1810
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Pleasures of Solitude. — A Poem.

The Poetical Magazine 2 (1810) 335-39.

Clio


A blank-verse contribution to the poems of the pleasures sequence, signed "Clio, Brighton." The poem unfolds like an imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso, with passages on the times of day and interior reflection, but instead of the usual resolve, Clio concludes with a moral exhortation to others to follow his example: "Go seek retirement; and, when thus engag'd, | Reflect and meditate upon the past; | Strive, if you can, the future to improve; | Be e'er attentive to that still small voice, | Which in the secret of the soul exhorts, | Advises, and forewarns" pp. 338-39. The Poetical Magazine, which seems to have been published as a quarterly, lasted for four volumes, 1809-11.



When the great fiat was issued out,
And man created from a mass chaotic,
By that Almighty hand who merely said
"Light let there be," and light that instant shone,
He lived an unlov'd solitary thing:
But when that Pow'r divine, which gave him breath,
A consort form'd, and planted by his side,
The joy of sociality began.
But, reader, tremble at the dire event!
And contemplate, alas! the sad result—
The fall, which Milton beautifully sang
In numbers soft, engaging and sublime.

Thus, then, my pen, endeavour to portray,
With unaffected warmth and zeal sincere,
The charms of Solitude.

At summer eve, when Sol, who all the day
In cloudless skies with radiance bright had shone,
Was reaching fast his western destiny,
I oft, in contemplation deep, have roam'd—
Sought some sequester'd shade, some fav'rite bank,
And there, in solitude, with real delight
Have watch'd him till he sank,
Nor would I leave this charming quiet scene
Till the nocturnal shades began to close
Upon my ravish'd sight. Then would I rise,
Leaving my mossy seat with pensive steps,
And homeward bend my solitary way;
And to this undisturb'd resort again
At break of day I'd joyfully repair,
And see the customary toil began
Of daily occupation; ere employ'd
Commercially in lucrative pursuits,
I'd oft beguile a silent hour with thee,
Primeval Solitude! for thou art still
Unchangeably the same.

Can there exist on Terra's vast domain
"One dismal, dark, idolater of Chance"—
One who unmov'd, with unenraptur'd mind,
Such scenes, such lovely scenes, as these can view—
When ev'ry shrub and ev'ry dewy pearl
Teems, as it were, with life and animation;
When Nature, clad in most superb attire,
To secret adoration lulls the mind.
Can such an infidel, I say, declare
These works of wisdom makerless remain?
O dark delusion! horrid defamation!
Two-fold depravity! — May such as these
Oft seek retirement, and in solitude
Reflect and be convinc'd their creed's fallacious;
Then mark attentively the wondrous works
And ways of Him they own not: surely then
That veil of darkness which expels the rays
Of spiritual light would be remov'd,
And to conviction bow; thus then expands
His humble soul in secret gratitude
To Him who gave it all: and, as he acts
In due submission to his holy will,
And faithfully performs his high behest
Will, thro' the mercy of redeeming love,
Secure him from destruction.

But not to rural scenes,
To sylvan bow'rs or shady cool retreats,
Where on some hawthorn-top harmoniously
Sweet Philomela chants her ev'ning lay
In melody sublime, are all thy charms,
O Solitude! confin'd. At midnight hour,
When all enjoy tranquility serene,
Oft would I gladly 'scape the drowsy god,
And shun his poppy wreath. When all is still,
And Silence, solemn silence, reigns around,
Save the soft rustling of some poplars tall,
Contending with the breeze, I love to turn
My soaring thoughts to subjects far remote—
To much-lov'd friends and relatives so dear,
From whom, though far away, kind Fancy brings
Her golden train of genial recollections;
Veil'd in soft visions of serene delight,
And fost'ring ideas ne'er to be fulfilled,
From dreams awake to dream asleep at last
Insensibly would fall, and close
The meditative scene.

Come, lovely Solitude! for thou art mine:
I love thee; and I love, when all is still,
Thy charms to contemplate, thy praise to sing—
To feel how man thy pruning influ'nce needs,
To rob his passions of their headstrong force—
To curb his inclinations — and confine
Within its proper bounds his vicious will;
A will, which by thy pow'r, if uncontrolled,
Itself to see, its rashness to perceive,
Reflection knows not, and subjection scorns.
Oh! how much more commendable to tread
The flow'ry paths of Science fair; to cull
A crown of laurels from Parnassian heights,
And eagerly imbibe the limpid streams
That Helicon affords; the fertile mind
With knowledge pure and choicest arts to store;
Then all the morn and sunshine of our days
In Dissipation's train to pass away: and thus,
'Midst all the bustle of the busy world,
To kill our precious time, and quite destroy
The heav'nly prospect of our future bliss.

Behold the citizen,
Immur'd in wealth, whose life a shocking scene
Of rioting displays. One single hour
Of solitude to him would far exceed,
In real utility, whole weeks beside,
If idly spent in Dissipation's train
Of sensual pleasures eagerly pursu'd,
Or bacchanalian joys, whose seeming charms
Are but of short duration, leaving then
The hapless vot'ry plung'd in deep distress,
And whose polluted breast a victim falls
To all the lashes of severe remorse.

Not so the man, who mindful of his end,
Stands well prepar'd to meet the awful stroke
Of grisly Death, and leaves this idle world
(Conscious of having clos'd a well-spent life)
With all the calmness of a mind at ease,
Waiting the passport to those realms of bliss
Where one eternal spring encircles all.
But still this sweet serenity, this peace,
Is not an earthly gift; then whence obtain'd?

Go seek retirement; and, when thus engag'd,
Reflect and meditate upon the past;
Strive, if you can, the future to improve;
Be e'er attentive to that still small voice,
Which in the secret of the soul exhorts,
Advises, and forewarns; points what to do,
And what to leave undone: thus, reader,
Wilt thou lead a happy life, and thus enjoy
That calm serenity and heartfelt peace
Of which the good man boasts; and thus wilt find
That Solitude has charms.

[pp. 335-39]