1757
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

L'Allegro. Il Penseroso.

American Magazine and Monthly Chronicle for the British Colonies 1 (November 1757) 84-88.

Francis Hopkinson


Anonymously published by Francis Hopkinson (1737-91), a future signer of the Declaration of Indpendence, in 1757 a law student at the College of Philadelphia. "L'Allegro" is dedicated to "B. C—w Esq." and "Penseroso" to "the Rev. Mr. S—th." The former would be Benjamin Chew (1722-1810), later a chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; the latter William Smith (1727-1803), who had taught Hopkinson at the Philadelphia Academy. The poems freely paraphrase Milton, presenting vivid descriptions of the colonial scene, including a ball in the first poem and a woodland walk in the second.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Francis Hopkinson, 1737-1792, a native of Philadelphia, the son of Thomas Hopkinson, an Englishman, was educated at the college (now the university of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia, and subsequently studied law. In 1765 we find him in England, where he resided for two years, settling, on his return, at Bordentown, New Jersey, where he married Miss Ann Borden. In 1776 he represented New Jersey in the American Congress, and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He held for a number of years an appointment in the Loan-Office. In 1779 he was made Judge of the Admiralty in Pennsylvania, and in 1790 was appointed, by President Washington, Judge of the District Court of the United States. He died May 9, 1991, of an attack of the apoplexy. He was the author of a number of poems, political pamphlets, essays, and many admirable jeux-d'esprit on the prominent topics of the day" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:886.

George Everett Hastings: "The primary purpose of this periodical was to support the cause of the crown against France, and to maintain the prestige of the Penns in the colony; but the publishers, who on the title page are vaguely described as a 'society of gentlemen,' sought also to encourage letters by reserving a section of the magazine for 'poetical essays.' The editor was Dr. William Smith, who showed his partiality for his favorite pupil by publishing in the first issue of the magazine Hopkinson's 'Ode on Music, which had been written three years before. The establishment of the magazine evidently revived Hopkinson's literary ambitions, for in November he almost filled the space allotted to 'poetical essays' with two long poems, which bear the not very original titles of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso" Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson (1926) 99-100.

The American Magazine, edited by William Smith, was published at Philadelphia from October 1767 to October 1758.



L'ALLEGRO.
Hence Melancholy, Care and Sorrow!
My heart desires you 'till tomorrow,
I have no room within my breast
For any dull, cold, lifeless guest.
Hence vanish quickly from my sight,
And sink to cells of solid night.

But muse! Thy liveliest numbers bring,
For now to joyous Ch—w I sing;
Employ thy utmost skill to find
Scenes that may suit his jovial mind;
For well thou know'st, in fancies gay,
He loves to wear dull time away,
And smooth the brow of rugged toils,
Whilst by his side his Cynthia smiles;
And why should sorrows er'e molest,
The honest heart or virtuous breast!

Then hither come, life-raising joy,
In likeness of a laughing boy;
Your head adorn'd with smiling flow'rs
The late produce of vernal show'rs.
Around thy shoulders let there be
A robe of silk, thin, light and free,
Part shall thy graceful body bind,
And part shall loosely flow behind.
Let gentle breezes with thee bring,
The choicest odors of the spring;
Frolic, frisky, wanton, gay,
Round and round thee let them play;
Toss thy garments high in air,
And wave thy loose, luxuriant hair,
Or court the flow'rs that crown thy head
Around their opening sweets to spread.
And as you thus approach me nigher,
Oh! let me hear the cheerful lyre!
Use gracefully the springy quill,
And touch it with superior skill;
But not to such soft-dying airs,
Dissolving sorrows, soothing cares!
With which the silly-sighing swain
Proclaims imaginary pain.
But strike me up sounds brisk and gay,
Sounds that shall steal my soul away,
Make a soft glow of gladness rise
And shew the sparkling in mine eyes.

Thus, thus! attend me whilst I stray
Wild as fancy leads the way;
Oe'r high hills by valleys bounded,
And o'er plains by woods surrounded;
Let me see the world's arch bending,
And oe'r the wide seas far extending;
Or behold, with wond'ring eye,
The rounded globe, the meeting sky:
Where the white clouds swimming low
Drink the waters as they go;
Or where the sun soft dews and rain
Exhales, to shed on earth again;
Whence skim the dusky shades away
Before the splendid god of day;
Or where the silver queen of night
First gilds the trembling deep with light.

