1752
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Il Meditante.

London Magazine 21 (February 1752) 84-85.

Anonymous


In this blank-verse variation on Milton's Il Penseroso the poet begins by praising Wisdom, daughter of Contemplation, and in place of the usual catalogue of pleasures and passions, proceeds with a hymn to creation in the manner of Paradise Lost: "Begin, for ye were present, when thro' realms | Of Chaos old, omnipotent he rode, | With awful majesty, and with brightness cloth'd | Ineffable."

Headnote: "The Poem, called Il Meditante, was printed in our Appendix to last Year, p. 603; but it coming then to us wrong folded, and without any Folio's, occasioned some Parts of it to be transposed: And as, notwithstanding this, it has met with general Approbation, we thought proper, in Justice to the Poem, to its ingenious Author, and to our Readers, to reprint it froma perfect Copy, as follows" p. 84.

Eleanor M. Sickels: "There are various other pensive poems, mostly short, which borrow the suggestion for their titles from Il Penseroso. Il Meditante (1752) is in blank verse, and, after a descriptive opening which might be from an ode to melancholy except for the meter, it swings into a religious meditation in which the predominant Miltonic influence is not Il Penseroso but Paradise Lost" Sickels, Gloomy Egoist (1932) 79.



When death-like sleep o'er all the works of men
In solemn darkness reigns, and hush'd is all
The noise and bustle of this busy world;
Let me, unseen by mortal eye, repair
To the keep covert of some lonely wood,
Where yews and cypress spread their mournful boughs,
And the proud ruins of some stately palace
Rear 'mid the trees their venerable heads.
There, while thro' rustling leaves and hollow vaults
The wind howls mournful, and the list'ning ear
Of tumbling waters hears the distant echo,
With downcast looks and footsteps slow I'll tread,
While the pale moon, in silent glory clad,
Gilds with a trembling light the solemn scene.

But, ah! what awful form thro' yonder glade
Stalks on majestick! Hail, fair Wisdom, hail,
Thrice hail, thou blooming maid, who 'mid these bowers,
These moss-grown caves and lowbrow'd rocks wert born
Of contemplation, and still deign'st to haunt
Thy native shades; obedient to thy call
I come—
O guide, O guard me, to thy sacred seats.
Ye twinkling stars, who gird with countless hosts
The moon's pale orb, and thou most solemn night,
Inspire my breast with ev'ry awful thought;
Then shall the soul on meditation's wing
Mount with bold flight towards her native skies,
And scorn the reach of dull mortality.

Creator infinite, whose pow'rful hand
Hung with yon shining lamps the vault of heaven;
Who mad'st the night, the day, and all this frame
Of universal nature fair and good,
Accept my praise: Thee, when the wakeful lark
Begins her matin song, and the grey dawn
Peeps o'er the hills; thee, when the bird of night
Flits thro' the dusky air, and all things rest
In darkness and in sleep; thee greatest, best,
Immortal God, my grateful tongue shall praise,
Long as that tongue can speak; with me the choirs
Of cherubs and of radiant seraphim
Their songs shall join: Men, angels, all thy works
Shall join to praise thine ever glorious name.

Begin, immortal spirits, the song of praise,
Strike on your golden harps a louder strain,
And let the chorus of creation rise.
Begin, for ye before the saphire throne
For ever stand ministrant, and with songs
Of solemn jubilee the Godhead chaunt
Perpetual, echoing 'mong the starry sphere;
Begin, for ye were present, when thro' realms
Of Chaos old, omnipotent he rode,
With awful majesty, and with brightness cloth'd
Ineffable; when ye before him march'd
Myriads to behold the birth of worlds,
In heavenly arms, that thro' the gloom immense
Flash'd forth intolerable day, ye stood,
Ye heard that voice, astonish'd Chaos heard,
Which bade his warring elements to cease.
'Twas then his hand omnipotent outspread
Heaven's azure canopy, and the bed profound
Of mighty waters; then first rear'd their heads
The everlasting hills, and the bright sun
Rejoic'd to run his course; the jocund hours
Before him danc'd, till night assum'd her reign;
Then rose in silent majesty the moon,
And round her silver throne the planets roll'd.
Mean time her offspring pregnant earth brought forth,
Sweet smell'd the newborn flow'rs, and fruits mature,
Tall forests nodded on the mountain's brow,
Where, (as amid the flow'ry vales below,)
Unnumber'd creatures rov'd secure, or brouz'd
The cragged rocks, or cropt the verdant herb;
The feather'd squadrons through the wide expanse
Of aether wheel'd their course; and in the waters
Of limpid river, and the hoary main,
Frisk'd all the finny race. Last wert thou made,
Man, of the visible creation lord,
Of form majestick, and a front erect
Towards the skies, thy soul within impress'd
With reason's signet, that thy heart might know
Thy gracious God, and knowing him adore.

These are thy works, O Lord, and these, thy power,
Which form'd, preserves; these we behold
In admiration, and with reverence low
Bend at thine awful seat; for thou art Lord,
For thou art great, eternal, infinite.
Thee not the heav'n of heavens can contain,
Incomprehensible; in vain, for thee,
Rapt in eternal clouds, and in the dark
Pavilion seated of unfathom'd night,
Would search the ken of bold aspiring man.
O idly studious, impotently wide!
Man, foolish man, forego thy daring search;
For know, that ever wand'ring, ever tost
On the wide ocean of infinity,
Thy shatter'd bark shall never find a shore.
With holy awe, and humble ignorance,
Then let me bow, and hail thee Pow'r supreme.
Look down, blest Pow'r, look down, and pitying view
Thy servant struggling thro' this vale of tears;
Be thou my God, my Saviour, and my Guide.
Then, thro' the labour of the olive fail,
The fig-tree cease to bud, the grape to glow,
And famine waste the desolated plain;
Tho' 'mid the fold the herds unnumber'd fall;
Tho' war, and sickness wither half the nations,
Thee will I praise, and in thy mercy trust,
The will I fear alone; for thou shalt grace
Thy faithful servants with a radiant crown
Of stars, that shine with unextinguish'd glory.
In robes of light array'd, and deck'd with palms
Victorious in their hands, on golden thrones,
In bow'rs of bliss, for ever shall they sit,
When all this mortal frame shall be dissolv'd;
When earth, the seas, the skies in smoke decay,
And nature's self expires in agony.

[pp. 84-85]