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And last of kings and queens and heroes old,
Such as the wise Demodocus once told
In solemn songs at king Alcinous' feast,
While sad Ulysses' soul and all the rest
Are held, with his melodious harmony,
In willing chains and sweet captivity.
But fie, my wandering Muse, how thou dost stray !
Expectance calls thee now another way.
Thou know'st it must be now thy only bent
To keep in compass of thy Predicament.
Then quick about thy purposed business come,
That to the next I may resign my room.
Then Ens is represented as Father of the Predicaments,
his ten sons; whereof the eldest stood for SUBSTANCE with his Canons; which Ens, thus speaking, ex
plains :Good luck befriend thee, Son ; for at thy birth The faery ladies danced upon the hearth.
60 Thy drowsy nurse hath sworn she did them spy Come tripping to the room where thou didst lie, And, sweetly singing round about thy bed, Strew all their blessings on thy sleeping head. She heard them give thee this, that thou should'st still From eyes of mortals walk invisible. Yet there is something that doth force my fear; For once it was my dismal hap to hear A sibyl old, bow-bent with crooked age, That far events full wisely could presage,
70 And, in Time's long and dark prospective glass, Foresaw what future days should bring to pass. “ Your son,” said she, “(nor can you it prevent) Shall subject be to many an Accident. O’er all his brethren he shall reign as king ; Yet every one shall make him underling, And those that cannot live from him asunder
Ungratefully shall strive to keep him under.
In worth and excellence he shall outgo them;
Yet, being above them, he shall be below them. 80
From others he shall stand in need of nothing,
Yet on his brothers shall depend for clothing.
To find a foe it shall not be his hap,
And peace shall lull him in her flowery lap ;
Yet shall he live in strife, and at his door
Devouring war shall never cease to roar;
Yea, it shall be his natural property
To harbour those that are at enmity.”
What power, what force, what mighty spell, if not
Your learned hands, can loose this Gordian knot ? 90
The next, QUANTITY and QUALITY, spake in prose :
then RELATION was called by his name.
Rivers, arise : whether thou be the son
Of utmost Tweed, or Ouse, or gulfy Dun,
Or Trent, who, like some earth-born giant, spreads
His thirty arms along the indented meads,
Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath,
Or Severn swift, guilty of maiden's death,
Or rocky Avon, or of sedgy Lea,
Or coaly Tyne, or ancient hallowed Dee,
Or Humber loud, that keeps the Scythian's name,
Or Medway smooth, or royal-towered Thame. 100
The rest was prose.
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY.
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.
That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heaven's high council-table 10
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.
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,
Now while the heaven, by the Sun's team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light, 20 And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?
See how from far upon the eastern road
The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet !
Oh! 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 touched with hallowed fire,
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 sympathise :
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; 50
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 uphung ;
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 sovran Lord was by. 60
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
The stars, with deep amaze,
Stand fixed in steadfast gaze,
70 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,
80 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;