Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Extract from The Minstrel, Book I
By James Beattie (1735–1803)
 
WHEN the long-sounding curfew from afar
Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale,
Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star,
Lingering and listening, wandered down the vale.
There would he dream of graves and corses pale;        5
And ghosts that to the charnel-dungeon throng,
And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail,
Till silenced by the owl’s terrific song,
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering isles along.
 
Or, when the setting moon, in crimson dyed        10
Hung o’er the dark and melancholy deep,
To haunted stream, remote from man, he hied,
Where fays of yore their revels wont to keep;
And there let Fancy rove at large, till sleep
A vision brought to his entranced sight.        15
And first a wildly murmuring wind ’gan creep
Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright
With instantaneous gleam illumed the vault of night.
 
Anon in view a portal’s blazoned arch
Arose; the trumpet bid the valves unfold,        20
And forth an host of little warriors march
Grasping the diamond lance, and targe of gold.
Their look was gentle, their demeanour bold,
And green their helms, and green their silk attire,
And here and there, right venerably old,        25
The long-robed minstrels wake the warbling wire,
And some with mellow breath the martial pipe inspire.
 
With merriment, and song, and timbrels clear,
A troop of dames from myrtle bowers advance;
The little warriors doff the targe and spear,        30
And loud enlivening strains provoke the dance.
They meet, they dart away, they wheel askance;
To right, to left, they thrid the flying maze;
Now bound aloft with vigorous spring, then glance
Rapid along: with many-coloured rays        35
Of tapers, gems and gold, the echoing forests blaze.
 
The dream is fled. Proud harbinger of day,
Who scar’d’st the vision with thy clarion shrill,
Fell chanticleer! who oft hath reft away
My fancied good, and brought substantial ill!        40
O to thy cursed scream, discordant still,
Let harmony aye shut her gentle ear:
Thy boastful mirth let jealous rivals spill,
Insult thy crest, and glossy pinions tear,
And ever in thy dreams the ruthless fox appear!        45
 
Forbear, my Muse. Let Love attune thy line.
Revoke the spell. Thine Edwin frets not so.
For how should he at wicked chance repine
Who feels from every change amusement flow?
Even now his eyes with smiles of rapture glow,        50
As on he wanders through the scenes of morn,
Where the fresh flowers in living lustre blow,
Where thousand pearls the dewy lawns adorn,
A thousand notes of joy in every breeze are born.
 
But who the melodies of morn can tell?        55
The wild brook babbling down the mountain side,
The lowing herd; the sheep-fold’s simple bell;
The pipe of early shepherd dim descried
In the lone valley; echoing far and wide,
The clamorous horn along the cliffs above,        60
The hollow murmur of the ocean-tide;
The hum of bees, the linnet’s lay of love,
And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.
 
The cottage-curs at early pilgrim bark;
Crowned with her pail the tripping milkmaid sings;        65
The whistling ploughman stalks afield; and hark!
Down the rough slope the ponderous waggon rings;
Through rustling corn the hare astonished springs;
Slow tolls the village-clock the drowsy hour;
The partridge bursts away on whirring wings;        70
Deep mourns the turtle in sequestered bower,
And shrill lark carols clear from her aerial tower.
 
O Nature, how in every charm supreme!
Whose votaries feast on raptures ever new!
O for the voice and fire of seraphim,        75
To sing thy glories with devotion due!
Blest be the day I ’scaped the wrangling crew
From Pyrrho’s maze, and Epicurus’ sty;
And held high converse with the godlike few,
Who to th’ enraptured heart, and ear, and eye,        80
Teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody.
 
 
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