“On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” by John Milton

Paradise Lost by John MiltonOn this morning that transforms all mornings, I thought I would share from one of the masters. My copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost includes a number of other poems. One of these is “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.” There are two parts, a 4 stanza “proem” followed by a 27 stanza hymn. The hymn is quite lovely, beginning:

I

It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav’n-born-childe,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in aw to him
Had doff’t her gawdy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour.

The words caught me, and I thought they would make a perfect meditation for this happy Christmas morn. I leave the proem with you, one of the “thousand echoes” that “still prolongs each heavenly close.” Best wishes this Christmas, dear readers, all ye who gather round eternal feast, secret altars, and hollow’d fires.

I.

This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heav’ns 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.

II

That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherwith he wont at Heav’ns high Councel-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 darksom House of mortal Clay.

III

Say Heav’nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein [
Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no vers, no hymn, or solemn strein,
To welcom him to this his new abode,
Now while the Heav’n by the Suns team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

IV

See how from far upon the Eastern rode
The Star-led Wisards 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 joyn thy voice unto the Angel Quire,
From out his secret Altar toucht with hallow’d fire.

You can read the entire poem here. Merry Christmas!

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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8 Responses to “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” by John Milton

  1. Merry Christmas to you and yours 😎

    Like

  2. (Brenton, this brought back memories from more than two decades ago, when I was Jessica Shaver. This was how I opened a chapter on “Poetry: Distillation of Life” for the book The Complete Guide to Christian Writing and Speaking:)

    Just before Christmas, I was in a graduate poetry seminar in a (California) state university when a soprano in a nearby classroom broke into a soaring aria from Handel’s Messiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

    Lying before me was John MIlton’s poem, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” which begins,
    “This 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…”

    Wow! Try as the secularists might to keep Jesus Christ out of this university, He was right there in the classroom with us, permeating the very words we were reading, perfuming the air we were breathing!

    How do Milton and Handel manage to penetrate to the very heart of a godless campus with the gospel, when sermons, tracts, and personal witness usually meet with hostility, ridicule, or indifference? By mastering their craft.

    If your craft is poetry, master it! Read great poetry. Take classes in literature, grammar, creative writing. Write, Join a critique group. Experiment with “technical tricks” like those below until you “revel in them” as Robert Frost did…

    Like

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