January 2 - School Day Poems of John Milton - At the age of sixteen, Milton first appeared before the public eye as a promising young poet. These early verses, written while he was a boy in school, indicate his brilliant future (First edition of Milton's collected poems published, Jan 2, 1645) Read Milton's Poems, vol. 4, pp. 7-18 (From The Harvard Classics Fifteen Minutes a Day: The Reading Guide (1930))
Excerpt from Milton's On The Morning of Christ's Nativity (1629)
No War, or Battails sound
Was heard the World around:
The idle spear and shield were high up hung; [ 55 ]
The hooked Chariot stood
Unstain'd with hostile blood,
The Trumpet spake not to the armed throng,
And Kings sate still with awfull eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by. [ 60 ]
This stanza is from a poem Milton wrote at the age of 21 and has been described by one scholar as his "coming of age poem." (See an introduction to and full text of the poem HERE.) As we begin a new year, some 370 years since the first publication of this piece, I was particularly caught by verse IV of The Hymn. It reminds me of the oft sung but more often forgotten lines of of the popular Christmas Carol, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear written by Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)..
But with the woes of war and strife the world has suffered long
beneath the angel strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong;
and we who fight the wars hear not the love song which they bring.
O hus the noise of battle strife, and hear the angels sing.
Which is why I think I'm often drawn to the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce.
There is something in humankind that is deeper than violence and more profound than our flights of inhumanity, if we would pause long enough to remember.
So then, let us pause. . .remember. . .and remake our world this year.