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JOHN MILTON

1608-1674

315                              Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s
                                                         Nativity

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.
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,
Confounded, that her Makers eyes
Should look so neer her foul deformities.
But he her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyd Peace,
   She crown’d with Olive green, came 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.
No War, or Battails sound
Was heard the World around,
   The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hookàd Chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood,
   The Trumpet spake not to the armàd throng,
And Kings sate still with awfull eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of light
   His raign of peace upon the earth began:
The Windes with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
   Whispering new joyes to the milde Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmàd wave,
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 bespake, and bid them go.
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 Throne, or burning Axletree could bear.
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 loves, or els their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busie keep.
When such musick sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
   As never was by mortall finger strook,
Divinely-warbled voice
Answering the stringàd 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.
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 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.
At last surrounds their sight
A Globe of circular light,
   That with long beams the shame-fac’t night array’d,
The helmàd 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.
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.
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.
For if such holy Song
Enwarp our fancy long
   Time will run back, and 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.
Yea Truth, and 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.
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,
With such a horrid clang
As on mount Sinai rang
   While the red fire, and smouldring clouds out brake:
The agàd 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.
And then1 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 usurpàd sway,
And wrath to see his Kingdom fail,
Swindges the scaly Horrour of his foulded tail.
The Oracles are dumm,
No voice or hideous humm
   Runs through the archàd roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
   With hollow shreik the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathàd spell,
Inspire’s the pale-ey’d Priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o’re,
And the resounding shore ,
   A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;
From haunted spring, and 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.
In consecrated Earth,
And on the holy Hearth,
   The Lars, and Lemures moan with midnight plaint,
In Urns, and Altars round,
A drear, and dying sound
   Affrights the Flamins at their service quaint;
And the chill Marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.
Peor, and Baalim,
Forsake their Temples dim,
   With that twise-batter’d god of Palestine,
And moonàd 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.
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 Orus, and the Dog Anubis hast.
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian Grove, or 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-stolàd Sorcerers bear his worshipt Ark.
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 damnàd crew,
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-steeds, leaving their Moon-lov’d maze.
But see the Virgin blest,
Hath laid her Babe to rest.
   Time is our tedious Song should here have ending,
Heav’ns youngest teemàd 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.

1 Then: than.

316                                                On Time

FLY envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more then what is false and vain,
And meerly mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb’d,
And last of all, thy greedy self consum’d,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
About the supreme Throne
Of him, t’whose happy-making sight alone,
When once our heav’nly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthy grosnes quit,
Attir’d with Stars, we shall for ever sit,
   Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time.

317                                        At a Solemn Musick

BLEST pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav’ns joy,
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath’d sense able to pierce,
And to our high-rais’d phantasie present,
That undisturbàd Song of pure content,
Ay sung before the saphire-colour’d throne
To him that sits theron
With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily,
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow,
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
Hymns devout and holy Psalms
Singing everlastingly;
That we on Earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportion’d sin
Jarr’d against natures chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair musick that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway’d
In perfect Diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that Song,
And keep in tune with Heav’n, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endles morn of light.

