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What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
Of Attick taste, with wine, whence we may

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.


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.


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

d He who of those delights can judge, &c. The close of this sonnet is perfectly in the style of Horace and the Grecian lyrics; as is that of the following to Cyriack Skinner.-T. WARTON.

e Cyriack Skinner was one of the principal members of Harrington's political club. Wood says, that he was “an ingenious young gentleman, and scholar to John Milton; which Skinner sometimes held the chair."-" Ath. Oxon," ii. 591.

! In mirth, that, after, no repenting draros. This is the decent mirth of Martial :

Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis.-T. WARTON.

s And what the Sroede intends, &o. Charles Gustavus, king of Sweden, was at this time waging war with Poland, and the French with the Spaniards in the Netherlands: and what Milton says is somewhat in the manner and spirit of Horace, “Od.” 11. xi. 1:

Quid bellicosus Cantaber, et Scythes,
Hirpine Quincti, cogitet, Adria
Divisus objecto, remittas
Quærere, &c.-Newton.

h Of heart or hope, &c. One of Milton's characteristics was a singular fortitnde of mind, arising from a con. gciousness of superior abilities, and a conviction that his cause was just.-T. WARTON.

Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?

The conscience, friend, to have lost them overplied "

In liberty's defence,i 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.



METHOUGHT I saw my late espoused saints

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, 0, as to embrace me she inclined,
I waked; she fled; and day brought back my night.

i To have lost them orerplied, &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 proferred to my eyes.” -T. Warton.

j In liberty's defence, &c. This Sonnet was not hazarded in the edition of 1673, where the last appears : for the “Defensio pro Populo Anglicano," of which he here speaks with so much satisfaction and self-applause, at the Restoration was ordered to be burnt by the hands of the com. mon hangman, together with his “ Iconoclastes," at which time his person was spared; and, by a singular act of royal clemency, he survived to write “ Paradise Lost." But Milton's prose was to suffer another disgrace. Twenty-seven propositions, gathered from the writings of our author, Buchanan, Hobbes, Baxter, Jolin Goodwin, Knos, Owen, and others, were proscribed by the university of Oxford, July 21, 1683, as destructive both to church and state; and ordered to be burnt in the court of the schools. This transaction is celebrated in a poem of the “Musæ Anglicana," called “Decretum Oxoniense,” 1693, vol. ii. p. 180, 181, edit. 1714. I transcribe some of the lines with abhorrence :

Hæ tibi sint Inudes immortalesque triumphi,
O Dea, Bellositi sacras quir protegis arces!
Quanquam, 0, si simili quicunque hæc scripserit auctor
Fato succubuisset, eodemque arserit igne;
In medio videas hamma crepitante cremari

Miltonum, cælo terrisque in amabile nonien ! But hy what follows, the writer does not seem to have been insensible to the beauties of Milton's poetry.-T. Warton.

k Methought I saw my late espoused saint, &c. This Sonnet was written about the year 1656, on the death of his second wife, Catberine, the daughter of Captain Woodcock of Hackney, a rigid sectarist. 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. WARTOX.

| Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grace. Dr. Johnson calls this "a poor Sonnet." Perhaps he was not struck with this fine allusion to Euripides.-T. WARTON.




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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. The “Hymn on the Nativity” is a favourite poem with me, notwithstanding Thomas Warton, unlike himself, has commenced with a censure on what he calls its conceits : Joseph Warton, in a short but beautiful note on ver. 173, has expressed a very opposite opinion. 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.

If there are any “conceits," they are entirely confined to the first two stanzas of the lyrical part,—“It was the winter wild,” and “Only with speeches fair:" all the rest is essence of poetry; and that of the strongest and most picturesque sort. The ninth stanza “When such music sweet,” is such as perhaps no one but Milton could have written; and still several, which follow, rise even upon this.

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 pieco 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 rigour, 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 the 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 renture; 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.

* This Ode, in which the many learned allusions are highly poetical, was probably composed as a college-exercise at Cambridge, our author being now only twenty-one years old. In the edition of 1645, in its title it is said to have been written in 1629. We are informed hy himself, that he was employed in writing this piece, in the conclusion of the sixth Elegy to his friend Deodate, which appears to have been sent about the close of the month December.-T. WARTON.

This is the month, and this the bappy 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 a 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
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,
And all the spangled host • keep watch in squadrons bright?


See, how from far, upon the eastern road,
The star-led wisards e 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.


It 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.


a Sages. The prophets of the Old Testament.-T. WARTON.

Spangled host. A magnificent line: but these four introductory stanzas aro not equal to the Hymn.

The star-led wisards. Wiso men.--T. WARTOX.

d From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire. Alluding to Isaiah vi. 6, 7.-Newton.

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, 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.



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 ; 5

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.

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 kist,

Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,


e Fears to cease. I believe cease is seldom used as a verb active.

She strikes a universal peace through sea and land. Dr. Newton perhaps too nicely remarks, that for “ Peace to strike peace" is an inaccuracy: yet he allows that “foedus ferire" is classical. But Roman phraseology is here quite out of the question. It is not a league, or agreement of peace between two parties, that is intended : a quick and universal diffusion is the idea. It was done as with a stroke.--T. WARTox.

Yet it will perhaps be generally supposed that Milton had the “ ferire foedus," which Stephens interprets "pacem componere,” in his mind.-DUNSTER.

& The hooked chariot stood

Unstain'd with hostile blood. Liv. I. xxxvii. xli. “Falcata quadrigæ, quibus se perturbaturum hostium aciem Antiochus crediderat, in suos terrorem verterunt."

.."-BOWLE. Nothing can be more poetically grand than this stanza. In all Milton's noble poetry There are few passages finer than this.

h The winds, with wonder whist. “Whis!" is silenced. In Stanyburst's Virgil “Intentique ora tenebant," is translated, “They whisted all.” B. ii. 1.-T. Warton.

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