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Was born in London, in 1608. After leaving Cambridge, he remained some time at his father's house in Horton, Buckinghamshire; and when turned of thirty, he went to Italy, whence he returned about the breaking out of the civil wars. He took office under Cromwell, and was the literary champion of the Commonwealth. On the Restoration, he was included in the act of amnesty, and he retired to Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks, where the house in which he lived still stands, almost entire. It was here that he produced, in total darkness, his “Paradise Lost," and afterwards his “Paradise Regained.” He died in 1674. The literary judgment of the people of this country has been vindicated by the sale of numerous and immense editions of Milton's poems. The only American edition of his prose works was published under the direction of the editor of this volume, in 1845 and in 1847.
Milton became a Presbyterian, but in his last years was an Independent, agreeing most nearly with the Baptists of the present day. Some crude notions in theology are stated in his “ Treatise on Christian Doctrine,” recently printed. This was probably written at an early period, and it would never have been published by himself. After its appearance, Macaulay had no more difficulty in discovering from “Paradise Lost,” and “ Paradise Regained,” that Milton was an Arian, than some phrenologists have in deciding upon the character of any person, who is well known, from his skull.
These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good !
Almighty ! thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair ; Thyself how wondrous then !
Unspeakable, who sittest above these heavens
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works ; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought and power divine.
Speak ye, who best can tell, ye sons of light,
Angels; for ye behold Him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne, rejoicing; ye in heaven:
On earth join all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end.
Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling morn
With thy bright circlet, praise Him in thy sphere,
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.
Thou sun, of this great world both high and soul,
Acknowledge Him thy greater, sound his praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climb'st
And when high noon hast gained, and when thou fall’st.
Moon, that now meet'st the orient sun, now fliest,
With the fixed stars, fixed in their orb that flies;
ye five other wandering fires, that move
In mystic dance, not without song, resound
His praise, who out of darkness called up light.
Air, and ye elements, the eldest birth
Of Nature's womb, that in quaternion run
Perpetual circle, multiform; and
And nourish all things ; let your ceaseless change
Vary to our great Maker still new praise.
Ye mists and exhalations, that now rise
From hill or streaming lake, dusky or gray,
Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold,
In honor to the world's great Author, rise ;
Whether to deck with clouds th' uncolored sky,
Or wet the thirsty carth with falling showers,
Rising or falling still advance His praise.
His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud ; and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave.
Fountains, and ye that warble as ye flow,
Melodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise.
Join voices, all ye living souls ; ye birds,
That singing up to heaven-gate ascend,
Bear on your wings and in your notes his praise.
Ye that in waters glide, and ye that walk
The earth, and stately tread, or lowly creep,
Witness if I be silent morn or even.
To hill or valley, fountain or fresh shade,
Made vocal by my song, and taught his praise.
Hail, universal Lord ! be bounteous still
To give us only good ; and, if the night
Have gathered aught of evil, or concealed,
Disperse it, as now light dispels the dark !
It was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child
All meanly wrapt, in the rude manger lies :
Nature in awe to Him
Had doffed 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 woos 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-eyed Peace;
She, crowned 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 a universal peace through sea and land.
No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard the world around :
The idle spear and shield were high up hung,
The hooked chariot stood
Unstained 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 kissed,
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 fixed in steadfast gaze, Bending one way their precious influence,
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
Or Lucifer, that often warned 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 enlightened world no more should need :
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright throne, or burning axletree could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they then,
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 ;
Answering the stringed noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasures loth to lose
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly
Nature that heard such sound,
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia's seat, the airy 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 and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shamefaced night arrayed ;
The helmed cherubim,
And sworded seraphim,
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displayed,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes to heaven's new-born Heir.
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,