“EVENING and NIGHT”
NOW all is calm, and through the ambient air
The breathing zephyrs, on their balmy wings,
Ambrosial odours waft, that glad the heart
And to the nerves relax’d on their tone restore,
The sun, just hovering on the giddy verge, 5
‘Twixt world and world, faint and oblique, emits
His blunted rays; that tinge with golden dye
The lofty mountain’s russet head from far,
Mean while he opes on some far distant realm
The chrystal portals of the joyful morn, 10
Proclaiming, as he moves, returning day.
As more to these he lends his chearing beams,
Night, from the east, in majesty sedate,
And slow progression comes, with shade o’er shade
Of growing darkness; and with silent force 15
Expels the last reluctant ling’ring ray.
Where art thou busy world? and in what cave
Profound and dark, now hush’d to silence deep,
Sleeps your loud noise, your tumult, and confusion
That lately beat the yielding air; and where 20
That soft harmonious change of various notes?
Now only the sad nightingale disturbs
The solemn silence while thro’ awful shades,
Sad as the night she sings, the warbler pours
Her plaintive notes. Or from his lonely haunt, 25
The tott’ring ruins of some antient dome,
The midnight owl, bent on black deeds, steals forth
And with dread cries, and harsh discordant notes,
To the drear hour adds horrors not its own.
Hail! sacred silence, thou who first of things 30
Erst held thro’ all th’ ilimitable void,
An universal sway, ere circling worlds
Were form’d, ere yon caerulean arch began
T’ expand its recent shape, and ere the sun
Was from blended mass, formless and rude, 35
Sever’d, and fix’d the lucid central point
Of fair creation’s wide extended round.
Blest pow’r, I feel thy sacred influence now,
Thine is the gen’rous plan that patriots form;
Thine is the glow that warms the poet’s mind; 40
Led forth by thee he wanders forth, beneath
The silver moon, and conscious satyrs, to view
The gloomy night, whose dusky horrors please
And wake in studious minds the lofty thought.
Not to the sons of riot spend their hours, 45
Sworn foes at once to silence and to peace,
These to ill deeds the midnight revel fires
To rude intemp’rance and to lawless love.
See o’er the north a blaze of meteors spread,
In mystic dance, and convolutions wild; 50
Dilated now, how dens’d, now brightness all,
Now stain’d with sanguine dye, swiftly they mix,
They thwart, extinguish, and renew. On these
Pale Superstition turns her eye aghast,
And sees, or thinks she sees, portended fate. 55
Yet these, and whate’er else the worlds above
Meteor or storm, produce, are but thy path
Father of light and life; whate’er we see,
Whate’er we know, is but the varied God,
He in black darkness oft, and thickest gloom, 60
Involves his awful brow, or mounts the blaze,
Of unextinguish’d light, and round the world,
The wond’ring world, displays Almighty pow’r,
And love, which, unconfin’d, sustains, directs,
Whatever is—to him be endless praise. 65
Sheerness, Dec. 11, 1760
2 zephyrs A soft, gentle breeze (OED). Wind that blows from the west.
3 Ambrosial Something very pleasing to taste or smell (OED).
22 nightingale A small bird known for its rich song (OED). In literature and poetry, the nightingale and its nocturnal song are often used as symbols of love and loss.
31 Erst Formerly (OED).
33 caerulean A sky-blue color.
42 satyrs Woodland figures of Classical mythology who resemble men with horse or goat-like physical features. Typically represented as lustful and hedonistic.
52 sanguine Optimistic, especially in an apparently difficult situation. In medieval science, “sanguine” referred to a ruddy complexion and an optimistic disposition symptomatic of an excess of blood in the bodily humors (OED).
66 Sheerness A coastal town in Southeast England that began as a naval fort and dockyard in the seventeenth century (BBC).
SOURCE: The Gentleman’s Magazine (December, 1760), pp. 586-87.
Edited by Ariana Balagtas