1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Morning. Noon. Evening. Night.

New Lady's Magazine, or, Polite, Entertaining, and Fashionable Companion for the Fair Sex 2 (May 1787) 269-70.

William Hamilton Reid


Four times-of-day descriptions, each in four quatrains. William Hamilton Reid imitates Spenser, Milton, Collins, and Gray in the Della Cruscan manner — his gorgeous imagery certainly resembles that of William Blake's lyrics in Poetical Sketches (1783). Compare also Christopher Smart's "The Rural Day. In Three Parts" in the London Magazine (December 1748) 564-65, John Cunningham's "Day" (1761), and Charles Cotton's "Quatrains," also in couplets, in Poems (1689). The Noon and Evening quatrains had earlier appeared in the Gazetteer for 13 and 17 March. Reid was accused of plagiarism by a poetical critic in the Gazetteer.

New Lady's Magazine: "It may be, then, unfortunate for Reid, that his taste is similar with that of the old school, viz. all the fire and animation of Spencer, the father of English poetry, and of Milton in his lesser works. Pope, Goldsmith, Johnson, &c. &c. form a very different order in poetry; these are all harmony and elegance, and being mostly concerned about the drapery of their verses, seldom or never rise to that sublimity and grandeur that is so eminent in the first class, or the old school. Goldsmith, Sir, you know, was a professed enemy to lyrical composition; and Johnson's critiques on the odes of Gray disgrace his memory. And I presume, Sir, that nothing supports the character of the poetry of the Wartons and the Rev. Mr. Mason more than their rank in life, as it is evident that the old school, to which they belong, is not upon the whole the prevailing taste of the day" 3 (February 1788) 85.



MORNING.
The solemn scenery of night withdrawn,
Faint, trembling, springs the harbinger of day;
The blushing genius of the fragrant dawn,
With glowing pencil streaks the orient way.

The fen-born streams that hid fair Dian's train,
Disperse, enfeebled, at the streaming view;
Whilst pristine youth, majestic, from the main
Ascends, regal'd with draughts of sparkling dew.

What vivid tints of sky-empurpled gold
O'er cloud-topt hills and waving woods he throws;
Whilst vales and lawns, that various scenes unfold,
In smiles confess him "bright'ning as he goes."

A thousand charms await the early breeze,
Ye sons of song, what symphonies abound;
Hygeia whispers to the bending trees,
Till burning Phoebus circles all around.

NOON.
High whirls the chariot of the blazing hours,
Whose flaming steeds out-stretch the slacken'd reins,
Intense o'er all the fierce effulgence pours,
And music dies upon the arid plains.

Far through the dazzling bounds of ambient light,
A turgid sameness palls the aching eye,
Which night had erst with beauteous gems bedight
The morn with tints of pure celestial dye.

The lowing herds, to ardent thirst a prey,
Lament the absence of the fanning breeze;
Whilst sun-burnt rustics seek the scented hay,
Or spread beneath the valley-shading trees.

When nature, oft by tyrant heats oppress'd,
Her lurid brow bespeaks her troubled mien;
And sullen silence bodes the loud contest,
Till groaning thunders close the changing scene.

EVENING.
Grateful as when the weary trave'ller gains,
Through sultry rays the breezy summits high,
Mild evening comes, and from the burnish'd plains,
With soften'd radiance greets the placid eye.

What living azure decks the marbled skies,
Fring'd with ethereal gold's unblended light,
That frequent verging into purple dyes,
With sweet perplexity enchants the sight.

Yet slowly fades each variegated scene,
Till all around the giant shadows play,
Which welcome Silence to her cell serene,
And pensive Pleasure's lone untrodden way.

The drowsy tenant of the time-struck tow'r,
With flapping wings salutes the dun domain;
Round aged elms the humming chaffers lour,
Till glittering Hesper lead the starry train.

NIGHT.
The moon, emerging from the noiseless deep,
O'er ocean's bosom flings her silver veil:
Still echo sits on yonder's craggy steep,
And seems the sleep of nature to bewail.

The mystic raven, to his lonely bow'r
In dreary silence wings his secret flight,
Whilst slow and sullen from it's viewless tow'r,
The distant clock proclaims the noon of night.

No foaming billows lash the passive shore,
Nor urge their fury on unyielding rocks;
The rude north wind's tempestuous blast no more
Yells through the gloom, and man's resentment mocks.

But all is solemn stillness! not a breath,
Nor aught disturbs or moves the vast profound,
Save when the moon-beams gleaming o'er the heath,
With trembling radiance skirt the distant bound.

[pp. 269-70]