Tag Archives: melancholy

Ann Yearsley, “Soliloquy”

ANN YEARSLEY

Soliloquy

 

—What folly to complain,
Or throw my woes against the face of Heaven?
Ills, self-created, prey upon my soul,
And rob each coming hour of soften’d Peace.
What then? Is Fate to blame? I chose distress;                                   5
Free will was mine; I might have still been happy
From a fore-knowledge of the dire effect,
And the sad bondage of resistless love.
I knew the struggles of a wounded mind,
Not self-indulging, and not prone to vice,                                           10
Knew all the terrors of conflicting passion,
Too stubborn foe, and ever unsubdu’d;
Yet rashly parley’d with the mighty victor.
Infectious mists upon my senses hang,
More deadly than LETHEAN dews which fall                                        15
From SOMNUS’ bough, on the poor wearied wretch,
Whose woes are fully told!—
The dire contagion creeps thro’ all my frame,
Seizes my heart, and drinks my spirit up.
Ah! fatal poison, whither dost thou tend?                                              20
Tear not my soul with agonizing pains;
There needs no more; the world to me is lost,
And all the whirl of life-unneeded thrift.
I sicken at the Sun, and fly his beams,
Like some sad ghost which loves the moonless night,                         25
And pensive shuns the morn. The deep recess.
Where dim-ey’d Melancholy silent sits,
Beckoning the poor desponding slighted wretch,
Suits well. ‘Tis here I find a gloomy rest;
‘Tis here the fool’s loud clatter leaves me still,                                       30
Nor force unwilling answers to their tale:
But, ah! this gloom, this lethargy of thought,
Yields not repose; I sigh the hour away;
The next rolls on, and leaves me still opprest.
But, oh! swift-footed Time, thou ceaseless racer,                                   35
Thou who hast chac’d five thousand years before thee,
With all their great events, and minute trifles,
Haste, with redoubled speed, bring on the hour,
When dark Oblivion’s dusky veil shall shroud
Too painful Memory. —                                                                               40

NOTES:

15 LetheanPertaining to the river Lethe; hence, pertaining to or causing oblivion or forgetfulness of the past” (OED).

16 Somnus Roman god of sleep.

23 thrift “Means of thriving; industry, labour; profitable occupation” or “prosperous growth; physical thriving” (OED).

38 Redoubled “To double (a thing) for a second or further time; (also) to double repeatedly” (OED).

Source: Poems, on Several Occasions, fourth edition (London, 1786), pp. 58-60.  [Google Books]

 Edited by Willis Plowman

Anonymous, “Sickness. An Ode”

ANONYMOUS

“SICKNESS. An ODE”

From the GRUBSTREET JOURNAL.

 

At midnight when the fever rag’d,
By physic’s art still unasswag’d,
And totur’d me with pain:
When most it scorch’d my acking head,
Like sulph’rous fire, or liquid lead,                                        5
And hiss’d through every vein:

With silent steps approaching nigh,
Pale death stood trembling in my eye,
And shook th’ up-lifted dart:
My mind did various thoughts debate                                 10
Of this, and of an after state,
Which terrify’d my heart.

I thought ‘twas hard, in youthful age,
To quit this fine delightful stage,
No more to view the day;                                                15
Nor e’er again the night to spend
In social converse with a friend,
Ingenious, learn’d, and gay.

No more in curious books to read
The wisdom of th’ illustrious dead;                                        20
All that is dear to leave,
Relations, friends, and MIRA too,
Without one kiss, one dear adieu,
To moulder in the grave.

Incircled with congenial clay,                                                  25
To worms and creeping things a prey,
To waste, dissolve, and rot:
To lie wrapp’d cold within a shroud,
Mingled amongst the vilest crowd,
Unnoted, and forgot.                                                        30

Oh horror by this train of thought
My mind was to distraction brought,
Impossible to tell:
The fever rag’d still more without,
Whilst dark despair, or dismal doubt,                                    35
Made all within my hell.

At length, with grave, yet cheerful air
Repentance came, serenely fair,
As summer’s evening sun;
At sight of whom extatic joy                                                     40
Did all that horrid scene destroy;
And every fear was gone.

If join’d in consort, with one voice,
Angels at such a change rejoice;
I heard their joy exprest.                                                   45
If there be music in the spheres,
That music struck my ravish’d ears,
And charm’d my soul to rest.

NOTES:

Title The Grubstreet Journal (January 1730-1738) was a critical and satirical newspaper published weekly in London (The Library of Congress).

