« PreviousContinue »
Or let my lamp, at midnight hour, 85
But, O sad Virgin! that thy power
Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career, Till civil-suited Morn appear, Not tricked and frounced, as she was wont With the Attic boy14 to hunt, But kercheft in a comely cloud, While rocking winds are piping loud, Or ushered with a shower still, When the gust hath blown his fill, Ending on the rustling leaves, With minute-drops from off the eaves. And, when the sun begins to fling His flaring beams, me, Goddess, bring To arched walks of twilight groves, And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves,
The Sea-Nymphs, and their powers offended.
Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure,
Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
" The constellation of Ursa Major, which sets.
? Hermes Trismegistus (i. e., superlatively or thrice great), an Egyptian god to whom many mystical books were ascribed.
* Goddess of the fire-side.
8 Indwelling spirits.
10 Thebes, Pelops. Themes of some of the greatest of the Greek tragedies.
11 The stage of tragedy, or the tragic drama. The buskin was the boot worn by the actor in tragedy.
12 A legendary Greek poet.
13 Cambuscan (said to be a corruption of Cambus, or Genghis Khan): A Tartar king in Chaucer's unfinished Squire's Tale, who had various magical articles;- ring, a mirror, a sword, and a brazen horse. Camball, Aigarsife, and Canace, were his children.
14 Cephalus, who (according to Greek legend) was carried away by Eos, the goddess of the Dawn, while be was hunting in the mountains.
Of pine, or monumental oak,
But let my due feet never fail
And may at last my weary age
These pleasures, Melancholy, give;
SONG. SABRINA FAIR
(From the same) Sabrina' fair,
Listen where thou art sitting
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
Listen for dear honour's sake,
Listen and save!
875 And her son that rules the strands; By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet, And the songs of Sirens sweet; By dead Parthenope's dear tomb, And fair Ligea's golden comb,
880 Wherewith 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 rosy head From thy coral-paven bed, And bridle in thy headlong wave, Till thou our summons answered'have.
Listen and save!
(1638) Yet once more,2 () ye laurels, and once more, Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere, I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude, And with forced fingers rude Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.5 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
1 A legendary British princess, who became the goddess of the river Severn.
2 Proteus, a sea-god, who had the power of changing his shape. He had a hook (i. e. shepherd's crook) "because he was the shepherd of the sea-calves."
1 Lycidas is a lament for the death of Edward King, a young man of much promise who had been a fellowstudent of Milton at Cambridge some five years before. King was drowned while on his way to Ireland, --the ship striking a hidden rock off the Welsh coast and going down in a calm sea.
? Milton had probably written no poetry since Comus, produced three years earlier (1634).
15 Concert, agreement.
is Stained glass windows with scenes illustrative of sacred story.
"A river celebrated for its winding course (hence our verb to meander).
? The two brothers of the singer, from whom she has been accidentally separated.
“Had ye been there," . . . for what could
that have done? What could the Muse herself that Orpheus
bore, The Muse herself, for her enchanting son, Whom universal nature did lament,
60 When, by the rout that made the hideous
roar, His gory 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, shepherd's trade, And strictly meditate the thankless Muse? 66 Were it not better done, as others use, To sport with Amaryllis' in the shade, Or with the tangles 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 days; But the fair guerdon when we hope to find, And think to burst out into sudden blaze, Comes the blind Furyl with the abhorred
shears, And slits the thin-spun life. “But not the
praise,” Phæbus replied, and touched my trembling “Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, Nor in the glistering foil Set off to the world, nor in broad rumor lies, 80 But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes And perfect witness of all-judging Jove: As he pronounces lastly on each deed, Of so much fame in heaven expect thy meed." O fountain Arethuse, 11 and thou honoured
flood, Smooth-sliding Mincius, 11 crowned with vocal
reeds, That strain I heard was of a higher mood. But now my oat proceeds, And listens to the Herald of the Sea, 12 That came in Neptune's plea. He asked the waves, and asked the felon winds, What hard mishap hath doomed this gentle
swain? And questioned every gust of rugged wings That blows from off each bleaked promontory. They knew not of his story;
95 And sage Hippotades13 their answer brings, That not a blast was from his dungeon strayed: The air was calm, and on the level brine Sleek Panopel4 with all her sisters played. It was that fatal and perfidious bark, 100
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
Begin, then, Sisters of the sacred well 15
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill, Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill; Together both, ere the high lawns appeared Under the opening eyelids of the Morn, We drove a-field, and both together heard What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn, Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of
night, Oft till the star that rose at evening bright Toward heaven's descent had sloped his
westering wheel. Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute; Tempered to the oaten flute, Rough Satyrs danced, and Fauns with cloven
heel From the glad sound would not be absent long; And old Damætas loved to hear our song. But, oh! the heavy change, now thou art
gone, Now thou art gone and never must return! Thee, Shepherd, thee the woods and desert
caves, With wild thyme and the gadding vine o'ergrown,
40 And all their echoes, mourn. The willows, and the hazel copses green, Shall now no more be seen Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays. As killing as the canker to the rose,
45 Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze, Or frost to flowers that their gay wardrobe wcar When first the white-thorn blows; Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherd's car. Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep
50 Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas? For neither were ye playing on the steeps Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie, Nor on the shaggy top of Mona® high, Nor yet where Deva? spreads her wizard stream.
