Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
To Night
By Joseph Blanco White (1775–1841)
MYSTERIOUS 1 Night! when our first parent knew
  Thee from report divine, and heard thy name,
  Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
This glorious canopy of light and blue?
Yet ’neath a curtain of translucent dew,        5
  Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
  Hesperus with the host of heaven came,
And, lo! creation widened in man’s view.
  Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed
Within thy beams, O Sun! or who could find,        10
  Whilst fly, and leaf, and insect stood revealed,
That to such countless orbs thou mad’st us blind?
  Why do we, then, shun death with anxious strife?
  If light can thus deceive, wherefore not life?
Note 1. The well-known and estimable Anglo-Spaniard, who was born of an English family which had emigrated to the Peninsula, and who came back to the country of his ancestors with other Spanish patriots fleeing from the tyranny of the infamous Ferdinand the Second.
  Coleridge pronounced this sonnet “the best in the English language.” Perhaps if he had said the best in English poetry, the judgment might have appeared less disputable. In language some little imperfections are discernible, which do not detract, however, from its singular merits even in that respect, especially considering that the author was not young when he came into England, and that he then spoke English like a foreigner.
  In point of thought the sonnet stands supreme, perhaps above all in any language. Nor can we ponder it too deeply, or with too hopeful a reverence. [back]

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