2 unasswag’d An archaic spelling of unassuaged; “not soothed or relieved” (Oxford Dictionaries [no definition given in OED]).

24 moulder “To decay to dust; to rot; to crumble” (OED).

25 congenial “Suited to the nature of” (OED).

43 consort “To keep company with; to escort or attend” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (January 1733), p. 42.

 Edited by Valerie Pedroche

Elizabeth Carter, “Ode to Melancholy”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“Ode to Melancholy”

Alas Darkness my sole light, gloom
O fairer to me than any sunshine
Take me take me to dwell with you
Take me                           Sophocles.

 

Come Melancholy! silent Pow’r,
Companion of my lonely Hour,
To sober Thought confin’d:
Thou sweetly-sad ideal Guest,
In all thy soothing Charms confest,                                                                                 5
Indulge my pensive Mind.

No longer wildly hurried thro’
The Tides of Mirth, that ebb and flow,
In Folly’s noisy Stream:
I from the busy Croud retire,                                                                                            10
To court the Objects that inspire
Thy philosophic Dream.

Thro’ yon dark Grove of mournful Yews
With solitary Steps I muse,
By thy Direction led:                                                                                                   15
Here, cold to Pleasure’s tempting Forms,
Consociate with my Sister-worms,
And mingle with the Dead.

Ye Midnight Horrors! Awful Gloom!
Ye silent Regions of the Tomb,                                                                                          20
My future peaceful Bed:
Here shall my weary Eyes be clos’d,
And ev’ry Sorrow lie repos’d
In Death’s refreshing Shade.

Ye pale Inhabitants of Night,                                                                                              25
Before my intellectual Sight
In solemn Pomp ascend:
O tell how trifling now appears
The Train of idle Hopes and Fears
That varying Life attend.                                                                                              30

Ye faithless Idols of our Sense,
Here own how vain your fond Pretence,
Ye empty Names of Joy!
Your transient Forms like Shadows pass,
Frail Offspring of the magic Glass,                                                                                      35
Before the mental Eye.

The dazzling Colours, falsely bright,
Attract the gazing vulgar Sight
With superficial State:
Thro’ Reason’s clearer Optics view’d,                                                                                  40
How stript of all its Pomp, how rude
Appears the painted Cheat.

Can wild Ambition’s Tyrant Pow’r,
Or ill-got Wealth’s superfluous Store,
The Dread of Death controul?                                                                                      45
Can Pleasure’s more bewitching Charms
Avert, or sooth the dire Alarms
That shake the parting Soul?

Religion! Ere the Hand of Fate
Shall make Reflexion plead too late,                                                                                    50
My erring Senses teach,
Admist the flatt’ring Hopes of Youth,
To meditate the solemn Truth,
These awful Relics preach.

Thy penetrating Beams disperse                                                                                          55
The Mist of Error, whence our Fears
Derive their fatal Spring:
‘Tis thine the trembling Heart to warm,
And soften to an Angel Form
The pale terrific King.                                                                                                        60

When sunk by Guilt in sad Despair,
Repentance breathes her humble Pray’r,
And owns thy Threat’nings just:
Thy Voice the shudd’ring Suppliant chears,
With Mercy calms her tort’ring Fears,                                                                                    65
And lifts her from the Dust.

Sublim’d by thee, the Soul aspires
Beyond the Range of low Desires,
In nobler Views elate:
Unmov’d her destin’d Change surveys,                                                                                  70
And, arm’d by Faith, intrepid pays
The universal Debt.

In Death’s soft Slumber lull’d to Rest,
She sleeps, by smiling Visions blest,
That gently whisper Peace:                                                                                                75
‘Till the last Morn’s fair op’ning Ray
Unfolds the bright eternal Day
Of active Life and Bliss.

NOTES:

Epigraph These lines are from Sophocles’s play Ajax, ll. 394-97; translation mine.

3 sober “Serious; solemn; grave” (Johnson).

5 Charms “Enchantments” (OED).

8 Mirth “A diversion or entertainment” (OED).

9 Folly’s “Act of negligence or passion” (Johnson).

14 Yews “The tree of the dead. (…) The yew tree was sacred to Hecate, the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, death, and necromancy; it was said to purify the dead as they entered Hades” (The Paris Review).

21 Bed “The grave” (OED).

27 Pomp “procession or sequence of things” (OED).

35 Glass Looking-glass.

41 Pomp “Splendor” (Johnson).

67 Sublim’d “To raise to an elevated sphere or exalted state” (OED).

72 universal Debt Original sin.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1776), pp. 79-83. [Google Books]

 Edited by Katarina Wagner