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So, mounting up in icy-pearled car,
Through middle empire of the freezing air,
He wander'd long, till thee he spied from far;
There ended was his quest, there ceas'd his care:
Down he descended from his snow-soft chair,
But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace 20 Unhous'd thy virgin soul from her fair biding place. IV.
Anno Etatis 19. (1627.) 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,
And mad'st imperfect words with childish trips,
Half unpronounc'd, 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: 10 Thou need'st not be ambitious to be first,
Hid from the world in a low delved tomb; Could Heaven for pity thee so strictly doom?
Oh no! for something in thy face did shine Above mortality, that show'd thou wast divine. 35
Believe me I have thither pack'd the worst: And, if it happen as I did forecast,
The daintiest dishes shall be serv'd up last.
I 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 deck'd 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 throne doth lie,
List'ning to what unshorn Apollo sings
To th' touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings
Immortal nectar to her kingly sire:
Resolve me then, oh Soul most surely bless'd,;
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear)
Tell me, bright Spirit, where'er thou hoverest,
Whether above that high first-moving sphere,
Or in th' Elysian fields (if such there were)
O say me true, if thou wert mortal wight,
And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy
Wert thou some star which from the ruin'd roof
Of shak'd Olympus by mischance didst fall;
Which careful Jove in nature's true behoof
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall ?
Or did of late earth's sons besiege the wall
Of sheeny Heaven, and thou, some Goddess fled, Amongst us here below to hide thy nectar'd head ?
Then passing thro' the spheres of watchful fire, 40
And misty regions of wide air next under,
And hills of snow, and lofts of piled hunder,
May tell at length how green-ey'd Neptune raves,
In Heaven's defiance mustering all his waves ;.
Then sing of secret things that came to pass
When beldam 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 Alcinus' feast,
While sad Ulysses' soul and all the rest
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."
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 she shall out-go them,
Yet being above them, he shall be below them; 80
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 ?90
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 th' indented meads; Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath;
Or Severn swift, guilty of maidens' death;
Or rocky Avon, or of sedgy Lee,
Or coaly Tine, or ancient hallow'd Dee;
Or Humber loud, that keeps the Scythian's name;
Or Medway smooth, or royal towered Thame. 100
There doth my soul in holy vision sit,
In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatic ft.
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, 45
Yet on the soften'd 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 order'd 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 beguil'd)
Might think th' infection of my sorrows loud 53 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.
See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
That whirl'd 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:
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 thron'd in secret bliss, for us frail dust
In these poems where no date is prefixed, and no circumstances direct to ascertain the time when they were composed, the order of Milton's own editions is followed. Before this copy of verses, it
This poem appears to have been composed appears from the author's manuscript, that he had
soon after the Ode on the Nativity.
written, To be set on a clock-case.
The hapless babe, before his birth, Had burial, yet not laid in earth; And the languish'd mother's womb Was not long a living tomb
So have I seen some tender slip, Sav'd with care from winter's nip; The pride of her carnation train Pluck'd up by some unheedy swain, Who only thought to crop the flower New shot up from vernal shower; But the fair blossom hangs the head Side-ways, as on a dying bed, And those pearls of dew, she wears, Prove to be presaging tears, Which the sad morn had let fall
On her hast'ning funeral.
Gentle Lady, may thy grave
Peace and quiet ever have;
After this thy travail sore
Sweet rest seize thee evermore,
That to give the world increase, Shorten'd hast thy own life's lease. Here, besides the sorrowing
Where the bright Seraphim, in burning row,
Their loud, up-lifted 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 thy noble house doth bring, Here be tears of perfect moan Wept for thee in Helicon ;
And some flowers, and some bays
For thy hearse, to strew the ways,
Sent thee from the banks of Came,
Devoted to thy virtuous name;
Whilst thou, bright Saint, high sitt'st in glory,
Next her, much like to thee in story,
That we on earth, with undiscording voice, May rightly answer that melodious noise:
That fair Syrian shepherdess,
Who, after years of barrenness,
As once we did; till disproportion'd sin
The highly favour'd Joseph bore
Jarr'd against Nature's chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway'd
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O, may we soon again renew that song,
And keep in tune with Heaven, till God, ere long, To his celestial concert us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endless morn of light!
To him that serv'd for her before,