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Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host b keep watch in squadrons bright?
See, how from far, upon the eastern road,
The star-led wisards haste with odours 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,
From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire ".
IT was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Had doff'd her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathise :
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow;
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-eyed Peace :
She, crown'd with olive green, came softly sliding
His ready harbinger,
With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing:
And, waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land 1.
b Spangled host.
A magnificent line: but these four introductory stanzas are not equal to the Hymn.
d From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.
Alluding to Isaiah vi. 6, 7.-NEWTON.
e Fears to cease.
I believe cease is seldom used as a verb active.
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.
Dr. Newton perhaps too nicely remarks, that for "Peace to strike a peace" is an
No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard the world around:
The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
Unstain'd with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
As if they surely knew their sovran 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 h,
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave i.
The stars, with deep amaze,
Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze,
Bending one way their precious 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,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And, though the shady gloomi
Had given day her room,
The sun himself withheld his wonted speed;
inaccuracy: yet he allows that "fœdus ferire" is classical. But Roman phraseology is here quite out of the question. It is not a league, or agreement of peace between two parties, that is intended a quick and universal diffusion is the idea.
with a stroke.-T. WARTON.
It was done as
Yet it will perhaps be generally supposed that Milton had the "ferire fœdus," which Stephens interprets "pacem componere," in his mind.-DUNSTER.
The hooked chariot stood
Liv. 1. xxxvii. xli. "Falcatæ quadrigæ, quibus se perturbaturum hostium aciem Antiochus crediderat, in suos terrorem verterunt."-BOWLE. Nothing can be more poetically grand than this stanza. there are few passages finer than this.
h The winds, with wonder whist.
In all Milton's noble poetry
"Whist" is silenced. In Stanyhurst's Virgil "Intentique ora tenebant," is translated, "They whisted all." B. ii. 1.-T. WARTON.
i While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
Another glorious line.
The whole stanza breathes the essence of descriptive poetry.
i And, though the shady gloom, &c.
Mr. Bowle saw with me that this stanza is a copy of one in Spenser's "April: ”
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
Than his bright throne, or burning axletree could bear.
Was kindly come to live with them below k
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep :
When such musick sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
As never was by mortal finger strook ;
Answering the stringed noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.
To think her part was done,
And that her reign had here its last fulfilling:
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all heaven and earth in happier union.
I sawe Phoebus thrust out his golden hede
Vpon her to gaze :
But, when he saw howe broade her beames did sprede,
It did him amaze.
Hee blusht to see another sunne belowe,
Ne durst againe his fierie face outshowe, &c.-T. WARTON.
That the mighty Pan
Was kindly come to live with them below.
That is, with the shepherds on the lawn. imitates in "Lycidas:
So, in Spenser's "May," which Milton
I muse what account both these will make,
And the other for leaving his lordes taske,
When great Pan account of shepheards shall aske.
We should recollect that Christ is styled a shepherd in the sacred writings. Mr. Bowle observes, that Dante calls him Jupiter, "Purgat." c. vi. v. 118; and that this passage is literally adopted by Pulci, "Morgant. Magg." c. ii. v. 2.-T. Warton.
1 Nature, that heard such sound.
I suppose this is one of the stanzas which Warton deemed a conceit. I can hardly call it so.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shamefaced night array'd;
And sworded seraphim,
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,
With unexpressive notes m, to Heaven's new-born heir.
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.
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 bass of Heaven's deep organ blow °
And, with your ninefold harmony P,
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 hears the unexpressive nuptial song.
The word, which is the object of this note, was perhaps coined by Shakspeare, "As you Like it," a. iii. s. 2 :
The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she.-T. WARTON.
This stanza is sublime, and in Milton's peculiar manner.
n Such musick.
This stanza also is of equal excellence; and so the stanza which follows.
• And let the bass of Heaven's deep organ blow.
Here is another idea caught by Milton from St. Paul's cathedral while he was a school-boy. Milton was not yet a puritan: afterwards, he and his friends the fanatics would not have allowed of so papistical an establishment as an organ and a choir, even in heaven.-T. WARTON.
I think, to name the organ, in speaking of the music of the spheres, is rather the bathos.
P And, with your ninefold harmony.
There being "nine infolded spheres," as in ". Arcades," v. 64.-NEWTON.
And speckled Vanity, &c.
Plainly taken from the "maculosum nefas" of Horace, "Od." v. 4. 23.-Jos. WARTON.
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day г.
Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
Orb'd in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
Mercy will sit between,
Throned in celestial sheen,
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering *;
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall.
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss;
So both himself and us to glorify :
Yet first, to those ychain'd 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 terrour 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.
Vanity dressed in a variety of gaudy colours.
Unless he means spots, the marks of
disease and corruption, and the symptoms of approaching death.-T. WARTON.
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
The image is in Virgil, "En." viii. 245 :—
Pallida, Dis invisa; superque immane barathrum
Cernatur, trepidentque immisso lumine Manes.-T. WARTON.
The Alexandrine here is sonorous and majestic.
• With radiant feet.
Isaiah lii. 7:"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings-that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Sion, Thy God reigneth !"DUNSTER.
• Down steering.
The old writers use this word simply for moving. Thus our author, in "Samson Agonistes," ver. 110:
The tread of many feet steering this way.-HURD. "The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep. A line of great energy, elegant and sublime.-T. WARTON.