Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Il Penseroso
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
HENCE, vain deluding joys,
  The brood of Folly without father bred,
How little you bestead,
  Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys!
Dwell in some idle brain,        5
  And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,
As thick and numberless
  As the gay motes that people the sunbeams,
Or likest hovering dreams
  The fickle pensioners of Morpheus’ train.        10
But hail thou Goddess, sage and holy,
Hail divinest Melancholy,
Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And therefore to our weaker view        15
O’erlaid with black, staid Wisdom’s hue;
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon’s sister might beseem,
Or that starr’d Ethiop queen that strove
To set her beauty’s praise above        20
The Sea-Nymphs, and their powers offended:
Yet thou art higher far descended;
Thee bright-hair’d Vesta, long of yore,
To solitary Saturn bore;
His daughter she (in Saturn’s reign,        25
Such mixture was not held a stain).
Oft in glimmering bowers and glades
He met her, and in secret shades
Of woody Ida’s inmost grove,
While yet there was no fear of Jove.        30
Come, pensive Nun, devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure,
All in a robe of darkest grain,
Flowing with majestic train,
And sable stole of cyprus-lawn,        35
Over thy decent shoulders drawn.
Come, but keep thy wonted state,
With even step, and musing gait,
And looks commercing with the skies,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes:        40
There held in holy passion still,
Forget thyself to marble, till
With a sad leaden downward cast
Thou fix them on the earth as fast:
And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,        45
Spare Fast, that oft with Gods doth diet,
And hears the Muses in a ring
Aye round about Jove’s altar sing:
And add to these retired Leisure,
That in trim gardens takes his pleasure;        50
But first, and chiefest, with thee bring,
Him that yon soars on golden wing,
Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne,
The Cherub Contemplation;
And the mute Silence hist along,        55
’Less Philomel will deign a song,
In her sweetest, saddest plight,
Smoothing the rugged brow of night,
While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke,
Gently o’er th’ accustomed oak;        60
Sweet bird, that shunn’st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among
I woo, to hear thy even-song;
And missing thee, I walk unseen        65
On the dry smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wandering moon,
Riding near her highest noon,
Like one that had been led astray
Through the heav’n’s wide pathless way;        70
And oft, as if her head she bow’d,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
Oft on a plat of rising ground,
I hear the far-off curfew sound,
Over some wide-water’d shore,        75
Swinging slow with sullen roar;
Or, if the air will not permit,
Some still removèd place will fit,
Where glowing embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom;        80
Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the cricket on the hearth,
Or the bellman’s drowsy charm,
To bless the doors from nightly harm:
Or let my lamp at midnight hour        85
Be seen in some high lonely tow’r,
Where I may oft outwatch the Bear,
With thrice-great Hermes, or unsphere
The spirit of Plato, to unfold
What worlds, or what vast regions hold        90
The immortal mind, that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshly nook:
And of those Demons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground,
Whose power hath a true consent        95
With planet, or with element.
Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
In sceptred pall come sweeping by,
Presenting Thebes, or Pelops’ line,
Or the tale of Troy divine,        100
Or what (though rare) of later age
Ennobled hath the buskin’d stage.
But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
Might raise Musæus from his bower,
Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing        105
Such notes as warbled to the string,
Drew iron tears down Pluto’s cheek,
And made Hell grant what love did seek.
Or call up him that left half told
The story of Cambuscan bold,        110
Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canacé to wife,
That own’d the virtuous ring and glass,
And of the wondrous horse of brass,
On which the Tartar king did ride;        115
And if aught else great bards beside,
In sage and solemn tunes have sung,
Of turneys and of trophies hung,
Of forests, and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.        120
Thus Night oft see me in thy pale career,
Till civil-suited Morn appear,
Not trick’d and frounc’d as she was wont
With the Attic boy to hunt,
But kerchiefed in a comely cloud,        125
While rocking winds are piping loud,
Or usher’d with a shower still,
When the gust hath blown his fill,
Ending on the rustling leaves,
With minute drops from off the eaves.        130
And when the sun begins to fling
His flaring beams, me, Goddess, bring
To archèd walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown that Sylvan loves
Of pine, or monumental oak,        135
Where the rude axe with heavèd stroke
Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallow’d haunt.
There in close covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,        140
Hide me from day’s garish eye,
While the bee with honied thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring
With such consort as they keep,        145
Entice the dewy-feather’d Sleep;
And let some strange mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in aery stream
Of lively portraiture display’d,
Softly on my eyelids laid.        150
And as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some Spirit to mortals good,
Or the unseen Genius of the wood.
But let my due feet never fail        155
To walk the studious cloisters pale,
And love the high embowèd roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light:        160
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full voic’d quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,        165
And bring all heav’n before mine eyes.
And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown and mossy cell,
Where I may sit and rightly spell        170
Of every star that heav’n doth show,
And every herb that sips the dew;
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
These pleasures Melancholy give,        175
And I with thee will choose to live.
 
 
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