[Milton-L] Merry Christmas

Paul Miller pm9 at comcast.net
Mon Dec 24 22:07:35 EST 2007


      Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity 
        
      THIS 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          5 
      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   10 
      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   15 
      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,   20 
      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:   
      O run, prevent them with thy humble ode   
      And lay it lowly at His blessed feet;   25 
      Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,   
      And join thy voice unto the Angel quire   
      From out His secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.   
         
      THE HYMN

      It was the winter wild   
      While the heaven-born Child   30 
      All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;   
      Nature in awe to Him   
      Had doff'd her gaudy trim,   
      With her great Master so to sympathize:   
      It was no season then for her   35 
      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,   40 
      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,   45 
      Sent down the meek-eyed Peace;   
      She, crown'd with olive green, came softly sliding   
      Down through the turning sphere,   
      His ready harbinger,   
      With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;   50 
      And waving wide her myrtle wand,   
      She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.   
         
      No war, or battle's sound   
      Was heard the world around:   
      The idle spear and shield were high uphung;   55 
      The hookèd chariot stood   
      Unstain'd with hostile blood;   
      The trumpet spake not to the armèd throng;   
      And kings sat still with awful eye,   
      As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.   60 
         
      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 kist   65 
      Whispering new joys to the mild oceàn-   
      Who now hath quite forgot to rave,   
      While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmèd wave.   
         
      The stars, with deep amaze,   
      Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze,   70 
      Bending one way their precious 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   75 
      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,   80 
      As his inferior flame   
      The new-enlighten'd world no more should need;   
      He saw a greater Sun appear   
      Than his bright throne, or burning axle-tree could bear.   
         
      The shepherds on the lawn   85 
      Or ere the point of dawn   
      Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;   
      Full little thought they than   
      That the mighty Pan   
      Was kindly come to live with them below;   90 
      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-   95 
      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.  100 
         
      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,  105 
      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  110 
      That with long beams the shamefaced night array'd;   
      The helmèd Cherubim   
      And sworded Seraphim   
      Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,   
      Harping in loud and solemn quire  115 
      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  120 
      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!  125 
      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;  130 
      And with your ninefold harmony   
      Make 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;  135 
      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.  140 
         
      Yea, Truth and Justice then   
      Will down return to men,   
      Orb'd in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,   
      Mercy will sit between   
      Throned in celestial sheen,  145 
      With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering;   
      And Heaven, as at some festival,   
      Will open wide the gates of her high palace-hall.   
         
      But wisest Fate says No;   
      This must not yet be so;  150 
      The Babe yet lies in smiling infancy   
      That on the bitter cross   
      Must redeem our loss;   
      So both Himself and us to glorify:   
      Yet first, to those ychain'd in sleep  155 
      The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep;   
         
      With such a horrid clang   
      As on Mount Sinai rang   
      While the red fire and smouldering clouds outbrake:   
      The aged Earth aghast  160 
      With terror of that blast   
      Shall from the surface to the centre shake,   
      When, at the world's last sessiòn,   
      The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread His throne.   
         
      And then at last our bliss  165 
      Full and perfect is,   
      But now begins; for from this happy day   
      The old Dragon under ground,   
      In straiter limits bound,   
      Not half so far casts his usurpèd sway;  170 
      And, wroth to see his kingdom fail,   
      Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.   
         
      The Oracles are dumb;   
      No voice or hideous hum   
      Runs through the archèd roof in words deceiving.  175 
      Apollo from his shrine   
      Can no more divine,   
      With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving:   
      No nightly trance or breathèd spell   
      Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell.  180 
         
      The lonely mountains o'er   
      And the resounding shore   
      A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;   
      From haunted spring and dale   
      Edged with poplar pale  185 
      The parting Genius is with sighing sent;   
      With flower-inwoven tresses torn   
      The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.   
         
      In consecrated earth   
      And on the holy hearth  190 
      The Lars and Lemurès moan with midnight plaint;   
      In urns, and altars round   
      A drear and dying sound   
      Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;   
      And the chill marble seems to sweat,  195 
      While each peculiar Power foregoes his wonted seat.   
         
      Peor and Baalim   
      Forsake their temples dim,   
      With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine;   
      And moonèd Ashtaroth  200 
      Heaven's queen and mother both,   
      Now sits not girt with tapers' holy shine;   
      The Lybic Hammon shrinks his horn:   
      In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.   
         
      And sullen Moloch, fled,  205 
      Hath left in shadows dread   
      His burning idol all of blackest hue;   
      In vain with cymbals' ring   
      They call the grisly king,   
      In dismal dance about the furnace blue;  210 
      The brutish gods of Nile as fast,   
      Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.   
         
      Nor is Osiris seen   
      In Memphian grove, or green,   
      Trampling the unshower'd grass with lowings loud:  215 
      Nor can he be at rest   
      Within his sacred chest;   
      Nought but profoundest Hell can be his shroud;   
      In vain with timbrell'd anthems dark   
      The sable-stolèd sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.  220 
         
      He feels from Juda's land   
      The dreaded Infant's hand;   
      The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;   
      Nor all the gods beside   
      Longer dare abide,  225 
      Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:   
      Our Babe, to show His Godhead true,   
      Can in His swaddling bands control the damnèd crew.   
         
      So, when the sun in bed   
      Curtain'd with cloudy red  230 
      Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,   
      The flocking shadows pale   
      Troop to the infernal jail,   
      Each fetter'd ghost slips to his several grave;   
      And the yellow-skirted fays  235 
      Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.   
         
      But see! the Virgin blest   
      Hath laid her Babe to rest;   
      Time is, our tedious song should here have ending:   
      Heaven's youngest-teemèd star  240 
      Hath fix'd her polish'd car,   
      Her sleeping Lord with hand-maid lamp attending:   
      And all about the courtly stable   
      Bright-harness'd Angels sit in order serviceable.   
        
        
JM
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