1771
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Night. An Elegy.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 14 (21 November 1771) 241-42.

M.


A night-piece in thirteen quatrains, signed "M—": "There quick-ey'd Fancy's airy flights pursue, | That wake to ectasy, and thoughts sublime, | In heav'ns bright concave with amazement view, | The God of nature, and the God of time." Wandering in the quiet landscape the poet calls to memory Young's Night Thoughts and Thomson's Seasons, though his models in the Elegy are the two most widely-imitated poems of the eighteenth-century, Milton's Il Penseroso and Gray's Elegy.

On the same page appears one of Robert Fergusson's first contributions to the Weekly Miscellany, "A Burlesque Elegy on the Amputation of a Student's Hair." "M—" had been a frequent contributor, along with John Tait, though neither could compete with Fergusson, who in a year's time was contributing to almost every number.



'Scap'd from the noisy world's bewitching power,
Where endless Discord holds her chearless reign,
From Folly's trifling train I steal an hour,
And dedicate to NIGHT the youthful strain.

Now balmy slumbers soothe the cares of toil,
Sweet sleeps the peasant in his humble cot;
Now Flatt'ry's flippant tongue lies still a while,
And all the labour of the day's forgot.

Cynthia, emerging from the crimson'd east,
Moves slowly onward with her starry train;
And sober Night, in dusky mantle drest,
Resumes once more her awful silent reign;

Save where the mastiff, on the village green,
Barks wildly at the wan moon's glimm'ring ray;
Save where the drowsy owl, with dismal mien,
Hoots lonely on the dew-bespangled spray;

Save where the rill, whose mazy banks are clad
With plaintive willows, waving o'er the stream,
Come softly murm'ring thro' the peaceful glade,
And silver'd glitters in the quiv'ring gleam;

Save where the raven, from her airy nest,
'Mid woods impervious to the midnight moon,
Lulls with her dreary songs her young to rest,
While weary Nature mourns her beauties gone.

When at this solemn hour the slumb'ring world
Lies lowly prostrate on the downy couch;
And Riot's sons, in mere confusion hurl'd,
Prolong the revels of the mad debauch;

Oft let me wander near the heath-clad hill,
O'er whose high top beams sweet the star of eve;
Or tread beside the daisy-margin'd rill,
And ev'ry scene of vice and folly leave;

And there hold converse with the sacred Muse,
With Night's seraphic bard, immortal YOUNG!
In memory's fair page his strains peruse,
How sweet he warbled, and how sad he sung;

Or feel the force of THOMSON'S deathless song,
Who copied Nature in each diff'rent hue;
Who, soft as Sappho, and as Pindar strong,
Describ'd such scenes as Shakespeare never drew.

There let me meditate on themes divine,
Whose blissful influence high exalts the soul;
Or bend at Wisdom's ever-glorious shrine,
And learn the throbbing passions to controul.

There quick-ey'd Fancy's airy flights pursue,
That wake to extasy, and thoughts sublime,
In heav'ns bright concave with amazement view,
"The God of nature, and the God of time:"

Blest Solitude! how sweet thy peaceful scenes!
Where Contemplation's vot'ries love to stray;
Where, in her sapient dress, Religion reigns,
And smiles more splendid than the noon-tide ray.

[pp. 241-42]