Or let me stray thro' fragrant groves,
Where the turtle cooes her loves;
Where the linnet's warbling lay
Still attends my flow'ry way,
And the lark's melodious song
Charms me as I go along.
Or let me pause and view the scene;
The blooming vales, the hillocks green,
The stream, that winding in meanders,
Thro' the tufted meadow wanders,
The fields where flocks forsaken stray,
And harmless lambkins sport and play.

But lo! — far off, with roaming eye,
Between two oaks a cot I spy,
Where Darby sits beside the door;
Nor envies kings their boundless store,
Whilst Joan, a matron staid and sage,
Remains the comfort of his age;
And Phillis neat, with voice so sweet,
Phillis! Their hand-maid spruce and neat,
Cheers their old hearts with merry song,
And spins and sings the whole day long.

And here — beneath a friendly shade,
The amorous swain is careless laid;
On oaten pipe he loves to play,
To wear the tedious hours away.
Till Dolly leaves her flock behind
Her faithful Thyrsis here to find.

And there behold! With anxious look,
The wily shepherd baits his hook;
The fish that late did swiftly glide,
And cleft, with glossy fins, the tide,
Caught by his art now helpless lie
And flutter, pant, and gasp, and die.
So — skill'd in love, the cruel swain,
Th' unwary maiden's heart to gain,
Still ev'ry practis'd treachery tries,
Soft languid looks, and broken sighs;
Calls heav'n and earth with ardent pray'r
His vows of constancy to hear;
But when he has the trifle gain'd
Soon 'tis neglected, soon disdain'd;
Before the false deceiver's eyes
It wounded bleeds and throbbing dies.

Thus, let me pass the summer-days
In blythsome scenes and jocund ease.
But when bleak winter comes amain
With all his sullen vap'ry train,
And hoary frosts around us sheds,
And rattles hail-storms oe'r our heads;
Then, when the groves delight no more,
Nor songsters warble as before,
But ev'ry verdant shelter's lost
Nipt by the bitter blasting frost;
Soon as the stream, thro' flow'ry ways,
No more in murmuring accents strays,
But, firmly bound to either side
In icy-chains, forgets to glide;
Quick let me shun the horrid sight,
And to the city take my flight,
Where mirth knows one continual round
And endless pleasures still abound.

Attend me Joy, attend me there!
And let thy presence banish care.
Oh! lead me where the cheerful fire
Doth punns, and jests, and wit inspire,
And where the slow-revolving night
Leaves ample room for long delight.
Mean while let Bacchus, jolly boy!
Be found thy boon companion, Joy!
Let num'rous friends surround the hearth
Devoted all the Glee and Mirth;
Nor cold nor sorrow dare appear,
Nor thought intense nor gloomy fear;
But all is airy light and free,
And all inspir'd with jollity;
While Wit and laughter still doth join,
And open hearts are caus'd by wine.

The lawyer — here forgive me Ch—w
(Not such a practis'd sage as you)
The lawyer lays his wig aside,
That wig which did his ignorance hide!
That magic wig which charm'd the eyes,
And made a very Fool look wise;
Which thus pull'd off in merry strain,
Displays a very Fool again.
The doctor now, skill'd in grimace,
No more puts on a double face;
Nor does, in oracles, direct
Which — life or death — we should expect.
The parson here, no longer shy,
Lays a formal phyz with cassock by
Nor thinks it any crime to join
The joys of social mirth and wine.
The statesman too forgets his art,
And opes to truth his long-shut heart;
And, leaving tricks and pride behind,
Becomes familiar, true and kind.—
Thus Actors, when behind the scenes,
Remain no longer kings or queens;
Forget the characters they bore,
And swear and quarrel as before.

Or while the rigid winter yields
Prospects of ice and snowy fields;
Soon as the hasty short-liv'd day
In the red west withdraws her ray,
And glittering stars with radiant light
Bedeck the sable garb of night;
Quick to the ball-room Joy! repair,
For thou wilt hardly miss me there.
Where a promiscuous sparkling throng,
The gayly jocund scene prolong;
Where art with native beauty joins,
And each triumphant fair-one shines
In all the pomp in all the shew
That dress can give or mirth bestow.
Here in full glory may be seen
Zaphyra, riv'ling beauty's queen,
Around her press the listning throng,
To hear the music of her tongue.
And whilst in Caelia's robes we find
A noble air, a taste refin'd,
More pow'rful charms her features wear,
For Cupid keeps his revels there.
Soft blushes in her cheeks arise
And love looks languid in her eyes.
Mean while gay wit the time beguiles,
And humours quaint, and simp'ring smiles.
Dick flaunts it with his tinsel'd coat,
And Ned speaks tender lines by rote.
Chloe, with blushes, seems to hear
Her love-sick Damon sighing near;
Whilst Mira both their thoughts descries,
And reads soft souls in tell-tale eyes.—