318                                         L’Allegro

HENCE loathàd Melancholy
   Of Cerberus and blackest midnight born,
In Stygian Cave forlorn
’Mongst horrid shapes, and shreiks, and sights unholy.
Find out som uncouth cell,
   Where brooding darknes spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-Raven sings;
   There, under Ebon shades, and low-brow’d Rocks,
As ragged as thy Locks,
   In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
But com thou Goddes fair and free,
In Heav’n ycleap’d Euphrosyne,
And by men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus, at a birth
With two sister Graces more
To Ivy-crownàd Bacchus bore;
Or whether (as som Sager sing)
The frolick Wind that breathes the Spring,
Zephir with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a Maying,
There on Beds of Violets blew,
And fresh-blown Roses washt in dew,
Fill’d her with thee a daughter fair,
So bucksom, blith, and debonair.
   Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and Wreathàd Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrincled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Com, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastick toe,
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crue
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreprovàd pleasures free;
To hear the Lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-towre in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to com in spight of sorrow,
And at my window bid good morrow,
Through the Sweet-Briar, or the Vine,
Or the twisted Eglantine.
While the Cock with lively din,
Scatters the rear of darknes thin,
And to the stack, or the Barn dore,
Stoutly struts his Dames before,
Oft list’ning how the Hounds and horn
Chearly rouse the slumbring morn,
From the side of som Hoar Hill,
Through the high wood echoing shrill.
Som time walking not unseen
By Hedge-row Elms, on Hillocks green,
Right against the Eastern gate,
Wher the great Sun begins his state,
Rob’d in flames, and Amber light,
The clouds in thousand Liveries dight.
While the Plowman neer at hand,
Whistles ore the Furrow’d Land,
And the Milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the Mower whets his sithe,
And every Shepherd tells his tale
Under the Hawthorn in the dale.
Streit mine eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the Lantskip round it measures,
Russet Lawns, and Fallows Gray,
Where the nibling flocks do stray,
Mountains on whose barren brest
The labouring clouds do often rest:
Meadows trim with Daisies pide,
Shallow Brooks, and Rivers wide.
Towers, and Battlements it sees
Boosom’d high in tufted Trees,
Wher perhaps som beauty lies,
The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes.
Hard by, a Cottage chimney smokes,
From betwixt two agàd Okes,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met,
Are at their savory dinner set
Of Hearbs, and other Country Messes,
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses;
And then in haste her Bowre she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the Sheaves;
Or if the earlier season lead
To the tann’d Haycock in the Mead,
Som times with secure delight
The up-land Hamlets will invite,
When the merry Bells ring round,
And the jocond rebecks sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the Chequer’d shade;
And young and old com forth to play
On a Sunshine Holyday,
Till the live-long day-light fail,
Then to the Spicy Nut-brown Ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How Faery Mab the junkets eat,
She was pincht, and pull’d she sed,
And he by Friars Lanthorn led
Tells how the drudging Goblin swet,
To ern his Cream-bowle duly set,
When in one night, ere glimps of morn,
His shadowy Flale hath thresh’d the Corn
That ten day-labourers could not end,
Then lies him down the Lubbar Fend,
And stretch’d out all the Chimney’s length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And Crop-full out of dores he flings,
Ere the first Cock his Mattin rings.
Thus don the Tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering Windes soon lull’d asleep.
  Towred Cities please us then,
And the busie humm of men,
Where throngs of Knights and Barons bold,
In weeds of Peace high triumphs hold,
With store of Ladies, whose bright eies
Rain influence, and judge the prise
Of Wit, or Arms, while both contend
To win her Grace, whom all commend.
There let Hymen oft appear
In Saffron robe, with Taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique Pageantry,
Such sights as youthfull Poets dream
On Summer eeves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonsons learnàd Sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespear fancies childe,
Warble his native Wood-notes wilde,
And ever against eating Cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian Aires,
Married to immortal verse
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linckàd sweetnes long drawn out,
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running;
Untwisting all the chains that ty
The hidden soul of harmony.
That Orpheus self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heapt Elysian flowers, and hear
Such streins as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half regain’d Eurydice.
These delights, if thou canst give,
Mirth with thee, I mean to live.

