On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity: The Hymn "Time Will Run Back, And Fetch The Age Of Gold"

John Milton

"Time Will Run Back, And Fetch The Age Of Gold"

Context: When Christ was born, Peace came down to earth (Christ was born during the Pax Romana); the ocean was smooth; and the halcyons, the birds of calm, sat on their nests on the water. The stars stood fixed; and the sun hid his face, as he saw a greater Sun come to enlighten the world. The shepherds little thought, as they sat in the fields, that the mighty Pan, the Good Shepherd, was come to earth. There was music like that of the spheres that would hold heaven and earth in union. The cherubim and the seraphim appeared in the sky, harping the birth of the heir of heaven. The poet asks that the music of the spheres may be heard by mortals, because, if such holy harmony becomes audible, time will turn backward and produce the golden age again. The first golden age was that time before the fall of Adam when there was no war, no money, no commerce, no crime, no sin. Instead, all lived in peace and harmony in a perfect world:

Ring out ye crystal spheres,
Once bless our human ears,
(If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the bass of heaven's deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort of th'angelic symphony.
For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back, and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous sin will melt from earthly mould,
And hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day.