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Thus night oft see me in thy pale career,
Till civil-suited morn1
Not trickt and frounctas she was wont
With the Attic boy to hunt,
But kerchiefed in a comely cloud,
While rocking winds are piping loud,
Or ushered with a shower still,
When the gust hath blown his fill,
Ending on the rustling leaves.
With minute drops from off the eaves.
And when the sun begins to fling
His flaring beams, me, goddess, bring
To archéd walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves,
Of pine, or monumental oak,
Where the rude axe with heavéd stroke
Was never heard the nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallowed haunt.
There in close covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from day's garish* eye,
While the bee with honeyed thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring,
With such consort as they keep,
Entice the dewy-feathered sleep;
And let some strange mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in airy stream
Of lively portraiture displayed,
Softly on my eyelids laid.
And as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen genius of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister's pale,
*Cf. Romeo and Juliet, iii. 4:
“Come civil night, Thou sober-suited matron, all in black." ? Frizzled, crisped, curled.
Cephalus, with whom Aurora fell in love while he was hunting. Ovid. Met. vii. 701.
And love the high embowed roof,
With antici pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell,
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every star that Heaven doth shew,
And every herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
And I with thee will choose to live,
[Part of an entertainment presented to the Countess Dowager of
Derby, at Harefield,3 by some noble persons of her family, who
appear on the scene in pastoral habit, moving toward the seat
of state, with this song.]
Look, nymphs, and shepherds look,
What sudden blaze of majesty
Is that which we from hence descry,
Too divine to be mistook :
2 This shows that Milton, however mistaken in other respects, did not run into the enthusiastic madness of that fanatic age against church music.-Thyer.
3 Alice, daughter of Sir John Spenser, of Althorp, in Northampton: shire. This poem was probably written during Milton's residence in the neighbourhood of Uxbridge. See Newlon.
This, this is she
To whom our views and wishes bend;
Here our solemn search hath end.
Fame, that her high worth to raise,
Seemed erst so lavish and profuse,
We may justly now accuse
Of detraction from her praise;
Less than half we find expressed,
Envy bid conceal the rest.
Mark what radiant state she spreads,
In circle round her shining throne,
Shooting her beams like silver threads;
This, this is she alone,
Sitting like a goddess bright,
In the centre of her light.
Might she the wise Latona be,
Or the towered Cybele,
Mother of a hundred gods?
Juno dares not give her odds;
Who had thought this clime had held
A deity so unparalleled ?
[As they come forward, the GENIUS of the wood appears, and turning
towards them, speaks.]
Stay, gentle swains, for though in this disguise,
I see bright honour sparkle through your eyes ;
Of famous Arcady ye are, and sprung
Of that renowned food, so often sung,
Divine Alpheus," who by secret sluice
Stole under seas to meet his Arethuse;
And ye, the breathing roses of the wood,
Fair silver-buskined nymphs as great and good,
I know this quest of yours, and free intent,
1 A famous river of Arcadia that, sinking under ground, passes through the sea without mixing his stream with the salt waters, and rises at last with the fountain Arethuse, near Syracuse, in SicilyNewton.
Was all in honour and devotion meant
To the great mistress of yon princely shrine,
Whom with low reverence I adore as mine,
And with all helpful service will comply
To further this night's glad solemnity;
And lead ye where ye may more near behold
What shallow-searching fame hath left untold;
Which I full oft amidst these shades alone
Have sat to wonder at, and gaze upon:
For know by lot from Jove I am the power
Of this fair wood, and live in oaken bower,
To nurse the saplings tall, and curl the grove
With ringlets quaint, and wanton windings wove.
And all my plants I save from nightly ill
Of noisome winds, and blasting vapours chill:
And from the boughs brush off the evil dew,
And heal the harms of thwarting thunder blue,
Or what the cross dire-looking planet smites,
Or hurtful worm with cankered venom bites.
When evening gray doth rise, I fetch my round
Over the mount, and all this hallowed ground,
And early, ere the odorous breath of morn
Awakes the slumbering leaves, or tasselled horn!
Shakes the high thicket, haste I all about,
Number my ranks, and visit every sprout
With puissant words, and murmurs made to bless;
But else in deep of night, when drowsiness
Hath locked mortal sense, then listen I
To the celestial sirens' harmony,
That sit upon the nine enfolded spheres,
And sing to those that hold the vital shears,
And turn the adamantine spindle round,
On which the fate of gods and men is wound.
Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie,
To lull the daughters of Necessity,
And keep unsteady Nature to her law,
And the low world in measured motion draw
Spenser, F. Q. i. 8, 3:
“An horn of bugle small, Which hung adown his side in twisted gold,
And tassels gay." 2 See Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, $ 4.
After the heavenly tune,' which none can hear
Of human mould with gross unpurged ear;
And yet such music worthiest were to blaze
The peerless highth of her immortal praise,
Whose lustre leads us, and for her most fit,
If my inferior hand or voice could hit
Inimitable sounds; yet as we go,
Whate'er the skill of lesser gods can show,
I will assay, her worth to celebrate,
And so attend ye toward her glittering state;
Where ye may all, that are of noble stem,
Approach, and kiss her sacred vesture's hem.
O'er the smooth enamelled green,
Where no print of step hath been,
Follow me, as I sing,
And touch the warbled string,
Under the shady roof
Of branching elm star-proof.
I will bring you where she sits,
Clad in splendour as befits
Such a rural queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.
Nymphs and shepherds dance no more
By sandy Ladon's? lilied banks,
On old Lycæus or Cyllene hoar
Trip no more in twilight ranks,
Though Erymanth your loss deplore,
A better soil shall give ye thanks. 1 Ct. Merchant of Venice, v. 1 :
“There's not the smallest orb, which thou behold'st,
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims;
Such harmony is in immortal sounds !
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it." Newton. ? The most beautiful river of Arcadia.