"The Star-led Wizards Haste With Odors Sweet"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Milton begins by saying that this is the morning when the Son of heaven's King was born to the Virgin; He brought our great redemption from above; He paid the forfeit for our sins. He had laid aside the tremendous brilliance of His heavenly form, in which He was clothed when He counselled with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven; He forsook the everlasting day to inhabit a dark house of mortal clay. Milton then asks the heavenly Muse if there is no verse or hymn to welcome Christ to His new home. The star-led wizards, the Magi, are coming to present their frankincense; the poet therefore conjures the Muse to hurry before them to offer a song to Him and thus have the first honor, and to join her voice with the angelic choir that hymned Him in heaven. "Prevent" has its archaic meaning of "come ahead of some one."

See how from far upon the Eastern road
The star-led wizards haste with odors sweet:
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
Have thou the honor first, thy Lord to greet,
And join thy voice unto the angel choir,
From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.