John Milton (1608-1674)

From Poems &c.
Upon Several Occasions [1645]



Nightingale, that on yon bloomy Spray
  Warbl'st at eeve, when all the Woods are still,
  Thou with fresh hope the Lovers heart dost fill,
  While the jolly hours lead on propitious May,
Thy liquid notes that close the eye of Day,
  First heard before the shallow Cuccoo's bill
  Portend success in love; O if Jove's will
  Have linkt that amorous power to thy soft lay,
Now timely sing, ere the rude Bird of Hate
  Foretell my hopeles doom in som Grove ny:
  As thou from yeer to yeer hast sung too late
For my relief; yet hadst no reason why,
  Whether the Muse, or Love call thee his mate,
  Both them I serve, and of their train am I. 


Donna leggiadra il cui bel nome honora
  L'herbosa val de Rheno, e il nobil varco,
  Ben è colui d'ogni valore scarco
  Qual tuo spirto gentil non innamora,
Che dolcemente mostra si di fuora
  De suoi atti soavi giamai parco,
  E i don', che son d'amor saette ed arco,
  La onde l' alta tua virtùs infiora.
Quando tu vaga parli, o lieta canti
  Che mover possa duro alpestre legno,
  Guardi ciascun a gli occhi, ed a gli orecchi
L'entrata, chi di te si truova indegno;
  Gratia sola di sù gli vaglia, inanti
  Che'l disio amoroso al cuor s'invecchi.


Qual in colle aspro, al imbrunir di sera
  L'avezza giovinetta pastorella
  Va bagnando l'herbetta strana e bella
  Che mal si spande a disusata spera
Fuor di sua natia alma primavera,
  Cosi Amor meco insù la lingua snella
  Desta il fior novo di strania favella,
  Mentre io di te, vezzosamente altera,
Canto, dal mio buon popol non inteso
  El bel Tamigi cangio col bel Arno.
  Amor lo volse, ed io a l'altrui peso
Seppi ch' Amor cosa mai volse indarno.
  Deh! foss' il mio cuor lento e'l duro seno
  A chi pianta dal ciel si buon terreno. 


Ridonsi donne e giovani amorosi
M' accostandosi attorno, e perche scrivi,
Perche tu scrivi in lingua ignota e strana
Verseggiando d'amor, e come t'osi?
Dinne, se la tua speme sia mai vana,
E de pensieri lo miglior t' arrivi;
Cosi mi van burlando, altri rivi
Altri lidi t' aspettan, & altre onde
Nelle cui verdi sponde
Spuntati ad hor, ad hor a la tua chioma
L'immortal guiderdon d'eterne frondi
Perche alle spalle tue soverchia soma?
  Canzon dirotti, e tu per me rispondi
Dice mia Donna, e'l suo dir, è il mio cuore
Questa è lingua di cui si vanta Amore. 


Diodati, e te'l dirò con maraviglia,
  Quel ritroso io ch'amor spreggiar soléa
  E de suoi lacci spesso mi ridéa
  Gia caddi, ov'huom dabben talhor s'impiglia.
Ne treccie d'oro, ne guancia vermiglia
  M' abbaglian sì, ma sotto nova idea
  Pellegrina bellezza che'l cuor bea,
  Portamenti alti honesti, e nelle ciglia
Quel sereno fulgor d' amabil nero,
  Parole adorne di lingua piu d'una,
  E'l cantar che di mezzo l'hemispero
Traviar ben può la faticosa Luna,
  E degli occhi suoi auventa si gran fuoco
  Che l'incerar gli orecchi mi fia poco. 


Per certo i bei vostr'occhi Donna mia
  Esser non puo che non fian lo mio sole
  Si mi percuoton forte, come ei suole
  Per l'arene di Libia chi s'invia,
Mentre un caldo vapor (ne sentì pria)
  Da quel lato si spinge ove mi duole,
  Che forse amanti nelle lor parole
  Chiaman sospir; io non so che si sia:
Parte rinchiusa, e turbida si cela
  Scosso mi il petto, e poi n'uscendo poco
  Quivi d' attorno o s'agghiaccia, o s'ingiela;
Ma quanto a gli occhi giunge a trovar loco
  Tutte le notti a me suol far piovose
  Finche mia Alba rivien colma di rose. 


Giovane piano, e semplicetio amante
  Poi che fuggir me stesso in dubbio sono,
  Madonna a voi del mio cuor l'humil dono
  Farò divoto; io certo a prove tante
L'hebbi fedele, intrepido, costante,
  De pensieri leggiadro, accorto, e buono;
  Quando rugge il gran mondo, e scocca il tuono,
  S'arma di se, e d' intero diamante,
Tanto del forse, e d' invidia sicuro,
  Di timori, e speranze al popol use
  Quanto d'ingegno, e d' alto valor vago,
E di cetra sonora, e delle muse:
  Sol troverete in tal parte men duro
  Ove amor mise l'insanabil ago.