319                                              Il Penseroso

HENCE vain deluding joyes,
   The brood of folly without father bred,
How little you bested,
   Or fill the fixàd mind with all your toyes;
Dwell in som idle brain,
   And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,
As thick and numberless
   As the gay motes that people the Sun Beams,
Or likest hovering dreams
   The fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train.
But hail thou Goddes, sage and holy,
Hail divinest Melancholy,
Whose Saintly visage is too bright
To hit the Sense of human sight;
And therefore to our weaker view,
Ore laid with black staid Wisdoms hue.
Black, but such as in esteem,
Prince Memnons sister might beseem,
Or that Starr’d Ethiope Queen that strove
To set her beauties praise above
The Sea Nymphs, and their powers offended.
Yet thou art higher far descended,
Thee bright-hair’d Vesta long of yore,
To solitary Saturn bore;
His daughter she (in Saturns raign,
Such mixture was not held a stain)
Oft in glimmering Bowres, and glades
He met her, and in secret shades
Of woody Ida’s inmost grove,
Whilst yet there was no fear of Jove.
Com pensive Nun, devout and pure,
Sober, stedfast, and demure,
All in a robe of darkest grain,
Flowing with majestick train,
And sable stole of Cipres Lawn,
Over thy decent shoulders drawn.
Com, but keep thy wonted state,
With eev’n step, and musing gate,
And looks commercing with the skies,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:
There held in holy passion still,
Forget thy self to Marble, till
With a sad Leaden downward cast,
Thou fix them on the earth as fast.
And joyn with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,
Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet,
And hears the Muses in a ring,
Ay round about Joves Altar sing.
And adde to these retiràd Leasure
That in trim Gardens takes his pleasure;
But first, and chiefest, with thee bring,
Him that yon soars on golden wing,
Guiding the fiery-wheelàd throne,
The Cherub Contemplation,
And the mute Silence hist along,
’Less Philomel will daign a Song,
In her sweetest, saddest plight,
Smoothing the rugged brow of night,
While Cynthia checks her Dragon yoke,
Gently o’re th’accustom’d Oke;
Sweet Bird that shunn’st the noise of folly,
Most musicall, most melancholy!
Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among,
I woo to hear thy eeven-Song;
And missing thee, I walk unseen
On the dry smooth-shaven Green,
To behold the wandring Moon,
Riding neer her highest noon,
Like one that had bin led astray
Through the Heav’ns wide pathles way;
And oft, as if her head she bow’d,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
Oft on a Plat of rising ground,
I hear the far-off Curfeu sound,
Over som wide-water’d shoar,
Swinging slow with sullen roar;
Or if the Ayr will not permit,
Some still removàd place will fit,
Where glowing Embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the Cricket on the hearth,
Or the Belmans drousie charm,
To bless the dores from nightly harm:
Or let my Lamp at midnight hour,
Be seen in som high lonely Towr,
Where I may oft out-watch the Bear,
With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear
The spirit of Plato to unfold
What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold
The immortal mind that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshly nook:
And of those Dæmons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground,
Whose power hath a true consent
With Planet, or with Element.
Som time let Gorgeous Tragedy
In Scepter’d Pall com sweeping by,
Presenting Thebs, or Pelops line,
Or the tale of Troy divine.
Or what (though rare) of later age,
Ennoblàd hath the Buskind stage.
   But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
Might raise Musæus from his bower
Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
Such notes as warbled to the string.
Drew Iron tears down Pluto’s cheek,
And made Hell grant what Love did seek.
Or call up him that left half told
The story of Cambuscan bold,
Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife,
That own’d the vertuous Ring and Glass,
And of the wondrous Hors of Brass,
On which the Tartar King did ride;
And if ought els, great Bards beside,
In sage and solemn tunes have sung,
Of Turneys and of Trophies hung;
Of Forests, and inchantments drear,
Where more is meant then meets the ear.
Thus night oft see me in thy pale career,
Till civil-suited Morn appeer,
Not trickt and frounc’t as she was wont,
With the Attick Boy to hunt,
But Cherchef’t in a comly Cloud,
While rocking Winds are Piping loud,
Or usher’d with a shower still,
When the gust hath blown his fill,
Ending on the russling Leaves,
With minute drops from off the Eaves.
And when the Sun begins to fling
His flaring beams, me Goddes bring
To archàd walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown that Sylvan loves,
Of Pine, or monumental Oake,
Where the rude Ax with heavàd stroke,
Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallow’d haunt.
There in close covert by som Brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from Day’s garish eie,
While the Bee with Honied thie,
That at her flowry work doth sing,
And the Waters murmuring
With such consort as they keep,
Entice the dewy-feather’d Sleep;
And let som strange mysterious dream,
Wave at his Wings in Airy stream,
Of lively portrature display’d,
Softly on my eye-lids laid.
And as I wake, sweet musick breath
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by som spirit to mortals good,
Or th’unseen Genius of the Wood.
   But let my due feet never fail,
To walk the studious Cloysters pale,
And love the high embowàd Roof,
With antick Pillars massy proof,
And storied Windows richly dight,
Casting a dimm religious light.
There let the pealing Organ blow,
To the full voic’d Quire below,
In Service high, and Anthems cleer,
As may with sweetnes, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into extasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peacefull hermitage,
The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell,
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every Star that Heav’n doth shew,
And every Herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain
To somthing like Prophetic strain.
These pleasures Melancholy give,
And I with thee will choose to live.

320                                             From ‘Arcades’

O’RE the smooth enameld green
Where no print of step hath been,
Follow me as I sing,
And touch the warbled string.
Under the shady roof
Of branching Elm Star-proof,
      Follow me,
I will bring you where she sits
Clad in splendor as befits
      Her deity.
Such a rural Queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.

