Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT DYING OF A COUGH, by JOHN MILTON



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ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT DYING OF A COUGH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O fairest flower no sooner blown but blasted
Last Line: That till the world's last end shall make thy name to live.
Subject(s): Death - Children; Plague; Death - Babies


I
O fairest flower no sooner blown but blasted,
Soft silken primrose fading timelessly,
Summer's chief honour if thou hadst outlasted
Bleak Winter's force that made thy blossom dry;
For he being amorous on that lovely dye
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss
But killed alas, and then bewailed his fatal bliss.

II
For since grim Aquilo his charioteer
By boist'rous rape th' Athenian damsel got,
He thought it touched his deity full near,
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 icy-pearled car,
Through middle empire of the freezing air
He wandered long, till thee he spied from far;
There ended was his quest, there ceased his care.
Down he descended from his snow-soft chair,
But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace
Unhoused thy virgin soul from her fair biding-place.

IV
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
For so Apollo, with unweeting hand
Whilom did slay his dearly-loved mate
Young Hyacinth born on Eurotas' strand,
Young Hyacinth the pride of Spartan land;
But then transformed him to a purple flower;
Alack that so to change thee Winter had no power.

V
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead
Or that thy corse corrupts in earth's dark womb,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,
Hid from the world in a low-delved tomb;
Could Heav'n for pity thee so strictly doom?
O no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortality that showed thou wast divine.

VI
Resolve me then O soul most surely blest
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear),
Tell me bright spirit where'er thou hoverest,
Whether above that high first-moving sphere
Or in the Elysian fields (if such there were),
O say me true if thou wert mortal wight,
And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight.

VII
Wert thou some star which from the ruined roof
Of shaked Olympus by mischance did fall;
Which careful Jove in Nature's true behoof
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?
Or did of late Earth's sons besiege the wall
Of sheeny heav'n, and thou some goddess fled
Amongst us here below to hide thy nectared 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 [Mercy] that sweet smiling youth?
Or that crowned matron, sage white-robed Truth?
Or any other of that Heav'nly brood
Let down in cloudy throne to do the world some good?

IX
Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
Who having clad thyself in human weed,
To earth from thy prefixed seat didst post,
And after short abode fly back with speed,
As if to show 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 O why didst thou not stay here below
To bless us with thy Heav'n-loved 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 imagined 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 offspring give,
That till the world's last end shall make thy name to live.





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