It’s heartening to see Milton referenced. (The Areopagitica is the most eloquent and reasoned defence of free speech ever penned.) And it’s especially pleasant for me to see him mentioned today. This morning, as each Christmas morning for the last 40-odd years, I recited his Nativity ode in the hour before dawn. ("This is the month and this the happy morn"). An odd practice perhaps, but a practice I’ve faithfully maintained over the years with only a couple of lapses. It’s one of the highlights of Christmas for me, not because I’m a Christian (I’m a hard-boiled atheist in fact) but because the poem has such power, especially recited in the quietness of pre-dawn, the time when the poet purports to be writing the ode. The pictures of the pagan deities deserting their shrines and trooping back to the Underworld always give me chills.
And sullen Moloch fled
Hath left in shadows dread
His burning idol, all of blackest hue
In vain with cymbals ring
They call the grisly king
In dismal dance about the furnace blue.
OK, digression over, and a Merry Christmas to all!