321                                             From ‘Comus’

(i)

THE Star that bids the Shepherd fold,
Now the top of Heav’n doth hold,
And the gilded Car of Day,
His glowing Axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantick stream,
And the slope Sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky Pole,
Pacing toward the other gole
Of his Chamber in the East.
Mean while welcom Joy, and Feast,
Midnight shout, and revelry,
Tipsie dance, and Jollity.
Braid your Locks with rosie Twine
Dropping odours, dropping Wine.
Rigor now is gon to bed,
And Advice with scrupulous head,
Strict Age, and sowre Severity,
With their grave Saws in slumber ly.
We that are of purer fire
Imitate the Starry Quire,
Who in their nightly watchfull Sphears,
Lead in swift round the Months and Years.
The Sounds, and Seas with all their finny drove
Now to the Moon in wavering Morrice move,
And on the Tawny Sands and Shelves,
Trip the pert Fairies and the dapper Elves;
By dimpled Brook, and Fountain brim,
The Wood-Nymphs deckt with Daisies trim,
Their merry wakes and pastimes keep:
What hath night to do with sleep?
Night hath better sweets to prove,
Venus now wakes, and wak’ns Love. ...
Com, knit hands, and beat the ground,
In a light fantastick round.

322                                                       (ii)

ECHO

      SWEET Echo, sweetest Nymph that liv’st unseen
            Within thy airy shell
         By slow Meander’s margent green,
      And in the violet imbroider’d vale
         Where the love-lorn Nightingale
   Nightly to thee her sad Song mourneth well.
   Canst thou not tell me of a gentle Pair
         That likest thy Narcissus are?
            O if thou have
         Hid them in som flowry Cave,
            Tell me but where
   Sweet Queen of Parly, Daughter of the Sphear!
   So maist thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heav’ns Harmonies!

323                                                       (iii)

SABRINA

The Spirit sings:

SABRINA fair
     Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
   In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
   Listen for dear honour’s sake,
    Goddess of the silver lake,
                                     Listen and save!
Listen and appear to us,
In name of great Oceanus,
By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace,
And Tethys grave majestick pace,
By hoary Nereus wrincled look,
And the Carpathian wisards hook,
By scaly Tritons winding shell,
And old sooth-saying Glaucus spell,
By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis tinsel-slipper’d feet,
And the Songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope’s dear tomb,
And fair Ligea’s golden comb,
Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
Sleeking her soft alluring locks,
By all the Nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance,
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosie head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.
                                       Listen and save!
Sabrina replies:
   By the rushy fringàd bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
   My sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azurn sheen
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green
   That in the channell strayes,
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’re the Cowslips Velvet head,
   That bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
   I am here.

324                                                    (iv)

The Spirit epiloguizes:
TO the Ocean now I fly,
And those happy climes that ly
Where day never shuts his eye,
Up in the broad fields of the sky:
There I suck the liquid ayr
All amidst the Gardens fair
Of Hesperus, and his daughters three
That sing about the golden tree:
Along the crispàd shades and bowres
Revels the spruce and jocond Spring,
The Graces, and the rosie-boosom’d Howres,
Thither all their bounties bring,
That there eternal Summer dwels,
And West winds, with musky wing
About the cedar’n alleys fling
Nard, and Cassia’s balmy smels.
Iris there with humid bow,
Waters the odorous banks that blow
Flowers of more mingled hew
Than her purfl’d scarf can shew,
And drenches with Elysian dew
(List mortals, if your ears be true)
Beds of Hyacinth, and roses
Where young Adonis oft reposes,
Waxing well of his deep wound
In slumber soft, and on the ground
Sadly sits th’ Assyrian Queen;
But far above in spangled sheen
Celestial Cupid her fam’d son advanc’t,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet intranc’t
After her wandring labours long,
Till free consent the gods among
Make her his eternal Bride,
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born,
Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn.
   But now my task is smoothly don,
I can fly, or I can run
Quickly to the green earths end,
Where the bow’d welkin slow doth bend,
And from thence can soar as soon
To the corners of the Moon.
   Mortals that would follow me,
Love vertue, she alone is free.
She can teach ye how to clime
Higher then the Spheary chime;
Or if Vertue feeble were,
Heav’n it self would stoop to her.

