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FROST AT MIDNIGHT.
The frost performs its secret ministry,
But 0 ! how oft, How oft, at school, with most believing mind, Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars, To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt Of my sweet birthplace, and the old church-tower, Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day, So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear Most like articulate sounds of things to come! So gazed I, till the soothing things I dreamt Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my
dreams! And so I brooded all the following morn, Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye Fixed with mock study on my swimming book : Save if the door half opened, and I snatched A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up, For still I hoped to see the stranger's face, Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, My playmate when we both were clothed alike!
Dear babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, Fill up the interspersed vacancies And momentary pauses of the thought ! My babe so beautiful ! it thrills
heart With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, And think that thou shalt learn far other lore
And in far other scenes ! (For I was reared
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
* “Most musical, most melancholy.”] This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description. It is spoken in the character of the melancholy man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having &lluded with levity, to a line in Milton
With the remembrance of a grievous wrong, Or slow distemper, or neglected love, (And so, poor wretch ! filled all things with him
self, And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale Of his own sorrow,) he, and such as he, First named these notes a melancholy strain. And many a poet echoes the conceit; Poet who hath been building up the rhyme When he had better far have stretched his limbs Beside a brook in
mossy forest-dell, By sun or moonlight to the influxes Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song And of his fame forgetful ! so his fame Should share in Nature's immortality. A venerable thing! and so his song Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself. Be loved like Nature! But 'twill not be so; And youths and maidens most poetical, Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring In ballrooms and hot theatres, they still Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains.
My Friend, and thou, our Sister! we have