But hark! the muse's sudden sound
Spreads universal gladness round;
Joy blooms triumphant in each face,
And instant buz fills all the place.
And now prepar'd on either hand
The beaux and belles in order stand.
And now they trip the mazy dance,
And to quick movements smoothly glance.
Each further partner leads astray
Thro' a long labyrinthian way;
Each swain pursues his flying fair,
Eying her steps with watchful care.
Me the thrill-soaring sounds inspire
With transports that can rise no higher;
My body skims along the floor,
I feel my willing feet no more,
The music lends me wings, and I,
In waving motions seem to fly!
And beaux and belles and tapers bright
Swim undistinguish'd in my sight!

If such thy pleasures, smiling Joy!
Oh may'st thou e'er my mind employ;
Dawn in my breast continual day,
And chace dull sorrows far away.

IL PENSEROSO.
Vanish mirth and vanish joy,
Airy pleasures quickly cloy:
Hence all ye bacchanalian rout,
And quips, and cranks, and gay grimace,
And wit that wears a double face,
And ev'ry kind of jollity—
For you have no delight for me.

But welcome, welcome Melancholy!
Thou goddess sage, demure and holy!
Exalt thy ever-musing head,
And quit, oh quit thy sleepless bed.
With languid look, and anxious eyes,
Divinest Melancholy rise!

And thou O S—th! my more than friend,
To whom these artless lines I send,
Once more thy wonted candor bring,
And hear the muse you taught to sing.
The muse that strives to win your ear,
By themes your soul delights to hear;
And loves like you, in sober mood,
To meditate of just and good.
While Melancholy sooths to rest
Each rising tumult of your breast.

Exalted themes! divinest maid!
Sweet Melancholy raise thy head;
With languid look, oh quickly come,
And lead me to thy Hermit-home!
There, let thy sorrow soothing reign
Detain me long in pensive strain;
Exalt my views and seize me whole;
And give me thy delights to know—
The heart that bleeds for human woe;
The virtuous throb, the grief-swoln eye,
The ceaseless tear and deep-drawn sigh.

"Exalted themes! divinest maid!
Sweet Melancholy raise thy head:
With languid look, oh quickly come
And lead me to thy Hermit-home!"

Or be thou with me whilst I rove
Thro' yonder dark untrodden grove;
Where the moon is rarely seen,
Glimm'ring thro' the dusky green;
Whilst a death-like silence reigns
O'er hills and vales and distant plains;
Nothing but the night-bird's cry,
Echoing thro' the vaulted sky;
Nothing but the ceaseless rill,
Murmuring oe'r its pebbles still;
Or the distant falling flood,
That shakes the silence of the wood.

There let me wander 'till there's found,
Extended on the leafy ground,
An oak that many a summer's day
Has crumbled in a slow decay.
There, stretch'd upon its mossy bed,
In listless length, I'll lean my head,
While the small worm that grinds its heart
Shall music to my soul impart.

Or let me, in some crazy boat,
Along the wat'ry surface float;
Leaning pensive oe'r its side,
To view the ever-rippling tide;
Whilst Cynthia's cold declining rays,
That now but half her orb displays,
On the clear bosom of the deep,
In mild composure, seem to sleep.

But hark! — what voice so loud and shrill,
From yonder wild romantic hill,
Strikes sudden on my startled ear,
And warbles forth her ditties clear?
'Tis hers — that bird well known to fame,
The fond repeater of her name.

Proceed, sweet bird! I love thy strain,
Encreasing still the solemn scene;
I'll sit attentive to thy note
'Till Cynthia's latest ray goes out.
Then, on the margin of the stream,
I'll lay me silent, think, and dream;
Where no pale glimpse of borrow'd light
Breaks thro' the drowsy noon of night;
And stars, in vain, with feeble ray,
Attempt to give a doubtful day;
And clouds far-off, low-low'ring, rise,
Possessing first the nether skies;
Then, lazy-lab'ring to the pole,
Up the steep arch their vengeance roll,
Black as the purpose of a guilty soul.

