Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Expulsion of superstition, nightmares and ghosts: from John Milton's "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629)


XVIII
And then at last our bliss [ 165 ]
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, [ 170 ]
And wrath to see his Kingdom fail,
Swindges the scaly Horrour of his foulded tail. 

XIX
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 ]
 
XX
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. 

XXI
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. 

XXII
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. 

XXIII
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. 

XXIV
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 ]
 
XXV
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. 

XXVI
So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain'd with cloudy red, [ 230 ]
Pillows his chin upon an Orient wave.
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to th' infernall jail,
Each fetter'd Ghost slips to his severall grave,
And the yellow-skirted Fayes [ 235 ]
Fly after the Night-steeds, leaving their Moon-lov'd maze.

Infant Hercules strangling the serpent

3 comments:

Dario Rivarossa said...

Believe it or not, Blake made many wonderful illustrations based on Milton's Nativity verses.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Peor, and Baalim, . . . mooned Ashtaroth."

Mooning Ashteroth ought to have been beneath their dignity!

Jeffery Hodges

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Carter Kaplan said...

"Dignity" doesn't figure to highly among the characteristics of demoniacal Mesopotamian deities, though they don't know that.