How soon hath Time the suttle theef of youth,
  Stoln on his wing my three and twentith yeer!
  My hasting dayes flie on with full career,
  But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
  That I to manhood am arriv'd so near,
  And inward ripenes doth much less appear,
  That som more timely-happy spirits indu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
  It shall be still in strictest measure eev'n,
  To that same lot, however mean, or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n;
  All is, if I have grace to use it so,
  As ever in my great task Masters eye. 


When the Assault was Intended to the City

Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms,
  Whose chance on these defenceless dores may sease,
  If ever deed of honour did thee please,
  Guard them, and him within protect from harms,
He can requite thee, for he knows the charms
  That call Fame on such gentle acts as these,
  And he can spred thy Name o're Lands and Seas,
  What ever clime the Suns bright circle warms.
Lift not thy spear against the Muses Bowre,
  The great Emathian Conqueror bid spare
  The house of Pindarus, when Temple and Towre
Went to the ground: And the repeated air
  Of sad Electra's Poet had the power
  To save th' Athenian Walls from ruine bare. 


Lady that in the prime of earliest youth,
  Wisely hath shun'd the broad way and the green,
  And with those few art eminently seen,
  That labour up the Hill of heav'nly Truth,
The better part with Mary and with Ruth,
  Chosen thou hast, and they that overween,
  And at thy growing vertues fret their spleen,
  No anger find in thee, but pity and ruth.
Thy care is fixt and zealously attends
  To fill thy odorous Lamp with deeds of light,
  And Hope that reaps not shame. Therefore be sure
Thou, when the Bridegroom with his feastfull friends
  Passes to bliss at the mid hour of night,
  Hast gain'd thy entrance, Virgin wise and pure. 


Daughter to that good Earl, once President
  Of Englands Counsel, and her Treasury,
  Who liv'd in both, unstain'd with gold or fee,
  And left them both, more in himself content,
Till the sad breaking of that Parlament
  Broke him, as that dishonest victory
  At Chæronéa, fatal to liberty
  Kil'd with report that Old man eloquent,
Though later born, then to have known the dayes
  Wherin your Father flourisht, yet by you
  Madam, me thinks I see him living yet;
So well your words his noble vertues praise,
  That all both judge you to relate them true,
  And to possess them, Honour'd Margaret.       


A Book was writ of late call'd Tetrachordon;
  And wov'n close, both matter, form and stile;
  The Subject new: it walk'd the Town a while,
  Numbring good intellects; now seldom por'd on.
Cries the staff-reader, bless us! what a word on
  A title page is this! and some in file
  Stand spelling fals, while one might walk to Mile-
  End Green. Why is it harder Sirs then Gordon,
Colkitto, or Macdonnel, or Galasp?
  Those rugged names to our like mouths grow sleek
  That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp.
Thy age, like ours, O Soul of Sir John Cheek,
  Hated Learning wors then Toad or Asp;
  When thou taught'st Cambridge, and King Edward Greek. 


On the same.

I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs
  By the known rules of antient libertie,
  When strait a barbarous noise environs me
  Of Owles and Cuckoes, Asses, Apes and Doggs.
As when those Hinds that were transform'd to Froggs
  Raild at Latona's twin-born progenie
  Which after held the Sun and Moon in fee.
  But this is got by casting Pearl to Hoggs;
That bawle for freedom in their senceless mood,
  And still revolt when truth would set them free.
  Licence they mean when they cry libertie;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good;
  But from that mark how far they roave we see
  For all this wast of wealth, and loss of blood. 


To Mr. H. Lawes, on his Aires.

Harry whose tuneful and well measur'd Song
  First taught our English Musick how to span
  Words with just note and accent, not to scan
  With Midas Ears, committing short and long;
Thy worth and skill exempts thee from the throng,
  With praise enough for Envy to look wan;
  To after age thou shalt be writ the man,
  That with smooth aire couldst humor best our tongue.
Thou honour'st Verse, and Verse must send her wing
  To honour thee, the Priest of Phœbus Quire
  That tun'st their happiest lines in Hymn, or Story.
Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher
  Then his Casella, whom he woo'd to sing
  Met in the milder shades of Purgatory. 


On the Religious Memory of 
Mrs. Catherine Thomson, my Christian Friend, 
deceased Dec. 16, 1646

When Faith and Love which parted from thee never,
  Had ripen'd thy just soul to dwell with God,
  Meekly thou did'st resign this earthly load
  Of Death, call'd Life; which us from Life doth sever.
Thy Works and Alms and all thy good Endeavour
  Staid not behind, nor in the grave were trod;
  But as Faith pointed with her golden rod,
  Follow'd thee up to joy and bliss for ever.
Love led them on, and Faith who knew them best
  Thy hand-maids, clad them o're with purple beams
  And azure wings, that up they flew so drest,
And speak the truth of thee on glorious Theams
  Before the Judge, who thenceforth bid thee rest
  And drink thy fill of pure immortal streams. 


On the late Massacher in Piemont.

