England's Antiphon

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Blest pair of sirens, pledges of heaven's joy Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse, Wed your divine sounds, and mixed power employ-- Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce-- And to our high-raised phantasy present That undisturbed song of pure concent[105] Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne To him that sits thereon,
With saintly shout, and solemn jubilee; Where the bright seraphim, in burning row, Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow; And the cherubic host in thousand choirs, Touch their immortal harps of golden wires, With those just spirits that wear victorious palms, Hymns devout and holy psalms
Singing everlastingly;
That we on earth, with undiscording voice, May rightly answer that melodious noise-- As once we did, till disproportioned[106] Sin Jarred against Nature's chime, and with harsh din Broke the fair music that all creatures made To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed In perfect diapason,[107] whilst they stood In first obedience and their state of good. O may we soon again renew that song, And keep in tune with heaven, till God ere long To his celestial consort[108] us unite, To live with him, and sing in endless morn of light!

Music was the symbol of all Truth to Milton. He would count it falsehood to write an unmusical verse. I allow that some of his blank lines may appear unrhythmical; but Experience, especially if she bring with her a knowledge of Dante, will elucidate all their movements. I exhort my younger friends to read Milton aloud when they are alone, and thus learn the worth of word-sounds. They will find him even in this an educating force. The last ode ought to be thus read for the magnificent dance-march of its motion, as well as for its melody.

Show me one who delights in the Hymn on the Nativity, and I will show you one who may never indeed be a singer in this world, but who is already a listener to the best. But how different it is from anything of George Herbert's! It sets forth no feeling peculiar to Milton; it is an outburst of the gladness of the company of believers. Every one has at least read the glorious poem; but were I to leave it out I should have lost, not the sapphire of aspiration, not the topaz of praise, not the emerald of holiness, but the carbuncle of delight from the high priest's breast-plate. And I must give the introduction too: it is the cloudy grove of an overture, whence rushes the torrent of song.

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