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Poem by Joanna Baillie
HOW lovely, Evening, is thy parting smile! The twilight softness of thy glowing sky May well the poet's pensive dream beguile, And kindle rapture in his languid eye. There is a quiet magic in the sigh Of thy cool breezes, and thy twinkling dews, The insect's hum, the birds' wild melody, Thy few faint stars, and all the varying hues That o'er thy pallid cheek their maiden blush suffuse I love the setting sun's last glance of light, When vernal clouds have wept themselves away: Flowers are more fragrant, and their tints more bright; More blithe the nightingale's reviving lay: The drops fall sparkling from the leafy spray, As fitful breezes toss the straggling brier; And the far hill flings back the level ray; So pure the liquid air, that cot and spire, Distinct in distance, gleam with evening's golden fire. The poet's glances, wheresoe'er they roll, A paradise of living splendor make; And in the magic mirror of his soul, Earth's simple beauties lovelier forms awake; As in the green depth of some limpid lake, Unruffled by the west wind's vesper sighs, Tree, hill, and cloud, a softened brilliance take, Till all the landscape in reflection lies A fairy world of light, enshrin'd in purer skies. But spring hath sights which melt upon the mind With an o'erpow'ring beauty: early flow'rs That children in their evening rambles find; The soft, half-open'd foliage, wet with show'rs; Luxuriant shoots, that o'er the twilight bow'rs Wave wildly: dappled skies, and sparkling rills. And spring hath music for our love-sick hours: Wild notes of forest warblers; and the hills, All silent as they seem, a mingled murmur fills. The ploughman's careless whistle, the low bleat Of youngling flocks, the drowsy-tinkling bell, The bark of village watch-dogs, as they greet The homeward shepherd, on the breezes swell, While evening darkens o'er the misty dell. O then I love to wander, all unseen, Walks lengthen'd as the length'ning light may tell, And muse, with many a roving thought between, And quiet to the soul from nature's quiet glean. In all the calmness of a cloudless eve, How gently dies a long, long summer day! O'er yon broad wood, as loth to take its leave, It sheds, at parting, its most lovely ray; And golden lights o'er all the landscape play-- And languid zephyrs waft their rich perfume Where the wide lattice gives them open way, And breathe a freshness round the twilight room, From jasmine, clematis, and yellow-blossom'd broom. There is a home-felt stillness in the hour, When heaven's bright azure takes a deeper shade, And fragrance sleeps in every closing flower. Then, ere the amber glow is all decay'd, The volume or the work aside is laid; And the pleas'd mother views, with glist'ning eye, The little games by happy childhood play'd, Her fair-hair'd girls all breathless running by, With cries of mimic fear and laugh of ecstacy. When the far clock hath toll'd the hour of rest, They, side by side, before their mother kneel, And pray their gentle slumbers may be blest, And their pure spirits dew-like influence feel Of grace and goodness. Oh! what raptures steal Upon a parent's soul at childhood's prayer! That innocence, might all her sorrows heal: The lifted hands, the feature's placid air, The hymn so sweetly lisp'd, have all enchantment there. And then the good-night kiss: and they repose In dreamless rest, or dreams of happiness: And the warm cheek with livelier colour glows, As, half unconsciously, with fond caress, The wearied infants to each other press, And fall asleep together. Happy sleep! The sage might envy thee, the saint might bless: O! could'st thou in thy own true Lethe steep The sunk and haggard eyes that wake, and wake to weep! Come, walk with me, where, o'er the dewy lawn, The fir-tree wafts its incense, and the gale Breathes freshly from the waters; for the dawn Of moon-light brightens o'er the winding dale; And while the startled owlets shriek and wail, One flood of splendor bathes the distant hill, The corn-field bosom'd in the wood, the vale With river mists o'ershadow'd, hush'd and still, Save where in murmurs dies the rushing of the mill. Soon shalt thou hear, fair moon, a blither greeting Than poet's invocation, or the cry Of owlet:--Shout and laugh in chorus meeting, Where youths and maids their harvest labour ply, And the slow wain, with dewy sheaves pil'd high, And grating wheels, rolls homeward: the shrill song Of infant gleaner swells the revelry; And aye, with dying fall the notes among, Will echo's airy tones the melody prolong. In the deep stillness of the moonlight grove, Where trembling leaves a chequered shadow made, Of yore the fairy-people lov'd to rove; And soft as that dim light and mellow shade, Ærial music whisper'd from the glade: And fays, beneath the drooping violet, In filmy robes of gossamer array'd, And moth-wing scarf, and fern-seed coronet, To list a tale of love their elfin warriors met. Roll on! thou pure and lovely orb! roll on, In silent beauty through the cloudless sky; Most lovely when the twilight flush is gone, And thou in brightness art alone on high. Thou art the poet's worship, and his eye More wildly flashes in thy hallow'd ray: To thee the lover, fancy-sick, will sigh; And thy pale beams through ivied casement play, Where patient maiden's cheek in vigils wastes away. The mourner loves thee; for thy quiet light Sheds beauty o'er grey tower and waving tree, Yet beauty which becomes the solemn night; While day, in mockery, throws o'er all we see, Gay smiles, which win no smile from misery.-- The mourner loves thee; and, in frenzied tone, Her overflowing passion breathes to thee, Thrill'd with thy loveliness, when all is gone That gave affection birth, and yet the heart yearns on. How sweetly, by the margin of the lake, From cottage windows peeps the taper's light! The trembling waters its reflection break, As the breeze stoops to kiss them in its flight. The glow-worm, lamp of little fairy sprite, On beds of moss is shining in the dew; And stars are twinkling from the depths of night, In Evening's lingering glimmer pale and few, But flashing thick and bright along the darker blue. In the green covert of some leafy bay, Stretch'd languidly along my rocking boat, I love to gaze my inmost soul away, And watch the silent stars in ether float: And oft, when distant flute's faint echo smote On my hush'd senses,--list'ning with a sigh-- Oh! I have lov'd to fancy that the note Had wander'd from the music of the sky, And woo'd the poet's creed of spheral melody. 'Tis sweet to mark the wither'd foliage float, Down the cold stream of autumn's evening gale, While the last ling'ring swallow's feeble note, Seems sadly for the waning year to wail. The huntsman's bugle echoes down the vale, To call the stragglers of the weary chase; From barn far distant sounds the sullen flail; And the chill'd wand'rer turns with livelier pace, O'er heath or dreary moor his homeward path to trace. But dearer far the spirit-stirring sight, When the white waves with all their voices roar, And the red sun goes down with fitful light, Along 'a wild and breaker-beaten shore.' The gale of evening freshens more and more; And boats, like specks upon the sparkling tide, Run landward; gulls on flapping pinions soar; And petrels on the rolling billows ride, Sure sign of gathering storm by sailor's eye espied. The light-house, like a horizontal star, Peeps through the tempest o'er the rocky coast; And signal-bells sound strangely, faint and far, Amid the howl of winds and waters lost. Light bounds the bark, all buffeted and tost; Waves roar and hiss around her stooping prow; The din, the darkness but by light'ning crost, Yards strain'd, mast quivering, as the hoarse gusts blow, Thrill the tumultuous blood with rapture's breathless glow. Such tale, on winter evening long and drear, By the red ember's deep and fitful ray, The cottage matron tells, with many a fear For sailor-boy on shipboard far away; And tatter'd children leave their noisy play, To hear, and nestle by the beldame's side; And aye she shakes her tresses thin and grey, At her own ghostly legends terrified; Then hastily will rise, nor farther question bide. More swiftly, months of learned exile roll! Restore 'the wintry paradise of home,' The bower of bliss, the Eden of the soul, More sweet than luxury's most gorgeous dome, More sweet than groves where youth and beauty roam. To breathe the stillness of the star-light air, Come, tranquil evenings, peaceful pleasures, come, Where heart with heart its sympathies may share, And loving and belov'd, repose in rapture there! A sister's arm around thee fondly wreath'd, The listless sofa, hour of deep'ning gloom, The hopes, the fears, the girlish secrets, breath'd In tones that whisper round the silent room, -- The laughing tell-tale eye, and conscious bloom,-- These all are pleasant:--pleasant is our glee, When brighter lights the social hearth illume, And all intently busied seem to be, Yet idlesse is it all in that fair company. O'er the blank landscape let the curtains fall, And wake the yule-logs to a livelier blaze, While to the lares of our sober hall Accustom'd rites the white-arm'd priestess pays: The azure flame from silver censer plays Innocuous round the base of hissing urn; The snow-white cups the graceful hand arrays; And each the fragrant essence sips in turn, And views with social smile that little altar burn. Then labour's idle semblance wastes an hour, And o'er the table is the work-box spread; And fairy fingers trace the mimic flower, Or knot, or twist, or wind the golden thread: The silken twine, through many a labyrinth led, Some trifle weaves, which beauty gives away; And soon, that beauteous form for ever fled, The slight memorial of a happier day, To grief a melancholy pleasure may convey. And ever and anon soft voices talk, Of all that busies or delights the fair; The tended green-house, or the morning walk, Or volume chosen solitude to share; And sparkling glances, playful smiles, are there, And all the enchantment of the Paphian zone: Then breathes the harp a wild and plaintive air, And feeling blends her soul-dissolving tone, That melts among the chords, then sweetly thrills alone. Not undelightful is the thoughtful game, Where martial queens the mimic fray command; When puzzled ladies blush for very shame, With furrow'd forehead and suspended hand. Observant children round the table stand; Or read, with pleasure's half-believing smile, The old fantastic lore of fairy-land, Or tales that might a graver age beguile, Aladdin's lamp of power, or Crusoe's lonely isle. And who hath seen, and ever will forget, The girlish glow of innocent delight, When round the hearth the graver few are met, And some young sister bursts upon their sight, The ball-room's newest, brightest, star to night? While playful glances to the mirror roam, She chides the moments for their ling'ring flight; Then bears fond wishes from her quiet home, For all that beauty asks in pleasure's whirling dome. Sweet is the cadence of the graceful dance, When music melts with full melodious fall, And fairy forms of mirth and beauty glance, Along the mazes of the glittering hall: Then swifter notes and sprightlier measures call; And lovely is the ringlet's airy flow, The eyes that sparkle with delight on all, The livelier throbbing of the breast of snow, The small, hand gently pressed, the cheek's responsive glow. Not thus the solitary evenings pass, To one far off in academic shade; But slowly gazing o'er the mingled mass Of dusty learning on his table laid, He sighs for mountain rill, or forest glade, Or well-known faces round the social fire; For never here romantic Naiad stray'd, Or wood-nymph echoing mock'd the poet's lyre, But bleak and dreary plains all dreary thoughts inspire. Yet pleasure flies not from the antique cell, Where dimly burns the taper's hermit flame; For there the spirits of the mighty dwell, Dreams that to Scio's sightless poet came, And music breathed by Mincio's reedy stream: When the slant casement woos the evening air, To waft its freshness on the fever'd frame, From the far chapel swells the voice of prayer, And breezes, as they rise, the pealing anthem bear. And when the silver moon-beams softly smile, O'er arch and window rich with fretted stone, And deeper shadows mark the chequer'd pile, By turret or illumin'd buttress thrown,-- To tread the echoing cloister all alone, Through grated portal watch the waving trees, To listen to the river's feeble moan, And muse o'er idle numbers, wild as these, Are pleasures that endear the bower of learned ease.
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