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In vain with timbrelled anthems dark
The sable-stoléd sorcerers bear his worshipped ark.
He feels from Juda's land
The dreaded infant's hand,
of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside,
Longer dare abide,
Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damnéd crew
So when the sun in bed,
Curtained with cloudy red,
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to the infernal jail,
Each fettered ghost slips to his several grave,
And the yellow-skirted fays
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 teeméd star
Hath fixed her polished car,
Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending:
And all about the courtly stable
Bright-harnessed 1 angels sit in order serviceable,
EREWHILE of music, and ethereal mirth, Wherewith the stage of air and earth did ring, And joyous news of heavenly Infant's birth, My muse with angels did divide to sing; But headlong joy is ever on the wing, 1 Equipped. * It appears from the beginning of this poem, that it was composed after, and probably soon after, the ode on the Nativity.
In winter solstice like the shortened light
Soon swallowed up in dark and long out-living night.
For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
And set my harp to notes of saddest woe,
Which on our dearest Lord did seize ere long,
Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than so,
Which he for us did freely undergo:
Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight!
He, sovran Priest, stooping his regal head,
That dropped with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
Poor fleshly tabernacle entered,
His starry front low-roofed beneath the skies :
Oh, what a mask was there, what a disguise !
Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide,
Then lies him meekly down fast by his brethren's side
These latest scenes confine my roving verse,
To this horizon is my Phoebus bound;
His godlike acts, and his temptations fierce,
And former sufferings other where are found;
Loud o'er the rest Cremona's trump? doth sound;
Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.
Befriend me night, best patroness of grief,
Over the pole thy thickest mantle throw,
And work my flattered fancy to belief,
That Heaven and Earth are coloured with my woe;
My sorrows are too dark for day to know:
The leaves should all be black whereon I write,
And letters, where my tears have washed, a wannish white
See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels, That whirled the prophet up at Chebar2 flood, My spirit some transporting cherub feels, To bear me where the towers of Salem stood, Once glorious towers, now sunk in guiltless blood; 1. i. e. the poetry of Hieronymus Vida, of Cremona, who wrote a “ Christiad.”
2 As Ezekiel saw the vision of the four wheels and of the glory of God at the river Chebar.
There doth my soul in holy vision sit
In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatic fit
eye hath found that sad sepulchral rock
That was the casket of Heaven's richest store,
And here though grief my feeble hands up lock,
Yet on the softened quarry would I score
My plaining verse as lively as before ;
For sure so well instructed are my tears,
That they would fitly fall in ordered characters.
Or should I thence, hurried on viewless wing,
Take up a weeping on the mountains wild,
The gentle neighbourhood of grove and spring
Would soon unbosom all their echoes mild,
And I (for grief is easily beguiled)
Might think the infection of my sorrows loud Had got a race of mourners on some pregnant cloud. [This subject the author finding to be above the years he had,
when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.]
Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race ;
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace;
And glut thyself with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more than what is false and vain,
And merely mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast entombed.
And last of all thy greedy self consumed,
Then long eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss ;
And joy shall overtake us as a fond,
When every thing that is sincerely good
* To this copy of verses the poet had appended the direction, “ To he set on a clock-case.”
And perfectly divine,
With truth, and peace, and love, shall ever shine
About the supreme throne
Of him, to whose happy-making sight alone
When once our heavenly-guided soul shall climb,
Then all this earthy grossness quit,
Attired with stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time
YE flaming powers, and wingéd warriors bright,
That erst with music, and triumphant song,
First heard by happy watchful shepherds' ear,
So sweetly sung your joy the clouds along
Through the soft silence of the listening night,
Now mourn; and if sad share with us to bear
Your fiery essence can distil no tear,
Burn in your sighs, and borrow
Seas wept from our deep sorrow:
He who with all Heaven's heraldry whilere
Entered the world, now bleeds to give us ease;
Alas! how soon our sin
Sore doth begin
His infancy to seize !
O more exceeding love, or law more just?
Just law, indeed, but more exceeding love :
For we by rightful doom remediless
Were lost in death, till he that dwelt above,
High throned in secret bliss, for us frail dust
Emptied his glory,, even to nakedness;
And that great covenant which we still transgress
And the full wrath beside
Of vengeful justice bore for our excess,
1 The same precisely as “beatific vision."
2 From the Greek of Phillip. ii. 7: Xavròv ÉKÉVWOE,“ he made himself of no reputation."
And seals obedience first with wounding smart
This day; but oh, ere long,
Huge pangs and strong
Will pierce more near his heart.
Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy,
Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixed power employ,
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce,
And to our high-raised fantasy present
Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne
To him that sits thereon,
With saintly shout, and solemn jubilee,
Where the bright seraphim in burning row
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
And the cherubic host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just spirits that wear victorious palms,
Hymns devout and holy psalms
That we on earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportioned sin
Jarred against nature's chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
Oh, may we soon again renew that song,
And keep in tune with Heaven, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endless morn of light.
? This is preferable to the other reading, "content.”
? Compare Plin. Nat. Hist. ii. 20.