by Sheena Phillips
Christmas Morning is based on extracts from On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity (1629) by John Milton. In the middle of the poem, Milton describes the wonderful peacefulness of Christmas night, in which even the winds and ocean are calm and the stars stand ‘fix’d in steadfast gaze’. Shepherds sit ‘simply chatting’ when dawn unexpectedly ushers in a sweet and unearthly music. This blissful sound – which Milton describes as a combination of ‘divinely warbled voice’ and ‘stringed noise’ (surely a theorbo!) – is the first sign of a new bridge between heaven and earth. S.P.
from On the morning of Christ's Nativity
by John Milton
Peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The winds with wonder whist, [whist: silenced]
Smoothly the waters kist,
Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The Stars with deep amaze
Stand fix'd in steadfast gaze,
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;
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,
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.