Contemplatist, The: A Night Piece

by John Cunningham

John Cunningham


The queen of Contemplation, Night,
Begins her balmy reign;
Advancing in their varied light
Her silver-vested train.

'Tis strange, the many-marshal'd stars,
That ride yon sacred round,
Should keep, among their rapid cars,
A silence so profound!

A kind, a philosophic calm,
The cool creation wears!
And what Day drank of dewy balm,
The gentle Night repairs.

Behind their leafy curtains hid,
The feather'd race how still!
How quiet now the gamesome kid,
That gambol'd round the hill!

The sweets, that bending o'er their banks,
From sultry day declin'd,
Revive in little velvet ranks,
And scent the western wind.

The moon, preceded by the breeze
That bade the clouds retire,
Appears, amongst the tufted trees,
A phaenix-nest on fire.

But soft — the golden glow subsides!
Her chariot mounts on high!
And now, in silver'd pomp, she rides
Pale regent of the sky!

Where Time, upon the wither'd tree
Hath carv'd the moral chair,
I sit, from busy passions free,
And breathe the placid air.

The wither'd tree was once in prime;
Its branches brav'd the sky!
Thus, at the touch of ruthless Time,
Shall youth and vigour die.

I'm lifted to the blue expanse:
It glows serenely gay!
Come, Science, by my side, advance,
We'll search the milky-way.

Let us descend — The daring flight
Fatigues my feeble mind;
And Science, in the maze of light,
Is impotent and blind.

What are those wild, those wandering fires,
That o'er the moorland ran? —
Vapours. — How like the vague desires
That cheat the heart of Man!

But there's a friendly guide! — a flame,
That lambent o'er its bed,
Enlivens, with a gladsome beam,
The hermit's osier shed.

Among the russet shades of night,
It glances from afar!
And darts along the dusk, so bright,
It seems a silver star!

In coverts, (where the few frequent)
If Virtue deigns to dwell,
'Tis thus, the little lamp, Content,
Gives lustre to her cell.

How smooth that rapid river slides,
Progressive to the deep!
The poppies, pendent o'er its sides,
Have charm'd the waves to sleep.

Pleasure's intoxicated sons!
Ye indolent! ye gay!
Reflect — for, as the river runs,
Life wings its trackless way.

That branching grove of dusky green
Conceals the azure sky;
Save where a starry space, between,
Relieves the darken'd eye.

Old Error, thus, with shades impure,
Throws sacred Truth behind:
Yet sometimes, through the deep obscure,
She bursts upon the mind.

Sleep, and her sister Silence reign;
They lock the shepherd's fold:
But hark — I hear a lamb complain,
'Tis lost upon the wold!

To savage herds, that hunt for prey,
An unresisting prize!
For having trod a devious way,
The little rambler dies.

As luckless is the Virgin's lot,
Whom pleasure once misguides;
When hurried from the halcyon cot,
Where Innocence presides — —

The passions, a relentless train!
To tear the victim run:
She seeks the paths of peace in vain,
Is conquer'd — and undone.

How bright the little insects blaze,
Where willows shade the way,
As proud as if their painted rays
Could emulate the day!

'Tis thus, the pigmy sons of pow'r
Advance their vain parade!
Thus, glitter in the darken'd hour,
And like the glow-worms fade!

The soft serenity of night,
Ungentle clouds deform!
The silver host, that shone so bright,
Is hid behind a storm!

The angry elements engage!
An oak, (an ivied bower!)
Repels the rough wind's noisy rage,
And shields me from the shower.

The rancour, thus, of rushing Fate.
I've learnt to render vain:
For whilst Integrity's her seat,
The soul will sit serene.

A raven, from some greedy vault,
Amidst that cloister'd gloom,
Bids me, and 'tis a solemn thought!
Reflect upon the tomb.

The tomb! — The consecrated dome!
The temple rais'd to Peace!
The port, that to its friendly home
Compels the human race!

Yon village, to the moral mind,
A solemn aspect wears;
Where sleep hath lull'd the labour'd hind,
And kill'd his daily cares:

'Tis but the church-yard of the Night;
An emblematic bed!
That offers to the mental sight.
The temporary dead.

From hence, I'll penetrate, in thought,
The grave's unmeasur'd deep;
And tutor'd, hence, be timely taught
To meet my final sleep.

'Tis peace — the little chaos past!
The gracious moon restor'd!
A breeze succeeds the frightful blast,
That through the forest roar'd!

The nightingale, a welcome guest!
Renews her gentle strains;
And Hope, just wandering from my breast,
Her wonted seat regains.

Yes — When yon lucid orb is dark,
And darting from on high;
My soul, a more celestial spark,
Shall keep her native sky.

Fann'd by the light — the lenient breeze,
My limbs refreshment find;
And moral rhapsodies, like these,
Give vigour to the mind.

Last updated September 05, 2017