Whoa, it's been a year! I just found this in a notebook from college (I'm back at home), and kind of wanted to post it somewhere. I think it was supposed to be an extra-credit thing for a Milton class, though I'm far from sure. Just... as busy as I clearly was, how much time did I spend on this? (Hint: Read it up and down.)
In restless nights at grim semester's end
Nemeses rise in every shadowed page.
Even the finest lines of poetry
Ever to grace the pages of our tomes
Darken, and seem to mock us with their depths.
And we might wonder, in these weary hours,
Now that the obligations of our craft
Arise in forms of deadlines multiple,
Perilous if missed, impossible to meet--
In these our hours of torment, as we groan
And rack our brains for ways to fill a page--
Might wonder why we struggle thus at all.
Vying for each remote and precious 'A,'
Even the stalwart MILTON scholar may
Repent, to some degree, their chosen course.
Yawning, and gulping one more cup of tea,
The MILTON scholar wonders why she chose
In that mad time of registration, this
Redoubted master of the English tongue
Even for one semester's study; why,
Deeming him somehow better worth the time,
In some unfathomed way, than all the rest,
Did she decided to go and study him?
Loudly she may proclaim disgruntlement
Into the silent pages of her books,
Keeping an eye fixed to the clock the while,
Ever aware how slim the time has grown.
Then soft! What light from yonder sky descends,
O weary mortal? 'Tis the glow of TRUTH,
Got up in person of an ANGEL bright.
Enters the six-winged seraph, RAPHAEL,
To light upon the startled student's desk.
Taking one look around the cluttered room,
He soft begins, "Why doubt thou, mortal, so?*
In idle play you've whiled away your time,
Surrendering your hours to foolish books
Devoid of any real enlight'ning pow'r;
Or, finding your friends a more engaging group,
No matter how bewild'ring silly they,
Enemies of your productivity,
Shall show themselves, than those illumined names
Over the pages spread of that fair tome
In which the works of Milton lie safe-bound.
Can this be gratitude? Can this uncouth
And shameful disregard for one the Muse
Native to Heaven has so surely led,
Devoted, though a little proud, to tell
Of all his Heaven and his Hell have done,
Marked, though he was, in blindness, by the stern
Yet ever-loving hand of that he called
Omnipotent, Creator, Father, God--
The author of his cosmos, though the VOID
He spoke of is a real and living thing,
Even in all the chambers of the HEART
Raising its standard, till all mortals must
Dare to oppose its will, or soon be lost.**
An enemy to CHAOS, and the Void,
Perilous adversaries, Milton wrote
Even as all the truest poets do,
Reaching into his heart, and plucking out
Seedlings of chaos, each a budding vine
That could become a flow'r of GENIUS; or,**
Set in a sicklier soil, could else outgrow
The confines of a virtuous heart and wise--
Heave upward, and with shadowed touch distort,
In subtle motions, that illustrious Brain,
Set it a course of Madness and of Doubt
Ever-increasing, till it fall to dust.
No stranger to this risk was Milton, who,
On starting his narrative of Paradise,
Gave witness to wise fears that, once begun,
Having the deeds of Heav'n and Hell in verse
All set down, that he might forget his place--
Put on the air of God and not of Man,
Pull down from Heaven more than was his due
And fall to HELL as rash Bellerophon
Ran harsh aground; so ran his worthy fears."
Ending his talk of Falling, Raphael stands
Nodding his head toward th'abandoned desk.
Taking a seat, the student soon begins
Lightly to tap the keyboard, taking notes--
Yawning the while, for still the hour grows late.
"Now," Raphael says, taking a speaker's stance,
"Our time grows short, and soon you must succumb
To creeping slumber and the dread of morn.
One lesson take from this our visit-- take,
Keep in your heart, and do not soon forget:
As Shakespeare's whimsied genius, Dante's Hell,
Yet more than both of these, Milton had skill
All things to make full clear to mortal eyes.***
Like any true Creator, he with words
Images could call to play th'ethereal stage
The like of which had never yet been seen
The length and breadth of Earth. How Eden fell
Lately he told, and how the Serpent failed
Even as he stood crowing his success.
"More to the point, perhaps, for one who claims no faith--"****
On this note Raphael reproachful stared,
Rememb'ring, perhaps, my areligious state.
Even at this, I scarce could muster more
Than a brief smile, and that half-sleeping, too.
He sighed, and went on. "Milton likewise wrote
Every kind of work within his ken,
Neither in sentiment, nor in form did pause,
His ire invoked, at tracts political,
Or poetry, when thus he was inspired.
Wilful, you choose to disregard such work
As you find difficult to comprehend.
But you will find, when finally you read
O'er the Prolusions, or the greater tracts,
Under the vines of his well-grounded thought,
The inspiration that you long have sought.
"Now in your hours of Panic and Despair,
O'erwrought by quandaries of papers due,
When seeking sources, know you only this:
Of all the writers you so far have known--"
Kissing the tome-- "Milton you may find
Ample support for any kind of stance
You have need to support." At this, he stopped.
"Good night, young scholar, and in all your work,
Only keep Milton by your side, and soon
Our Muse, Urania, will guide your hand."
Dimming, he vanished, and I fell asleep.
*Quotation marks added for the sake of my sanity.
**I wrote the initial letters first, and apparently misread a P as a D and an I as a T. Oops.
***No, I don't think Milton's better than Shakespeare (though apparently I had delusions to that effect while I was in this class). In any case, Raphael's biased.
****Pentameter fail! Nooo!