55 Ay me! I fondly dream
& The Muse hersels= Calliope. Orpheus was torn in pieces by the Thracian women at a Bacchanalian festival, his limbs strewn upon the plain, and his head cast into the river Hebrus.
3 Words favorable to the repose of the departed. Such, according to the Roman rite, were the words sit tibi terra leris, uttered by the mourner as he sprinkled the earth three times over the dead.
• Milton now shadows forth the early companionship of King and himself at Cambridge. Thus the "Satyrs" and "Fauns" (31) are supposed to represent the under. graduates, and “Old Damætus (36) one of the tutors of Christ's College.
5 One of the mountainous heights on the Welsh coast. 6 Anglesey, a great center of Druidic religion.
i The Dee, down which King sailed on his way from Chester. As many memories of Arthur and of the old Druidic faith were associated with the "holy Dee," it is called the “wizard," i. e. the enchanted, or inagic
Amaryllis- Negra. These names borrowed from the classic pastorals, simply stand for young and beautiful maidens.
10 Atropos, who cut the thread of life, was one of the Fates. Milton did not hesitate to add to or modify classic myths, when it suited his purpose.
11 Ardhusa---Mincius. Rivers suggestive respectively of Greek and Latin pastoral poetry.
That shrunk thy streams; return Sicilian Muse
brooks, On whose fresh lap the swart star24 sparely
looks, Throw hither all your quaint enamelled eyes, That on the green turf suck the honeyed
showers, And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. Bring the rathe25 primrose that forsaken dies, The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, The white pink, and the pansy freaked 28 with
jet, The glowing violet, The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine, With cowslips wan that hang the pensive
head, And every flower that sad embroiderywears; Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed, And daffadillies fill their cups with tears, To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies. For so, to interpose a little ease, Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise, 28 Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurled; Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides, Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world;29 Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied, Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus30 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 hapless youth. Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no
non repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled
Built in the eclipse, 15 and rigged with curses
dark, That sunk so low that sacred head of thine. Next, Camus, 18 reverend sire, went footing
slow, His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, 104 Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge Like to that sanguine flower17 inscribed with
woe. "Ah! who hath reft," quoth he, "my dearest
pledge?” Last came, and last did
go, The Pilot of the Galilean Lake;18 . Two massy keys he bore of metals twain 110 (The golden opes, the iron shuts amain.) 19 He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake:-“How well could I have spared for thee, young
swain, Enow of such as, for their bellies' sake, Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold! 115 Of other care they little reckoning make Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast, And shove away the worthy bidden guest. Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how
to hold A sheep-hook, or have learnt aught else the least
120 That to the faithful herdman's art belongs! What recks it them? What need they? They
are sped;20 And, when they list, their lean and flashy songs Grate on their scrannel21 pipes of wretched
straw; The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, 125 But, swoln with wind and the rank mist they
draw. Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread; Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw, Daily devours apace, and nothing said. But that two-handed engine22 at the door 130 Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more."
Return, Alpheus, 23 the dread voice is past
15 Eclipses were considered by the ancients as out of the order of nature, and were supposed to exert a mysterious and disastrous influence.
1. The god or genius of the Cam, the stream on which Cambridge is situated. “He comes attired in a mantle of the hairy river weed that floats on the Cam; his bonnet is of tbe sedge of that river, which exhibits peculiar markings, something like the ci di (alas! alas!) which the Greek detected on the leaves of the hyacinth, in token of the sad death of the Spartan youth' from whose blood the flower had sprung" (Masson).
