THE PLEASURES of MELANCHOLY.
Written in the Year 1745.
1 MOTHER of musings, Contemplation sage,
2 Whose grotto stands upon the topmost rock
3 Of Teneriff: 'mid the tempestuous night,
4 On which, in calmest meditation held,
5 Thou hear'st with howling winds the beating rain
6 And drifting hail descend; or if the skies
7 Unclouded shine, and thro' the blue serene
8 Pale Cynthia rolls her silver-axled car,
9 Whence gazing stedfast on the spangled vault
10 Raptur'd thou sit'st, while murmurs indistinct
11 Of distant billows sooth thy pensive ear
12 With hoarse and hollow sounds; secure, self-blest,
13 There oft thou listen'st to the wild uproar
14 Of fleets encount'ring, that in whispers low
15 Ascends the rocky summit, where thou dwell'st
16 Remote from man, conversing with the spheres!
17 O lead me, queen sublime, to solemn glooms
18 Congenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,[Page 211]
19 To ruin'd seats, of twilight cells and bow'rs,
20 Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse,
21 Her fav'rite midnight haunts. The laughing scenes
22 Of purple Spring, where all the wanton train
23 Of Smiles and Graces seem to lead the dance
24 In sportive round, while from their hands they show'r
25 Ambrosial blooms and flow'rs, no longer charm;
26 Tempe, no more I court thy balmy breeze,
27 Adieu green vales! ye broider'd meads, adieu!
28 Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown piles
29 Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve,
30 Where thro' some western window the pale moon
31 Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
32 While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
33 Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
34 Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
35 Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
36 Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
37 Invests some wasted tow'r. Or let me tread
38 In neighb'ring walk of pines, where mus'd of old
39 The cloyster'd brother: thro' the gloomy void
40 That far extends beneath their ample arch
41 As on I pace, religious horror wraps
42 My soul in dread repose. But when the world
43 Is clad in Midnight's raven-colour'd robe,
44 'Mid hollow charnels let me watch the flame
45 Of taper dim, shedding a livid glare
46 O'er the wan heaps; while airy voices talk[Page 212]
47 Along the glimm'ring walls: or ghostly shape
48 At distance seen, invites with beck'ning hand
49 My lonesome steps, thro' the far-winding vaults.
50 Nor undelightful is the solemn noon
51 Of night, when haply wakeful from my couch
52 I start: lo, all is motionless around!
53 Roars not the rushing wind; the sons of men
54 And every beast in mute oblivion lie;
55 All nature's hush'd in silence and in sleep.
56 O then how fearful is it to reflect,
57 That thro' the still globe's aweful solitude,
58 No being wakes but me! 'till stealing sleep
59 My drooping temples bathes in opiate dews.
60 Nor then let dreams, of wanton folly born,
61 My senses lead thro' flowery paths of joy;
62 But let the sacred Genius of the night
63 Such mystic visions send, as Spenser saw,
64 When thro' bewild'ring Fancy's magic maze,
65 To the fell house of Busyrane, he led
66 Th' unshaken Britomart; or Milton knew,
67 When in abstracted thought he first conceiv'd
68 All heav'n in tumult, and the Seraphim
69 Come tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold.
70 Let others love soft summer's ev'ning smiles,
71 As, list'ning to the distant water-fall,
72 They mark the blushes of the streaky west;
73 I choose the pale December's foggy glooms.
74 Then, when the sullen shades of ev'ning close,[Page 213]
75 Where thro' the room a blindly-glimm'ring gleam
76 The dying embers scatter, far remote
77 From Mirth's mad shouts, that thro' th' illumin'd roof
