Lines on Night.

Weekly Magazine of Original Essays, Fugitive Pieces, and Interesting Intelligence 1 (24 February 1798) 122-23.


A descriptive ode in imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso signed "Tiro." This Philadelphia poem follows its model closely, though omitting the allegorical parts of the original. In addition to Milton, it draws its imagery from earlier poems treating the themes of evening, night, and sleep, and includes a character of Despair, a popular figure in the poetry of the late eighteenth-century: "And e'en yon pallid form, Despair, | That beats the wrinkled brow of care, | Whose haggard cheek, whose rolling eye, | The starting tear, the broken sigh, | Betray the anguish of his mind, | In thee (if aught) can solace find." Lines on Night concludes with the tradition resolve; if Night will supply the blessings catalogued, "I'll gladly hail thy sable sway, | Nor mourn the absence of the day." The poem is offered as "original poetry."

Hence, ye busy scenes of day!
Ye vain, corroding cares away!
Let no unhallow'd thoughts intrude
Upon this sacred solitude.
Lo! sable darkness veils the scene:
No rude sounds now intervene,
To disturb this calm repose,
The trembling zephyr scarcely blows;
But all is silent, all is still,
Save the murm'ring of a rill
That softly trickles o'er the stone,
'Mid drowsy banks with moss o'ergrown;
Save the hoarse bark of watch-dog bold,
Trusty guardian of the fold;
Or the rare tinkling of a bell,
Faintly sounding thro' the dell;
Save the slowly-waving pine,
Or the distant low of kine.

No more the shepherd's blithesome song
Is heard the lofty hills among,
No more his flocks his care employ,
He to the hamlet hastes with joy,
To woo the maid, her heart to move,
By vows of faith and endless love.
No more does Echo, from her seat
Among the craggy steeps, repeat
The hoary woodman's sturdy stroke,
Resounding from the aged oak;
Nor the huntsman's cheerful horn,
Companion of the rising morn,
The buxom infant now no more,
Gambols round the cottage-door;
Nor health and innocence are seen,
Disporting on the verdant green;
But all (save those who wake to weep)
Are sunk in sweet oblivious sleep.

Hail! ever sacred, solemn hour
Of silence sweet! whose magic pow'r
Can lull the troubled mind to rest,
And free from care the anxious breast.
To thee the mourner pours his grief,
And in thy shades he finds relief;
And e'en yon pallid form, Despair,
That beats the wrinkled brow of care,
Whose haggard cheek, whose rolling eye,
The starting tear, the broken sigh,
Betray the anguish of his mind,
In thee (if aught) can solace find.
Thy kind return the ploughman hails,
Who, when the live-long daylight fails,
Betakes him to his humble cot,
Sequester'd in a lonely spot;
Receives with joy his humble fare,
A stranger both to want and care,
On his hard couch his limbs he throws,
And soon is lost in soft repose.

What tho' unto the guilty mind,
Thou'rt fraught with woes of direst kind;
What tho' the murd'rer dreads thy shade,
That saw him plunge his cursed blade;
What tho' his startled eye espies
Pale spectres from their vaults arise,
And hideous ghosts, and furies foul,
And horrid forms that round him howl,
Appal'd he hears their threat'ning sounds,
And trembles when thy shew their wounds;
To me thou com'st with milder mien,
For I can view with look serene,
Thy sable veil spread o'er the plain,
And bid thee welcome without pain.

Oft let me at the close of day,
Thro' vallies clad with flow'rets gay,
With rapture urge my devious way;
There to behold the setting sun,
When he his daily course has run,
The empire of the skies resign,
And on the western hills recline;
Then join the shepherds' merry dance,
Whose wholesome toils their joys enhance;
Where innocence and mirth unite
With modesty and calm delight;
Whence discord's banish'd with her train,
Where love and bliss alone do reign;—
Or listen to the milkmaid's song,
The while she hastes the vale along,
The shepherd shouting to his flock,
Re-echoed by the cavern'd rock;
Until the objects round me fade,
And all's conceal'd by night's dark shade.
At that still hour oft let me rove,
With loit'ring footsteps thro' the grove,
To see the moon with splendour rise,
And with her crescent light the skies;
Silv'ring o'er the lofty trees,
That wave in concert with the breeze;
Here listen to the nightingale,
And hear her tell the mournful tale;
Whose song the savage breast can move,
And melt the tender mind to love:
And see the fairies with their queen,
Dancing sprightly on the green,
Who frisk the merry hours away,
And banquet by the glow-worm's ray.
With magic ring, and mystic sound,
They frolic o'er th' enchanted ground.
When, lo! the sullen clock strikes one!
The lights are out, the dance is done:
Each flies the deepest shades to gain,
Like fleeting shadows o'er the plain.

And oft within some lonely cell,
Where solitude and silence dwell,
Far from bustle, mirth, and noise,
And all the heart-deluding joys;
By the taper's glimm'ring light,
I'll spend the pensive hours of night.
There studious, search th' instructive page,
Of some renown'd and friendly sage,
His learned maxims to explore;
And draw from wisdom's sacred store.

But when night spreads her deepest shade,
In solemn silence all is laid;
When hurry and confusion cease,
And warring passions are at peace,
Then let my thoughts ascend on high,
Still nobler themes my thoughts employ.
And in my breast, supreme alone,
May contemplation fix her throne.
Then science waft her soaring light,
Those glorious systems to behold,
And all their hidden parts unfold,
That in confusion seem to roll,
Yet constitute th' harmonious whole.

Free from superstitious dread,
The peaceful mansions of the dead
I'll visit oft: there mark the fate,
That all attends both low and great:
Thus thro' the silent church-yard roam,
And pore on ev'ry hallowed tomb;
Thence many an useful moral glean,
From this low earth my thoughts to wean,
And raise them to a brighter sky,
Where all is happiness and joy.

O Night! if these thy blessings are,
To heighten joy, and soften care,
Celestial rapture to impart,
T' instruct the mind, and mend the heart;
I'll gladly hail thy sable sway,
Nor mourn the absence of the day.

[pp. 122-23]