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THE POEMS OF JOHN MILTON

WRITTEN AT SCHOOL AND COLLEGE

1624–1632

ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY

(1629)

I

T

HIS is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King,

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.

II

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.

III

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,

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Hath took no print of the approaching light, And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons

bright?

IV

See how from far upon the Eastern road
The star-led Wisards haste with odours sweet!
Oh! run; prevent them with tlıy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessèd 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.

THE HYMN

I

It was the winter wild,

While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt 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.

II

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,

III

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 a universal peace through sea and land.

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IV

No war, or battail's sound,

Was heard the world around;
The idle spear and shield were high uphung;

The hooked chariot stood,

Unstained with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And Kings sat still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.

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But peaceful was the night

Whercin 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.

VI

The stars, with deep amaze,

Stand fixed in steadfast gaze,
Bending one way their precious influence,

And will not take their fight,

For all the morning light,
Or Lucifer that often warned them thence;
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.

VII

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.

VIII

The Shepherds on the lawn,

Or ere the point of dawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;

Full little thought they than

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.

IX

When such music sweet

Their hearts and ears did greet
As never was by mortal finger strook,

Divinely-warbled voice

Answering the stringèd noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly
close.

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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.

XI

At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,

That with long beams the shamefaced Night

arrayed;
The helmed Cherubim

And sworded Seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displayed,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes, to Heaven's newborn Heir.

XII

Such music (as 't is 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.

XIII

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 bass of heaven's deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to the angelic symphony.

XIV

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.

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