ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY, 1629
ILLUSTRATED BY WILLIAM
XThis is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav'n'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 insufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heav'n'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 Heav'nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hadst thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
To welcome him to this his new abode,
Now while the Heav'n 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 Wizards haste with odors sweet;
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
Have thou the honor first, thy Lord to greet,
And join thy voice unto the Angel Choir,
From out his secret Altar toucht with hallow'd fire.
It was the Winter wild,
While the Heav'n-born child,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in awe to him
Had doff't 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-ey'd 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,
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 kiss't,
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 fixt in steadfast gaze,
Bending one way their precious influence,
And will not take their flight
For all the morning light
Or Lucifer that often warn'd 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-enlight'n'd 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 though 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 struck,
Answering the stringed noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The Air such pleasure loath to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heav'nly close.
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 Heav'n and Earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A Globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shame-fac't night array'd
The helmed Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,
Harping in loud and solemn choir,
With unexpressive notes to Heav'n'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,
And the well-balanc't world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the welt'ring waves their oozy channel keep.
XIIIRing out ye Crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
(If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the Bass of Heav'n's deep Organ blow,
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to th'Angelic symphony.
XIVFor if such holy Son
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold,
And speckl'd vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous sin will melt from earthly mold,
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.
XVYea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
Th'enamel'd Arras of the Rainbow wearing,
And Mercy set between,
Thron'd in Celestial sheen,
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering,
And Heav'n as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high Palace Hall.
XVIBut wisest Fate says no
This must not yet be so,
The Babe lies yet in smiling Infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss;
So both himself and us to glorify:
Yet first to those ychain'd in sleep,
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep,
XVIIWith such a horrid clang
As on mount Sinai rang
While the red fire, and smold'ring clouds outbrake:
The aged Earth aghast
With terror of that blast,
Shall from the surface to the center shake,
When at the world's last session,
The dreadful Judge in middle Air shall spread his throne.
XVIIIAnd then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
But now begins; for from this happy day
Th'old Dragon under ground,
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And wroth to see his Kingdom fail,
Swings the scaly Horror of his folded tail.
The Oracles are dumb,
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving,
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trans, or breathed spell,
Inspires the pale-ey'd Priest from the prophetic cell.
XXThe lonely mountains o'er,And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale
Edg'd with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flow'r-inwov'n tresses torn
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.
XXIIn consecrated Earth,
And on the holy Hearth,
The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;
In Urns and Altars round,
A drear and dying sound
Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
And the chill Marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat.
XXIIPeor and Baalim
Forsake their Temples dim,
With that twice-batter'd god of Palestine,
And mooned Ashtaroth,
Heav'n's Queen and Mother both,
Now sits not girt with Tapers' holy shine,
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn,
In vain the Tyrian Maides their wounded Thammuz mourn.
XXIIIAnd sullen Moloch fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
His burning Idol all of blackest hue;
In vain with Cymbals' ring
They call the grisly king,
In dismal dance about the furnace blue,
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis and Orus, and the Dog Anubis haste.
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian Grove or Green,
Trampling the unshow'r'd Grass with lowings loud;
Nor can he be at rest
Within his sacred chest,
Naught but profoundest Hell can be his shroud:
In vain with Timbrel'd Anthems dark
The sable-stoled Sorcerers bear his worshipt Ark.
He feels from Judah's Land
The dreaded Infant's hand,
The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside,
Longer dare abide,
Nor Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain'd with cloudy red,
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 Fays
Fly after the Night-steeds, leaving their Moon-lov'd maze.
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 fixt her polisht Car,
Her sleeping Lord with Handmaid Lamp attending;
And all about the Courtly Stable,
Bright-harness'd Angels sit in order serviceable.
JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY || JULIAN OF NORWICH || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME || ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN || BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||
John Milton, 'Morning of Christ's Nativity', December, 1629
William Blake, Six Illustrations, 1809
See also Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 'The Dead Pan', amd 'A Musical Instrument', both Milton and Browning using Plutarch, 'De Oraculorum Defectu'