Avenge O Lord thy slaughter'd Saints, whose bones
  Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold,
  Ev'n them who kept thy truth so pure of old
  When all our Fathers worship't Stocks and Stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groanes
  Who were thy Sheep and in their antient Fold
  Slayn by the bloody Piemontese that roll'd
  Mother with Infant down the Rocks. Their moans
The Vales redoubl'd to the Hills, and they
  To Heav'n. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
  O're all th' Italian fields where still doth sway
The triple Tyrant: that from these may grow
  A hunder'd-fold, who having learnt thy way
  Early may fly the Babylonian wo. 


When I consider how my light is spent,
  E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
  And that one Talent which is death to hide,
  Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
  My true account, least he returning chide,
  Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
  I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
  Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
  Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
  And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
  They also serve who only stand and waite. 


Lawrence of vertuous Father vertuous Son,
  Now that the Fields are dank, and ways are mire,
  Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire
  Help wast a sullen day; what may be won
From the hard Season gaining: time will run
  On smoother, till Favonius re-inspire
  The frozen earth; and cloth in fresh attire
  The Lillie and Rose, that neither sow'd nor spun.
What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,
  Of Attick tast, with Wine, whence we may rise
  To hear the Lute well toucht, or artfull voice
Warble immortal Notes and Tuskan Ayre?
  He who of those delights can judge, and spare
  To interpose them oft, is not unwise. 


Cyriack, whose Grandsire on the Royal Bench
  Of Brittish Themis, with no mean applause
  Pronounc't and in his volumes taught our Lawes,
  Which others at their Barr so often wrench:
To day deep thoughts resolve with me to drench
  In mirth, that after no repenting drawes;
  Let Euclid rest and Archimedes pause,
  And what the Swede intend, and what the French.
To measure life, learn thou betimes, and know
  Toward solid good what leads the nearest way;
  For other things mild Heav'n a time ordains,
And disapproves that care, though wise in show,
  That with superfluous burden loads the day,
  And when God sends a cheerful hour, refrains. 


Methought I saw my late espoused Saint
  Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
  Whom Joves great Son to her glad Husband gave,
  Rescu'd from death by force though pale and faint.
Mine as whom washt from spot of child-bed taint,
  Purification in the old Law did save,
  And such, as yet once more I trust to have
  Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind:
  Her face was vail'd, yet to my fancied sight,
  Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
So clear, as in no face with more delight.
  But O as to embrace me she enclin'd
  I wak'd, she fled, and day brought back my night. 

Other sonnets

On the Lord Gen. Fairfax at the siege of Colchester.

Fairfax, whose Name in armes through Europe rings
  Filling each mouth with envy, or with praise,
  And all her jealous monarchs with amaze,
  And rumors loud, that daunt remotest kings,
Thy firm unshak'n vertue ever brings
  Victory home, though new rebellions raise
  Thir Hydra heads, & the fals North displaies
  Her brok'n league, to impe their serpent wings,
O yet a nobler task awaites thy hand;
  For what can Warr, but endless warr still breed,
  Till Truth, & Right from Violence be freed,
And Public Faith cleard from the shamefull brand
  Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed
  While Avarice, & Rapine share the land. 

To the Lord Generall Cromwell May 1652.
On the proposalls of certaine ministers at 
the Committee for Propagation of the Gospell.

Cromwell, our cheif of men, who through a cloud
  Not of warr onely, but detractions rude,
  Guided by faith & matchless Fortitude
  To peace & truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud
  Hast reard Gods Trophies, & his work pursu'd,
  While Darwen stream with blood of Scotts imbru'd,
  And Dunbarr feild resounds thy praises loud,
And Worsters laureat wreath; yet much remaines
  To conquer still; peace hath her victories
  No less renownd then warr, new foes aries
Threatning to bind our soules with secular chaines:
  Helpe us to save free Conscience from the paw
  Of hireling wolves whose Gospell is their maw. 

To Mr. Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness.

Cyriack, this three years day these eys, though clear
  To outward view, of blemish or of spot;
  Bereft of light thir seeing have forgot,
  Nor to thir idle orbs doth sight appear
Of Sun or Moon or Starre throughout the year,
  Or man or woman. Yet I argue not
  Against heavns hand or will, nor bate a jot
  Of heart or hope; but still bear vp and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
  The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd
  In libertyes defence, my noble task,
Of which all Europe talks from side to side.
  This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
Content though blind, had I no better guide. 

To Sir Henry Vane the younger.

Vane, young in yeares, but in sage counsell old,
  Then whome a better Senatour nere held
  The helme of Rome, when gownes not armes repelld
  The feirce Epeirot & the African bold,
Whether to settle peace, or to unfold
  The drift of hollow states, hard to be spelld,
  Then to advise how warr may best, upheld,
  Move by her two maine nerves, Iron & Gold
In all her equipage; besides to know
  Both spirituall powre & civill, what each meanes
  What which each thou hast learnt, which few have don.
The bounds of either sword to thee wee ow.
  Therfore on thy firme hand religion leanes
  In peace, & reck'ns thee her eldest son. 

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