1762
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Evening Elegy.

Lloyd's Evening Post (9 June 1762) 546.

Abraham Portal


Twenty elegiac quatrains. Abraham Portal's ode unites the topics and imagery of odes to evening with those of Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard. Thus, the "mute, inglorious Milton" reappears as a nesting songbird: "Perchance, within the fragrant thicket hid, | Some tuneful warbler rests his wearied throat, | Who, ere the sun beneath th' horizon slid, | Had sooth'd my bosom with his dulcet note." The poem concludes with a resolve to live in retirement common to imitations of Milton's Il Penseroso. Added to this melange of sources is the figure of Avarice in the opening stanzas, dervied from the allegorical ode. The poet was a silversmith in London.

Headnote: "Sir, the following Elegy is the product of one of these late fine evenings, which, if you think worthy a place in your Paper, is at your service. Perhaps, as it is peculiarly adapted to this pleasant season of the year, and to the time of your Paper's coming out, it may afford some small entertainment to such of your readers as are fond of the Muses and their contemplative retreats. This opportunity reminds me of acknowledging the obligation I lie under to you for so generously inserting my defence of Innocence against the Critical Reviewers, and likewise to the ingenious and well-meaning Gentleman, who, in your Paper, so kindly recommended my poem and shop to the notice of the Publick, which recommendation, I am certain it will give pleasure to his humane heart to know, has not been wholly useless. I am, Sir, Your humble servant, AB. PORTAL. Ludgate-hill, June 7, 1762" p. 546.

A companion Morning Elegy, the L'Allegro corresponding to this Penseroso, was belatedly published in Lloyd's Evening Chronicle 14 September 1763.



Welcome thou sober Ev'ning, calm and grey,
Now Phoebus' rage and every blast is laid,
Now fost'ring dews descend, and turb'lent day
Retires beneath the halcyon wing of shade.

Now lucid Venus, grac'd with beamy hair,
To dance nocturnal tempts the starry train,
Commanding toil to cease, and anxious care
From vexing mortal bosoms to refrain.

Yet will not av'rice, cursed fiend! forbear
To break wise Nature's best appointed law;
She pensive-plodding sits, with downcast air,
Refusing rest her fraudful plan to draw.

Pursuing which, nor Themis' righteous lore,
Nor precious relatives blood-binding tye,
Nor all that Heav'n for Virtue has in store,
Can draw aside her mammon-fixed eye.

O'er rocks and seas unheeded bounds she flies,
Explores the cold extreme of either pole,
[Illegible] the fierce heats of equinoctial skies,
Nor slacks her race till Death's unwelcome goal.

Far from my breast, kind Heav'n, such lust remove,
At ev'ry grateful, tranquil Eve's return;
Let me, while doubtful Cynthia cheers the grove,
With naught but love or pious ardor burn;

And as along some placid stream I range,
Viewing the wild flow'rs close their gaudy bloom,
And birds the expanse of Ether change,
To seek the shady covert's inmost gloom;

Ah! let me tread, with cautious steps and slow,
Where thickest hawthorns shed their odours wide,
Where intermingled roses sweetly blow,
And rambling woodbines cling on ev'ry side.

Perchance, within the fragrant thicket hid,
Some tuneful warbler rests his wearied throat,
Who, ere the sun beneath th' horizon slid,
Had sooth'd my bosom with his dulcet note.

Perchance, close perch'd aside his brooding mate,
With bill to bill inclin'd, in silent joy,
He cheers her lonely hours and watchful state,
And cares lest aught should her repose destroy.

Sweet harmonists! your tender vigils keep
Secure for me, I will not do ye wrong;
The rustling boughs my garments shall not sweep,
And ye shall pay me with your future song.

But hark! what voice the sacred stillness breaks?
Softer than silence are those hallow'd strains,
Or lovers sighs, when pleading Nature speaks;—
'Tis sadly-pleasing Philomel complains.

Long let me listen to thy varied lay,
Nor humming chafers teize my thirsty ear;
The time insensibly shall wear away,
Till night approach, and ev'ry star appear;

Then, as my lagging feet I homewards draw,
My passions all in heav'nly concord bound,
The solemn scene shall fill my soul with awe,
And God Omnipotent my tongue resound.

Methinks, when clad in beaming glories mild,
Full and majestic shines the Queen of Night,
Around her throne innum'rous squadrons fil'd
Of Hosts celestial, Ministers of Light.

It should remind us of that holy hour,
When Heav'n and Earth's all-gracious Judge shall come,
In the full splendour of his Father's pow'r,
With guard seraphick, to pronounce our doom.

May I, when life's short day begins to close,
The star of age pale glimm'ring o'er my head,
Unvex'd by troublous blast, my mind compose,
Nor Fortune's frowns, nor sacred Vengeance dread;

From ev'ry anxious, busy scene retir'd,
Let me the world's mad tumult view from far,
Smile at what erst each raging passion fir'd,
Nor deem short Pleasure worth unceasing Care.

From ev'ry anxious, busy scene retir'd,
Let me the world's mad tumult view from far,
Smile at what erst each raging passion fir'd,
Nor deem short Pleasure worth unceasing Care.

Plac'd in some humbly-decent rural shed,
There let my sun of life in radiance set;
Through smiling Hope, when Death's black night is fled,
A course more glorious shall its orient wait.

[p. 546]