The Night Quatrains

by Charles Cotton

THE Sun is set, and gone to sleep
With the fair princess of the deep,
Whose bosom is his cool retreat,
When fainting with his proper heat;
His steeds their flaming nostrils cool
In spume of the cerulean pool;
Whilst the wheels dip their hissing naves [hubs]
Deep in Columbus's western waves.
From whence great rolls of smoke arise
To overshade the beauteous skies,
Who bid the World's bright eye adieu
In gelid tears of falling dew.
And now from the Iberian vales
Night's sable steeds her chariot hales,
Where double cypress curtains screen
The gloomy melancholic queen.
These, as they higher mount the sky,
Ravish all colour from the ey,
And leave it but an useless glass
, [mirror]
Which few or no reflections grace.
The crystal arch o'er Pinduss crown
Is on a sudden dusky grown,
And all's with fun'ral black o'erspread,
As if the Day, which sleeps, were dead.
No ray of Light the heart to cheer,
But little twinkling stars appear,
Which like faint dying embers lie,
Fit not to work nor travel by.
Perhaps to him they torches are,
Who guide Night's sov'reign's drowsy car,
And him they may befriend so near,
But us they neither light nor cheer.
Or else those little sparks of Light
Are nails that tire the wheels of Night,
Which to new stations still are brought
As they roll o'er the gloomy vault,
Or nails that arm the horse's hoof
Which trampling o'er the marble roof
And striking fire in the air,
We mortals call a shooting star.
That's all the Light we now receive,
Unless what belching Vulcans give,
And those yield such a kind of Light
As adds more horror to the Night.
Nyctimine now freed from Day,
From sullen bush flies out to prey,
And does with ferret note proclaim
Th'arrival of th'usurping Dame.
The rail now cracks in fields and meads,
Toads now forsake the nettle-beds,
The tim'rous hare goes to relief,
And wary men bolt out the thief.
The fire's new rak'd, and hearth swept clean
By Madge, the dirty kitchen quean*, [servant]
The safe is lock'd, the mouse-trap set,
The leaven laid, and bucking wet.
Now in false floors and roofs above,
The lustful cats make ill-tun'd love,
The ban-dog on the dunghill lies,
And watchful nurse sings lullabies.
Philomel chants it whilst she bleeds,
The bittern booms it in the reeds,
And Reynard ent'ring the back yard,
The Capitolian cry is heard.
The Goblin now the fool alarms,
Hags meet to mumble o'er their charms;
The Night Mare rides the dreaming ass,
And Fairies trip it on the grass.
The drunkard now supinely snores,
His load of ale sweats through his pores,
Yet when he wakes the swine shall find
A cropala remains behind.
The sober now and chaste are blest
With sweet, and with refreshing rest,
And to sound sleeps they've best pretence,
Have greatest share of Innocence.
We should so live then that we may
Fearless put off our clots and clay,
And travel through Death's shades to Light,
For every Day must have its Night.

Last updated April 24, 2023