On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity is a poem of twenty-seven stanzas that was written by John Milton whilst still a student at Cambridge University in celebration of turning twenty one. The poem commemorates the birth of Christ. Whilst Milton was composing this poem, his friend and fellow poet, Charles Diodati, was also composing a similar poem, and Milton's work shows him to be a sober thinker and scriptural scholar, contrasting strongly with Diodati's flamboyant style and work which represented his personality and extravagant lifestyle. The ode was composed whilst Milton was becoming more familiar with the Scriptures upon which his entire perception of Christianity was based, but at the same time, like most scholars of his time, he was also heavily influenced by myth and mysticism.
The poem is divided into two sections; "The Hymn" is the main body of the poem, and it comes after a four-stanza introduction. The introductory stanzas are each composed of seven lines. The stanzas in the hymn section are eight lines each and written uniformly in iambic meter. The poem is about the connection between the Nativity and the incarnation of Christ and Milton also connects the Nativity with the creation of the world; he expands this theme in his key work, Paradise Lost.
This ode was the first poem in Milton's 1645 collection. However it was not the first poem that he wrote for the collection; many were composed in earlier years, particularly those in Latin and Greek.
Critics of his poetry claim that it is obvious that he was somewhat of a novice when the poem was written, but nonetheless he included key themes and thoughts that are the building blocks for his most famous and revered work, "Paradise Lost." During his time at university, Milton was a dedicated student and wrote poetry not only in English but in Latin and Italian as well. His intent was to become a clergyman; raised in a middle-class and pious family, Milton's education inspired in him a dedication to Christianity. He was educated at the renowned private school, St Paul's, and at Cambridge attended Christ's College. However, his "apprentice" poems were so well received that by the time he graduated he abandoned the idea of the priesthood and returned to his family home where he spent six years studying to become a poet.
Milton went on to produce some of the most respected and enduring poetic works in English Literature and also entered politics, serving in Oliver Cromwell's government as Minister of Foreign Languages, alongside another heavyweight of Literature, Andrew Marvel.