17 Bloody flower, i. e. the hyacinth, which Apollo caused to spring up from the blood of the beautiful youth Hyacinthus.
is St. Peter.
no They are sped, i. e. they are advanced in worldly prosperity.
21 Lean, thin, or harsh sounding.
za An obscure expression. Masson supposes that it referred to the two Houses of Parliament; Newton, to the "axe that is laid unto the root of the tree.' St. Matt. üi, 10. The essential meaning is, that the end is at hand, and the avenger, with his weapon of destruction, is at the door,
23 A youthful hunter, who, changed into a river, pursued the nymph Arethusa by a channel under the sea. He overtook her, and the pursuer and pursued were united in a fountain on an island off the coast of Sicily. Alpheus being thus related to Sicily, to invoke him is to invoke the "Sicilian Muse," the muse of pastoral poetry.
24 Sirius, or the Dog-star, was anciently associated with sultry weather. Here called swart, i. e., dark, or swarthy, because of the tanning effect of the summer
25 Rathe=carly; the positive, now out of use, of rather, earlier, sooner. > Streaked, spotted. 27 Sad embroidery, i. e., the garb of mourning.
28 An untrue fancy; the body of the drowned Lycidas never having been recovered.
% The world of monsters at the bottom of the sea.
30 Lands End in Cornwall was called Bellerium by the Romans. Bellerus here does not appear to be a real personage; the name was apparently coined by Milton from that of the promontory, with the idea of raising the implication that the region was named after some one socalled.
31 St. Michael's Mount, a rocky islet near the coast of Cornwall, supposed to be guarded by the Archangel Michael "The great vision is St. Michael, seated on the ledge of rock called St. Michael's chair, and gazing far across the sea towards Namancos and Bayona's hold (the former being a town, the second a stronghold on the Spanish coast), i. e., looking in the direction of Spain.
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky: Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their Through the dear might of Him that walked
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they Where, other groves and other streams along, To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
10 And hears the unexpressive nuptial song,
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
sway There entertain him all the saints above,
The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow In solemn troops, and sweet societies,
A hundredfold who, having learnt thy way, That sing, and singing in their glory move,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
On His BLINDNESS
(From Poems, etc., 1673. Written c. 1655?) To all that wander in that perilous flood.
When I consider how my light is spent Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide rills, While the still morn went out with sandals
Lodged with me useless, though my soul
more bent gray: He touched the tender stops of various quills,
To serve therewith my Maker, and present 5
My true account, lest He returning chide; With eager thought warbling his Doric lay:32
“Doth God exact day-labour, light And now the sun had stretched out all the hills,
denied?” And now was dropt into the western bay.
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who SONNETS best
10 On His HAVING ARRIVED AT THE AGE OF
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. TWENTY-THREE
His state (1631)
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest; How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
They also serve who only stand and wait.' Stolen on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
To CYRIACK SKINNER
(First printed in Phillips' Life of Milton, 1694. shew'th.
Written c. 1655) Perhaps my semblance might deceive the Cyriack, this three years' day these eyes, truth
though clear, That I to manhood am arrived so near;
To outward view, of blemish or of spot, And inward ripeness doth much less appear, Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot; That some more timely-happy spirits en- Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear du'th.
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year, 5 Yet, be it less or more, or soon or slow,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not It shall be still in strictest measure even
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot To that same lot, however mean or high, Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer Towards which Time leads me, and the will of
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou Heaven,
ask? All is, if I have grace to use it so,
The conscience, friend, to have lost them As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.
In Liberty's defence, my noble task, ON THE LATE MASSACRE IN PIEDMONT Of which all Europe rings from side to side. (1655)
This thought might lead me through the Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose
world's vain mask, bones
Content, though blind, had I no better guide. Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold; Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old, When all our fathers worshipe stucks and
To CYRIACK SKINNER stones, Forget not:in thy book record their groans
Cyriack, whose grandsire on the royal bench Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient
of British Themis, with no mean applause, fold
Pronounced, and in his volumes taught, our So called bersus Licilas folks the elegiac manner
laws, of Theocritus and Mosehus, who write in Dorie Gath. Which others at their bar so often wrench,