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As wholly thine; But the acceptance, that must be,
My Christ, by thee.
To KEEP A TRUE LENT
Some brittle sticks of thorn or briar
Make me a fire,
And glow like it.
The pulse is thine,
There placed by thee;
And my content
To be more sweet. "Tis thou that crown'st my glittering hearth
With guiltless mirth, And giv'st me wassail bowls to drink,
Spiced to the brink. Lord, 'tis thy plenty-dropping hand
That soils my land,
Twice ten for one;
Her egg each day;
Me twins each year;
Run cream, for wine.
Me, to this end,
A thankful heart,
Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean,
And clean From fat of veals and sheep? Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
Or ragg’d to go,
Thy sheaf of wheat
From old debate,
To starve thy sin,
FAITH AND FREEDOM: JOHN MILTON
THE MAKER OF AN HEROIC POEM
HIJSELF A TRUE POEM [From An Apology for Smectymnuus, 1642]
Nor blame it, readers, in those years to propose to themselves such a reward as the noblest dispositions above other things in this life have sometimes preferred; whereof not to be sensible when good and fair in one person meet argues both a gross and shallow judgment, and withal an ungentle and swainish breast. For by the firm settling of these persuasions, I became, to my best memory, so much a proficient, that if I found those authors anywhere speaking unworthy things of themselves, or unchaste of those names which before they had extolled; this effect it wrought with me,
from that time forward their art I still applauded, but the men I deplored; and above them all, preferred the two famous renowners of Beatrice and Laura, wlio never write but honor of them to whom they devote their verse, displaying sublime and pure thoughts, without transgression. And long it was not after, when I was confirmed in this opinion, that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honorablest things; not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men or famous cities unless he have in himself the experience and the practice of all that which is praiseworthy. ...
Next, (for hear me out now, readers,) that I may tell ye whither my younger feet wandered; I betook me among those lofty fables and romances, which recount in solemn cantos the deeds of knighthood founded by our victorious kings, and from hence had in renown over all Christendom. There I read it in the oath of every knight, that he should defend to the expense of his best blood, or of his life, if it so befell him, the honor and chastity of virgin or matron; from whence even then I learned what a noble virtue chastity sure must be, to the defence of which so many worthies, by such a dear adventure of themselves, had sworn. And if I found in the story afterward, any of them, by word or deed, breaking that oath, I judged it the same fault of the poet, as that which is attributed to Homer, to have written indecent things of the gods. Only this my mind gave me, that every free and gentle spirit, without that oath, ought to be born a knight, nor needed to expect the gilt spur, or the laying of a sword upon his shoulder to stir him up both by his counsel and his arms, to secure and protect the weakness of any attempted chastity.
Thus, from the laureat fraternity of poets, riper years and the ceaseless round of study and reading led me to the shady spaces of philosophy; but chiefly to the divine volumes of Plato, and his equal Xenophon: where, if I should tell ye what I learnt of chastity and love, I mean that which is truly so, whose charming cup is only virtue, which she bears in her hand to those who are worthy; (the rest are cheated with a thick intoxicating potion, which a certain sorceress, the abuser of love's name, carries about;) and how the first and chiefest office of love begins and ends in the soul, producing those happy twins of her divine generation, knowledge and virtue.
of the beautiful in all the forms and appearances of things. I am wont day and night to continue my search, and I follow in the way in which you go before. Hence, I feel an irresistible impulse to cultivate the friendship of him who, despising the prejudices and false conceptions of the vulgar, dares to think, to speak, and to be that which the highest wisdom has in every age taught to be the best. But if my disposition or my destiny were such that I could without any conflict or any toil emerge to the highest pitch of distinction and of praise, there would nevertheless be no prohibition, either human or divine, against my constantly cherishing and revering those who have either obtained the same degree of glory, or are successfully laboring to obtain it. But now I am sure that you wish me to gratify your curiosity, and to let you know what I have been doing, or am meditating to do. Hear me, my Diodati, and suffer me for a moment to speak without blushing in a more lofty strain. Do you ask what I am meditating? By the help of Heaven, an immortality of fame.
