« PreviousContinue »
But wisest Fate says 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 glorify:
Yet first to those ychained in sleep,
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 out brake : The aged earth aghast, With terror of that blast,
Shall from the surface to the centre shake; When at the world's last session, The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.
And then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
But now begins; for, from this happy day,
The old dragon, underground
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurpéd sway,
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 archéd roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathéd spell,
Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophétic cell.
The lonely mountains o'er,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard? and loud lament; 1 Alluding to the belief entertained by many of the Fathers, that the oracles ceased at the coming of Christ.
2 Alluding to an „ffective story told by Plutarch (de defectu oracul orum), that a voice had been heard, proclaiming that “ The Great Pan was dead."
From haunted spring, and dale
Edged with poplar pale,
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,
The Lars' and Lemures’ 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,
While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat.
Peor and Baälim
Forsake their temples dim,
With that twice battered god of Palestine 3 ;
And moonéd Ashtaroth,
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 mouin.
And sullen Moloch fled,
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;
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 unshowered grass with lowings loud :
Nor can he be at rest
Within his sacred chest,
Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud;
1 Household gods.
2 Night spirits, ghosts.
3 Dagon. See Judges xvi., and 1 Sam. v. The names of the heathen gods mentioned in the following lines have already been explained in the notes on the first book of Paradise Lost.
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 damned 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 angels sit in order serviceable,
1. 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 enteréd,
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
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 Chebar? flood,
My spirit some transporting cherub feels,
To bear me where the towers of Salem stood,
Once glorious towers, now sunk in guiltless blood;
2i.e. the poetry of Hieronymus Vida, of Cremona, who wrote & “ Christiad."
? 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.
Mine 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 entombedh
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 fand,
When every thing that is sincerely good
1 To this copy of verses the poet had appended the direction, "TO he set on a clock-case."