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SAINT JOHN BAPTIST The last and greatest Herald of Heaven's King Girt with rough skins, hies to the deserts wild, Among that savage brood the woods forth bring, Which he more harmless found than man, and mild. His food was locusts, and what there doth spring, With honey that from virgin hives distillid; Parch'd body, hollow eyes, some uncouth thing Made him appear, long since from earth exiled. There burst he forth : All ye whose hopes rely On God, with me amidst these deserts mourn, Repent, repent, and from old errors turn ! -Who listen'd to his voice, obey'd his cry? Only the echoes, which he made relent, Rung from their flinty caves, Repent ! Kepent !
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST'S NATIVITY
This is the month, and this the happy morn Wherein the Son of Heaven'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 unsufferable, And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty Wherewith he wont at Heaven'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, heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein Afford a present to the Infant God ? Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain To welcome him to this his new abode, Now while the heaven, by the sun's team untrod, Hath took no print of the approaching light, And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons
See how from far, upon the eastern road,
The star-led wizards 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 join thy voice unto the angel quire
From out his secret altar touch'd with hallow'd fire.
It was the winter wild
While the heaven-born Child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in awe to him
Had doff'd her gaudy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathize :
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-eyed 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 arméd 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 kist
Whispering new joys to the mild oceán
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The stars, with deep amaze,
Stand fix'd in stedfast 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-enlighten'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
Sate simply chatting in a rustic row ;
Full little thought 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 strook-
Answering the stringéd noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took :
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly
Nature that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia's seat the aery 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 heaven and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light
That with long beams the shamefaced night array'd;
The helméd Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display'd,
Harping in loud and solemn quire
With unexpressive notes, to Heaven'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-balanced world on hinges hung;
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltering waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring 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 base of heaven's deep organ blow ;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full conceit to the angelic symphony.