Here, retir'd from noise and folly,
Sober-visag'd Melancholy!
On a rustling rushy bed,
With thee I'll lean the languid head,
And in the rolling tide descry
The gath'ring horrors of the sky;
See the stars dancing as they go,
And view the other heav'n below;
While, from behind a bullrush near,
The frog's hoarse cadenc'd voice I hear;
Whose oft repeated hollow sound
A pleasing sadness spread around.

But hark! — rude rustling thro' the trees,
A sudden unexpected breeze,
Swift — rushing from the neigh'bring wood,
Shakes the smooth surface of the flood.
Now let me raise my downcast eye,
To gaze the dark presageful sky,
Where clouds, thick gath'ring from afar,
Threaten a sudden burst of war.
Around an awful silence reigns;
Hush'd is each throat thro' hills and plains.
The stars, but now, that shone so bright,
And twinkled with resplendent light,
Slide swift and vanish from my sight.
The rapid storm comes on apace;
The heav'ns wear one distracted face,
The rough'ning blast unbounded roves,
In sullen murmurs thro' the groves.
Down yonder dreadful depth of sky,
In ragged sheets, the lightnings fly,
Peals following peals roar thro' the air,
And burst in awful ruin near.
Descending fast, the heavy floods
Dance on the stream and rattle in the woods.

Whilst thus the elements engage,
And with redoubled fury rage;
Oh let me find some stony shed,
Where I may safely lodge my head;
T' enjoy the horrors of the storm,
And to its God due rites perform.

Beneath yon rock, whose mossy side
With awful bend oe'rhangs the tide,
Grotesque and wild, a cave I spy,
And to its shelter quickly fly.
But as I climb the steep, whose height
Juts oe'r the flood, a horrid sight!
Sent from aloft, with startled ear,
A sudden voice of woe I hear—
"Rage on thou tempest of the sky!
Your fiercest vengeance I defy;
A ruder storm whirls in my breast
And death alone can give me rest;
My sorrows in this stream shall sleep,
And I" — then plunges in the deep!
Nature awhile, yet fond of life,
Maintains with death unequal life,
The lover strives to gain the shore
But sinks, alas! to rise no more!

Save me ye gods! from scenes so sad!
Scenes not of Melancholy bred,
But sprung from furious wild Despair,
In Stygian cell, begot of Care.

But might I hear true love complain,
In a more mild and temperate strain,
Then let my frequent feet be seen
On yonder steep romantic green,
Along whose yellow gravelly side,
Schuylkill weeps his gentle tide;
Rude rough and rugged rocks surrounding,
And clash of broken waves resounding;
Where waters fall with loud'ning roar
Rebellowing down the hilly shore;
"And nightly, at the turf-clad grave,
In concert with the bird of eve,
Beneath the glimpses of the moon,
The Hermit mourns Amelia gone;
'Till Reason lifts his eye to heav'n
And mild submitting tho'ts are giv'n!"
Thus Melancholy! shalt thou please,
If thou wilt find me scenes like these,
Thus may'st thou e'er my mind employ,
And banish ev'ry lighter joy.

But when the summer scenes are lost
Welcome winter, welcome frost!
Then I'll spend the long long night
By the lamp's dim deadly light,
Creeping nigher still and nigher
To the half-extinguish'd fire;
Where, mid glowing coals I view,
Lambent flames of livid blue;
Or listen to the crackling tread
Of heavy foot on snowy bed;
While howling blasts around me rage,
And wind and snow and hail engage;
And thro' a crevice in the wall
Boreas whistles shrill and small;
And the doors by time grown weak
On their iron hinges creak.
There I'll muse on stories old,
By the toothless matron told;
Of a tall, wan, slender Sprite,
Stalking in the dead of night,
Whose long trailing winding sheet
Flows luxuriant round his feet.
Fresh gaping wounds all o'er him bleed
To disclose some horrid deed,
And beck'ning quick he seems to say
"Haste to my grave — come, come away!"

Thus should my fancy ever find
Some dreadful scene to fill my mind;
And thus I'd sit with fixed eye
And see the crumbling embers die,
Fearing to turn to either side
Least there the horrid spectres stride,
'Till morn, slow-peeping from on high,
Should twinkle with unwelcome eye;
Then would I shun th' intruding ray,
And hide me from the face of day;
Darkling to bed would fearful creep,
Hush'd by the roaring winds to sleep.

[pp. 84-88]