Abstract

Milton’s Nativity Ode is both noisy and quiet. It stages the collision of the classical and Christian traditions by retrieving the cessation-of-oracles topos, a myth transmitted from Plutarch, Eusebius, and Prudentius to Rabelais, Tasso, and Spenser. Milton’s innovation is to enfold the multiple voices of antiquity and the singular voice of the newborn Christ into a narrative about the poet’s own development. In the silencing of the pagan oracles, celebration and lamentation converge. By purging the old gods’ wailing, the poem prepares for the silent purity of the newborn babe and the inauguration of the young author’s voice.

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