1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Melancholy.

Gentleman's Magazine 66 (July 1796) 600.

T. R. Shepherd


An imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso in six ababcc stanzas, signed "T. R. Shepherd, Charles-Town, South Carolina." The poem is replete with the usual gothic imagery, though the addition of the Spanish moss adds an American touch: "Me to some tott'ring abbey-ruins bear, | When trembling twilight o'er the landscape falls, | Where hollow echoes vibrate on the ear, | And the long moss droops from the mould'ring walls." I have not identified the author. The poem was reprinted in Charleston from the Gentleman's Magazine in 1797.

Eleanor M. Sickels: Melancholy "is 'Goddess of the downcast eye' (1786), 'Nymph retired and coy' (1787), 'Nymph of the pallid hue, and downcast eye' (1796), 'Nymph of pallid pensive brow' (1792), or, with a particularly low bow to Milton, 'thou Goddess sage and holy, Sable-vested Melancholy' (1782)" The Gloomy Egoist (1932) 44.



Nymph of the pallid hue, and downcast eye,
Around whose brow a wreath of cypress twines,
For ever doom'd to breathe the pensive sigh,
And beat that breast where comfort never shines;
To thee, when dissipated crouds retire,
I tune the sad, the woe-expressive lyre.

Me to some tott'ring abbey-ruins bear,
When trembling twilight o'er the landscape falls,
Where hollow echoes vibrate on the ear,
And the long moss droops from the mould'ring walls;
There midst decaying structures let me muse,
Nor heed the clammy mists nor chilly dews.

At midnight hoar with thee I'll wander o'er
The dreary heath; th' ungenial damps defy;
Or, stretch'd along the hollow-beaten shore,
While the pale moon gleams from the cloudless sky;
Amid the circling shades that whelm the night,
Catch the faint glimm'rings of some watch-tower's light.

Or, where funereal yews spread o'er the tomb,
Join'd hand in hand with thee, sad Nymph, I'll go,
To mark where Grief, enwrapt in awful gloom,
By the blue taper sheds her floods of woe,
And, weeping, wears the tardy hours away,
Till Morn's alarming clock proclaims the day.

Pleasure, avaunt! with all thy syren-crew,
Hence! ever may I flee their wanton pow'r;
And bid a long farewel, a last adieu,
To all the revels of the midnight hour!
Hark! heard'st thou not the direful shrieks of pain?
Disease and death await the thoughtless train.

Dejected Maid! with thee content to dwell,
I shun the noise of Folly's idle brood,
To seek thee in thy solitary cell,
Where vain delusive joys can ne'er intrude;
But Contemplation calm, the nymph divine,
Numbers the twinkling planets as they shine.

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