath took no print of the approching light

And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright? -

IV

See how from far upon the Eastern rode

The Star-led Wisards haste with odours sweet

O runprevent them with thy humble ode

And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;

Have thou the honour firstthy Lord to greet

And joyn thy voice unto the Angel Quire

From out his secret Altar toucht with hallow'd fire.

THE HYMN -

I

It was the Winter wilde

While the Heav'n-born-childe

All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;

Nature in aw to him

Had doff't her gawdy trim

With her great Master so to sympathize:

It was no season then for her

To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour. -

II

Only with speeches fair

She woo's the gentle Air

To hide her guilty front with innocent Snow

And on her naked shame

Pollute with sinfull blame

The Saintly Vail of Maiden white to throw

Confoundedthat her Makers eyes

Should look so neer upon her foul deformities. -

III

But he her fears to cease

Sent down the meek-eyd Peace

She crown'd with Olive greencame softly sliding

Down through the turning sphear

His ready Harbinger

With Turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing

And waving wide her mirtle wand

She strikes a universall Peace through Sea and Land. -

IV

No Waror Battails sound

Was heard the World around

The idle spear and shield were high up hung;

The hooked Chariot stood

Unstain'd with hostile blood

The Trumpet spake not to the armed throng

And Kings sate still with awfull eye

As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by. -

V

But peacefull was the night

Wherin the Prince of light

His raign of peace upon the earth began:

The Windes with wonder whist

Smoothly the waters kist

Whispering new joyes the milde Ocean

Who now hath quite forgot to rave

While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmed wave. -

VI

The Stars with deep amaze

Stand fixt in stedfast gaze

Bending one way their pretious influence

And will not take their flight

For all the morning light

Or Lucifer that often warn'd them thence;

But in their glimmering Orbs did glow

Untill their Lord himself bespakeand bid them go. -

VII

And though the shady gloom

Had given day her room

The Sun himself with-held his wonted speed

And hid his head for shame

As his inferiour flame

The new enlightn'd world no more should need;

He saw a greater Sun appear

Then his bright Throneor burning Axletree could bear. -

VIII

The Shepherds on the Lawn

Or ere the point of dawn

Sate simply chatting in a rustick row;

Full little thought they than

That the mighty Pan

Was kindly com to live with them below;

Perhaps their lovesor els their sheep

Was all that did their silly thoughts so busie keep. -

IX

When such musick sweet

Their hearts and ears did greet

As never was by mortall finger strook

Divinely-warbled voice

Answering the stringed noise

As all their souls in blisfull rapture took:

The Air such pleasure loth to lose

With thousand echo's still prolongs each heav'nly close. -

X

Nature that heard such sound

Beneath the hollow round

Of Cynthia's seatthe Airy region thrilling

Now was almost won

To think her part was don

And that her raign had here its last fulfilling;

She knew such harmony alone

Could hold all Heav'n and Earth in happier union. -

XI

At last surrounds their sight

A Globe of circular light

That with long beams the shame-fac't night array'd

The helmed Cherubim

And sworded Seraphim

Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displaid

Harping in loud and solemn quire

With unexpressive notes to Heav'ns new-born Heir. -

XII

Such Musick (as 'tis said)

Before was never made

But when of old the sons of morning sung

While the Creator Great

His constellations set

And the well-ballanc't world on hinges hung

And cast the dark foundations deep

And bid the weltring waves their oozy channel keep. -

XIII

Ring out ye Crystall sphears

Once bless our human ears

(If ye have power to touch our senses so)

And let your silver chime

Move in melodious time;

And let the Base of Heav'ns deep Organ blow

And with your ninefold harmony

Make up full consort to th' Angelike symphony. -

XIV

For if such holy Song

Enwrap our fancy long

Time will run backand fetch the age of gold

And speckl'd vanity

Will sicken soon and die

And leprous sin will melt from earthly mould

And Hell it self will pass away

And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. -

XV

Yea Truthand Justice then

Will down return to men

Th' enameld Arras of the Rain-bow wearing

And Mercy set between

Thron'd in Celestiall sheen

With radiant feet the tissued clouds down stearing

And Heav'n as at som festivall

Will open wide the Gates of her high Palace Hall. -

XVI

But wisest Fate sayes no

This must not yet be so

The Babe lies yet in smiling Infancy

That on the bitter cross

Must redeem our loss;

So both himself and us to glorifie:

Yet first to those ychain'd in sleep

The wakefull trump of doom must thunder through the deep-

XVII

With such a horrid clang

As on mount Sinai rang

While the red fireand smouldring clouds out brake:

The aged Earth agast

With terrour of that blast

Shall from the surface to the center shake

When at the worlds last session

The dreadfull Judge in middle Air shall spread his throne. -

XVIII

And then at last our bliss

Full and perfect is

But now begins; for from this happy day

Th' old Dragon under ground

In straiter limits bound

Not half so far casts his usurped sway

And wrath to see his Kingdom fail

Swindges the scaly Horrour of his foulded tail. -

XIX

The Oracles are dumm

No voice or hideous humm

Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.

Apollo from his shrine

Can no more divine

With hollow shreik the steep of Delphos leaving.

No nightly tranceor breathed spell

Inspire's the pale-ey'd Priest from the prophetic cell. -

XX

The lonely mountains o're

And the resounding shore

A voice of weeping heardand loud lament;

From haunted springand dale

Edg'd with poplar pale

The parting Genius is with sighing sent

With flowre-inwov'n tresses torn

The Nimphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn. -

XXI

In consecrated Earth

And on the holy Hearth

The Larsand Lemures moan with midnight plaint

In Urnsand Altars round

A drearand dying sound

Affrights the Flamins at their service quaint;

And the chill Marble seems to sweat

While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat. -

XXII

Peorand Baalim

Forsake their Temples dim

With that twise-batter'd god of Palestine

And mooned Ashtaroth

Heav'ns Queen and Mother both

Now sits not girt with Tapers holy shine

The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn

In vain the Tyrian Maids their wounded Thamuz mourn. -

XXIII

And sullen Moloch fled

Hath left in shadows dred

His burning Idol all of blackest hue

In vain with Cymbals ring

They call the grisly king

In dismall dance about the furnace blue;

The brutish gods of Nile as fast

Isis and Orusand the Dog Anubis hast. -

XXIV

Nor is Osiris seen

In Memphian Groveor Green

Trampling the unshowr'd Grasse with lowings loud:

Nor can he be at rest

Within his sacred chest

Naught but profoundest Hell can be his shroud

In vain with Timbrel'd Anthems dark

The sable-stoled Sorcerers bear his worshipt Ark. -

XXV

He feels from Juda's Land

The dredded Infants hand

The rayes of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;

Nor all the gods beside

Longer dare abide

Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:

Our Babe to shew his Godhead true

Can in his swadling bands controul the damned crew. -

XXVI

So when the Sun in bed

Curtain'd with cloudy red

Pillows his chin upon an Orient wave

The flocking shadows pale

Troop to th' infernall jail

Each fetter'd Ghost slips to his severall grave

And the yellow-skirted Fayes

Fly after the Night-steedsleaving their Moon-lov'd maze. -

XXVII

But see the Virgin blest

Hath laid her Babe to rest.

Time is our tedious Song should here have ending

Heav'ns youngest teemed Star

Hath fixt her polisht Car

Her sleeping Lord with Handmaid Lamp attending:

And all about the Courtly Stable

Bright-harnest Angels sit in order serviceable. - -

THE END