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THE PLEASURES OF CONTEMPLATION.
1 QUEEN of the halycon breast, and heavenward eye,
2 Sweet Contemplation, with thy ray benign
3 Light my lone passage thro' this vale of life,
4 And raise the siege of Care! This silent hour
5 To thee is sacred, when the star of Eve,
6 Like Dian's Virgins trembling ere they bathe,
7 Shoots o'er the Hesperian wave its quivering ray.
8 All Nature joins to fill my labouring breast
9 With high sensations: awful silence reigns
10 Above, around; the sounding winds no more
11 Wild thro' the fluctuating forest fly
12 With gust impetuous; Zephyr scarcely breathes
13 Upon the trembling foliage; flocks, and herds,
14 Retir'd beneath the friendly shade repose
15 Fann'd by Oblivion's wing. Ha! is not this,
16 This the dread hour, as ancient fables tell,
17 When flitting spirits from their prisons broke,
18 By moon-light glide along the dusky vales,
19 The solemn church-yard, or the dreary grove;
20 Fond to revisit their once lov'd abodes,
21 And view each friendly scene of past delight?
22 Satyrs, and fawns, that in sequester'd woods,
23 And deep-embowering shades delight to dwell;[Page 121]
24 Quitting their caves, where in the reign of Day
25 They slept in silence, o'er the daisied green
26 Pursue their gambols, and with printless feet
27 Chase the fleet shadows o'er the waving plains.
28 Dryads, and Naiads, from each spring and grove,
29 Trip blithsome o'er the lawns; or, near the side
30 Of mossy fountains, sport in Cynthia's beams.
31 The fairy elves, attendant on their queen,
32 With light steps bound along the velvet mead,
33 And leave the green impression of their dance
34 In rings mysterious to the passing swain;
35 While the pellucid glow-worm kindly lends
36 Her silver lamp to light the festive scene.
37 From yon majestic pile, in ruin great,
38 Whose lofty towers once on approaching foes
39 Look'd stern defiance, the sad bird of night
40 In mournful accent to the moon complains:
41 Those towers with venerable ivy crown'd,
42 And mouldering into ruin, yield no more
43 A safe retirement to the hostile bands;
44 But there the lonely bat, that shuns the day,
45 Dwells in dull solitude; and screaming thence
46 Wheels the night raven shrill, with hideous note
47 Portending death to the dejected swain.
48 Each plant and flowret bath'd in evening dews,
49 Exhale refreshing sweets: from the smooth lake,
50 On whose still bosom sleeps the tall tree's shade,
51 The moon's soft rays reflected mildly shine.
52 Now towering Fancy takes her airy flight
53 Without restraint, and leaves this earth behind;
54 From pole to pole, from world to world she flies;
55 Rocks, seas, nor skies, can interrupt her course.
56 Is this what men, to thought estrang'd, miscall
57 Despondence? this dull Melancholy's scene?
58 To trace th' Eternal Cause thro all his works,
59 Minutely and magnificently wise?
60 Mark the gradations which thro' Nature's plan
61 Join each to each, and form the vast design?
62 And tho' day's glorious guide withdraws his beams
63 Impartial, chearing other skies and shores;
64 Rich intellect, that scorns corporeal bands,
65 With more than mid-day radiance gilds the scene:
66 The mind, now rescu'd from the cares of day,
67 Roves unrestrain'd thro' the wide realms of space;
68 Where (thought stupendous!) systems infinite,
69 In regular confusion taught to move,
70 Like gems bespangle yon etherial plains.
71 Ye sons of Pleasure, and ye foes to Thought,
72 Who search for bliss in the capacious bowl,
73 And blindly woo Intemperance for Joy;
74 Durst ye retire, hold converse with yourselves,
75 And in the silent hours of darkness court
76 Kind Contemplation with her peaceful train;
77 How won'd the minutes dance on downy feet,
78 And unperceiv'd the midnight taper waste,
79 While intellectual pleasure reign'd supreme!
80 Ye Muses, Graces, Virtues, heaven-born maids!
81 Who love in peaceful solitude to dwell
82 With meek-ey'd Innocence, and radiant Truth,
83 And blushing Modesty; that frighted fly
84 The dark intrigue, and midnight masquerade;
85 What is this pleasure which inchants mankind?
86 'Tis noise, 'tis toil, 'tis frenzy: like the cup
87 Of Circe, fam'd of old, who tastes it finds
88 Th' etherial spark divine to brute transform'd.
89 And now, methinks, I hear the Libertine
90 With supercilious leer cry, "Preach no more
91 " Your musty morals; hence, to desarts fly,
92 "And in the gloom of solitary caves
93 " Austerely dwell: what's life, debarr'd from joy?
94 "Crown then the bowl; let Music lend her aid,
95 " And Beauty her's, to soothe my wayward cares. "
96 Ah! little does he know the Nymph he styles
97 A foe to pleasure; pleasure is not more
98 His aim than her's; with him she joins to blame
99 The hermit's gloom, and savage penances;
100 Each social joy approves. Oh! without thee,
101 Fair Friendship, Life were nothing; without thee,
102 The page of Fancy would no longer charm,
103 And Solitude disgust e'en pensive minds.
104 Nought I condemn but that excess which clouds
105 The mental faculties, to soothe the sense:
106 Let Reason, Truth, and Virtue, guide thy steps,
107 And every blessing Heaven bestows, be thine.
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About this text
Author: Mary Darwall (née Whateley)
Themes: philosophical enquiry
Genres: blank verse; meditation
References: DMI 32569
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Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. III. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770, pp. 120-123. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1136; OTA K093079.003) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [(OC) 280 o.790].)
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