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FROST AT MIDNIGHT.

The frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud—and hark again ! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village ! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings on of life
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not ;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, everywhere
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

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

my

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
In the great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags : [so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher ! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask. J

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sunthaw; whether the eve-drops

fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

1798.

THE NIGHTINGALE.

A

CONVERSATION POEM.

APRIL, 1798.

No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently,
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
“Most musical, most melancholy” bird ! *
A melancholy bird ! Oh! idle thought!
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
But some night-wandering man whose heart was

pierced

* “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

learnt
A different lore: we may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices, always full of love
And joyance ! 'Tis the merry Nightingale

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