1766
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Solitude; in imitation of Milton.

Gentleman's Magazine 36 (September 1766) 427.

B. Fowler


This imitation of Il Penseroso eschews the usual georgic descriptions in favor of the more visionary, neoplatonic passages in its original: "Come, let us trace the pathless glade, | And penetrate the darkest shade; | And in some intertwisted bow'r, | Spend the aweful midnight hour." After conning the pages of Plato and Aristotle, the poet calls down the Cherub Contemplation, beholds Religion unveiled, and gets a peep of Oberon and Titania. The "Latmian Shepherd" is Endymion. The poem is signed "B. Fowler, Shipston upon Stour," not identified.



Come serious SOLITUDE along,
And listen to thy vot'ry's song,
For with thee he means to live,
And taste the pleasures thou can'st give.

With thee the philosophic sage
Nightly unfolds the philosophic page,
By the dim taper's solemn light
Unravells the deep Stagyrite,
Or heav'nly Plato's labours please,
Or precepts of great Socrates.
And oft with telescopic eye,
Traverses the bespangled sky,
From sphere to sphere unweary'd soars,
And latent unknown worlds explores.

By thee the tuneful bard inspir'd,
Oft with sacred raptures fir'd,
In airy visionary dreams,
Thro' flow'ry meads, 'long silver streams,
Led on by fancy sweetly strays,
And wanders in untrodden ways:
Converses with immortal pow'rs,
In shady groves and fragrant bow'rs,
Quaffs nectar at Castalia's rill,
And on Apollo's forked hill,
Roves unrestrain'd, and dares to climb
Fearless, the lofty steep sublime,
While the sisters nine prepare,
A laurel wreath to bind his hair.

Come pensive power, and as we go
With solemn pace, demure, and slow,
Thro' the arch'd bow'rs and glimmering glades
Dusky, and unfrequented, shades
Which never eye profane pervades;
Bring thy sage majestic train
Of virtues, partners of thy reign:
Calm and chearful Temperance,
With gentle dove-like Innocence,
Peace that dwells with thee alone,
To the giddy world unknown.

And from his airy heights call down,
"The Cherub Contemplation."
That soars with rapid wing on high,
And lifts the soul above the sky;
But first and chiefest o'er the rest,
In all her genuine graces drest,
Such as when first from heav'n she came
To warm us with her holy flame;
Ere dull enthusiasts had veil'd
Her form, and all her charms conceal'd.
Religion bring — the queen of night,
Perchance may from her throne alight,
In a radiant kirtle dight;
(She erst did from her orb descend
The Latmian shepherd to befriend)
Or send a delegated ray,
And bless us with a softer day;
While the fairy elves are seen,
Dancing on th' enamel'd green,
Marking a mysterious ring
With Oberon their pigmy king,
And his blithe queen — the shepherd spies
Them as from field he homeward hies,
And while aghast he stands with fear,
Aerial musick charms his ear.
Come, let us trace the pathless glade,
And penetrate the darkest shade;
And in some intertwisted bow'r,
Spend the aweful midnight hour;
Yon distant waterfall does roll
Down the hoar cliffs, and wakes the soul
To thoughts sublime, and heav'nly musing;
Trivial terrene things refusing,
On indefatigable wings
Upborne, aloft from earth she springs,
Expatiates o'er her native skies,
And to the empyreal heav'ns does rise!
Where inflam'd with purer fire,
With bolder hand she strikes the lyre,
Amid the bright angelic throng,
And joins the universal song:
While thus in pleasing visions wrapt she strays,
The earthly part insensibly decays,
And quite dissolving, now no more
She finds a dream, what seem'd before.

If these pleasures thou can'st give,
O SOLITUDE, with thee I'll live.

[p. 427]