1731
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Il Penseroso.

A Miscellany of Poems by Several Hands. Publish'd by J. Husbands.

Anonymous


An unusual blank verse imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso; like the other poems in John Husbands's Miscellany, it is unsigned. This Oxford collection, which prints much verse of a serious cast, also contains two amusing imitations of Chaucer pp. 65-70.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "Imitation of Milton's companion poems was by no means confined to octosyllabics or even to rime. In 1731 appeared anonymously eight pages of very Miltonic blank verse with the title Il Penseroso and the motto (from Paradise Lost) 'Solitude sometimes is best Society.' In the first half of the poem, which pictures the life of a solitary nature-lover, much the same things are done as in Allegro" The Influence of Milton (1922) 447-48.

Edmund Gosse: "During the twenty five years from the publication of Thomson's Winter in 1726 to that of Gray's Elegy in 1751, the nine or ten leading poems or collections of verse which appeared were all of a new type, sombre, as a rule, certainly stately, romantic in tone to the extreme, prepared to return, ignorantly indeed, but with respect, to what was 'Gothic' in manners, architecture, and language, all showing a more or less vague aspiration towards the study of nature, and not one composed in the heroic couplet hitherto so rigorously imposed on serious verse. The Seasons, Night Thoughts, and The Grave are written in blank verse, The Castle of Indolence and The Schoolmistress in Spenserian stanza, The Spleen and Grongar Hill in octosyllabics (in the latter case very loosely strung), while the early odes of Gray and those of Collins are composed in a great variety of simple but novel lyric measures" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 207-08.



Hail rural Prospects, lovely silvan Scenes!
Hail happiest safest Life! Ye verdant Plains
Receive, receive Me to your blest Abodes
Dear solitary Groves. May I reside
Here, whilst the soothing Scenary around
Charms ev'ry Sense: her raptur'd Votary
May Wisdom thro' the mazy Lab'rinth guide
Of Science, may deep-musing Silence Me,
May heav'nly-pensive Contemplation lead
To the delightful Mansions of the Muse.

Soon as the blushing Dawn o'erstrews the East
With Roses, and the Sun in majesty
Uprising skirts the brightning Clouds with Gold,
Forth may I walk amid my Fruits, and Flowr's,
Spangled with pearly Drops by dewy Morn;
My Garden-Plot may I securely range,
Delicious Wilderness of various Sweets,
By Nature with Simplicity adorn'd,
Beyond the labour'd Elegance of Art.
Oft may I wander o'er the turfy Down
In chearful Green array'd, oft view the Glebe
Enrich'd with rip'ning Corn, whose wavy Ears
Dance lowly-bending to the wanton Breeze;
Oft Tread the violet-embroider'd Mead
Contemplative, where Prospects ever-fair
Of Herds, and Flocks, and gently-winding Streams,
Of Milk-maids ruddy, and industrious Swains,
And Huts, and shady Groves, sooth to a Calm
The Mind, enamour'd of the varied Charms
Which unsophisticated Nature yields.

When the meridian Sun with fiercer Blaze
Darts from his noontide Height a warmer Ray,
Beneath some Hawthorn-Bush or grateful Cave
Of cool Recess, may I recline secure.

When Day declines, and Mountain-tops project
A lengthen'd Shade, may I enjoy my Walk
In Ev'ning mild, and view the Western Sun
Outshining bright his sloping Beams extend
With Farewel sweet on Meadows, Fruits, and Flowr's,
Hillock, and Vale; whilst Hillocks, Meadows, Fruits,
And Flow'rs refresh'd rejoyce, the warbling Birds
With Strains renew'd solace the Woods,
Earth smiles Reviv'd, and the delighted Vallies sing.

When from the Village-Huts the curling Smoak
Ascends, and Night creeps on with silent Pace
Solemn, and slow, while softly dying Gales
Pant on the quiv'ring Trees, again I'll seek
The friendly Covert of my peaceful Cell.

Here may I taste, propitious Heav'n, the Sweets
Of social Love, and dearest Amity
Of mutually united Hearts; at least
May I not want one Friend, one bosom Friend;
Whose Studies and Desires agree with Mine,
My Second self, Another yet the Same.

