Milton: On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

BY JOHN MILTON

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;
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 Heav’n’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 Heav’nly 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 heav’n, by the Sun’s team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

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 Heav’n-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-ey’d 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 uphung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood;
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sate 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 Ocean,
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 steadfast 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 axle-tree could bear.

The shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they than
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,
Divinely warbled voice
Answering the stringed noise,
As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heav’nly close.

Nature, that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
Of Cynthia’s seat, the Airy 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 heav’n and earth in happier union.

At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
That with long beams the shame-fac’d Night array’d;
The helmed Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display’d,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes to Heav’n’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-balanc’d world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the welt’ring 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 bass of Heav’n’s deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to th’angelic symphony.

For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckl’d Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.

Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
Orb’d in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
Mercy will sit between,
Thron’d in celestial sheen,
With radiant feet the tissu’d clouds down steering;
And Heav’n, as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall.

But wisest Fate says no:
This must not yet be so;
The Babe lies yet in smiling infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss,
So both himself and us to glorify:
Yet first to those ychain’d in sleep,
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep,

With such a horrid clang
As on Mount Sinai rang
While the red fire and smould’ring clouds outbrake:
The aged Earth, aghast
With terror of that blast,
Shall from the surface to the centre shake,
When at the world’s last session,
The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.

And then at last our bliss
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,
And, wrath to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.

The Oracles are dumb;
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance or breathed spell
Inspires the pale-ey’d priest from the prophetic cell.

The lonely mountains o’er,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
From haunted spring, and dale
Edg’d with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flow’r-inwoven tresses torn
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.

In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;
In urns and altars round,
A drear and dying sound
Affrights the flamens at their service quaint;
And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.

Peor and Ba{:a}lim
Forsake their temples dim,
With that twice-batter’d god of Palestine;
And mooned Ashtaroth,
Heav’n’s 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 Thammuz mourn.

And sullen Moloch, fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
His burning idol all of blackest hue:
In vain with cymbals’ ring
They call the grisly king,
In dismal dance about the furnace blue.
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.

Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,
Trampling the unshower’d grass with lowings loud;
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 worshipp’d ark.

He feels from Juda’s land
The dreaded Infant’s hand,
The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide,
Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.

So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain’d with cloudy red,
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to th’infernal jail,
Each fetter’d ghost slips to his several grave,
And the yellow-skirted fays
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lov’d maze.

But see, the Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest:
Time is our tedious song should here have ending.
Heav’n’s youngest-teemed star,
Hath fix’d her polish’d car,
Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending;
And all about the courtly stable,
Bright-harness’d Angels sit in order serviceable.

(Text thanks to: Poetry Foundation)

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Symbolism/Literalism of the Bible (Link)

Here’s a very intelligent discussion of symbolic and literal methods of interpretation of the Bible. In telling a story about an event, we often use symbols to draw out the meaning of that event. Symbolism is not opposed to literal facts. Quite the contrary, symbolism brings out the universal and relevant significance of those facts. This talk is theoretically astute and provides an excellent summary of the Jesus Lightworker point of view about biblical interpretation.

Before the Law (Parable by Kafka)

Dear Lightworkers,

In this post I offer two interpretations of the parable by Kafka (below). The first interpretation has to do with the authority of one’s own being; the second concerns self-sabotage.

Authority of One’s Own Being

Consider what your inner being is saying to you. Is there some decision that you must make? Maybe you need to break off a relationship — or again, restore and renew one. You are afraid to take action, in one direction or another. There are no guarantees of success. Yet, you know in your heart that now is the time.

Or perhaps you wish to begin a new project. It is time to decide and act. Or it may be that some new fascination, or responsibility, calls to you. Or you must develop a talent. The law of your inner being pesters you: Go, Do it, Now.

This parable (below) by Kafka communicates that the authority of the law is given to all of us. We must act upon this law and upon our own inner knowing of its freedom.

Yet, when faced by the law of ourselves, often we take flight. We enslave ourselves by handing over our power to self-appointed gatekeepers, from whom we seek permission to act upon our truth.

We keep asking counselors and friends. We talk ourselves out of what we know. Or we seek permission from somebody we admire, who has walked the road we must walk. All of these strategies may have their place. But, at a certain point, it is time to let them go. We delay and worry; we plot and calculate. True freedom is available once we depose the gatekeepers, both external ones and the internalized voices of fear.

These gatekeepers are impotent for the gate is already open to us. We need only to walk through it.

Now, I do not mean to say that all institutions and guides are misleading or illegitimate. However, ultimately, the decision is ours. We must seize our freedom, the freedom of the law, and move with it.

What is the law? The law is the Gospel. We know the Gospel, the law of love, the voice of God, which comes to each of us within the unique circumstances of our lives.  Instead of acting upon what we know, and heeding this voice, quite often we give our power over to gatekeepers from whom we ask permission. This seeking permission becomes an endless diversion and even an excuse for our own cowardice and procrastination.

Forgive yourself. Let us take back our power. We shall then walk through the gate of freedom, joy, and light.

Self- Sabotage

The person in Kafka’s parable sits at the gate of the law. Presumably, if he were to walk through the gate, he would find freedom. Instead, he sits and waits.

How often do we sabotage ourselves by waiting for a particular door to be opened for us? For instance, we wait for a specific person to love us or we get caught up waiting for one specific result in our work or in other aspects of our lives.

Maybe that specific door is not opening right now. It could be that we must prepare ourselves and return later. We are not ready to walk through the gate. Later we will be ready. There is no reason to give hope about going through the gate. But, one must prepare oneself for life on the other side.

Or it could be that the gatekeeper of that particular gate will never allow us through. That gatekeeper could be somebody you love, whose forgiveness you are seeking, or it could be a specific opportunity that you are waiting for, which will be decided by a committee or by some other gatekeeper.

It takes wisdom to know whether to keep trying– in order to get through a particular door– or whether to leave the door behind and find a different door, which is more accessible. Self-sabotage happens when we wait in resignation and despair. Finally, life draws to an end. We realize that we could have found freedom if we had not handed our power over to another to decide our freedom instead.

See parable below:

Before the Law
by Franz Kafka

Translation by Ian Johnston

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.” The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud, later, as he grows old, he still mumbles to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body.

The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.

(Thanks to this page for the text: Kafka Parable : Before the Law.)