325                                                  Lycidas

A Lament for a friend drowned in his passage from Chester
on the Irish Seas
, 1637

   YET once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear,
I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude,
And with forc’d fingers rude,
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.
Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not flote upon his watry bear
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of som melodious tear.
   Begin, then, Sisters of the sacred well,
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring,
Begin, and somwhat loudly sweep the string.
Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse,
So may som gentle Muse
With lucky words favour my destin’d Urn,
And as he passes turn,
And bid fair peace be to my sable shrowd.
For we were nurst upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.
   Together both, ere the high Lawns appear’d
Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,
We drove a field, and both together heard
What time the Gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Batt’ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night,
Oft till the Star that rose, at Ev’ning, bright
Towards Heav’ns descent had slop’d his westering wheel.
Mean while the Rural ditties were not mute,
Temper’d to th’Oaten Flute;
Rough Satyrs danc’d, and Fauns with clov’n heel,
From the glad sound would not be absent long,
And old Damætas lov’d to hear our song.
   But O the heavy change, now thou art gon,
Now thou art gon, and never must return!
Thee Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves,
With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o’regrown,
And all their echoes mourn.
The Willows, and the Hazle Copses green,
Shall now no more be seen,
Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft layes.
As killing as the Canker to the Rose,
Or Taint-worm to the weanling Herds that graze,
Or Frost to Flowers, that their gay wardrop wear,
When first the White thorn blows;
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to Shepherds ear.
   Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep
Clos’d o’er the head of your lov’d Lycidas?
For neither were ye playing on the steep,
Where your old Bards, the famous Druids ly,
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:
Ay me, I fondly dream!
Had ye bin there—for what could that have don?
What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore,
The Muse her self, for her inchanting son
Whom Universal nature did lament,
When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
His goary visage down the stream was sent,
Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.
   Alas! what boots it with uncessant care
To tend the homely slighted Shepherds trade,
And strictly meditate the thankles Muse,
Were it not better don as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles1 of Neæra’s hair?
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of Noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious dayes;
But the fair Guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with th’abhorràd shears,
And slits the thin spun life. But not the praise,
Phbus repli’d, and touch’d my trembling ears;
Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to th’world, nor in broad rumour lies,
But lives and spreds aloft by those pure eyes,
And perfet witnes of all judging Jove;
As he pronounces lastly on each deed,
Of so much fame in Heav’n expect thy meed.
   O fountain Arethuse, and thou honour’d floud,
Smooth-sliding Mincius, crown’d with vocall reeds,
That strain I heard was of a higher mood:
But now my Oate proceeds,
And listens to the Herald of the Sea
That came in Neptune’s plea,
He ask’d the Waves, and ask’d the Fellon winds,
What hard mishap hath doom’d this gentle swain?
And question’d every gust of rugged wings
That blows from off each beakàd Promontory,
They knew not of his story,
And sage Hippotades their answer brings,
That not a blast was from his dungeon stray’d,
The Ayr was calm, and on the level brine,
Sleek Panope with all her sisters play’d.
It was that fatall and perfidious Bark
Built in th’eclipse, and rigg’d with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine.
   Next Camus, reverend Sire, went footing slow,
His Mantle hairy, and his Bonnet sedge,
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge
Like to that sanguine flower inscrib’d with woe.
Ah; Who hath reft (quoth he) my dearest pledge?
Last came, and last did go,
The Pilot of the Galilean lake,
Two massy Keyes he bore of metals twain,
(The Golden opes, the Iron shuts amain)
He shook his Miter’d locks, and stern bespake,
How well could I have spar’d for thee, young swain,
Anow of such as for their bellies sake,
Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold?
Of other care they little reck’ning make,
Then how to scramble at the shearers feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest.
Blind mouthes! that scarce themselves know how to hold
A Sheep-hook, or have learn’d ought els the least
That to the faithfull Herdmans art belongs!
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
Grate on their scrannel Pipes of wretched straw,
The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
Besides what the grim Woolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing sed,
But that two-handed engine at the door,
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.
   Return Alpheus, the dread voice is past,
That shrunk thy streams; Return Sicilian Muse,
And call the Vales, and bid them hither cast
Their Bels, and Flourets of a thousand hues.
Ye valleys low where the milde whispers use,
Of shades and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
On whose fresh lap the swart Star sparely looks,
Throw hither all your quaint enameld eyes,
That on the green terf suck the honied showres,
And purple all the ground with vernal flowres.
Bring the rathe Primrose that forsaken dies.
The tufted Crow-toe, and pale Gessamine,
The white Pink, and the Pansie freakt with jeat,
The glowing Violet.
The Musk-rose, and the well attir’d Woodbine.
With Cowslips wan that hang the pensive hed,
And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
And Daffadillies fill their cups with tears,
To strew the Laureat Herse where Lycid lies.
For so to interpose a little ease,
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.
Ay me! Whilst thee the shores, and sounding Seas
Wash far away, where ere thy bones are hurld,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
Visit’st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou to our moist vows deny’d,
Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold;
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.
And, O ye Dolphins, waft the haples youth.
   Weep no more, woful Shepherds weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled Ore,
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of him that walk’d the waves
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With Nectar pure his oozy Lock’s he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the Saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
That sing, and singing in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now Lycidas the Shepherds weep no more;
Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous flood.
   Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th’Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
He touch’d the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch’d out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the Western bay;
At last he rose, and twitch’d his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

