1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Invocation to Melancholy.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (13 September 1787).

William Hamilton Reid


A descriptive ode in imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso. The poet's wanderings lead to the grave of a suicide "where that lonely turf clad tomb | O'er worth was rais'd in early bloom, | Some genius! he whose stubborn woe | At length impell'd the deathful blow; | Where sorrow ever bending wears | A crown of congelated tears." Reid takes his epigraph from Joseph Warton's Ode to Fancy: "Haste Fancy from the scenes of folly, | To meet the matron Melancholy." Warton's poem, as much as Milton's, is Reid's object of imitation.

William Hamilton Reid was an autodidact whose verse had been appearing in the Gazetteer on an almost weekly basis. His success was such that he gave up his trade as a buckle-maker to pursue a career as a Grub-street writer, becoming one of the most prolific of the periodical poets of the era. The Gazetteer seems to have taken a particular interest in autodidacts; they had introduced London readers to Robert Burns in January of 1787, and 28 February published an article on John Frederick Bryant, "the tobacco-pipe maker."



Come sober Melancholy, come!
Lead me to some impervious gloom.
I love thy tresses, darkly brown,
That flow thy ivory neck a-down;
Far more than hers whose flying foot
Wantons to the silver lute.
With thee I'll stray in musings slow,
Still moralizing as I go
Through forest brown, or desart wild,
Where never wanton beauty smil'd;
Or where, from cloud-encumber'd steep,
A cat'ract pours with sounding sweep,
To swell some river's ancient pride,
That spreads 'neath oaken branches wide;
Upon whose mossy margin given
The pensive pleasures oft are seen
Urging their silent devious way,
At early dawn, or twilight grey:
But most at eve, when just descry'd,
Across the green the shadows glide;
When distant crowds their clamours cease,
And silence seeks the grot of peace;
Whilst dew-drops fill the cowslip's bell,
And in the copse soft breezes swell,
That never told a blushing tale
To pansie sweet, or primrose pale.—
From scenes of hurry let me steal,
Sublimer joys with thee to feel;
Where hands that bless'd their humble lot,
Rear'd here and there a straw-roof'd cot:
There graceful nymph Simplicity!
Let me sweet converse hold with thee.
(As all dissolv'd in bliss I seem
"Wrapt in some wild poetic dream;")
Till in this vi'let fringed bound,
I'm rous'd by distant sheep-bells sound;
Or voices which the echo mocks,
Whilst culling simples from the rocks;
Or where yon elmy row embow'rs,
That ruin'd castle's mould'ring tow'rs;
And many a gloomy dungeon drear
Has witness'd to the hopeless tear:
Or where that lonely turf clad tomb
O'er worth was rais'd in early bloom,
Some genius! he whose stubborn woe
At length impell'd the deathful blow;
Where sorrow ever bending wears
A crown of congelated tears;
And never comes th' unwilling hind
But phantoms rush upon his mind.
Of spectres pale and goblins drear,
That chill his vital blood with fear;—
Let me still meditate thy lay
Till twilight wakes the cares of day.

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