1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Night.

Poems. Consisting of Elegies, Sonnets, Odes, Canzonets, and the Pleasures of Solitude.

Peter L. Courtier


An irregular ode in the manner of Collins and the Della Cruscans, by Peter L. Courtier, who worked as a clerk in a publishing concern. Compare the juvenilia by Robert Southey and Leigh Hunt, likewise written about this period and which displays the same influences. The Monthly Review singles out "To Night" as "one of the author's best odes" 20 (1796) 181.

Analytical Review: "With the allowance, which is always due to the first attempt of a young writer, these pieces are entitled to commendation. The juvenile adventurer, without presuming to climb the steep ascent of Parnassus, has wandered in several of the pleasant paths at the foot of the hill, and in each has gathered up flowers, which form, on the whole, a poetical bouquet not destitute of fragrance. It must not however, be concealed, that the language seldom brightens into splendour; and that the numbers, though commonly smooth, are sometimes harsh, chiefly through the introduction of long prosaic words" 23 (1796) 71.



Hail! sable nurse of Solitude,
Where Folly's sons dare not intrude;
But Truth, in pensive garb array'd,
With Contemplation, sacred maid,
Thy deep recesses seek:
There Wisdom's voice is heard to speak
Of things immortal and profound;
Amidst the calm of Nature's sleep,
Pale Melancholy treads thy hallow'd ground,
And far from mortal eye presumes to weep.

See from the western hemisphere
Cynthia in dignity appear;
Swift o'er the spangled sky
Transparent clouds in mingled beauty fly;
The fields assume
A silver bloom,
The favour'd walk
Where whispering lovers talk,
And yonder brown-arch'd grove,
Where Disappointment loves to rove,
And wing'd Reflection soars away;
Derive their lustre from her mournful ray.

Pale regent of the Night,
Affliction wooes thy melancholy light;
Thy milder beams bestow
A soothing interval to woe:
Ineffable delight!
Here let me pause and contemplate
The changes of this mortal state,
Survey the map of human life,
And look beyond its transitory strife.

Memory, thy varied stores display,
Let busy thought the scatter'd forms collect;
This solemn hour is suited to reflect
On all the storms of Life's uncertain day.
With Recollection's sigh I view
Scenes misery never knew,
When anguish never forc'd the furrowing tear,
But youth, unsullied, hail'd the new-born year;
When inoffensive mirth stood smiling by,
With happiness and sweet vivacity.

Ah! happy hours of undisturb'd repose,
When Innocence serenity bestows;
When simple sports the infant mind can please,
And woe lies buried in the lap of ease!
Regretted moments! never to return:
Elate with joy, how oft did I discern
Felicity unparallel'd to come,
When competence should yield a future home;
Where manhood's riper day
Should taste the pleasures of domestic love:
'Twas thus Imagination smooth'd the way,
And Fancy pointed to th' Elysian grove.

Soon sad Experience saw the vision fade;
Grief's undulating shower
Dissolv'd th' enchanted bower;
Scorn drew the poniard of Despair, and Hope decay'd:
Yet her exhaustless light
Some consolation gives,
To blast that deadly sprite
Her fading flame revives;
Midst mental earthquakes cheers the sinking soul,
Directs the mind to her immortal goal.
Thus borne on Expectation's wing,
We laugh amid the vernal spring,
Till winter's sullen wave
Sweep, every pleasure to an early grave;
Then view the dismal scenery around,
And look for peace where sorrow find, a bound!
Terrestrial bliss, terrestrial woes,
Are hastening to their close;
Time, with resistless force,
Pursues his unabating course;
Makes no delay to give his hunters breath,
But rushes forward to the gates of Death.

Let Resignation reign;
A few successive years
All sublunary pain
Will cease, this vale of tears,
This scene of trial, for that place exchang'd
Where harmony shall be no more derang'd!
Thus speaks Religion undefil'd,
Her look benign, her accents mild;
She holds the gracious invitation forth,
Her standard rais'd to save the sons of earth.
Sweet messenger of peace!
Bid baleful Discord cease;
The sainted Hypocrite unmask
Who turns thy pages to a task,
And for Corruption's venal hire
Kindles the flames of Superstition's fire:
Let Bigotry, with hellish mien
And dagger drawn — no more be seen;
O! spread thy tidings to the farthest shore,
Till war shall cease, and vice be felt no more!

[pp. 56-61]