Hence, loathèd Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born In Stygian cave forlorn, Mongst horrid shapes and shrieks and
sights unholy ! Find out some uncouth cell, Where brooding darkness spreads his
jealous wings, And the night-raven sings; There under ebon shades and low-browed
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
[From A Letter to Diodati, 1637] But that you may indulge any excess of menace I must inform you, that I cannot help loving you such as you are; for whatever the Deity may have bestowed upon me in other respects, he has certainly inspired me, if any ever were inspired, with a passion for the good and fair. Nor did Ceres, according to the fable, ever seek her daughter Proserpine with such unceasing solicitude, as I have sought this perfect model
20 85 155
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met Are at their savory dinner set Of herbs and other country messes, Which the neat-handed Phyllis dresses; And then in haste her bower she leaves, With Thestylis to bind the sheaves; Or, if the earlier season lead, To the tanned haycock in the mead. Sometimes, with secure delight, The upland hamlets will invite, When the merry bells ring round, And the jocund rebecks sound To many a youth and many a maid Dancing in the chequered shade; And young and old come forth to play On a sunshine holiday, 'Till the livelong daylight fail: Then to the spicy nut-brown ale, With stories told of many a feat, How faery Mab the junkets eat. She was pinched and pulled, she said; And he, by friar's lantern led, Tells how the drudging goblin sweat To earn his cream-bowl duly set, When in one night, ere glimpse of morn, His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn That ten day-laborers could not end; Then lies him down, the lubber fiend, And, stretched out all the chimney's length, Basks at the fire his hairy strength, And crop-full out of doors he flings, . Ere the first cock his matin rings. Thus done the tales, to bed they creep, By whispering winds soon lulled asleep. Towered cities please us then, And the busy hum of men, Where throngs of knights and barons bold, In eds of peace high triumphs hold, With store of ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence, and judge the prize Of wit or arms, while both contend To win her grace whom all commend. There let Hymen oft appear In saffron robe, with taper clear, And pomp and feast and revelry, With mask and antique pageantry; Such sights as youthful poets dream On summer eves by haunted stream. Then to the well-trod stage anon, If Jonson's learned sock be on, Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child, Warble his native wood-notes wild. And ever, against eating cares, Lap me in soft Lydian airs, Married to immortal verse, Such as the meeting soul may pierce, In notes with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
These delights if thou canst give,
And looks commercing with the skies, Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes: There, held in holy passion still, Forget thyself to marble, till With a sad leaden downward cast Thou fix them on the earth as fast. And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet, Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet, And hears the Muses in a ring Aye round about Jove's altar sing; And add to these retired Leisure, That in trim gardens takes his pleasure; But first, and chiefest, with thee bring Him that yon soars on golden wing, Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne, The cherub Contemplation; And the mute Silence hist along, 'Less Philomel will deign a song, In her sweetest, saddest plight, Smoothing the rugged brow of Night, While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke Gently o'er the accustomed oak: Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly, Most musical, most melancholy! Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among, I woo to hear thy even-song; And missing thee, I walk unseen On the dry smooth-shaven green, To behold the wandering moon, Riding near her highest noon, Like one that had been led astray Through the heaven's wide pathless way, And oft, as if her head she bowed, Stooping through a fleecy cloud. Oft on a plat of rising ground, I hear the far-off curfew sound, Over some wide-watered shore, Swinging slow with sullen roar; Or if the air will not permit, Some still removed place will fit, Where glowing embers through the room Teach light to counterfeit a gloom, Far from all resort of mirth, Save the cricket on the hearth, Or the bellman's drowsy charm To bless the doors from nightly harm. Or let my lamp at midnight hour Be seen in some high lonely tower, Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, With thrice-great Hermes; or unsphere The spirit of Plato, to unfold What worlds or what vast regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshly nook; And of those demons that are found In fire, air, flood, or underground, Whose power hath a true consent
Hence, vain deluding Joys,
The brood of Folly without father bred! How little you bested,
Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys! Dwell in some idle brain, And fancies fond with gaudy shapes pos
sess, As thick and numberless As the gay motes that people the sun
beams, Or likest hovering dreams, The fickle pensioners of Morpheus'
train. But hail, thou Goddess sage and holy, Hail, divinest Melancholy! Whose saintly visage is too bright To hit the sense of human sight, And therefore to our weaker view O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue; Black, but such as in esteem Prince Memnon's sister might beseem, Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove To set her beauty's praise above
20 The sea nymphs, and their powers offended. Yet thou art higher far descended : Thee bright-haired Vesta long of yore To solitary Saturn bore; His daughter she (in Saturn's reign Such mixture was not held a stain). Oft in glimmering bowers and glades He met her, and in secret shades Of woody Ida's inmost grove, Whilst yet there was no fear of Jove. Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure, Sober, steadfast, and demure, All in a robe of darkest grain, Flowing with majestic train, And sable stole of cypress lawn Over thy decent shoulders drawn. Come, but keep thy wonted state, With even step, and musing gait,
Sent by some spirit to mortals good,
These pleasures, Melancholy, give,
With planet or with element.
Yet once more, () ye laurels, and once more,
crude, And with forced fingers rude Shatter your leaves before the mellowing
year, Bitter constraint and sad occasion dear Compels me to disturb your season due; For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, Young Lycidas, and hath not left liis peer, Who would not sing for Lycidas ? he
knew Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme. He must not float upon his watery bier Unwept, and welter to the parching wind, Without the meed of some melodious tear.
Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well That from beneath the seat of Jove doth
spring; Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the