Sunday, December 24, 2017

Chistmas Eve rising

           Ye Mists and Exhalations, that now rise,
           From hill or steaming lake, dusky or grey,
           Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold

If one were to imagine all
the capabilities of language
in advance, it's doubtful if
we'd reach Milton. On Christ-
mas Eve I tend to keep a com-
forting practice, of sitting
up with a snifter of Scotch
to read from Dryden's Aeneid,
but poetry comes up earlier
to me this year, as pressing
its case with morning coffee.

I spent the previous evening,
tossing and turning over where
I had read of the impressions
conveyed to me by this anony-
mous photograph at an elegant
website; but as is often the
case with me, this is why my
dog and I go out upon a dawn,
to rebuild as with the day.

The rather wonderful British
scholar, Alexandra Harris, re-
minds us that John Milton's
Morning Hymn in Book V of his
Paradise Lost was the first po-
etical work ever cited by Tur-
which may or may not have en-
tered Wordworth's mind as he
read from it to Dorothy, over-
looking the valley of Brathay,
"[when] it seemed we had nev-
er before felt deeply the pow-
er of the Poet" (1810).

If there had seemed to be dis-
couragements in power's resort
to language in this year, I'd
not pretend that Milton were
necessary, for allaying them.
Anyone with our slenderer ac-
quaintance of its protections,
has been obliged to heed them.

But this was a poet who plain-
ly believed it of poetry, that
dawn is its manifesting moment.
Something like strength, more
than power, distinguishes this
perception and its fulfillment.
What one feels, is its nerve.
John Milton, a new winter mor-
ning, walking with one's dog.

John Milton
Paradise Lost
  V, 185-187

Alexandra Harris
  Writers and Artists
  under English Skies
Thames & Hudson, 2015©

ii  Leonardo da Vinci
    A copse of trees
    Chalk on paper
    Collection HM Queen Elizabeth II

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