Verse > Anthologies > Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. > Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th c.
Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C.  1921.
John Milton
82. On the morning of CHRISTS Nativity
THIS is the Month, and this the happy morn 
Wherin the Son of Heav'ns eternal King, 
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born, 
Our great redemption from above did bring; 
For so the holy sages once did sing,         5
  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, 
Wherwith he wont at Heav'ns high Councel-Table,  10
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 darksom House of mortal Clay. 
Say Heav'nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein  15
Afford a present to the Infant God? 
Hast thou no vers, no hymn, or solemn strein, 
To welcom him to this his new abode, 
Now while the Heav'n by the Suns team untrod, 
  Hath took no print of the approching light,  20
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright? 
See how from far upon the Eastern rode 
The Star-led Wisards haste with odours sweet: 
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode, 
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;  25
Have thou the honour first, thy Lord to greet, 
  And joyn thy voice unto the Angel Quire, 
From out his secret Altar toucht with hallow'd fire. 
The Hymn.

It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,  30
  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  35
To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour. 
Onely with speeches fair 
She woo's the gentle Air 
  To hide her guilty front with innocent Snow, 
And on her naked shame,  40
Pollute with sinfull blame, 
  The Saintly Vail of Maiden white to throw, 
Confounded, that her Makers eyes 
Should look so neer upon her foul deformities. 
But he her fears to cease,  45
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,  50
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;  55
The hooked Chariot stood 
Unstain'd with hostile blood, 
  The Trumpet spake not to the armed throng, 
And Kings sate still with awfull eye, 
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.  60
But peacefull was the night 
Wherin the Prince of light 
  His raign of peace upon the earth began: 
The Windes with wonder whist, 
Smoothly the waters kist,  65
  Whispering new joyes to the milde Ocean, 
Who now hath quite forgot to rave, 
While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmed wave. 
The Stars with deep amaze 
Stand fixt in stedfast gaze,  70
  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,  75
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,  80
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,  85
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;  90
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,  95
Divinely-warbled voice 
Answering the stringed 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. 100
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, 105
  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, 110
  That with long beams the shame-fac't night array'd, 
The helmed Cherubim 
And sworded Seraphim, 
  Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displaid, 
Harping in loud and solemn quire, 115
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 120
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, 125
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, 130
And with your ninefold harmony 
Make up full consort to th'Angelike symphony. 
For if such holy Song 
Enwrap our fancy long, 
  Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold, 135
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. 140
Yea Truth, and Justice then 
Will down return to men, 
  Th'enameld Arras of the Rainbow wearing, 
And Mercy set between, 
Thron'd in Celestiall sheen, 145
  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, 150
  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, 155
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 aged Earth agast 160
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 then at last our bliss 165
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 usurped sway, 170
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 arched roof in words deceiving. 175
Apollo from his shrine 
Can no more divine, 
  With hollow shreik the steep of Delphos leaving. 
No nightly trance, or breathed spell, 
Inspires the pale-ey'd Priest from the prophetic cell. 180
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, 185
  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, 190
  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, 195
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat. 
Peor, and Baalim, 
Forsake their Temples dim, 
  With that twise-batter'd god of Palestine, 
And mooned Ashtaroth, 200
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, 205
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; 210
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: 215
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-stoled Sorcerers bear his worshipt Ark. 220
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, 225
  Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine: 
Our Babe to shew his Godhead true, 
Can in his swadling bands controul the damned crew. 
So when the Sun in bed, 
Curtain'd with cloudy red, 230
  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, 235
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 teemed Star, 240
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. 

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