1 with the tangles:? withe, plait, the tangles (R.W. Chapman’s conjecture).

326                                To the Lady Margaret Ley

DAUGHTER to that good Earl, once President
   Of Englands Counsel, and her Treasury,
   Who liv’d in both, unstain’d with gold or fee,
   And left them both, more in himself content,
Till the sad breaking of that Parlament
   Broke him, as that dishonest victory
   At Chæronàa, fatal to liberty
   Kil’d with report that Old man eloquent,
Though later born, then to have known the dayes
   Wherin your Father flourisht, yet by you
   Madam, me thinks I see him living yet;
So well your words his noble vertues praise,
   That all both judge you to relate them true,
   And to possess them, Honour’d Margaret.

327                                       On His Blindness

WHEN I consider how my light is spent,
   E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide,
   Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, least he returning chide,
   Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,
   I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
   Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

328                                     To Mr. Lawrence

LAWRENCE of vertuous Father vertuous Son,
   Now that the Fields are dank, and ways are mire,
   Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire
   Help wast a sullen day; what may be won
From the hard Season gaining: time will run
   On smoother, till Favonius re-inspire
   The frozen earth; and cloth in fresh attire
   The Lillie and Rose, that neither sow’d nor spun.
What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
   Of Attick tast, with Wine, whence we may rise
   To hear the Lute well toucht, or artfull voice
Warble immortal Notes and Tuskan Ayre?
   He who of those delights can judge, and spare
   To interpose them oft, is not unwise.

329                                   To Cyriack Skinner

CYRIACK, whose Grandsire on the Royal Bench
   Of Brittish Themis, with no mean applause
   Pronounc’t and in his volumes taught our Lawes,
   Which others at their Barr so often wrench:
To day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench
   In mirth, that after no repenting drawes;
   Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause,
   And what the Swede intend, and what the French.
To measure life, learn thou betimes, and know
   Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
   For other things mild Heav’n a time ordains,
And disapproves that care, though wise in show,
   That with superfluous burden loads the day,
   And when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains.

330                                    On His Deceased Wife

METHOUGHT I saw my late espousàd Saint
   Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
   Whom Joves great Son to her glad Husband gave,
   Rescu’d from death by force though pale and faint,
Mine as whom washt from spot of child-bed taint,
   Purification in the old Law did save,
   And such, as yet once more I trust to have
   Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
   Her face was vail’d, yet to my fancied sight,
   Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin’d
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
   But O as to embrace me she enclin’d
   I wak’d, she fled, and day brought back my night.

331                                                 Light

HAIL holy light, ofspring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light,
And never but in unapproachàd light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap’t the Stygian Pool, though long detain’d
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne
With other notes then to th’ Orphean Lyre
I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,
Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs,
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor somtimes forget
Those other two equal’d with me in Fate,
So were I equal’d with them in renown.
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntarie move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful Bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev’n or Morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the chearful waies of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Natures works to mee expung’d and ras’d,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

332                        (i)      From Samson Agonistes’

OH how comely it is and how reviving
To the Spirits of just men long opprest
When God into the hands of thir deliverer
Puts invincible might
To quell the mighty of the Earth, th’ oppressour,
The brute and boist’rous force of violent men
Hardy and industrious to support
Tyrannic power, but raging to pursue
The righteous and all such as honour Truth;
He all thir Ammunition
And feats of War defeats
With plain Heroic magnitude of mind
And celestial vigour arm’d,
Thir Armories and Magazins contemns,
Renders them useless, while
With wingàd expedition
Swift as the lightning glance he executes
His errand on the wicked, who surpris’d
Lose thir defence distracted and amaz’d.

333                                                 (ii)

ALL is best, though we oft doubt,
What th’ unsearchable dispose
Of highest wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful Champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontroulable intent.
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismist,
And calm of mind all passion spent.

 

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