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John Milton: On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough

John Milton

(1608-1674 )

 

Anno ætatis 17.

On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough

I

O Fairest flower no sooner blown but blasted,

Soft silken Primrose fading timelesslie,

Summers chief honour if thou hadst out-lasted

Bleak winters force that made thy blossome drie;

For he being amorous on that lovely die

That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss

But kill’d alas, and then bewayl’d his fatal bliss.

 

II

For since grim Aquilo his charioter

By boistrous rape th’ Athenian damsel got,

He thought it toucht his Deitie full neer,

If likewise he some fair one wedded not,

Thereby to wipe away th’ infamous blot,

Of long-uncoupled bed, and childless eld,

Which ‘mongst the wanton gods a foul reproach was held.

 

III

So mounting up in ycie-pearled carr,

Through middle empire of the freezing aire

He wanderd long, till thee he spy’d from farr,

There ended was his quest, there ceast his care.

Down he descended from his Snow-soft chaire,

But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace

Unhous’d thy Virgin Soul from her fair biding place.

 

IV

Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;

For so Apollo, with unweeting hand

Whilome did slay his dearly-loved mate

Young Hyacinth born on Eurotas strand,

Young Hyacinth the pride of Spartan land;

But then transform’d him to a purple flower

Alack that so to change thee winter had no power.

 

V

Yet can I not perswade me thou art dead

Or that thy coarse corrupts in earths dark wombe,

Or that thy beauties lie in wormie bed,

Hid from the world in a low delved tombe;

Could Heav’n for pittie thee so strictly doom?

Oh no? for something in thy face did shine

Above mortalitie that shew’d thou wast divine.

 

VI

Resolve me then oh Soul most surely blest

(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear)

Tell me bright Spirit where e’re thou hoverest

Whether above that high first-moving Spheare

Or in the Elisian fields (if such there were.)

Oh say me true if thou wert mortal wight

And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight.

 

VII

Wert thou some Starr which from the ruin’d roof

Of shak’t Olympus by mischance didst fall;

Which carefull Jove in natures true behoofe

Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?

Or did of late earths Sonnes besiege the wall

Of sheenie Heav’n, and thou some goddess fled

Amongst us here below to hide thy nectar’d head.

 

VIII

Or wert thou that just Maid who once before

Forsook the hated earth, O tell me sooth,

And cam’st again to visit us once more?

Or wert thou that sweet smiling Youth!

Or that crown’d Matron sage white-robed truth?

Or any other of that heav’nly brood

Let down in clowdie throne to do the world some good.

 

IX

Or wert thou of the golden-winged hoast,

Who having clad thy self in humane weed,

To earth from thy præfixed seat didst poast,

And after short abode flie back with speed,

As if to shew what creatures Heav’n doth breed,

Thereby to set the hearts of men on fire

To scorn the sordid world, and unto Heav’n aspire.

 

X

But oh why didst thou not stay here below

To bless us with thy heav’n-lov’d innocence,

To slake his wrath whom sin hath made our foe

To turn Swift-rushing black perdition hence,

Or drive away the slaughtering pestilence,

To stand ‘twixt us and our deserved smart

But thou canst best perform that office where thou art.

 

XI

Then thou the mother of so sweet a child

Her false imagin’d loss cease to lament,

And wisely learn to curb thy sorrows wild;

Think what a present thou to God hast sent,

And render him with patience what he lent;

This if thou do, he will an off-spring give

That till the worlds last end shall make thy name to live.

 

John Milton poetry

kempis.nl poetry magazine

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