Verse > Harvard Classics > John Milton > Complete Poems
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John Milton. (1608–1674).  Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Arcades
 
(1633)
 
 
        Part of an Entertainment presented to the Countess Dowager of Derby at Harefield by some Noble Persons of her Family; who appear on the Scene in pastoral habit, moving toward the seat of state, with this song:
I. Song

LOOK, Nymphs and Shepherds, look!
What sudden blaze of majesty
Is that which we from hence descry,
Too divine to be mistook?
  This, this is she        5
To whom our vows and wishes bend:
Here our solemn search hath end.
Fame, that her high worth to raise
Seemed erst so lavish and profuse,
We may justly now accuse        10
Of detraction from her praise:
  Less than half we find expressed;
  Envy bid conceal the rest.
 
Mark what radiant state she spreads,
In circle round her shining throne        15
Shooting her beams like silver threads:
  This, this is she alone,
  Sitting like a Goddess bright
  In the centre of her light.
 
Might she the wise Latona be,        20
Or the towered Cybele,
Mother of a hundred gods?
Juno dares not give her odds:
  Who had thought this clime had held
  A Deity so unparalleled?        25
 
        As they came forward, the Genius of the Wood appears, and, turning toward them, speaks.
Gen. Stay, gentle Swains, for, though in this disguise,
I see bright honour sparkle through your eyes;
Of famous Arcady ye are, and sprung
Of that renowned flood so often sung,
Divine Alpheus, who, by secret sluice,        30
Stole under seas to meet his Arethuse;
And ye, the breathing roses of the wood,
Fair silver-buskind Nymphs, as great and good.
I know this quest of yours and free intent
Was all in honour and devotion meant        35
To the great Mistress of yon princely shrine,
Whom with low reverence I adore as mine,
And with all helpful service will comply
To further this night’s glad solemnity,
And lead ye where ye may more near behold        40
What shallow-searching Fame hath left untold;
Which I full oft, midst these shades alone,
Have sat to wonder at, and gaze upon.
For know, by lot from Jove, I am the Power
Of this fair wood, and live in oaken bower,        45
To nurse the saplings tall, and curl the grove
With ringlets quaint and wanton windings wove;
And all my plants I save from nightly ill
Of noisome winds and blasting vapours chill;
And from the boughs brush off the evil dew,        50
And heal the harms of thwarting thunder blue,
Or what the cross dire-looking planet smites,
Or hurtful worm with cankered venom bites.
When Evening grey doth rise, I fetch my round
Over the mount, and all this hallowed ground;        55
And early, ere the odorous breath of morn
Awakes the slumbering leaves, or tasselled horn
Shakes the high thicket, haste I all about,
Number my ranks, and visit every sprout
With puissant words and murmurs made to bless.        60
But else, in deep of night, when drowsiness
Hath locked up mortal sense, then listen I
To the celestial Sirens’ harmony,
That sit upon the nine enfolded spheres,
And sing to those that hold the vital shears,        65
And turn the adamantine spindle round
On which the fate of gods and men is wound.
Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie,
To lull the daughters of Necessity,
And keep unsteady Nature to her law,        70
And the low world in measured motion draw
After the heavenly tune, which none can hear
Of human mould with gross unpurged ear.
And yet such music worthiest were to blaze
The peerless height of her immortal praise        75
Whose lustre leads us, and for her most fit,
If my inferior hand or voice could hit
Inimitable sounds. Yet, as we go,
Whate’er the skill of lesser gods can show
I will assay, her worth to celebrate,        80
And so attend ye toward her glittering state;
Where ye may all, that are of noble stem,
Approach, and kiss her sacred vesture’s hem.
 
II. Song

O’er the smooth enamelled green,
Where no print of step hath been,        85
  Follow me, as I sing
  And touch the warbled string.
Under the shady roof
Of branching elm star-proof
    Follow me.        90
I will bring you where she sits,
Clad in splendour as befits
    Her deity.
Such a rural Queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.        95
 
III. Song

Nymphs and Shepherds, dance no more
  By sandy Ladon’s lilied banks;
On old Lycæus, or Cyllene hoar,
  Trip no more in twilight ranks;
Though Erymanth your loss deplore,        100
  A better soil shall give ye thanks.
  From the stony Mænalus
Bring your flocks, and live with us;
Here ye shall have greater grace,
To serve the Lady of this place.        105
Through Syrinx your Pan’s mistress were,
Yet Syrinx well might wait on her.
  Such a rural Queen
  All Arcadia hath not seen.
 

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