Thursday, December 25, 2014


The Dreaded Infant

John Milton (1608-1674), "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," stanzas XIX-XXV:

The Oracles are dumm,
No voice or hideous humm
    Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.        175
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
    With hollow shreik the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathed spell,
Inspire's the pale-ey'd Priest from the prophetic cell.        180


The lonely mountains o're,
And the resounding shore,
    A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale
Edg'd with poplar pale,        185
    The parting Genius is with sighing sent,
With flowre-inwov'n tresses torn
The Nimphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.


In consecrated Earth,
And on the holy Hearth,        190
    The Lars, and Lemures moan with midnight plaint,
In Urns, and Altars round,
A drear, and dying sound
    Affrights the Flamins at their service quaint;
And the chill Marble seems to sweat,        195
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.


Peor, and Baalim,
Forsake their Temples dim,
    With that twise-batter'd god of Palestine,
And mooned Ashtaroth,        200
Heav'ns Queen and Mother both,
    Now sits not girt with Tapers holy shine,
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn,
In vain the Tyrian Maids their wounded Thamuz mourn.


And sullen Moloch fled,        205
Hath left in shadows dred.
    His burning Idol all of blackest hue,
In vain with Cymbals ring,
They call the grisly king,
    In dismall dance about the furnace blue;        210
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis and Orus, and the Dog Anubis hast.


Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian Grove, or Green,
    Trampling the unshowr'd Grasse with lowings loud:        215
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.        220


He feels from Juda's land
The dredded Infants hand,
    The rayes of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside,
Longer dare abide,        225
    Nor Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe, to shew his Godhead true,
Can in his swadling bands controul the damned crew.

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