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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century





Ye Nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:
To heav’nly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and th’ Aonian maids,
Delight no more — O thou my voice inspire
Who touch’d Isaiah’s hallow’d lips with fire!
     Rapt into future times, the bard begun:
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son:
From Jesse’s root behold a Branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
Th’ Ethereal Spirit o’er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye Heav’ns! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show’r!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail;

Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heav’n descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn!
Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe! be born.
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring:
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance:
See spicy clouds from lowly Sharon rise,
And Carmel’s flow’ry top perfumes the skies!
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply;
The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.
Lo, earth receives Him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains; and, ye Valleys, rise;
With heads declined, ye Cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth, ye Rocks; ye rapid Floods, give way!
The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold!
Hear Him, ye Deaf; and, all ye Blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day:
’Tis He th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th’ unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur the wide world shall hear;
From ev’ry face He wipes off ev’ry tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And Hell’s grim tyrant feel th’ eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wand’ring sheep directs,
By day o’ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hands, and in his bosom warms:
Thus shall mankind His guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover’d o’er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow’d shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
See lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts, amidst the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murm’ring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon’s late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplex’d with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn;
To leafless shrubs the flow’ring palms succeed,
And od’rous myrtle to the noisome weed.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flow’ry bands the tiger lead;
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim’s feet;
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongues shall innocently play.

Rise, crown’d with light, imperial Salem, rise!
Exalt thy tow’ry head, and lift thine eyes!
See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barb’rous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend;
See thy bright altars throng’d with prostrate kings,
And heap’d with products of Sabæan springs!
For thee Idume’s spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow.
See Heav’n its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day!
No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
Nor ev’ning Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O’erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
Reveal’d, and God’s eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix’d His word, His saving power remains;
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own MESSIAH reigns!

Early English poems, Chaucer to Pope.
London: Sampson Low, Son and Co., 1863. 303-308.


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Samuel Butler
John Dryden
Samuel Pepys
John Bunyan
Aphra Behn
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
Mary Astell
William Congreve
Matthew Prior
Daniel Defoe
John Gay
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Jonathan Swift
Joseph Addison
Sir Richard Steele
James Thomson
Alexander Pope
Dr. Samuel Johnson
Thomas Gray
William Collins
Christopher Smart
Oliver Goldsmith
George Crabbe
William Cowper
James Boswell
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