78 Resound with festive echo, let me sit,
79 Blest with the lowly cricket's drowsy dirge.
80 Then let my thought contemplative explore
81 This fleeting state of things, the vain delights,
82 The fruitless toils, that still our search elude,
83 As thro' the wilderness of life we rove.
84 This sober hour of silence will unmask
85 False Folly's smiles, that like the dazzling spells
86 Of wily Comus cheat th' unweeting eye
87 With blear illusion, and persuade to drink
88 That charmed cup, which Reason's mintage fair
89 Unmoulds, and stamps the monster on the man.
90 Eager we taste, but in the luscious draught
91 Forget the pois'nous dregs that lurk beneath.
92 Few know that elegance of soul refin'd,
93 Whose soft sensation feels a quicker joy
94 From Melancholy's scenes, than the dull pride
95 Of tasteless splendor and magnificence
96 Can e'er afford. Thus Eloise, whose mind
97 Had languish'd to the pangs of melting love,
98 More genuine transport found, as on some tomb
99 Reclin'd, she watch'd the tapers of the dead;
100 Or thro' the pillar'd iles, amid pale shrines
101 Of imag'd saints, and intermingled graves,
102 Mus'd a veil'd votaress: than Flavia feels,[Page 214]
103 As thro' the mazes of the festive ball,
104 Proud of her conquering charms, and beauty's blaze,
105 She floats amid the silken sons of dress,
106 And shines the fairest of th' assembled fair.
107 When azure noon-tide cheers the daedal globe,
108 And the blest regent of the golden day
109 Rejoices in his bright meridian bow'r,
110 How oft my wishes ask the night's return,
111 That best befriends the melancholy mind!
112 Hail, sacred Night! thou too shalt share my song!
113 Sister of Ebon-scepter'd Hecat, hail!
114 Whether in congregated clouds thou wrap'st
115 Thy viewless chariot, or with silver crown
116 Thy beaming head encirclest, ever hail!
117 What tho' beneath thy gloom the forceress-train,
118 Far in obscured haunt of Lapland-moors,
119 With rhymes uncouth the bloody cauldron bless;
120 Tho' Murder wan, beneath thy shrouding shade
121 Summons her slow-ey'd vot'ries to devise
122 Of secret slaughter, while by one blue lamp
123 In hideous conf'rence sits the listening band,
124 And start at each low wind, or wakeful sound:
125 What tho' thy stay the pilgrim curseth oft,
126 As all benighted in Arabian wastes
127 He hears the wilderness around him howl
128 With roaming monsters, while on his hoar head
129 The black-descending tempest ceaseless beats;
130 Yet more delightful to my pensive mind[Page 215]
131 Is thy return, than bloomy morn's approach,
132 Ev'n then, in youthful prime of opening May,
133 When from the portals of the saffron east
134 She sheds fresh roses, and ambrosial dews.
135 Yet not ungrateful is the morn's approach,
136 When dropping wet she comes, and clad in clouds,
137 While thro' the damp air scowls the louring south,
138 Blackening the landscape's face, that grove and hill
139 In formless vapours undistinguish'd swim:
140 Th' afflicted songsters of the sadden'd groves
141 Hail not the sullen gloom; the waving elms
142 That hoar thro' time, and rang'd in thick array,
143 Enclose with stately row some rural hall,
144 Are mute, nor echo with the clamors hoarse
145 Of rooks rejoicing on their airy boughs;
146 While to the shed the dripping poultry crowd,
147 A mournful train; secure the village-hind
148 Hangs o'er the crackling blaze, nor tempts the storm;
149 Fix'd in th' unfinish'd furrow rests the plough:
150 Rings not the high wood with enliv'ning shouts
151 Of early hunter: all is silence drear;
152 And deepest sadness wraps the face of things.
153 Thro' POPE'S soft song tho' all the Graces breathe,
154 And happiest art adorn his Attic page;
155 Yet does my mind with sweeter transport glow,
156 As at the root of mossy trunk reclin'd,
157 In magic SPENSER'S wildly-warbled song
