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XV.

TO MR. LAWRENCE.

LAWRENCE, of virtuous father virtuous son,
Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire,
Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire
Help waste a sullen day, what may be won
From the hard season gaining? Time will run

On smoother, till Favonius reinspire

The frozen earth, and clothe in fresh attire
The lily and rose, that neither sow'd nor spun.
What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,

Of Attick taste, with wine, whence we may rise
To hear the lute well touch'd, or artful voice
Warble immortal notes and Tuscan air?

He who of those delights can judge, and spare
To interpose them oft, is not unwise.

XVI.

TO CYRIACK SKINNER.

CYRIACK, whose grandsire, on the royal bench
Of British Themis, with no mean applause
Pronounced, and in his volumes taught, our laws,
Which others at their bar so often wrench;
To-day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench
In mirth, that, after, no repenting draws;
Let Euclid rest, and Archimedes pause,

And what the Swede intends, and what the French.
To measure life learn thou betimes, and know

Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
For other things mild Heaven a time ordains,
And disapproves that care, though wise in show,
That with superfluous burden loads the day,
And, when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains.

talents, Matt. xxv. And he speaks with great modesty of himself, as if he had not five, or two, but only one talent.NEWTON,

14. Stand and wait. My own opinion is, that this is the noblest of Milton's Sonnets.-BRYDGES.

SONNET XV.-The "virtuous father," Heary Lawrence, was member for Herefordshire in the Little Parliament which began in 1653, and was active in settling the protectorate of Cromwell. The family appears to have been seated not far from Milton's neighbourhood in Buckinghamshire.-T. WARTON. This Henry Lawrence, the "virtuous son," ," is the author of a work suited to Milton's taste, on the subject of which I make no doubt

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XVII.

TO THE SAME.

CYRIACK, this three years day these eyes, though clear,
To outward view, of blemish or of spot,
Bereft of light, their seeing have forgot;
Nor to their idle orbs doth sight appear
Of sun, or moon, or star, throughout the year,
Or man, or woman. Yet I argue not

Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied
In liberty's defence, my noble task,

Of which all Europe rings from side to side.

This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
Content though blind, had I no better guide.

XVIII.

ON HIS DECEASED WIFE.

METHOUGHT I Saw my late espoused saint

Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
Rescued from death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint
Purification in the old Law did save,

And such, as yet once more I trust to have
Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint ;—
Came, vested all in white, pure as her mind:

Her face was veil'd; yet to my fancied sight
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined
So clear, as in no face with more delight.

But, O, as to embrace me she inclined,

I waked; she fled; and day brought back my night.

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SONNET XVII.-8. Of heart or hope. One of Milton's characteristics was a singular fortitude of mind, arising from a consciousness of superior abilities, and a conviction that his cause was just.-T. WARTON.

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10. To have lost them, &c. When he was employed to answer Salmasius, one of his eyes was almost gone, and the physicians predicted the loss of both, if he proceeded. But he says, in answer to Du Moulin, "I did not long balance whether my duty should be preferred to my eyes." What a noble sentiment; and how encouraging such lines from the greatest of all men as well as the greatest of all poets, to those who are labouring in the cause of Liberty and Humanity! SONNET XVIII.-1. Methought, &c. Raleigh's elegant Sonnet, called "A Vision

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upon the Faerie Queene," (see "Compendium of English Literature,” p. 151,) begins thus,-

Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay; and here, perhaps, the idea of a Sonnet in the form of a vision was suggested to Milton. This Sonnet was written about the year 1656, on the death of his second wife, Catharine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock, of Hackney. She died in child-bed of a daughter, within a year after their marriage. Milton had now been long totally blind: so that this might have been one of his day-dreams. T. WARTON.

2. Alcestis. This refers to the Alcestis of Euripides, in which Hercules (Jove's great son) brings back to Admetus, from the realms of Pluto, his wife Alcestis, who had resolved to die to save her husband.

REMARKS

ON THE

MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.

THERE is no doubt that the prima stamina of the bard's divine epics are exhibited in this poem; but it has several peculiarities, which distinguish it from the poet's other compositions: it is more truly lyrical; the stanza is beautifully constructed; and there is a solemnity, a grandeur, and a swell of verse, which is magical. The images are magnificent, and they have this superiority of excellence; that none of them are merely descriptive, but have a mixture of intellectuality and spirituality.

Some one has said that Milton had no ear for the harmony of versification; this Hymn proves that his ear was perfect. Spenser's Alexandrines are fine; Milton's are more like the deepest swell of the organ.

When it is recollected that this piece was produced by the author at the age of twenty-one, all deep thinkers of fancy and sensibility must pore upon it with delighted wonder. The vigour, the grandeur, the imaginativeness of the conception; the force and maturity of language; the bound, the gathering strength, the thundering roll of the metre; the largeness of the views; the extent of the learning; the solemn and awful tones; the enthusiasm, and a certain spell in the epithets, which puts the reader into a state of mysterious excitement, may be better felt than described.

I venture to pronounce this poem far superior to the "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," though the popular taste may not concur with me: it is much deeper; much more original; and of a nobler cast of materials. The two latter poems are mainly descriptive of the inanimate beauties of creation: it is the grand purpose of poetry to embody invisible spirits; to give shape and form to the ideal; to bring out into palpable lines and colours the intellectual world; to associate with that which is material that which is purely spiritual; to travel into air, and open upon the fancy other creations. Fancy is but one faculty of the mind; it is a mirror, of whose impressions the transfer upon paper by the medium of language is a single operation.

Milton, before he could write the Hymn, must have already exercised and enriched all his faculties with vast and successful culture. He had travelled in those dim regions, into which young minds scarcely ever venture; and he had carried a guarded lamp with him, so as to see all around him, before and behind; yet not so peering and reckless as to destroy the religious awe. The due position of the lights and shades was never infringed upon. SIR EGERTON BRYDGES.

487

ON THE MORNING

OF

CHRIST'S NATIVITY.*

I.

THIS is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven's Eternal King,
Of wedded Maid and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing,

That he our deadly forfeit should release,
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

II.

That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heaven's high council-table
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,

He laid aside; and here with us to be,

Forsook the courts of everlasting day,

And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.

III.

Say, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?

Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
To welcome him to this his new abode,

IV.

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,

And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.

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Now, while the heaven, by the sun's team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

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5. Sages, the Hebrew prophets.

23. The star-led wisards, Matt. ii. 1, 2.

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* I cannot doubt that this hymn was the congenial prelude of that holy and inspired imagination which produced the "Paradise Lost," nearly forty years afterwards.-BRYDGES. Be it remembered that this sublime Hymn was written in his twenty first year, probably as a college exercise.

28. Touch'd with hallowed fire, Is. vi. 6, 7.

THE HYMN.

I.

Ir was the winter wild,

While the heaven-born child

All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature, in awe to him,

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.

II.

Only with speeches fair
She wooes 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.

III.

But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyed Peace:

She, crown'd 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.

IV.

No war, or battle's sound,
Was heard the world around:

The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hooked chariot stood

Unstain'd with hostile blood;

The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye,

As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by,

V.

45. To cease, used actively.

52. She strikes a peace. This is a peculiar phraseology, showing the rapidity

But peaceful was the night,
Wherein the Prince of light

His reign of peace upon the earth began:

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with which it was done, as it were with one stroke.

56. The hooked chariot, &c. Nothing

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