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A Summer Evening's Meditation.

One sun by day, by night ten thousand shine.
1 'TIS past! The sultry tyrant of the south
2 Has spent his short-liv'd rage; more grateful hours
3 Move silent on; the skies no more repel
4 The dazzled sight, but with mild maiden beams
5 Of temper'd light, invite the cherish'd eye
6 To wander o'er their sphere; where hung aloft
7 DIAN's bright crescent, like a silver bow
8 New strung in heaven, lifts high its beamy horns
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9 Impatient for the night, and seems to push
10 Her brother down the sky. Fair VENUS shines
11 Even in the eye of day; with sweetest beam
12 Propitious shines, and shakes a trembling flood
13 Of soften'd radiance from her dewy locks.
14 The shadows spread apace; while meeken'd Eve
15 Her cheek yet warm with blushes, slow retires
16 Thro' the Hesperian gardens of the west,
17 And shuts the gates of day. 'Tis now the hour
18 When Contemplation, from her sunless haunts,
19 The cool damp grotto, or the lonely depth
20 Of unpierc'd woods, where wrapt in solid shade
21 She mused away the gaudy hours of noon,
22 And fed on thoughts unripen'd by the sun,
23 Moves forward; and with radiant finger points
24 To yon blue concave swell'd by breath divine,
25 Where, one by one, the living eyes of heaven
26 Awake, quick kindling o'er the face of ether
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27 One boundless blaze; ten thousand trembling fires,
28 And dancing lustres, where th' unsteady eye
29 Restless, and dazzled wanders unconfin'd
30 O'er all this field of glories: spacious field!
31 And worthy of the master: he, whose hand
32 With hieroglyphics older than the Nile,
33 Inscrib'd the mystic tablet; hung on high
34 To public gaze, and said, adore, O man!
35 The finger of thy GOD. From what pure wells
36 Of milky light, what soft o'erflowing urn,
37 Are all these lamps so fill'd? these friendly lamps,
38 For ever streaming o'er the azure deep
39 To point our path, and light us to our home.
40 How soft they slide along their lucid spheres!
41 And silent as the foot of time, fulfil
42 Their destin'd courses: Nature's self is hush'd,
43 And, but a scatter'd leaf, which rustles thro'
44 The thick-wove foliage, not a sound is heard
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45 To break the midnight air; tho' the rais'd ear,
46 Intensely listening, drinks in every breath.
47 How deep the silence, yet how loud the praise!
48 But are they silent all? or is there not
49 A tongue in every star that talks with man,
50 And wooes him to be wise; nor wooes in vain:
51 This dead of midnight is the noon of thought,
52 And wisdom mounts her zenith with the stars.
53 At this still hour the self-collected soul
54 Turns inward, and beholds a stranger there
55 Of high descent, and more than mortal rank;
56 An embryo GOD; a spark of fire divine,
57 Which must burn on for ages, when the sun,
58 (Fair transitory creature of a day!)
59 Has clos'd his golden eye, and wrapt in shades
60 Forgets his wonted journey thro' the east.
61 Ye citadels of light, and seats of GODS!
62 Perhaps my future home, from whence the soul
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63 Revolving periods past, may oft look back
64 With recollected tenderness, on all
65 The various busy scenes she left below,
66 Its deep laid projects and its strange events,
67 As on some fond and doting tale that sooth'd
68 Her infant hours; O be it lawful now
69 To tread the hallow'd circle of your courts,
70 And with mute wonder and delighted awe
71 Approach your burning confines. Seiz'd in thought
72 On fancy's wild and roving wing I sail,
73 From the green borders of the peopled earth,
74 And the pale moon, her duteous fair attendant;
75 From solitary Mars; from the vast orb
76 Of Jupiter, whose huge gigantic bulk
77 Dances in ether like the lightest leaf;
78 To the dim verge, the suburbs of the system,
79 Where chearless Saturn 'midst her wat'ry moons
80 Girt with a lucid zone, majestic sits
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81 In gloomy grandeur; like an exil'd queen
82 Amongst her weeping handmaids: fearless thence
83 I launch into the trackless deeps of space,
84 Where, burning round, ten thousand suns appear,
85 Of elder beam; which ask no leave to shine
86 Of our terrestrial star, nor borrow light
87 From the proud regent of our scanty day;
88 Sons of the morning, first born of creation,
89 And only less than him who marks their track,
90 And guides their fiery wheels. Here must I stop,
91 Or is there aught beyond? What hand unseen
92 Impels me onward thro' the glowing orbs
93 Of habitable nature; far remote,
94 To the dread confines of eternal night,
95 To solitudes of vast unpeopled space,
96 The desarts of creation, wide and wild;
97 Where embryo systems and unkindled suns
98 Sleep in the womb of chaos; fancy droops,
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99 And thought astonish'd stops her bold career.
100 But oh thou mighty mind! whose powerful word
101 Said, thus let all things be, and thus they were,
102 Where shall I seek thy presence? how unblam'd
103 Invoke thy dread perfection?
104 Have the broad eye-lids of the morn beheld thee?
105 Or does the beamy shoulder of Orion
106 Support thy throne? O look with pity down
107 On erring guilty man; not in thy names
108 Of terrour clad; not with those thunders arm'd
109 That conscious Sinai felt, when fear appall'd
110 The scatter'd tribes; thou hast a gentler voice,
111 That whispers comfort to the swelling heart,
112 Abash'd, yet longing to behold her Maker.
113 But now my soul unus'd to stretch her powers
114 In flight so daring, drops her weary wing,
115 And seeks again the known accustom'd spot,
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116 Drest up with sun, and shade, and lawns, and streams,
117 A mansion fair and spacious for its guest,
118 And full replete with wonders. Let me here
119 Content and grateful, wait th' appointed time
120 And ripen for the skies: the hour will come
121 When all these splendours bursting on my sight
122 Shall stand unveil'd, and to my ravish'd sense
123 Unlock the glories of the world unknown.


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Title (in Source Edition): A Summer Evening's Meditation.
Themes: night; mythology; imagination; God; religion
Genres: blank verse

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Barbauld, Mrs. (Anna Letitia), 1743-1825. Poems. London: printed for Joseph Johnson, 1773, pp. 131-138. vi,138p. ; 4⁰. (ESTC T236; OTA K019955.000) (Page images digitized by New York Public Library.)

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