Page images
PDF
EPUB

But hail thou Goddess, sage and holy,

Hail divinest Melancholy, Whose saintly visage is too bright To hit the sense of human sight, And therefore to our weaker view O’erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue; Black, but such as in esteem Prince Memnon's sister might beseem, Or that starr'd Ethiop queen2 that strove To set her beauty's praise above The Sea-Nymphs, and their pow'rs offended : Yet thou art higher far descended; Thee bright-hair'd Vesta, long of yore, To solitary Saturn bore; His daughter she (in Saturn's reign, Such mixture was not held a stain). Oft in glimmering bow'rs and glades He met her, and in secret shades Of woody Ida's inmost grove, While yet there was no fear of Jove. Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure, Sober, steadfast, and demure, All in a robe of darkest grain, Flowing with majestic train, And sable stole of cyprus lawn, Over thy decent shoulders drawn. Come, but keep thy wonted state, With even step, and musing gait, And looks commercing with the skies, Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:

i Memnon_was King of Ethiopia, an ally of the Trojans. He was slain by Achilles.

2 Cassiopeia, wife of Cephcus, King of Ethiopia. She boasted of being more beautiful than the Nereids, who, in anger, persuaded Neptune to send a sea-monster to devour the Ethiopians. Andromeda, her daughter, was exposed to it, but was saved by Perseus. Cassio

a constellation named after her ; i. e., Cassiopeia's chair. Hence, Milton says "stari'd Ethiop queen."

3 The goddess of fire. “The meaning of Milton's allegory," says Warton, “is, that Melancholy is the daughter of Genius, which is typified by the brighthaired goddess of eternal fire.' Saturn, the father, is the god of saturnine dispositions, of pensive and gloomy minds.'

4 Stole,

peia had

a veil which covered the head and shoulders, worn by Roman matrons.

There held in holy passion still, Forget thyself to marble, till With a sad leaden downward cast Thou fix them on the earth as fast: And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet, Spare Fast, that oft with Gods doth diet, And hears the Muses in a ring Aye round about Jove's altar sing : And add to these retired Leisure, That in trim gardens takes his pleasure; But first, and chiefest, with thee bring, Him that yon soars on golden wing, Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne, The Cherub Contemplation; And the mute Silence hist along, 'Less Philomel will deign a song, In her sweetest, saddest plight, Smoothing the rugged brow of night, While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke, Gently o’er the accustomed oak; Sweet bird, that shunn’st the noise of folly, Most musical, most melancholy ! Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among I woo, to hear thy even-song; And missing thee, I walk unseen On the dry smooth-shaven green, To behold the wandering moon, Riding near her highest noon, Like one that had been led astray Through the heav'n's wide pathless way; And oft, as if her head she bow'd, Stooping through a fleecy cloud. . Oft on a plat of rising ground, I hear the far-off curfew sound, Over some wide water'd shore, Swinging slow with sullen roar; Or if the air will not permit, Some still removed place will fit, Where glowing embers through the room Teach light to counterfeit a gloom;

Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the cricket on the hearth,
Or the bellman's drowsy charm,
To bless the doors from nightly harm:
Or let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen in some high lonely tower,
Where I may oft out-watch the Bear,'
With thrice-great Hermes, or unsphere
The spirit of Plato, to unfold
What worlds, or what vast regions hold
The immortal mind, that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshly nook :
And of those Demons 3 that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground,
Whose
power

hath a true consent
With planet, or with element.
Sometimes let gorgeous tragedy
In sceptred pall come sweeping by,
Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,*
Or the tale of Troy divine,
Or what (though rare) of later age
Ennobled hath the buskin'd stage.
But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
Might raise Musæus6 from his bower,
Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
Such notes as warbled to the string,
Drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek,
And made Hell grant what love did seek.
Or call up him? that left half told
The story of Cambuscan bold,

1 Ursa Major. This constellation never sets.

2 Trismegistus, i.e., " the thricegrand.” He was an Egyptian priest and astronomer, who instructed his countrymen in the sciences. The works, translated and published as his, are said to be apocryphal.

3 Plato believed that the elements were peopled with spirits.

4 The story of Thēbes, of Edipus and

his sons, and the horrid tradition of Pelops, were the subjects of the great Greek tragedies.

5 Museus and Orpheus are mentioned together in Plato's “Republic" as two of the genuine Greek poets.-T. WARTON.

6 Pluto, charmed by the music of Orpheus, restored to bim his dead wife, Eurydice.

7 Chaucer. The Squire's Tale” is alluded to.

**

Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife,
That ownd the virtuous ring and glass,
And of the wondrous horse of brass,
On which the Tartar king did ride ; .'
And if aught else great bards beside ?
In sage and solemn tunes have sung,
Of turneys and of trophies hung,
Of forests, and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.
Thus Night oft see me in thy pale career,
Till civil-suitèd Morn appear,
Not trick'd and frounced? as she was wont
With the Attic boy' to hunt,
But kerchef'd in a comely cloud,
While rocking winds are piping loud,
Or usher'd with a shower still,
When the gust hath blown his fill,
Ending on the rustling leaves,
With minute drops from off the eaves.
And when the sun begins to fling
His flaring beams, me, Goddess, bring
To arched walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown that Sylvan loves
Of pine, or monumental oak,
Where the rude axe with heavèd stroke
Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt.
There in close covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from day's garish* eye,
While the bee with honied thigh,
That at her flow'ry work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring
With such consort as they keep,
Entice the dewy-feather'd sleep;

1 Alluding to Spenser's “Fairie Queen.”

2 “Frounced" meant an excessive or affected dressing of the hair. “It is from the French froncer, to curl."-T. WARTON. “ Tricked" means “ dressed out."

3 Cephalus. Aurora, the geddess of the morning, fell in love 1. itb him. --OVID, Met. VII. 707.

4 Gaudy.

And let some strange mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in airy stream
Of lively portraiture display'd,
Softly on my eyelids laid.
And as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some Spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen Genias of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail :
To walk the studious cloisters pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antic pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight, 1
Casting a dim religious light: ...
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full voiced choir below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all heav'n before mine eyes,
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell,
Where I may sit and rightly spell
Of every star that heav'n doth show, i
And ev'ry herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain'.
To something like prophetic strain,
These pleasures Melancholy gives
And I with thee will choose to live.

1 Warton conjectures that the right reading is cloister's pale, i.e., enclosure. ,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »