Four Elegies.

Four Elegies. I. Morning. II. Noon. III. Evening. I V. Night.

Stephen Panting

Four descriptive elegies on the times-of-day theme by Stephen Panting, a provincial poet about whom nothing seems to be recorded. While the poems appear in C. S. Northrup's catalogue of imitations of Gray's Elegy, the general model, more capaciously georgic, is Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. There are, however, echoes of Gray's Elegy, including the last line. Edmund Spenser appears among the votaries of Morning: "Oft Spencer too, Eliza's bythest swain, | With her in dalliance has the hours beguil'd, | From oaten reed oft pip'd the artless strain | To moral fiction, fancy's loveliest child" p. 9. In the last elegy, which treats the theme of contemplation, a visionary figure presents Edward Young, as Milton's literary heir: "Mov'd at the pensive world's complaintive sigh, | I to direct them sent this second son" p. 23. Panting's poems, at once conventional and pleasant, were reprinted in the Poetical Calendar (1763).

Critical Review: "Our bard would have shewn more merit, had he less servilely imitated the sweetest of our elegiac writers, the plaintive Gray" 11 (February 1761) 167.

Monthly Review: "From the name and date subscribed to the Dedication of these Elegies (to Brooke Forrester, Esq;) we find that they are the production of Mr. Stephen Panting, of Wellington, in Shropshire; a name we do not remember to have met with before, in our poetical walks: but hope we may, not unfrequently, meet with it again.... . The first three of the present Elegies are of the descriptive kind, celebrating the most striking rural objects and circumstances, that distinguish the several divisions of the day; and that which has Night for its subject, is filled with beautiful moral reflections, which indicate the contemplative and laudable disposition of the ingenious Author" 26 (1762) 152.

British Magazine: "Poetical and picturesque" 2 (1761) 161.

The opening East now streaks a ruddy ray,
The Morn far-streaming shakes the realms of night,
Aurora pours the bright resplendent day,
And drowsy darkness wings her heavy flight.

The eve-born fogs in vagrant vapours rise,
And shade the earth with clouds of murky hue,
Till Phoebus chasing Chaos from the skies,
Bedecks th' enlighten'd scene with radiant dew.

Nature awak'd from sweet refreshing rest,
Infuses vigour through Creation's reign,
Gay pleasures dawn, and gladden ev'ry breast,
Whilst joy inspires one universal strain.

In greener verdure shines each tree array'd,
A brighter blossom buds the leafy spray,
The swarming songsters through the sylvan shade
On ev'ry bush blythe-warbling pour the lay.

To shun the loath'd embrace of meagre want,
The early threshers whirl aloft the flail;
And lusty woodmen, at the lark's first chaunt,
The forest-echo with their axes hail.

Now whistling hinds prepare the toilful plow,
Or drive o'er flowery lawns the frisking flock,
Now shepherds climb the summit's craggy brow,
And goats high pendent browse the bushy rock.

The big-swoln udder prompts the lowing train
The balmy tribute to their lord to pay,
The merry milkmaid and the jocund swain
Now carol wild a rustic roundelay.

The jolly hunter winds his bugle-horn,
And chearful notes rend wide the welkin round,
Shrill echo wakes the slowly-rising morn,
And ev'ry glowing bosom feels the sound.

In civil life, where various arts abound,
That give or ease or dignity to man,
The dawning light and busy scene around
Displays the thoughtful brow, and toilful clan.

Now lightly tripping o'er the breezy green
The bright Hygeia leads her festive train,
Now young-ey'd pleasure's laughing troop is seen
To tread in mazy dance the pearly plain.

Whilst on the yielding pillow's downy folds
In sleepy state nods sloth's destructive pow'r,
A stupid dose her drowsy votaries holds,
And man beguiles of life's most precious hour.

Around her couch sits spirit-wasting spleen,
The hollow eye that looks heart-gnawing care,
The Asthma, pallid form, and sickness green,
Whilst Physic's solemn sons smile dreadful near.

The crew, who, late so barbarously gay,
Swell'd the loud riot o'er the midnight bowl,
In Morpheus' cave unseemly snore the day,
Void of each manly nobleness of soul.

The upland walks more sapient spirits seek,
Where ease and health and sweet content agree,
Where rosy redness streaks the blooming cheek,
Where pompous doctor never palm'd a fee.

As nature's variegated beauties rise,
How swells the growing landscape on the eye!
From the fine blendure of ten thousand dyes,
The visual soul is lost in grand variety.

Now gay imagination boldly roves,
Excursive through creation's ample scene,
O'er the bare desert, through the spicy groves,
The dank wave's depth, and Aether's blue serene.

Oft too inspir'd at morning's early dawn,
The bard high wrapt in sweet poetic dream,
Or slowly wanders o'er the dewy lawn,
Or on the daisy'd marge of murmuring stream.

There as Aurora shed ambrosial light,
Erst to her Shakespear's lov'd embrace she flew,
There swell'd his soul with rapturous delight,
As Nature's genuine charms her pencil drew.

Oft Spencer too, Eliza's bythest swain,
With her in dalliance has the hours beguil'd,
From oaten reed oft pip'd the artless strain
To moral fiction, fancy's loveliest child.

O Pow'r, that giv'st the energy of song,
Without whose aid the labour'd volume's nought,
O snatch a votary from the lifeless throng,
Inspire each line, and animate each thought!

Thy genial impulse warms the bard to sing,
In ev'ry different clime and rolling age,
And erst beside thy fairy-grot did spring
Each Attic wreath, that crowns the tuneful sage.

High in the zenith of his wide domain
Flames the bright pow'r, that rules the noontide ray,
O'er the fierce steeds loose shakes the golden rein,
And darts around intolerable day.

Beside his chariot born with rapid speed
Enfeebling Sweats and paly Languors ride,
Wan Sickness, mounted on a sun-beam steed,
Flashes her pestilential falchion wide.

The vermeil verdure of th' enamell'd mead,
The flocks, the herds, all feel the sultry pow'r,
Scorch'd nature fainting droops her languid head,
And all creation mourns the fervent hour.

By gelid founts and rills that purl the glade,
Where Dian's sylvan train at noon resort,
The Dryad Coolness seeks the shelt'ring shade,
Whilst round her moss-bed balmy breezes sport.

Oft now sequester'd in the lonely dale,
Where nought obtruding may their joys prevent,
The happy lover sighs the tender tale,
Whilst glowing blushes speak the soft consent.

Around the turf ten thousand Cupids play,
Or sweetly prattling lisp th' extatic bliss,
Short-breathing wishes throng and romping May,
The ruffling dalliance and the kindling kiss.

With purest truth here artless passion charms,
No fraud nor sordid thoughts love's shrine invade,
An equal flame each beating bosom warms,
No airs distract the swain, nor falshood mourns the maid.

In flow'ry scenes, where waves the leafy shade,
Where woodbine's bloom and thymy verdure spring,
In vacant mood is learned leisure laid,
And to blythe echo sweeps the vocal string.

Or smit with sacred love of antient song,
Where art and genius rule with mingled rage,
He rolls the raptures of the tuneful throng,
That drew with classic skill fair virtue's page.

Now where Augusta lifts her head sublime,
And wealthy Commerce holds her honour'd stand,
The sons of industry from ev'ry clime
With Albion's chiefs appear, a motley band.

Beneath th' auspicious beamings of her smile,
Britannia sees her real glories rise,
Calm peace and chearful plenty crowns her isle,
To hostile shores whilst want and terror flies.

And long, lov'd Isle, may bounteous heaven pour
These gracious blessings on thy favour'd land,
And as thou stand'st the first in regal pow'r,
In virtue may'st thou too the foremost stand!

Now Hospitality, a matron hoar,
Whose step on piteous charity attends,
With liberal hand unfolds her genial store,
His dreary path where pensive Penury bends.

Her generous smiles sad Sorrow's tumults calm,
And glad the meagre sons of needy Care,
O'er wounded minds free pours the healing balm,
That sooths each woe-sprung thought and gloomy fear.

Erst was she frequent in Britannia seen,
The warm inspirer of each noble breast,
But rarely now she treads this earthly scene,
To heav'n is flown each heav'n-descended guest.

For see where-e'er the gilded turrets rise,
And modern Grandeur holds her pompous seat,
From costly cates where fragrant fumes arise,
There lavish Luxury leads the princely treat.

The daedal arches flow'ry wreaths entwine,
And joyous music swells the festive strain,
The bowls high foam with wit-inspiring wine,
And laughing Comus leads his jovial train.

T' arrest the pleasures of the thoughtless band,
See ev'ry dire disease in troops appear,
A death-dart arms each spectre's meagre hand,
And Want exulting swells the ghastly rear.

Far other scenes the decent dome displays,
Where modest Temperance holds her artless reign,
There gaudy Greatness pours not idle blaze,
Nor wanton Folly leads her revel train.

Content is there, and Innocence, and Health,
The breast humane that feels another's woe,
Virtues that yield such happiness, as Wealth
With all her pregnant pomp can ne'er bestow.

Hail blissful state! where beams the eye serene,
The manly heart and brow unknown to care,
Where bright-ey'd Hope illumes each darkling scene,
Averting ev'ry shaft of fell despair.

The broad Sun verging on the close of day,
A fuller red beams o'er the aetherial plain,
The streaky clouds attend his last bright ray,
And silver Vesper leads his starry train.

Dim fades each lovely variegated scene,
That swell'd to extasy the visual soul,
As mist-clad Evening treads the breezy green,
And wakes the buzzing bat and mopeing owl.

O'er Vegetation's numerous tribes she pours
The dews refreshing, as their sweets exhale;
Whilst from the odorous shrubs and breathing flow'rs,
A balmy fragrance swells the pregnant gale.

Now labour rests, and to the sons of toil
Sweet relaxation gives the vacant hour,
While ease, or sports, or social scenes beguile,
As fancy prompts, mankind's directive pow'r.

By courage fir'd to many a hardy game,
To the throng'd ring the village youths repair,
Where young ambition pants for generous fame,
And victory's wreath oft wins the scornful fair.

Or with the bright maid join'd, whose mutual glance
Holds in love's silken bonds the feeling heart,
On the gay green they tread the mazy dance,
Whilst sweet-tongued Phoebe plays the minstrel's part.

The sons of genius, forc'd by heat extreme
To waste in cooling shade the tedious day,
Now setting Phoebus pours the milder gleam,
Through the thrush-haunted copse or upland stray.

Where, to chaunt forth their evening hymn of praise,
Full frequent perch'd on many a verdant spray,
Their warblings wild the feather'd songsters raise,
By far more sweet than art's most labour'd lay.

Whilst blythsome milkmaids in the neighbouring mead,
The rural ditty tune in chearful strain,
The weary woodman seeks his lowly shed,
And thoughtless plow-boy whistles o'er the plain.

How sweet the pleasure at mild evening's hour
When gentle breezes fan the sultry air,
To seek Reflection in her lonely bow'r,
Or drown in generous wine intruding care.

Or where meandering Isis' waters stray,
And woo with many a kiss Oxonia's plain,
In sharp-prow'd boat to cut the liquid way,
And at the bending oar with pleasure strain.

And see how generous emulation fires
The youths that in the neighbouring wherry ride,
Whilst hope of victory this and that inspires,
Tho' equal skill and strength retains them side by side.

But now some deep-struck oar the weeds detain,
The rivals shoot with rapid speed a-head,
Success strings every nerve, warms every vein,
Whilst gloomy grief is o'er the vanquish'd spread.

Just emblem this of man's uncertain state!
For when long plodding some ambitious scheme,
Ready to reach the top, some shaft of fate
Arrests him vainly wise, and ends his pleasing dream.

Sol rolls no more his beamy car on high,
No more benignly pours the radiant ray,
Sad sable darkness wide obscures the sky,
And gloomy night usurps the realms of day.

Gay Pleasure treads no more the glossy green,
Lost are the beauties of the verdant plain,
Creation droops thro' nature's ample scene,
And Chaos reassumes his dreary reign.

Soft warbling thro' the silent aether's space,
No easy notes now strike the list'ning ear,
But owls and bats deep night's ill-omen'd race,
Appall the timid soul with wild distracting fear.

Horror too clad in terrible array,
Of phantom beings leads his bug-bear train,
From op'ning graves now solemn sounds dismay,
And ghosts dire yelling stalk the dreary plain.

O'er sheeted lakes and heaths of misty hue,
Where fancy forms the fairy's magic court,
By the pale moon, or vapours glimm'ring blue,
Th' ideal elves of night their gambols sport.

Now where devotion holds her high abode,
And vivid tapers gloom the sacred ile,
To sound the praises of th' eternal God,
The loud-peal'd organ shakes the holy pile.

Hail midnight, hail, and thou the solemn scene,
The sadly-serious melancholy's cell,
Where nought of Folly's savage train is seen,
But where the sons of thought delight to dwell.

Let artful statesmen scheme the awful hour,
Let empire wake ambition's daring train,
To rouse rebellion's fell destructive pow'r,
And give dire discord o'er mankind to reign.

Let av'rice gore the wretched miser's breast,
To watch with vulture care his art-rais'd mine;
Let fierce desire distract the lover's rest,
To sigh sad plaints at cruel Sylvia's shrine.

Or where the Bacchanalians hold their reign,
And riot rules with wild despotic sway,
Let lavish spendthrifts swell the bestial train,
And thoughtless in life's fatal follies stray.

Far other bliss, far other joys be mine,
O thought-befriending Contemplation sweet!
To where the midnight tapers dimly shine,
Conduct, benign, a studious votary's feet.

Give me in Learning's ample field to stray,
It's sacred tomes of treasur'd sense unfold,
With steady step to trace the devious way,
Where sleep the latent mines of classic gold.

Or 'midst the solemn stillness of the grove,
Where Philomela warbles wood-notes wild;
With me, O Contemplation, deign to rove,
The sacred scene and hour inviting musings mild.

There 'till gay Phoebus gilds another sky,
With thee I'll waste the sweetly-serious hour,
From life's low scenes and fatal follies fly,
And woo sage wisdom in her cavern'd bow'r.

These sounds whilst fancy's plastic pow'r exprest,
As thro' the solitary wilds I stray'd;
Majestic, like a Roman matron drest,
Imagination saw the heavenly maid.

Around a sudden gleam illum'd the place,
The path with easy elegance she trod,
When thus — soft-smiling with angelic grace,
"Here contemplation holds her still abode.

"Here oft my Milton in the midnight gloom,
Has caught the lofty sentiment refin'd,
Here oft sought science in her cloister'd dome,
Hence fill'd the mighty volume of his mind.

"Here learnt above the duller sons of earth
In all the dignity of thought to rise,
Here plann'd the work, that told creation's birth,
Hence gain'd his native palace in the skies.

"But rais'd to join the aerial choir on high,
That chaunt harmonious at the Almighty's throne,
Mov'd at the pensive world's complaintive sigh,
I to direct them sent this second son."

When leading in her hand a reverend sage,
Her heavenly accents thus my ears addrest,
"Receive the instructor of a dark'ned age,
Religion's friend and piety's high-priest."

She ceas'd, and to my fancy's longing sight
No more was given, the glorious form to see,
She fled along the thick'ning shades of night,
And left the world to Darkness, YOUNG, and Me.

[pp. 5-23]