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O'er all his brethren he shall reign as king,
Yet every one shall make him underling,
And those that cannot live from him asunder
Ungratefully shall strive to keep him under,
In worth and excellence he shall out-go them,
Yet, being above them, he shall be below them:
From others he shall stand in need of nothing,
Yet on his brothers shall depend for clothing.
To find a foe it shall not be his hap,
And peace shall lull him in her flowery lap;
Yet shall he live in strife, and at his door
Devouring war shall never cease to roar:
Yea it shall be his natural property
To harbour those that are at enmity.
What power, what force, what mighty spell, if not
Your learned hands, can loose this Gordian knot?
[The next, Quantity and Quality, spake in prose, then
Relation was called by his name.]
RIVERS, arise!whether thou be the son
Of utmost Tweed, or Oose, or gulfy Dun;
Or Trent, who, like some earth-born giant, spreads
His thirty arms along the indented meads;
Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath ;
Or Severn swift, guilty of maidens' death ;
Or rocky Avon; or of sedgy Lee;
Or coalý Tine; or ancient hallowed Dee;
Or Humber loud, that keeps the Scythian's name,
Or Medway smooth; or royal towered Thame.
[The rest was prose.]
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
I. This is the month, and this the happy morn, Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King, 1 In invoking these rivers, Milton had his eye particularly upon that admirable episode in Spenser of the marriage of the Thames and the Medway, where the several rivers are introduced in honour of the cers mony.--Newton.
2 When Milton was twenty-one years old.
Of wedded maid, and 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.
That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty
Wherewith he wont at Heaven's high council-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 darksome house of mortal clay.
Say, heavenly muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
To welcome him to this his new abode,
Now while the Heaven, by the sun's team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?
See how from far upon the eastern road
The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet:
Oh, run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,
And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.?
It was the winter wild,
While the Heaven-born child
All meanly wrapped in the rude manger lies:
Nature in awe to him
Had doffed her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize :
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw,
Confounded, that her Maker's eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities
But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyed Peace;
She, crowned with olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere
His ready harbinger,
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing,
And waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes an universal peace? through sea and land.
No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard the world around :
The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hooked chariot stood,
Unstained with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the arméd throng,
And kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
His reign of peace upon the earth began :
The winds with wonder whist?
Smoothly the waters kissed,
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave
The stars with deep amaze
Stand fixed in stedfast gaze,
Bending one way their precious influence,
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
Or Lucifer that often urned them thence;
1“Strikes peace," a Latinism, fædus ferire.
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,
The sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame
The new enlightened world no more should need ;
He saw a greater sun appear
Than his bright throne, or burning axletree, could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or e'er the point of dawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they then,
That the mighty Pan
Was kindly come to live with them below;
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
As never was by mortal finger strook,
Answering the stringéd noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took :
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.
Nature that heard such sound,
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia's seat, the airy region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was done,
And that her reign had here its last fulfilling;
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all heaven and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shame-faced night arrayed ; The helméd cherubim,
And sworded seraphim,
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displayed, Harping in loud and solemn quire, With unexpressive notes to Heaven's new-born Heir.
Such music (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-balanced world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring out, ye crystal spheres,
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 Heaven's deep organ blow
And with your ninefold harmony
up full consort to the angelic symphony.
For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould,
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
Orbed in a rainbow; and like glories wearinga
Mercy will sit between,
Throned in celestial sheen,
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering, And Heaven, as at some festival, Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall. 1 Job xxxviii. 7. 2 This is the author's own correction. He had originally written
“The enamelled arras of the rainbow wearing;
And Mercy sit between," &c.