Sample Essay

’On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ was written in 1629 on Christ’s incarnation, his victory over earthly and pagan powers and his crucifixion. This poem may be the least studied of all Milton’s poems, yet it is truly representative of Milton’s poetic style which combines a unique puritan sternness with a musical voice.

               Milton stood between the Elizabethan era and the Puritan reformation and his work is indicative of the influence of both. The growing predominance of the sterner qualities was due to the stress of bitter personal experiences including loss of sight and fortune, and to the growing spirit of religious austerity.

The poem consists of two sections: The initial four stanzas which consist of 6 lines each written in iambic pentameter constitute the preamble with the rhyme scheme as ababbcc.  The next twenty seven stanzas constitute the “hymn” The stanzas in the hymn consist of eight lines each and vary in length (6, 6, 19, 6, 6, 10, 8, 12), each terminating in an alexandrine. The rhyme scheme follows the pattern aabccbdd.

This poem demonstrates religious rapture and joy. The subject matter is a simple and oft-mentioned theme but Milton’s words show beautiful detail and imagery. It is the detail and musical cadence that designate the Miltonic touch. His verse shows the musical touch that indicates his own accomplishment as a musician. The Alexandrines, which make the last line of each stanza in the Ode, add the lyrical quality to the poem.

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