To Contemplation.

Poems, by Robert Southey. [Vol. 1]

Robert Southey

An allegorical ode in ten irregular stanzas. The pairing of Robert Southey's Odes to Contemplation (1792) and Horror (1791) suggests Milton's companion poems, though the poet stoops not to servile imitation: from the very first, the future Laureate was fond of unusual and irregular forms of verse. In the 1790s William Collins's influence on English poetry was approaching its peak, as is apparent enough from the several volumes of odes then being published in Bell's Fugitive Poetry, a copy of which Southey owned.

Preface in Works (1837) "The juvenile and Minor Poems in this Collection bear an inconsiderable proportion to those of substantive length: for a small part only of my youthful effusions were spared from those autos-de-fe in which from time to time piles upon piles have been consumed. In middle life works of greater extent, or of a different kind, left me little leisure for occasional poetry; the impulse ceased, and latterly the inclination was so seldom felt, that it required an effort to call it forth" 1:xiii-xiv.

Faint gleams the evening radiance thro' the sky,
The sober twilight dimly darkens round;
In short quick circles the shrill bat flits by,
And the slow vapour curls along the ground.

Now the pleas'd eye from yon lone cottage sees
On the green mead the smoke long-shadowing play;
The Red-breast on the blossom'd spray
Warbles wild her latest lay;
And sleeps along the dale the silent breeze.
Calm CONTEMPLATION, 'tis thy favourite hour!
Come fill my bosom, tranquillizing Power.

Meek Power! I view thee on the calmy shore
When Ocean stills his waves to rest;
Or when slow-moving on the surges hoar
Meet with deep hollow roar
And whiten o'er his breast;
For lo! the Moon with softer radiance gleams,
And lovelier heave the billows in her beams.

When the low gales of evening moan along,
I love with thee to feel the calm cool breeze,
And roam the pathless forest wilds among,
Listening the mellow murmur of the trees
Full-foliaged, as they wave their heads on high,
And wave their shadowy heads in wildest melody.

Or lead me where amid the tranquil vale
The broken streamlet flows in silver light;
And I will linger where the gale
O'er the bank of violets sighs,
Listening to hear its soften'd sounds arise,
And hearken the dull beetle's drowsy flight,
And watch the horn-eyed snail
Creep o'er his long moon-glittering trail,
And mark where radiant thro' the night
Moves in the grass-green hedge the glow-worms living light.

Thee, meekest Power! I love to meet,
As oft with solitary pace
The scatter'd Abbeys hallowed rounds I trace,
And listen to the echoings of my feet.
Or on the half demolish'd tomb,
Whose warning texts anticipate my doom:
Mark the clear orb of night
Cast thro' the storying arch a faintly-varied light.

Nor will I not in some more gloomy hour
Invoke with fearless awe thine holier power,
Wandering beneath the sainted pile
When the blast moans along the darksome aisle,
And clattering patters all around
The midnight shower with dreary sound.

But sweeter 'tis to wander wild
By melancholy dreams beguil'd,
While the summer moon's pale ray
Faintly guides me on my way
To some lone romantic glen
Far from all the haunts of men;
Where no noise of uproar rude
Breaks the calm of solitude;
But soothing Silence sleeps in all,
Save the neighbouring waterfall,
Whose hoarse waters falling near
Load with hollow sounds the ear,
And with down-dasht torrent white
Gleam hoary through the shades of night

Thus wandering silent on and slow,
I'll nurse Reflection's sacred woe,
And muse upon the perish'd day
When Hope would weave her visions gay,
Ere FANCY, chill'd by adverse fate,
Left sad REALITY my mate.

O CONTEMPLATION! when to Memory's eyes
The visions of the long-past days arise,
Thy holy power imparts the best relief,
And the calm'd Spirit loves the joy of grief.

[pp. 135-39]