Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  311. Il Penseroso

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

John Milton. 1608–1674

311. Il Penseroso

HENCE vain deluding joyes, 
  The brood of folly without father bred, 
How little you bested, 
  Or fill the fixèd mind with all your toyes; 
Dwell in som idle brain,         5
  And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess, 
As thick and numberless 
  As the gay motes that people the Sun Beams, 
Or likest hovering dreams 
  The fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train.  10
But hail thou Goddes, sage and holy, 
Hail divinest Melancholy, 
Whose Saintly visage is too bright 
To hit the Sense of human sight; 
And therfore to our weaker view,  15
Ore laid with black staid Wisdoms hue. 
Black, but such as in esteem, 
Prince Memnons sister might beseem, 
Or that Starr’d Ethiope Queen that strove 
To set her beauties praise above  20
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 Saturns raign,  25
Such mixture was not held a stain) 
Oft in glimmering Bowres, and glades 
He met her, and in secret shades 
Of woody Ida’s inmost grove, 
Whilst yet there was no fear of Jove.  30
Com pensive Nun, devout and pure, 
Sober, stedfast, and demure, 
All in a robe of darkest grain, 
Flowing with majestick train, 
And sable stole of Cipres Lawn,  35
Over thy decent shoulders drawn. 
Com, but keep thy wonted state, 
With eev’n step, and musing gate, 
And looks commercing with the skies, 
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:  40
There held in holy passion still, 
Forget thy self to Marble, till 
With a sad Leaden downward cast, 
Thou fix them on the earth as fast. 
And joyn with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,  45
Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet, 
And hears the Muses in a ring, 
Ay round about Joves Altar sing. 
And adde to these retirèd Leasure, 
That in trim Gardens takes his pleasure;  50
But first, and chiefest, with thee bring, 
Him that yon soars on golden wing, 
Guiding the fiery-wheelèd throne, 
The Cherub Contemplation, 
And the mute Silence hist along,  55
‘Less Philomel will daign a Song, 
In her sweetest, saddest plight, 
Smoothing the rugged brow of night, 
While Cynthia checks her Dragon yoke, 
Gently o’re th’accustom’d Oke;  60
Sweet Bird that shunn’st the noise of folly, 
Most musicall, most melancholy! 
Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among, 
I woo to hear thy eeven-Song; 
And missing thee, I walk unseen  65
On the dry smooth-shaven Green. 
To behold the wandring Moon, 
Riding neer her highest noon, 
Like one that had bin led astray 
Through the Heav’ns wide pathles way;  70
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 som wide-water’d shoar,  75
Swinging slow with sullen roar; 
Or if the Ayr will not permit, 
Som still removèd place will fit, 
Where glowing Embers through the room 
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,  80
Far from all resort of mirth, 
Save the Cricket on the hearth, 
Or the Belmans drousie charm, 
To bless the dores from nightly harm: 
Or let my Lamp at midnight hour,  85
Be seen in som high lonely Towr, 
Where I may oft out-watch the Bear, 
With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear 
The spirit of Plato to unfold 
What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold  90
The immortal mind that hath forsook 
Her mansion in this fleshly nook: 
And of those Dæmons that are found 
In fire, air, flood, or under ground, 
Whose power hath a true consent  95
With Planet, or with Element. 
Som time let Gorgeous Tragedy 
In Scepter’d Pall com sweeping by, 
Presenting Thebs, or Pelops line, 
Or the tale of Troy divine. 100
Or what (though rare) of later age, 
Ennoblèd hath the Buskind stage. 
  But, O sad Virgin, that thy power 
Might raise Musæus from his bower 
Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing 105
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, 110
Of Camball, and of Algarsife, 
And who had Canace to wife, 
That own’d the vertuous Ring and Glass, 
And of the wondrous Hors of Brass, 
On which the Tartar King did ride; 115
And if ought els, great Bards beside, 
In sage and solemn tunes have sung, 
Of Turneys and of Trophies hung; 
Of Forests, and inchantments drear, 
Where more is meant then meets the ear. 120
Thus night oft see me in thy pale career, 
Till civil-suited Morn appeer, 
Not trickt and frounc’t as she was wont, 
With the Attick Boy to hunt, 
But Cherchef’t in a comly Cloud, 125
While rocking Winds are Piping loud, 
Or usher’d with a shower still, 
When the gust hath blown his fill, 
Ending on the russling Leaves, 
With minute drops from off the Eaves. 130
And when the Sun begins to fling 
His flaring beams, me Goddes bring 
To archèd walks of twilight groves, 
And shadows brown that Sylvan loves, 
Of Pine, or monumental Oake, 135
Where the rude Ax with heavèd stroke, 
Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt, 
Or fright them from their hallow’d haunt. 
There in close covert by som Brook, 
Where no profaner eye may look, 140
Hide me from Day’s garish eie, 
While the Bee with Honied thie, 
That at her flowry work doth sing, 
And the Waters murmuring 
With such consort as they keep, 145
Entice the dewy-feather’d Sleep; 
And let som strange mysterious dream, 
Wave at his Wings in Airy stream, 
Of lively portrature display’d, 
Softly on my eye-lids laid. 150
And as I wake, sweet musick breath 
Above, about, or underneath, 
Sent by som spirit to mortals good, 
Or th’unseen Genius of the Wood. 
  But let my due feet never fail, 155
To walk the studious Cloysters pale, 
And love the high embowèd Roof, 
With antick Pillars massy proof, 
And storied Windows richly dight, 
Casting a dimm religious light. 160
There let the pealing Organ blow, 
To the full voic’d Quire below, 
In Service high, and Anthems cleer, 
As may with sweetnes, through mine ear, 
Dissolve me into extasies, 165
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes. 
And may at last my weary age 
Find out the peacefull hermitage, 
The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell, 
Where I may sit and rightly spell 170
Of every Star that Heav’n doth shew, 
And every Herb that sips the dew; 
Till old experience do attain 
To somthing like Prophetic strain. 
These pleasures Melancholy give, 175
And I with thee will choose to live.