John Milton

The Passion

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John Milton (1608-1674)

The Passion


Erewhile of Music and Ethereal mirth,
Wherewith the stage of Air and Earth did ring,
And joyous news of heav’nly Infant’s birth,
My muse with Angels did divide to sing;
But headlong joy is ever on the wing,
.....In Wintry solstice like the short’n’d light
Soon swallow’d up in dark and long outliving 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 then so,
Which he for us did freely undergo:
.....Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labors huge and hard, too hard for human wight.


He sovereign Priest, stooping his regal head
That dropt with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
Poor fleshly Tabernacle entered,
His starry front low-rooft beneath the skies;
O 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 latter scenes confine my roving verse,
To this Horizon is my Phoebus bound;
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 flatter’d fancy to belief,
That Heav’n and Earth are color’d 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 washt, a wannish white.


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;
.....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 Heav’n’s richest store,
And here though grief my feeble hands up-lock,
Yet on the soft’ned Quarry would I score
My plaining verse as lively as before;
.....For sure so well instructed are my tears,
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 neighborhood 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,
Had got a race of mourners on som pregnant cloud.

Note: 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 unfinisht.

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