158 I see deserted Una wander wide[Page 216]
159 Thro' wasteful solitudes, and lurid heaths
160 Weary, forlorn; than when thec
c Belinda. See Rape of the Lock. fated fair,
161 Upon the bosom bright of silver Thames,
162 Launches in all the lustre of brocade,
163 Amid the splendors of the laughing Sun.
164 The gay description palls upon the sense,
165 And coldly strikes the mind with feeble bliss.
166 Ye Youths of Albion's beauty-blooming isle,
167 Whose brows have worn the wreath of luckless love,
168 Is there a pleasure like the pensive mood,
169 Whose magic wont to sooth your soften'd souls?
170 O tell how rapturous the joy, to melt
171 To Melody's assuasive voice; to bend
172 Th' uncertain step along the midnight mead,
173 And pour your sorrows to the pitying moon,
174 By many a slow trill from the bird of woe
175 Oft interrupted; in embowering woods
176 By darksome brook to muse, and there forget
177 The solemn dulness of the tedious world,
178 While Fancy grasps the visionary fair:
179 And now no more th' abstracted ear attends
180 The water's murm'ring lapse, th' entranced eye
181 Pierces no longer thro' th' extended rows
182 Of thick-rang'd trees; 'till haply from the depth
183 The woodman's stroke, or distant-tinkling team,
184 Or heifer rustling thro' the brake alarms
185 Th' illuded sense, and mars the golden dream.[Page 217]
186 These are delights that absence drear has made
187 Familiar to my soul, e'er since the form
188 Of young Sapphira, beauteous as the Spring,
189 When from her vi'let-woven couch awak'd
190 By frolic Zephyr's hand, her tender cheek
191 Graceful she lifts, and blushing from her bow'r,
192 Issues to cloath in gladsome-glist'ring green
193 The genial globe, first met my dazzled sight:
194 These are delights unknown to minds profane,
195 And which alone the pensive soul can taste.
196 The taper'd choir, at the late hour of pray'r,
197 Oft let me tread, while to th' according voice
198 The many-sounding organ peals on high,
199 The clear slow-dittyed chaunt, or varied hymn,
200 'Till all my soul is bath'd in ecstasies,
201 And lap'd in Paradise. Or let me sit
202 Far in sequester'd iles of the deep dome,
203 There lonesome listen to the sacred sounds,
204 Which, as they lengthen thro' the Gothic vaults,
205 In hollow murmurs reach my ravish'd ear.
206 Nor when the lamps expiring yield to night,
207 And solitude returns, would I forsake
208 The solemn mansion, but attentive hear
209 The due clock swinging slow with sweepy sway,
210 Measuring Time's flight with momentary sound.
211 Nor let me fail to cultivate my mind
212 With the soft thrillings of the tragic Muse,
213 Divine Melpomene, sweet Pity's nurse,[Page 218]
214 Queen of the stately step, and flowing pall.
215 Now let Monimia mourn with streaming eyes
216 Her joys incestuous, and polluted love:
217 Now let soft Juliet in the gaping tomb
218 Print the last kiss on her true Romeo's lips,
219 His lips yet reeking from the dreadly draught.
220 Or Jaffeir kneel for one forgiving look.
221 Nor seldom let the Moor of Desdemone
222 Pour the misguided threats of jealous rage.
223 By soft degrees the manly torrent steals
224 From my swoln eyes; and at a brother's woe
225 My big heart melts in sympathizing tears.
226 What are the splendors of the gaudy court,
227 Its tinsel trappings, and its pageant pomps?
228 To me far happier seems the banish'd Lord
229 Amid Siberia's unrejoycing wilds
230 Who pines all lonesome, in the chambers hoar
231 Of some high castle shut, whose windows dim
232 In distant ken discover trackless plains,
233 Where Winter ever whirls his icy car;
234 While still-repeated objects of his view,
235 The gloomy battlements, and ivied spires
236 That crown the solitary dome, arise;
237 While from the topmost turret the slow clock,