May I enjoy, in not ignoble Ease,
A studious, peaceful, inoffensive Life;
Delightful Life! unknowing to deceive!
To moral Beauty, just Propriety
Of Actions, Elegance and Harmony
Of Life and Manners, and the heav'nly Charms
Of Virtue, may I serious here attend.
Here let Me dwell, divine Philosophy,
Here ever dwell with Thee; with studious Search
Here ponder the stupendous Miracles
Of Nature's daedal Hand: now to the Heav'ns
I'll cast my wondring Eyes, thro' boundless Space
(No more to this terrestrial Point confin'd)
I'll steer my ventrous Course, from Worlds to Worlds:
Or fix my Station in the Centre-Sun,
Or with the Planets wander thro' the Sky,
These solitary, with Attendants These
Of secondary Stars; or snatch new Worlds
Thro' optick Tube forth from the vast Immense,
Whilst Orbs on Orbs, to unassisted Eye
Invisible, soon brighten into Suns,
Round which roll other Planetary Spheres,
A new Creation op'ning to my View.

Hence let me to Immensity wide-stretch
Imagination, lab'ring to conceive
Planets, and Stars, and Firmaments, and Suns,
And Worlds, sunk in unfathomable Depths
Of Aether, till weak Fancy's Narrowness
Nature's Multiplicity is lost.

Then let Me in profoundest Thought again
Work downwards thro' the gradual Descents
Of Magnitude, from Vastness of the Sun
To pygmy Bulk of Man, — again from thence
To viewless Mites, by Steps insensible
Decreasing; — Thence pursue a Particle
Of Matter thro' th' untold Varieties
Of infinite Divisibility.
—Then fancy (if 'tis possible for Man
To fancy) how each infinite Division,
Fashion'd and molded by Omnipotence
New Quantities of Matter may produce,
New Suns, new Worlds, Another Universe.

Hence let my Soul on Contemplation's Wing
From the Material World aspiring soar
Into the glorious Realms of Spirits blest,
Intelligences pure, the First and Chief
Of Creatures: — From thence higher, and more high,
Upwards and upwards let Me still ascend,
Still let Me mount, and soar, and still conceive
Something yet Greater, infinitely Greater,
Something in infinite degree beyond
Conception, to whom all Created Things
Compar'd must dwindle into let than Nought.
Great King of heaven, and Earth, Angels, and Men,
Most Good, most Wise, most Highest, Who alone
Possesses Immortality, inhabits
Alone Eternity, all amiable,
All-perfect, — O! What shall? What can I say?
All-infinite ALL-GOD. Where'er I look;
I view the Footsteps of the Deity;
Where'er I move, the Deity attends
My Motion, in my Path, around my Bed,
Within my Breast: If I climb up to Heav'n,
Heav'n is Thy Throne; if I descend to Hell,
Thee I perceive in Hell's tremendous Gloom;
If on the Pinions of the Morn I fly
Beyond Creation's utmost Verge, thy Presence,
Great King of Heav'n, and Earth, Angels, and Men,
Father, Son, Holy-Ghost, divine THREE-ONE,
Beyond Creation's Verge pursues, surrounds,
O'ertakes Me. Mighty God! These rural Scenes,
These happy Groves, and ever-pleasing Shades,
From Thee derive Their Pleasure, They receive
From Thee Their Wealth and Beauty; all those Orbs
The Sun, the Moon, with all their radiant Host,
Shine by thy Light, and Lustre not their own,
Great King of Heav'n, and Earth, Angels and Men,
Son, Father, Holy-Ghost, divine THREE-ONE.
In Thee weak Man, in Thee th' Angelick Choirs.
Exist; if Thou thy Influence withhold,
The Sun, the Moon, with all their radiant Host,
Weak Man, th' Angelick Choirs, and all Creation
Must melt away, and universal Nature
Sink into Nothing, and eternal Chaos.
Thou only art Jehovah! O great King
Of Heav'n, and Earth, Angels, and Men, thy Goodness
Permit Me in thy wondrous Works to read.
Let Me thy Laws obey, thy glorious Name
For ever ever praise; but O! thy Praise
In vain I shall attempt; thy Excellence,
Holy-Ghost, Father, Son, divine THREE-ONE,
No Thought can comprehend, no Tongue express,
My Faculties confess their Impotence
Dazzled, amaz'd, confounded; Down my Soul,
Bend down submiss before th' Almighty's Eye,
The King of Heav'n, and Earth, Angels, and Men,
Tremble, admire, be silent, and adore.

[pp. 161-69]