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And cam'st again to visit us once more?
Or wert thou that sweet smiling youth ??
Or that crowned matron sage, white-robéd Truth?
Or any other of that heavenly brood
Let down in cloudy throne to do the world some good ?
Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
Who, having clad thyself in human weed,
To earth from thy prefixéd seat didst post,
And after short abode fly back with speed,
As if to show what creatures Heaven doth breed,
Thereby to set the hearts of men on fire,
To scorn the sordid world, and unto Heaven aspire?
But oh! why didst thou not stay here below
To bless us with thy Heaven-loved innocence,
To slake his wrath whom sin hath made our foe,
To turn swift-rushing black perdition hence,
Or drive away the slaughtering pestilence,?
To stand 'twixt us and our deservéd smart?
But thou canst best perform that office where thou art
Then thcu, the mother of so sweet a child,
Her false imagined loss cease to lament,
And wisely learn to curb thy sorrows wild;
Think what a present thou to God hast sent,
And render him with patience what he lent;
This if thou do, he will an offspring give,
That till the world's last end shaïl make thy name to live
ANNO ÆTATIS XIX. [At a vacation exercise in the College, part Latin, part English.
The Latin speeches ended, the English thus began.]
Hail, native language! that by sinews weak
Didst move my first endeavouring tongue to speak,
1 Two syllables are wanting to complete this line. It is probable that “Mercy” is the youth implied, and that we should read,
“Or wert thou Mercy, that,” &c. Jortin proposes
“Hebe.” 2 About the time when this poem was written (i. e. 1625) a great plague raged in London. Milton was at this time only in his 17th year.
And mad'st imperfect words with childish trips,
Half unpronounced, slide through my infant lips,
Driving dumb silence from the portal door,
Where he had mutely sat two years before :
Here I salute thee, and thy pardon ask,
That now I use thee in my latter task:
Small loss it is that thence can come unto thee,
I know my tongue but little grace can do thee :
Thou need'st not be ambitious to be first,
Believe me I have thither packed the worst;
And, if it happen as I did forecast,
The daintiest dishes shall be served up last.
pray thee then deny me not thy aid
For this same small neglect that I have made;
But haste thee straight to do me once a pleasure,
And from thy wardrobe bring thy chiefest treasure,
Not those new-fangled toys and trimming slight
Which takes our late fantastics with delight,
But cull those richest robes and gay'st attire
Which deepest spirits and choicest wits desire:
I have some naked thoughts that rove about,
And loudly knock to have their passage out;
And, weary of their place, do only stay
Till thou hast decked them in thy best array,
That so they may, without suspect or fears,
Fly swiftly to this fair assembly's ears;
Yet I had rather, if I were to choose,
Thy service in some graver subject use,
Such as may make thee search thy coffers round,
Before thou clothe my fancy in fit sound:
Such where the deep transported mind may soar
Above the wheeling poles, and at Heaven's door
Look in, and see each blissful deity
How he before the thunderous throile doth lie,
Listening to wbat unshorn Apollo sings
To the touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings
Immortal nectar to her kingly sire;
? It appears, by this address of Milton's to his native language, that even in these green years he had the ambition to think of writing an epic poem; and it is worth the curious reader's attention to observe how much the Paradise Lost corresponds in its circumstances to the prophetic wish he now formed.—Thyer.
Then passing through the scenes of watchful fire,
And misty regions of wide air next under,
And hills of snow and lofts of piléd thunder,
May tell at length how green-eyed Neptune raves,
In Heaven's defiance mustering all his waves;
Then sing of secret things that came to pass
When beldame Nature in her cradle was;
And last of kings and queens and heroes old,
Such as the wise Demodocus once told
In solemn songs at king Alcinous' feast
While sad Ulysses' soul and all the rest
Are held with his melodious harmony
In willing chains and sweet captivity.
But fie, my wandering muse, how thou dost stray!
Expectance calls thee now another way;
Thou know'st it must be now thy only bent
To keep in compass of thy predicament:
Then quick about thy purposed business come,
That to the next I may resign my room.
[Then Ens is represented as father of the Predicaments,2 his ten
sons, whereof the eldest stood for Substance with his canons,
which Ens, thus speaking, explains.] Good luck befriend thee, son; for at thy birth The fairy ladies danced upon the hearth; Thy drowsy nurse hath sworn she did them spy Come tripping to the room where thou didst lie, And, sweetly singing round about thy bed, Strew all their blessings on thy sleeping head. She heard them give thee this, that thou shouldst still From eyes of mortals walk invisible : Yet there is something that doth force my fear, For once it was my dismal hap to hear A sibyl old, bow-bent with crooked age, That far events full wisely could presage, And in time's long and dark prospective glass Foresaw what future days should bring to pass : Your son, said she (nor can you it prevent), Shall subject be to many an accident.
1 Alluding to the eighth book of the Odyssey.
• Or categories. If the reader does not understand metaphysics, he will not be much the wiser for any explanation I could give him within the space of a note.
O'er all his brethren he shall reign as king,
Yet every one shall make him underling,
And those that cannot live from him asunder
Ungratefully shall strive to keep him under,
In worth and excellence he shall out-go them,
Yet, being above them, he shall be below them:
From others he shall stand in need of nothing,
Yet on his brothers shall depend for clothing.
To find a foe it shall not be his hap,
And peace shall lull him in her flowery lap;
Yet shall he live in strife, and at his door
Devouring war shall never cease to roar:
Yea it shall be his natural property
To harbour those that are at enmity.
What power, what force, what mighty spell, if not
Your learned hands, can loose this Gordian knot?
[The next, Quantity and Quality, spake in prose, then
Relation was called by his name.]
RIVERS, arise !! whether thou be the son
Of utmost Tweed, or Oose, or gulfy Dun;
Or Trent, who, like some earth-born giant, spreads
His thirty arms along the indented meads;
Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath;
Or Severn swift, guilty of maidens' death ;
Or rocky Avon; or of sedgy Lee;
Or coalý Tine; or ancient hallowed Dee;
Or Humber loud, that keeps the Scythian's name,
Or Medway smooth ; or royal towered Thame.
[The rest was prose.]
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
I. This is the month, and this the happy morn, Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King, 1 In invoking these rivers, Milton had his eye particularly upon that admirable episode in Spenser of the marriage of the Thames and the Medway, where the several rivers are introduced in honour of the cere. mony.--Newton. 2 When Milton was twenty-one years old.
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.
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.
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,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
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:
Oh, run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessed 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."
It was the winter wild,
While the Heaven-born child
All meanly wrapped in the rude manger lics:
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.
1 Alluding to Is. vi. 6, 7.