Analysis Of John Milton 'On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity'

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As John Milton attempts to properly glorify the birth of Christ in “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” both references to classical mythology and Biblical allusions appear scattered throughout the stanzas. The two often stand in direct contrast to one another, and possess strong negative and positive connotations, respectively. Throughout the poem, Milton bends nature to highlight the impending birth of the Savior and growing unrest of the polytheistic tradition. Each mythological character that is strategically placed also serves to inform the readers of the coming of a new age— that of Christ. While mythological references in a puritan poem seem incongruous, they serve a very particular purpose here. Milton employs the juxtaposition of…show more content…
Martin Evans, addresses these strategic parallels between Christ and Roman and Greek mythological figures, in his book, “The Miltonic Moment.” Evans uses his piece to denote the significance of Milton’s subject material shifting from paganism to Christianity. Evans writes, “A significant portion of the old stories could be assimilated within the framework of orthodox Christian ideology,” and identifies Milton's references to Pan and Hercules as “two figures from classical mythology [which] are converted into precursors of the Christian redeemer” (Evans 23). Here, Evans’ commentary establishes the figures from Greek and Roman mythology as serving as a bridge from the classical world to Christian monotheism. Milton is tasked with highlighting the similarities between various mythological figures and Christ in order to effectively illustrate the segue of old religions into one new religion. The importance of this seamless transition is identified by Evans, “Faced with the product of an alien culture, Milton and his Christian predecessors have incorporated it into the fabric of their own religious tradition by transforming it… into an essentially new work” (Evans 24). Evans calls this strategy “inclusion” (Evans 24), and identifies its main purpose as avoiding an abrupt shift in literary style and content. This passage acknowledges Milton’s fears that “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” if strictly Christian, would not resonate with his targeted…show more content…
As he juxtaposes these contrasts, Milton repeatedly associates Christ with light, while linking the polytheistic gods with dark. In describing the impending arrival of Christ, Milton writes, “That glorious form, that light unsufferable” (II.8). This simple statement begins Christ’s association to light. In addition to deeming Christ “glorious,” the powerful connotation the light holds of purity and power instantly establishes the goodness and supremacy of Christ within the poem. Once this relation between Jesus and light has been solidified by Milton, every subsequent piece of light imagery evokes images of Christ as well. Milton also chooses to associate the polytheistic gods with darkness, detailing, “Peor and Baalim / Forsake their temples dim” (XXII.298-299) and “sullen Moloch fled, / Hath left in shadows dread” (XXII.205-206). The relation between the listed polytheistic gods and the dark imagery, such as “dim,” “sullen,” and “shadows,” creates a link between the two. For the remainder of “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” the darkness which is spoken of now conjures images of the polytheistic gods. Once both the light and dark associations have been established, Milton is able to place them in direct juxtaposition with one another within the same stanza. Milton writes, “The rays of Bethlehem

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