238 Far heard along th' inhospitable wastes,
239 With sad-returning chime awakes new grief;
240 Ev'n he far happier seems than is the proud,
241 The potent Satrap whom he left behind[Page 219]
242 'Mid Moscow's golden palaces, to drown
243 In ease and luxury the laughing hours.
244 Illustrious objects strike the gazer's mind
245 With feeble bliss, and but allure the sight,
246 Nor rouze with impulse quick th' unfeeling heart.
247 Thus seen by shepherd from Hymettus' brow,
248 What daedal landscapes smile! here balmy groves,
249 Resounding once with Plato's voice, arise,
250 Amid whose umbrage green her silver head
251 Th' unfading olive lifts; her vine-clad hills
252 Lay forth their purple store, and sunny vales
253 In prospect vast their level laps expand,
254 Amid whose beauties glistering Athens tow'rs.
255 Tho' thro' the blissful scenes Ilissus roll
256 His sage-inspiring flood, whose winding marge
257 The thick-wove laurel shades; tho' roseate Morn
258 Pour all her splendors on th' empurpled scene;
259 Yet feels the hoary Hermit truer joys,
260 As from the cliff that o'er his cavern hangs
261 He views the piles of fall'n Persepolis
262 In deep arrangement hide the darksome plain.
263 Unbounded waste! the mould'ring obelisc
264 Here, like a blasted oak, ascends the clouds;
265 Here Parian domes their vaulted halls disclose
266 Horrid with thorn, where lurks th' unpitying thief,
267 Whence flits the twilight-loving bat at eve,
268 And the deaf adder wreathes her spotted train,
269 The dwellings once of elegance and art.[Page 220]
270 Here temples rise, amid whose hallow'd bounds
271 Spires the black pine; while thro' the naked street,
272 Once haunt of tradeful merchants, springs the grass:
273 Here columns heap'd on prostrate columns, torn
274 From their firm base, increase the mould'ring mass.
275 Far as the sight can pierce, appear the spoils
276 Of sunk magnificence! a blended scene
277 Of moles, fanes, arches, domes, and palaces,
278 Where, with his brother Horror, Ruin sits.
279 O come then, Melancholy, queen of thought!
280 O come with saintly look, and stedfast step,
281 From forth thy cave embower'd with mournful yew,
282 Where to the distant curfeu's solemn sound
283 List'ning thou sitt'st, and with thy cypress bind
284 Thy votary's hair, and seal him for thy son.
285 But never let Euphrósyne beguile
286 With toys of wanton mirth my fixed mind,
287 Nor in my path her primrose-garland cast.
288 Tho' 'mid her train the dimpled Hebe bare
289 Her rosy bosom to th' enamour'd view;
290 Tho' Venus, mother of the Smiles and Loves,
291 And Bacchus, ivy-crown'd, in citron-bow'r
292 With her on nectar-streaming fruitage feast:
293 What tho' 'tis her's to calm the low'ring skies,
294 And at her presence mild th' embattel'd clouds
295 Disperse in air, and o'er the face of heav'n
296 New day diffusive gleam at her approach;
297 Yet are these joys that Melancholy gives,[Page 221]
298 Than all her witless revels happier far;
299 These deep-felt joys, by Contemplation taught.
300 Then ever, beauteous Contemplation, hail!
301 From thee began, auspicious maid, my song,
302 With thee shall end: for thou art fairer far
303 Than are the nymphs of Cirrha's mossy grot;
304 To loftier rapture thou canst wake the thought,
305 Than all the fabling Poet's boasted pow'rs.
306 Hail, queen divine! whom, as tradition tells,
307 Once, in his ev'ning-walk a Druid found,
308 Far in a hollow glade of Mona's woods;
309 And piteous bore with hospitable hand
310 To the close shelter of his oaken bow'r.
311 There soon the sage admiring mark'd the dawn
312 Of solemn musing in your pensive thought;
313 For when a smiling babe, you lov'd to lie
314 Oft deeply list'ning to the rapid roar
315 Of wood-hung Meinai, stream of Druids old,
316 That lav'd his hallow'd haunt with dashing wave.