1792
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Twilight.

Annual Anthology. Volume I. [Robert Southey, ed.]

Amelia Opie


Twelve blank-verse quatrains published in 1799 in Robert Southey's Annual Anthology, where they are signed "Amelia Opie. 1792." The poet refines handles the theme of temporality differently than does Collins's Ode to Evening, underscoring boundary conditions rather than continuous change: "Thou nurse of saddening thoughts, prolong thy stay, | Let me adore thee still! Eve's glowing grace, | Night's fire-embroider'd vest, | Alike displease my eye" p. 203.

Robert Southey to Mrs. Southey: "G. Dyer is foraging formy Almanac, and promises pieces from Mrs. Opie, Mr. Mott of Cambridge, and Miss Christall" 9 May 1799; Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 2:15.

Critical Review: "The poems, as may be expected in a collection of the kind, possess various degrees of merit. Some of them do not rise above mediocrity. The volume, however, contains much easy versification, and many traits of genuine poetry" NS 28 (January 1800) 83.

John Aikin?: "Mr. Southey has published the first volume of a work, which under the title of the Annual Anthology, is designed to contain fugitive pieces of poetry, which the authors not thinking proper to publish separately, wish thus to present to the public. We scarcely ever saw a collection of this kind so unequal in merit as the one before us. The volume commences with an ode full of originality, Pindaric sublimity, and, it must be added, obscurity. We do not think Mr. Southey has increased his reputation by his own pieces, which appear in this collection; he seems to have presented us with the emptyings of his port-folio. The Mock Elegies of Mr. Shufflebottom are master-pieces in their way; we recollect to have been highly delighted with them when they appeared, many months ago, in the Morning Post. Mrs. Opie's little poems are simple and elegant. We were much pleased with the Address to Twilight. Of the other pieces contained in this volume we can only say, that they had better have remained in their authors' desks. If Mr. Southey should continue this work, we beg leave to remind him that his duty is to cull 'flowers'" Monthly Magazine 8 (Supplement, 1799) 1052.

Tho. Brown: "The Ode to Twilight is in lyrical blank verse; a style so unsuitable to our language, that, instead of the usual ornament which versification gives to thought, the greatest excellence of imagery is necessary to give ornament to the verse. It is unfortunate, too, to write in the measure of Collins, on a subject so similar to his own" Review of Opie, Poems; Edinburgh Review 1 (October 1802) 121.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Amelia Opie, widow of the painter, and an authoress of some note. She died in 1853" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:224n.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Amelia Opie (1769-1853), the daughter and only child of James Alderson, M.D., of Norwich, of which city she was a native, lost her mother in 1784, and, succeeding to her place as entertainer of the doctor's literary and musical guests, was early introduced to the society of which she was destined to become so distinguished an ornament. Her taste for letters thus stimulated by example, she soon ventured to contribute prose and poetical compositions to the columns of the (Norwich) Cabinet, the London Magazine, and other periodicals of less pretensions; and she even went so far as to publish anonymously a novel, bearing the excellent title of The Dangers of Coquetry. This moral production may have done much good, but certainly attracted little notice and perhaps less applause. In 1798 she married John Opie, the painter, and, on his death in 1807, returned to Norwich, where she remained unmarried for the rest of her life. In 1825 she renounced the Unitarian tenets in which she had been educated, and became a member of the Society of Friends, — adopting the garb, though not all the peculiar opinions, of that religious community. In all the relations of life she was truly amiable, and did not confine her benevolence of disposition to her immediate circle of friends" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:1458.



Friend of the pensive wanderer, Twilight, hail!
I joy to see thee roll thy sea of clouds
Athwart the crimson throne
Of the departing sun.

For then what various objects, dimly seen,
By wonder-working Fancy touch'd, acquire
An awe-inspiring air,
And urge Fear's hurried step.

Lo! thine attendant, the low-sailing bat,
Flaps his brown wing, begins his circling flight;
E'en Midnight's tuneful bird,
To hail thee, pours the strain.

I love thy simple garb; no brilliant stars
Adorn thy dusky vest, unlike to that
Worn by thy sister Night,
Save when she reigns in storms.

Nor canst thou boast the many-tinted robe
Worn by thy beauteous herald, dewy Eve,
Thine is a veil of grey,
Meet for the cloister'd maid.

Thou nurse of saddening thoughts, prolong thy stay,
Let me adore thee still! Eve's glowing grace,
Night's fire-embroider'd vest,
Alike displease my eye;

For I am Sorrow's child, and thy cold showers,
Thy mist-encircled forms, thy doubtful shapes,
Wake a responsive chord
Within my troubled soul.

For oh! to me futurity appears
Wrapt in a chilling veil of glooms and mists,
Nor seems one tint or star
To deck her furrow'd brow,

But slowly cross her path, imperfect shapes
Of danger, sorrow, frenzy, and despair,
Force their uneasy way,
And pale my cold, sunk cheek.

But see — the unwelcome moon unveils her head,
(Those hours are gone in which I hail'd her beams)
Distinctness spreads around,
And mimic day appears.

I loathe the cheerful sight, as still my fate,
O Twilight! bears a hue resembling thine;
And envy-struck, I shun
The scene I cannot share.

I'll to my couch, yet not alas to rest;
By artificial gloom I'll suit my soul,
And e'en from pity hide
My dim and sleepless eyes.

[pp. 202-04]