Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
William Collins. 1721–1759
  
459. Ode to Evening
  
IF aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song, 
May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear, 
    Like thy own solemn springs, 
    Thy springs and dying gales; 
 
O nymph reserved, while now the bright-hair'd sun         5
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts, 
    With brede ethereal wove, 
    O'erhang his wavy bed: 
 
Now air is hush'd, save where the weak-eyed bat 
With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing,  10
    Or where the beetle winds 
    His small but sullen horn, 
 
As oft he rises, 'midst the twilight path 
Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum: 
    Now teach me, maid composed,  15
    To breathe some soften'd strain, 
 
Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening vale, 
May not unseemly with its stillness suit, 
    As musing slow, I hail 
    Thy genial loved return!  20
 
For when thy folding-star arising shows 
His paly circlet, at his warning lamp 
    The fragrant hours, and elves 
    Who slept in buds the day, 
 
And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge,  25
And sheds the freshening dew, and, lovelier still, 
    The pensive pleasures sweet, 
    Prepare thy shadowy car: 
 
Then lead, calm votaress, where some sheety lake 
Cheers the lone heath, or some time-hallow'd pile,  30
    Or upland fallows grey 
    Reflect its last cool gleam. 
 
Or if chill blustering winds, or driving rain, 
Prevent my willing feet, be mine the hut 
    That from the mountain's side  35
    Views wilds and swelling floods, 
 
And hamlets brown, and dim-discover'd spires, 
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all 
    Thy dewy fingers draw 
    The gradual dusky veil.  40
 
While Spring shall pour his show'rs, as oft he wont, 
And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest Eve! 
    While Summer loves to sport 
    Beneath thy lingering light; 
 
While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves,  45
Or Winter, yelling through the troublous air, 
    Affrights thy shrinking train, 
    And rudely rends thy robes: 
 
So long, regardful of thy quiet rule, 
Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, rose-lipp'd Health  50
    Thy gentlest influence own, 
    And hymn thy favourite name! 
 
 
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