Milton’s Nativity Ode contains a “theory of all things” in respect to his vision. This theory deals greatly with the idea that the human body is merely a tomb for the soul. While in the Bible we have been taking the body of the King to represent the whole land. The death of the King is in comparison the death of the land.
Like the Kings of Christ’s time, Milton writes to bring attention to the three types of liberty he hoped to achieve in England: Liberty from the Church [tyranny of the bishops], liberty of the individual [divorce and education], and liberty from the state [King].
The poem can be broken down into four parts: the first eight verses deal with the coming of Christ, the next ten with the mystery of music, verse nineteen and forward focus on the silencing of the oracles and concludes with verse twenty-seven and the birth of Christ. In “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” Milton sees both Christmas and Easter as the same thing since it is impossible to have one without the other. The baby in the cradle is the man on the cross.
John Milton’s “On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity” uses the idea of the Jesus of history and the Christ of fact to relay his ideas of the creation of the world and the synonymous events. Comparison can be drawn between John Gospel and “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” for it is an intensely symbolic book. John’s version of Christ is a Christ of Faith, which has a plays a large part in the Ode.
In the fifth verse of the “Nativity Ode” Milton declares that the saviour would come and sacrifice himself for mankind and work with his father to create “perpetual peace” (7]. In the glorification of Jesus in John’s Gospel, the spirit makes him known as the Son of God.
In the first hymn of the poem Christ is compared to nature and the natural world. For Milton, harmony can only be found in nature; nature has a deeper meaning then is initially revealed to the reader. Snow is able to cover the earth and blanket all of its sins. Nature takes the form of trees and rivers in the Old Testament; the Trees of Knowledge and Life as well as the Rivers of Eden [Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates].
As in comparison, in relation to the serpent, Milton uses the dragon to signify everything that is evil in the world. In classical mythology the dragon signifies the same as the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden:
The old dragon underground
In straiter limits bound,
Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And wroth to see his kingdom fail.
The Classics give you a limited and partial image of the truth. Milton uses classical mythology to prove that even in a pagan religion snakes are equated with evil doings. The slaying of the dragon is connected to every dragon slaying known to Milton from both the Biblical and Classical worlds. Milton recounts the story of how as an infant Hercules strangled two snakes:
Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our babe to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
Classical mythology, or the belief in it cannot save your soul but it can give you a nudge in the right direction. While in the poem Christ is replacing the classical culture he is also part of classical antiquity. At the closing of the poem we return to the musical serenade of the angels and the angel harmony as the angels sin in order serviceably.
St. Paul like Milton believed that the body was merely a tomb for the soul: a container that while it was fallen could through acts of salvation help the soul return to a state of grace after death. Death as we see it is not really death then by the standards of Milton; death only wounds the physical body and allows the soul/spirit to return to the heavens. With death comes liberty, from the church, self and state. To St. Paul the body of mankind was an ever perishing home to an eternal soul. This is a recurrent theme in the narrative of the Bible, a story of loss and recuperation.
Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” calls on many images and ideas that are expressed in the Old and New Testament’s of the King James Bible from the idea that the King is the land, the body is a vessel for the soul and that the snake/serpent and dragon are all representative of evil whether examining Biblical or Classical literature. Milton uses Biblical allusion and references to give his argument weight with his reader who would have surely at that time been familiar enough with the middles to draw the comparisons quickly and effectively.
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