Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  322. Light

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

John Milton. 1608–1674

322. Light

HAIL holy light, ofspring of Heav’n first-born, 
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam 
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light, 
And never but in unapproachèd light 
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,         5
Bright effluence of bright essence increate. 
Or hear’st thou rather pure Ethereal stream, 
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun, 
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice 
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest  10
The rising world of waters dark and deep, 
Won from the void and formless infinite. 
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing, 
Escap’t the Stygian Pool, though long detain’d 
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight  15
Through utter and through middle darkness borne 
With other notes then to th’ Orphean Lyre 
I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night, 
Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down 
The dark descent, and up to reascend,  20
Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe, 
And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou 
Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain 
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn; 
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs,  25
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more 
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt 
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill, 
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief 
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath  30
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow, 
Nightly I visit: nor somtimes forget 
Those other two equal’d with me in Fate, 
So were I equal’d with them in renown. 
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,  35
And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old. 
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntarie move 
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful Bird 
Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid 
Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year  40
Seasons return, but not to me returns 
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev’n or Morn, 
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose, 
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine; 
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark  45
Surrounds me, from the chearful waies of men 
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair 
Presented with a Universal blanc 
Of Natures works to mee expung’d and ras’d, 
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out.  50
So much the rather thou Celestial light 
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers 
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence 
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell 
Of things invisible to mortal sight.  55