John Milton


IL Penseroso

    HENCE, vain deluding Joys,
    ............The brood of Folly without father bred!
    How little you bested
    ............Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys!
5   Dwell in some idle brain,
    ............And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,
    As thick and numberless
    ............As the gay motes that people the sun-beams,
    Or likest hovering dreams,
10   ............The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.
    But, hail! thou Goddess sage and holy!
    Hail, divinest Melancholy!
    Whose saintly visage is too bright
    To hit the sense of human sight,
15   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 starred Ethiop queen that strove
20   To set her beauty's praise above
    The Sea-Nymphs, and their powers offended.
    Yet thou art higher far descended:
    Thee bright-haired Vesta long of yore
    To solitary Saturn bore;
25   His daughter she; in Saturn's reign
    Such mixture was not held a stain.
    Oft in glimmering bowers and glades
    He met her, and in secret shades
    Of woody Ida's inmost grove,
30   Whilst 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,
35   And sable stole of cypress lawn
    Over thy decent shoulders drawn.
    Come; but keep thy wonted state,
    With even step, and musing gait,
    And looks commercing with the skies,
40   Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:
    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.
45   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,
50   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;
55   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
60   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;
65   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
70   Through the heaven's wide pathless way,
    And oft, as if her head she bowed,
    Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
    Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
    I hear the far-off curfew sound,
75   Over some wide-watered 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
80   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.
85   Or let my lamp, at midnight hour,
    Be seen in some high lonely tower,
    Where I may oft outwatch the Bear,
    With thrice great Hermes, or unsphere
    The spirit of Plato, to unfold
90   What worlds or what vast regions hold
    The immortal mind that hath forsook
    Her mansion in this fleshly nook;
    And of those demons that are found
    In fire, air, flood, or underground,
95   Whose power hath a true consent
    With planet or with element.
    Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
    In sceptred pall come sweeping by,
    Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,
100   Or the tale of Troy divine,
    Or what (though rare) of later age
    Ennobled hath the buskined stage.
    But, O sad Virgin! that thy power
    Might raise Musaeus from his bower;
105   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
110   The story of Cambuscan bold,
    Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
    And who had Canace to wife,
    That owned the virtuous ring and glass,
    And of the wondrous horse of brass
115   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,
120   Where more is meant than meets the ear.
    Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career,
    Till civil-suited Morn appear,
    Not tricked and frounced, as she was wont
    With the Attic boy to hunt,
125   But kerchieft in a comely cloud
    While rocking winds are piping loud,
    Or ushered with a shower still,
    When the gust hath blown his fill,
    Ending on the rustling leaves,
130   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,
135   Of pine, or monumental oak,
    Where the rude axe with heaved stroke
    Was never heard the nymphs to daunt,
    Or fright them from their hallowed haunt.
    There, in close covert, by some brook,
140   Where no profaner eye may look,
    Hide me from day's garish eye,
    While the bee with honeyed thigh,
    That at her flowery work doth sing,
    And the waters murmuring,
145   With such consort as they keep,
    Entice the dewy-feathered Sleep.
    And let some strange mysterious dream
    Wave at his wings, in airy stream
    Of lively portraiture displayed,
150   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 Genius of the wood.
155   But let my due feet never fail
    To walk the studious cloister's pale,
    And love the high embowed roof,
    With antique pillars massy proof,
    And storied windows richly dight,
160   Casting a dim religious light.
    There let the pealing organ blow,
    To the full-voiced quire below,
    In service high and anthems clear,
    As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
165   Dissolve me into ecstasies,
    And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.
    And may at last my weary age
    Find out the peaceful hermitage,
    The hairy gown and mossy cell,
170   Where I may sit and rightly spell
    Of every star that heaven doth shew,
    And every herb that sips the dew,
    Till old experience do attain
    To something like prophetic strain.
175   These pleasures, Melancholy, give;
    And I with thee will choose to live.

Contributed by Robert Clark.