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In liberty's detence, my noble task, Of which all Europe rings from side to side. [mask,

This thought might lead me through the world's vain Content, though blind, had I no better guide.

XXIII.

ON HIS DECEASED wife. METHOUGHT I saw my late espoused saint,

Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave, Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,

Rescued from death by force, though pale and fain, Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint,

Purification in the old law did save,
And such, as yet once more I trust to have

Full sight of her in Heaven, without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind :

Her face was veil’d, yet, to my fancied sight,

Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined So clear, as in no face with more delight.

But O, as to embrace me she inclined, I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night

This Sonnet was written about the year 1656, on the death of his second wife, Catherine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney, a rigid sectarist. She died in child-bed of a daughter, within a year after their marriage. Milton had now been long totally blind.

ODES.

ON THE

MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.

This is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven's eternal King,
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 vdours sweet :
O 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 touch'd with hallow'd fire.

• This Ode, in which the many learned allusions are highly poetical, was probably composed as a college exercise at Cambridge, our author being now only twenty-one years old. In the edition of 1645, in its title it is said to have been written in 1629.

THE HYMN.

It was the winter wild,
While the Heaven-born child,

All meanly wrapt, in the rude manger lies;
Nature, in awe to him,
Had doff'd 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.
Only with speeches fair
She wooes the gentle air,

To hide her guilty front, with innocent snow;
And, on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,

The saintly veil of maiden white to throw ;
Confounded, that her Maker's eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.

But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-ey'd Peace;

She, crown'd with olive green, came softly sliding
Down, through the turning sphere,
His ready harbinger,

With turtle wing, the amorous clouds dividing ; And, waving wide her myrtle wand She strikes an universal peace, through sea & land,

No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard, the world around :

The idle spear & shield were high up hung,
The hooked chariot stood,
Unstain'd with hostile blood,

The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still, with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovereign Lord was by.

But peaceful was the night,
Wherein the Prince of Light

His reign of peace upon the earth began :
The winds, with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kiss’d,

Whispering new joys to the mild ocean ;
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave

The stars, with deep amaze,
Stand fix'd in stedfast gaze,

Bending one way their precious influence;
And will not take their fight,
For all the morning light,

Or Lucifer, that often warn’d them thence;
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.

And though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,

The sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame

The new-enlighten'd world no more should need; He saw a greater sun appear

(bear. Than his bright throne, or burning axletree could

The shepherds, on the lawn,
Or e'er the point of dawn,

Sat simply chatting, in a rustic row;
Full little thought they than
That the mighty Pan

Was kindly come to live with them below;
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.

When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,

As never was by mortal finger strook ;
Divinely warbled' voice
Answering the stringed noise,

As all their souls in blissful rapture took :
The air, such pleasure loth to lose, [close.
With thousand echoes, still prolongs each heavenly

Nature, that heard such sound,
Beneath the hollow round

Of Cynthia's seat, the aery region thrilling,
Now was almost won,
To think her part was done,

And that her reign had here its last fulfilling;
She knew such harmony, alone,
Could hold all Heaven & mrth in happier union.

At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,

That with long beams the shamefac'd night The helmed cherubim,

(array'd; And sworded seraphim,

[play'd, Are seen in glittering ranks, with wings disHarping, in loud and solemn quire, [Heir. With unexpressive notes, to Heaven's new-born

Such music, as 'tis said,
Before was never made,

But when of old the sons of morning sung ;
While the Creator great
His constellations set,

And the well-balanced world on hinges hung ;
And cast the dark foundations deep, [keep.
And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel

Ring out, ye crystal spheres,
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 Heaven's deep organ blow;
And, with your ninefold harmony,
Make

up

full consort to the angelic symphony. For if such holy song Enwrap our fancy long,

Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold; And speckled Vanity Will sicken soon and die,

And leprous sin will melt from earthly mould, And Hell itself will pass away, And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.

Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,

Orb'd in a rainbow; &, like glories wearing,
Mercy, will sit between,
Throned in celestial sheen,

With radiant feet the tissued clouds down
And Heaven, as at some festival, (steering
Will open wide the gates of her high palace han
But wisest Fate says no,
This must not yet be so,

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