صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Pillows his chin upon an orient wave, The flocking shadows pale

Troop to th' infernal jail,

Each fetter'd ghost slips to his several grave,

And the yellow-skirted Fayes

235

Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lov'd maze.

XXVII.

But see the Virgin blest

Hath laid her Babe to rest,

Time is our tedious song should here have ending; Heav'n's youngest teemed star

Hath fix'd her polish'd car,

Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending:

[blocks in formation]

240

Shakespeare has very poetically described this supposed effect of day-break, Mids. Night's Dream, a. iii. sc. the last. See also Cowley's Hymn to Light, st. 10. and 17. But perhaps no poet has more happily availed himself of this old superstition than Gray,

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

And all about the courtly stable
Bright-harness'd angels sit in order serviceable.

IV.

The Passion*.

I.

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,

244. Bright-harness'd] Dressed, armed, accoutred. Arnese in Italian is a general name for all kinds of habits and ornaments. Richardson.

Harness is used for armour in our translation of the Bible. 1 Kings xx. 11. Let not him that girdeth on his harness, boast himself, as he that putteth it off. Exod. xiii. 18. The children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.

244. Paradise Regained was translated into French, and printed at Paris in 1730. To which the translator added Lycidas, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and this Ode on the Nativity. But the French have no conception of the nature and complexion of Milton's imagery.

5

[blocks in formation]

And all the while sweet music did divide

Her looser notes with Lydian harmony.

A great critic, in speaking of Milton's smaller poems, passes over this Ode in silence, and observes, "all that short composi- As Horace, Ode i. xv. 15. "tions can commonly attain is "neatness and elegance." But

Imbelli cithara carmina divides.

Odes are short compositions, and Which Vossius, with his usual

In wint❜ry solstice like the shorten'd light Soon swallow'd up in dark and long out-living night. II. 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,

10

Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than so, Which he for us did freely undergo:

Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight!
III.
He sovereign Priest stooping his regal head,
That dropp'd with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
Poor fleshly tabernacle entered,

His starry front low-roof'd beneath the skies;
O what a mask was there, what a disguise!

20

Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide, Then lies him meekly down fast by his brethren's side. IV.

These latest scenes confine my roving verse,
To this horizon is my Phœbus 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;

refinement, explains by alternate singing. In Catull. p. 239. ed. 1684. Compare Seneca, Hercules, Et. 1080. and Spenser, F. Q. i. v. 17. Perhaps he says that, in the preceding ode, "his muse "with angels did divide to sing," because she then " joined her "voice to the angel quire," as at v. 27.

15

25

The next line, headlong joy is ever on the wing, is elegant and expressive. But Drayton more poetically calls joy,

-the swallow-winged joy.
T. Warton.

22. These latest scenes] So it is in the second edition of 1673; in the former of 1645 it is These latter scenes.

Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.

V.

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 colour'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 wash'd a wannish white.
VI.

See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
That whirl'd the Prophet up at Chebar flood,

26. Loud o'er the rest Cremona's trump doth sound ;] He means Marcus Hieronymus Vida, who was a native of Cremona, and alludes particularly to his poem, Christiados Libri sex. And Mantua the birth-place of Virgil being near to Cremona, Virg.

Ecl. ix. 28.

Mantua væ,
Cremona,

miseræ nimium vicina dead.

Mr. Pope takes occasion from thence to pay a handsome compliment to Vida in his Essay on Criticism;

Cremona now shall ever boast thy

name,

As next in place to Mantua, next in

fame.

26. Milton seems to think that Vida's Christiad was the finest Latin poem on a religious subject; but perhaps it is excelled by Saunazarius De partu Virginis, a poem of more vigour and fire than this work of Vida. J. Warton.

30

36

28. still] That is, gentle, not loud, not noisy, as is the trumpet. So 1 Kings xix. 12. "A still small voice." And in First Part Henry V. a. iv. s. 1.

The hum of either army stilly sounds.

See also Il Pens. 127. Still is
not often applied to sound.

Hence still-born of a child born
T. Warton.

30. See Par. Lost, iv. 609.
And o'er the dark her silver mantle
threw.

Where see the note. T. Warion.

34. Conceits were now confined not to words only. Mr. Steevens has a volume of Elegies, in all the title-pages of which the paper is black, and the letters white. Every intermediate leaf is also black. What a sudden change from this childish idea to the noble apostrophe, the sublime rapture and imagination of the next stanza. T. Warton.

37. That whirl'd the prophet up at Chebar flood,] As the prophet

My spirit some transporting Cherub feels,
To bear me where the tow'rs of Salem stood,

Once glorious tow'rs, now sunk in guiltless blood; 40 There doth my soul in holy vision sit

In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatic fit.

VII.
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 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.
VIII.

Or should I thence hurried on viewless wing,
Take up a weeping on the mountains wild,
The gentle neighbourhood of grove

and spring

Ezekiel saw the vision of the four wheels and of the glory of God at the river Chebar, and was carried in the spirit to Jerusalem; so the poet fancies himself transported to the same place.

42. This is to be held in holy passion, as in Il Pens. 41. —mine eye hath found that sad sepulchral rock, &c. He seems here to have been struck with reading Sandys's description of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem; and to have catched sympathetically Sandys's sudden impulse to break forth into a devout song at the awful and inspiring spectacle. "It is a frozen zeal that will not "be warmed at the sight thereof. "And oh, that I could retaine "the effects that it wrought with

45

50

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »