The Pleasures of Melancholy
Annotated By Several Hands

 
Lines 1-100

Lines 101-200

Lines 201-315

Overview of 18th-Century Poetry

18th-Century Theories of Melancholy & Hypochondria

Life of Thomas Warton, the Younger

Lives of Thomas Warton, the Elder, and Joseph Warton

Works Cited

About

Additional Texts



 
 

The Pleasures of Melancholy


by Thomas Warton

Mother of musings, Contemplation sage,

Whose grotto stands upon the topmost rock

Of Teneriffe; 'mid the tempestuous night,

On which, in calmest meditation held,

Thou hear'st with howling winds the beating rain

And drifting hail descend; or if the skies

Unclouded shine, and through the blue serene

Pale Cynthia rolls her silver-axled car,

Whence gazing steadfast on the spangled vault

Raptured thou sitt'st, while murmurs indistinct    (10)

Of distant billows soothe thy pensive ear

With hoarse and hollow sounds; secure, self-blest,

There oft thou listen´st to the wild uproar

Of fleets encount´ring, that in whispers low

Ascends the rocky summit, where thou dwell´st

Remote from man, conversing with the spheres!

O, lead me, queen sublime, to solemn glooms

Congenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,

To ruin´d seats, to twilight cells and bowers,

Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse    (20)

Her favorite midnight haunts. The laughing scenes

Of purple Spring, where all the wanton train

Of Smiles and Graces seem to lead the dance

In sportive round, while from their hands they shower

Ambrosial blooms and flowers, no longer charm;

Tempe, no more I court thy balmy breeze,

Adieu green vales! Ye broider´d meads, adieu!

Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown piles

Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve,

Where through some western window the pale moon    (30)

Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;

While sullen sacred silence reigns around,

Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bower

Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,

Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves

Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green

Invests some wasted tower. Or let me tread

Its neighb'ring walk of pines, where mus'd of old

The cloister'd brothers : thro' the gloomy void

That far extends beneath their ample arch    (40)

As on I pace, religious horror wraps

My soul in dread repose. But when the world

Is clad in Midnight's raven-colour'd robe,

'Mid hollow charnel let me watch the flame

Of taper dim, shedding a livid glare

O'er the wan heaps; while airy voices talk

Along the glimm'ring walls; or ghostly shape

At distance seen, invites with beck'ning hand

My lonesome steps, thro' the far-winding vaults.

Nor undelightful is the solemn noon    (50)

Of night, when haply wakeful from my couch

I start: lo, all is motionless around!

Roars not the rushing wind; the sons of men

And every beast in mute oblivion lie;

All nature's hush'd in silence and in sleep.

O then how fearful is it to reflect,

That thro' the still globe's awful solitude,

No being wakes but me! till stealing sleep

My drooping temples bathes in opiate dews.

Nor then let dreams, of wanton folly born   (60)

My senses lead thro' flow'ry paths of joy;

But let the sacred Genius of the night

Such mystic visions send, as Spenser saw,

When thro' bewild'ring Fancy's magic maze,

To the fell house of Busyrane, he led

Th' unshaken Britomart; or Milton knew,

When in abstracted thought he first conceiv'd

All heav'n in tumult, and the Seraphim

Come tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold.

Let others love soft Summer's evening smiles,   (70)

As listening to the distant waterfall,

They mark the blushes of the streaky west';

I choose the pale December's foggy glooms.

Then, when the sullen shades of evening close,

Where through the room a blindly- glimmering gleam

They dying embers scatter, far remote

From Mirth's mad shouts, that through th' illumined roof

Resound with festive echo, let me sit,

Blest with the lowly cricket's drowsy dirge.

Then let my thought contemplative explore    (80)

This fleeting state of things, the vain delights,

The fruitless toils, that still our search elude,

As through the wilderness of life we rove.

This sober hour of silence will unmask

False Folly's smile , that like the dazzling spells

Of wily Comus cheat th' unweeting eye

With blear illusion, and persuade to drink

That charmed cup, which Reason's mintage fair

Unmoulds, and stamps the monster on the man.

Eager we taste, but in the luscious draught    (90)

Forget the poisonous dregs that lurk beneath.

Few know that elegance of soul refin'd,

Whose soft sensation feels a quicker joy

From Melancholy's scenes, than the dull pride

Of tasteless splendour and magnificence

Can e'er afford. Thus Eloise, whose mind

Had languish'd to the pangs of melting love,

More genuine transport found, as on some tomb

Reclin'd, she watch'd the tapers of the dead;

Or thro' the pillar'd aisles, amid pale shrines    (100)




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Last update: Sunday, April 29, 2001 at 4:53:47 PM.