BETA

GEMS FROM THE OLD ENGLISH POETS.

[It is our purpose, under this general head, occasionally to
present specimens of the English Poets antecedent to the eigh-
teenth century. We are partly induced to do so by a consideration
that the present style of poetical composition is lamentably weak
and mawkish, as far as it can be generally characterised at all, and
that something may perhaps be done to the creation of a better
taste by keeping in view the elder bards, who, though not without
their faults, yet had many good qualities, as richness of language,
nervous thought, and powerful metaphor. It is quite surprising,
in looking into any tolerable selection of old English poetry, to
find how much superior the matter generally is to the faint senti-
ment and eternally repeated ideas of modern versifiers.]

HYMN TO LIGHT.

First-born of Chaos, who so fair didst come,1
From the old Negro’s darksome womb !2
Which, when it saw the lovely child,3
The melancholy mass put on kind looks, and smil’d.4
Thou tide of glory, which no rest dost know,5
But ever ebb and ever flow !6
Thou golden shower of a true Jove !7
Who does in thee descend, and heav’n to earth make love !8
Hail, active Nature’s watchful life and health !9
Her joy, her ornament, and wealth !10
Hail to thy husband, Heat, and thee !11
Thou the world’s beauteous bride, the lusty bridegroom he !12
Say, from what golden quivers of the sky13
Do all thy winged arrows fly ?14
Swiftness and power by birth are thine :15
From thy great sire they came, thy sire the Word Divine.16
’Tis, I believe, this archery to show,17
That so much cost in colours thou,18
And skill in painting dost bestow19
Upon thy ancient arms, the gaudy heavenly bow.20
Swift as light thoughts their empty career run,21
Thy race is finish’d when begun ;22
Let a post-angel start with thee,23
And thou the goal of earth shall reach as soon as he.24
Thou in the moon’s bright chariot, proud and gay,25
Dost thy bright wood of stars survey ;26
And all the year dost with thee bring27
A thousand flowery lights, thine own nocturnal spring.28
Thou, Scythian-like, dost round thy lands above29
Thy sun’s gilt tent for ever move,30
And still as thou in pomp dost go,31
The shining pageants of the world attend thy show.32
Nor midst all these triumphs dost thou scorn33
The humble glow-worms to adorn,34
And with those living spangles gild35
(O greatness without pride ! ) the bushes of the field.36
Night, and her ugly subject, thou dost fright,37
And Sleep, the lazy owl of night ;38
Asham’d and fearful to appear,39
They screen their horrid shapes, with the black hemisphere.40
With them there hastes, and wildly takes th’ alarm,41
Of painted dreams a busy swarm ;42
At the first opening of thine eye,43
The various clusters break, the antic atoms fly.44
The guilty serpents, and obscener beasts,45
Creep conscious to their secret rests :46
Nature to thee does reverence pay,47
Ill omens and ill sights remove out of thy way.48
At thy appearance, Grief itself is said49
To shake his wings, and rouse his head ;50
And cloudy Care has often took51
A gentle beamy smile, reflected from thy look.52
At thy appearance, Fear itself grows bold ;53
Thy sunshine melts away his cold :54
Encourag’d at the sight of thee,55
To the cheek colour comes, and firmness to the knee.56
When, goddess, thou lift’st up thy waken’d head,57
Out of the Morning’s purple bed,58
The choir of birds about thee play,59
And all the joyful world salutes the rising day.60
The ghosts, and monster sprites, that did presume61
A body’s priv’lege to assume,62
Vanish again invisibly,63
And bodies gain anew their visibility.64
All the world’s bravery, that delights our eyes,65
Is but thy several liveries ;66
Thou the rich dye on them bestow’st,67
Thy nimble pencil paints this landscape as thou go’st.68
A crimson garment is the rose thou wear’st ;69
A crown of studded gold thou bear’st ;70
The virgin lilies, in their white,71
Are clad but with the lawn of almost naked light.72
The violet, Spring’s little infant, stands73
Girt in thy purple swaddling-bands ;74
On the fair tulip thou dost doat,75
Thou cloth’st it in a gay and parti-colour’d coat.76
With flame condens’d, thou dost the jewel fix,77
And solid colours in it mix ;78
Flora herself envies to see79
Flowers fairer than her own, and durable as she.80
Ah, goddess ! would thou could’st thy hand withhold,81
And be less liberal to gold ;82
Didst thou less value to it give,83
Of how much care, alas! might’st thou poor man relieve !84
To me the sun is more delightful far,85
And all fair days much fairer are :86
But few, ah ! wondrous few there be,87
Who do not gold prefer, O goddess ! ev’n to thee.88
Through the soft ways of heav’n, and air, and sea,89
Which open all their pores to thee,90
Like a clear river dost thou glide,91
And with thy living stream through the close channels slide.92
But where firm bodies thy free course oppose,93
Gently thy source the land o’erflows ;94
Takes their possession, and does make,95
Of colours mingled, light, a thick and standing lake.96
But the vast ocean of unbounded day97
In th’ empyrean heav’n does stay ;98
Thy rivers, lakes, and springs, below,99
From thence took first their rise, thither at last must flow.100