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Francis T. Palgrave, ed. (1824–1897). The Golden Treasury. 1875.

John Milton

CXIII. Il Penseroso

HENCE, vain deluding Joys,

The brood of Folly without father bred!

How little you bestead

Or fill the fixèd mind with all your toys!

Dwell in some idle brain,

And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess

As thick and numberless

As the gay motes that people the sunbeams,

Or likest hovering dreams,

The fickle pensioners of Morpheus’ train.

But hail, thou goddess sage and holy,

Hail, divinest Melancholy!

Whose saintly visage is too bright

To hit the sense of human sight,

And therefore to our weaker view

O’erlaid with black, staid Wisdom’s hue;

Black, but such as in esteem

Prince Memnon’s sister might beseem,

Or that starr’d Ethiop queen that strove

To set her beauty’s praise above

The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended:

Yet thou art higher far descended:

Thee bright-hair’d Vesta, long of yore,

To solitary Saturn bore;

His daughter she; in Saturn’s reign

Such mixture was not held a stain:

Oft in glimmering bowers and glades

He met her, and in secret shades

Of woody Ida’s inmost grove,

While yet there was no fear of Jove.

Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure,

Sober, steadfast, and demure,

All in a robe of darkest grain

Flowing with majestic train,

And sable stole of cypres lawn

Over thy decent shoulders drawn:

Come, but keep thy wonted state,

With even step, and musing gait,

And looks commércing with the skies,

Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:

There, held in holy passion still,

Forget thyself to marble, till

With a sad leaden downward cast

Thou fix them on the earth as fast:

And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,

Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet,

And hears the Muses in a ring

Aye round about Jove’s altar sing:

And add to these retirèd Leisure

That in trim gardens takes his pleasure:—

But first and chiefest, with thee bring

Him that yon soars on golden wing

Guiding the fiery-wheelèd throne,

The cherub Contemplatiòn;

And the mute Silence hist along,

’Less Philomel will deign a song

In her sweetest saddest plight

Smoothing the rugged brow of Night,

While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke

Gently o’er the accustom’d oak.

—Sweet bird, that shunn’st the noise of folly,

Most musical, most melancholy!

Thee, chauntress, oft, the woods among

I woo, to hear thy even-song;

And missing thee, I walk unseen

On the dry smooth-shaven green,

To behold the wandering Moon

Riding near her highest noon,

Like one that had been led astray

Through the heaven’s wide pathless way,

And oft, as if her head she bow’d,

Stooping through a fleecy cloud.

Oft, on a plat of rising ground

I hear the far-off curfeu sound

Over some wide-water’d shore,

Swinging slow with sullen roar:

Or, if the air will not permit,

Some still removèd place will fit,

Where glowing embers through the room

Teach light to counterfeit a gloom;

Far from all resort of mirth,

Save the cricket on the hearth,

Or the bellman’s drowsy charm

To bless the doors from nightly harm.

Or let my lamp at midnight hour

Be seen in some high lonely tower,

Where I may oft out-watch the Bear

With thrice-great Hermes, or unsphere

The spirit of Plato, to unfold

What worlds or what vast regions hold

The immortal mind, that hath forsook

Her mansion in this fleshly nook:

And of those demons that are found

In fire, air, flood, or underground,

Whose power hath a true consent

With planet, or with element.

Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy

In sceptr’d pall come sweeping by,

Presenting Thebes, or Pelops’ line,

Or the tale of Troy divine;

Or what (though rare) of later age

Ennobled hath the buskin’d stage.

But, O sad Virgin, that thy power

Might raise Musæus from his bower,

Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing

Such notes as, warbled to the string,

Drew iron tears down Pluto’s cheek

And made Hell grant what Love did seek!

Or call up him that left half-told

The story of Cambuscan bold,

Of Camball, and of Algarsife,

And who had Canacé to wife

That own’d the virtuous ring and glass;

And of the wondrous horse of brass

On which the Tartar king did ride:

And if aught else great bards beside

In sage and solemn tunes have sung

Of turneys, and of trophies hung,

Of forests, and enchantments drear,

Where more is meant than meets the ear.

Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career,

Till civil-suited Morn appear,

Not trick’d and frounc’d as she was wont

With the Attic Boy to hunt,

But kercheft in a comely cloud

While rocking winds are piping loud.

Or usher’d with a shower still,

When the gust hath blown his fill,

Ending on the rustling leaves

With minute drops from off the eaves.

And when the sun begins to fling

His flaring beams, me, goddess, bring

To archèd walks of twilight groves,

And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves,

Of pine, or monumental oak,

Where the rude axe, with heavèd stroke,

Was never heard the nymphs to daunt

Or fright them from their hallow’d haunt.

There in close covert by some brook

Where no profaner eye may look,

Hide me from day’s garish eye,

While the bee with honey’d thigh

That at her flowery work doth sing,

And the waters murmuring,

With such consort as they keep

Entice the dewy-feather’d Sleep;

And let some strange mysterious dream

Wave at his wings in airy stream

Of lively portraiture display’d,

Softly on my eyelids laid:

And, as I wake, sweet music breathe

Above, about, or underneath,

Sent by some Spirit to mortals good,

Or the unseen Genius of the wood.

But let my due feet never fail

To walk the studious cloister’s pale,

And love the high-embowèd roof,

With antique pillars massy proof,

And storied windows richly dight

Casting a dim religious light.

There let the pealing organ blow

To the full-voiced quire below

In service high and anthems clear,

As may with sweetness, through mine ear,

Dissolve me into ecstasies,

And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.

And may at last my weary age

Find out the peaceful hermitage,

The hairy gown and mossy cell

Where I may sit, and rightly spell

Of every star that heaven doth shew,

And every herb that sips the dew;

Till old experience do attain

To something like prophetic strain.

These pleasures, Melancholy, give,

And I with thee will choose to live.