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Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
It was the winter wild,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies ;
With her great Master so to sympathise :
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow;
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw;
But he, her fears to cease
She, crown'd with olive green, came softly sliding
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing :
b Spangled host. A magnificent line : but these four introductory stanzas are not equal to the Hymn.
c The star-led wisards. Wise men.-T. WARTON.
d From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire. Alluding to Isaiah vi. 6, 7.-NEWTON.
e Fears to cease. I believe cease is seldom used as a verb active.
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land. Dr. Newton perhaps too nicely remarks, that for “Peace to strike a peace" is an
No war, or battle's sound,
The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
But peaceful was the night,
His reign of peace upon the earth began :
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
The stars, with deep amaze,
Bending one way their precious influence;
Or Lucifer, that often warn’d them thence;
And, though the shady gloom i
The sun himself withheld his wonted speed ;
inaccuracy : yet he allows that “foedus ferire” is classical. But Roman phraseology is here quite out of the question. It is not a league, or agreement of peace between two parties, that is intended : a quick and universal diffusion is the idea. It was done as with a stroke.-T. WARTON.
Yet it will perhaps be generally supposed that Milton had the “ferire foedus,” which Stephens interprets "pacem componere,” in his mind.-DUNSTER.
& The hooked chariot stood
Unstain'd with hostile blood. Liv, 1. xxxvii. xli. “Falcatæ quadrigæ, quibus se perturbaturum hostium aciem Antiochus crediderat, in suos terrorem verterunt.”—BOWLE.
Nothing can be more poetically grand than this stanza. In all Milton's noble poetry there are few passages finer than this.
b The winds, with wonder whist. “Whist” is silenced. In Stanyhurst's Virgil “Intentique ora tenebant,” is translated, “They whisted all.” B. ii. 1.-T. WARTON.
i While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave. Another glorious line. The whole stanza breathes the essence of descriptive poetry.
i And, though the shady gloom, &c. Mr. Bowle saw with me that this stanza is a copy of one in Spenser's “ April :"
And hid his head for shame,
The new-enlighten'd world no more should need :
The shepherds on the lawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustick row;
Was kindly come to live with them below k:
When such musick sweet
As never was by mortal finger strook ;
As all their souls in blissful rapture took :
Nature, that heard such sound !
Of Cynthia's seat, the aery region thrilling,
And that her reign had here its last fulfilling :
I sawe Phoebus thrust out his golden hede
Vpon her to gaze :
It did him amaze.
k That the mighty Pan
TVas kindly come to live with them below. That is, with the shepherds on the lawn. So, in Spenser's “May,” which Milton imitates in “Lycidas :
I muse what account both these will make,
When great Pan account of shepheards shall aske. We should recollect that Christ is styled a shepherd in the sacred writings. Mr. Bowle observes, that Dante calls him Jupiter, “Purgat.” c. vi. v. 118; and that this passage is literally adopted by Pulci, “Morgant. Magg.” c. i. v. 2.-T. WARTON.
I Nature, that heard such sound. I suppose this is one of the stanzas which Warton deemed a conceit. I can hardly call it so.
At last surrounds their sight
That with long beams the shamefaced night array'd ;
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,
Such musick ŋ, as 'tis said,
But when of old the sons of morning sung,
And the well-balanced world on hinges hung ;
Ring out, ye crystal spheres ;
power to touch our senses so;
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold;
m With unexpressive notes. So, in “Lycidas,” v. 176 :
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song. The word, which is the object of this note, was perhaps coined by Shakspeare, “As you Like it,” a. iii. s. 2 :
The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she.—T. WARTON. This stanza is sublime, and in Milton's peculiar manner.
n Such musick. This stanza also is of equal excellence; and so the stanza which follows.
• And let the bass of Heaven's deep organ blow. Here is another idea caught by Milton from St. Paul's cathedral while he was a school-boy. Milton was not yet a puritan : afterwards, he and his friends the fanatics would not have allowed of so papistical an establishment as an organ and a choir, even in heaven.-T. WARTON.
I think, to name the organ, in speaking of the music of the spheres, is rather the bathos.
P And, with your ninefold harmony.
9 And speckled Vanity, &c. Plainly taken from the "maculosum nefas” of Horace, “Od.” v. 4. 23.—Jos. WARTON.
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould ;
Orb’d in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
With radiant feets the tissued clouds down steering t;
The Babe yet lies in smiling infancy,
So both himself and us to glorify:
While the red fire and smouldering clouds out brake :
Shall from the surface to the centre shake;
Vanity dressed in a variety of gaudy colours. Unless he means spots, the marks of disease and corruption, and the symptoms of approaching death.-T. WARTON.
* And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
Cernatur, trepidentque immisso lumine Manes.-T. WARTON.
• With radiant feet. Isaiah lii. 7:—“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings—that publisheth salvation ; that saith unto Sion, Thy God reigneth !”DUNSTER.
· Down steering. The old writers use this word simply for moving. Thus our author, in “Samson Àgonistes,” ver. 110 :
u The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep. A line of great energy, elegant and sublime.-T. WARTON.