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And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
“ Most musical, most melancholy*" Bird !
A melancholy Bird ? O idle thought !
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
-But some night-wandering Man, whose heart
was pierced With the remembrance of a grievous wrong, Or slow distemper, or neglected love, (And so, poor wretch! filled all things with him
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of his own sorrows) he and such as he
First named these notes a melancholy strain :
* “ Most musical, most meluncholy.” This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description: it is spoken in the character of the melancholy Man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The Author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity to a line in Milton: a charge than which none could be more painful to him, except, perhaps, that of having ridiculed his Bible.
And many a poet echoes the conceit;
Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretched his limbs
Beside a brook in forest-dell
By sun-or moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his fame forgetful! so his fame
Should share in nature's immortality,
A venerable thing! and so his song
Should make all nature lovelier, and itself
Be loved, like nature !--But 'twill not be so;
And youths and maidens most poetical
Who lose the deep'ning twilights of the spring
In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still
Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains.
My Friend, and my Friend's Sister! we have learnt
A different lore: we may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices always full of love
And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music! And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge
Which the great lord inhabits not: and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many Nightingales : and far and near
In wood and thicket over the wide grove
They answer and provoke each other's songs
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug
And one low piping sound more sweet than all-
Stirring the air with such an harmony,
That, should you close your eyes, you might almost Forget it was not day.
A most gentle Maid Who dwelleth in her hospitable home Hard by the Castle, and at latest eve (Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate To something more than nature in the grove) Glides through the pathways; she knows all their
notes, That gentle Maid! and'oft, a moment's space, What time the moon was lost behind a cloud, Hath heard a pause of silence: till the Moon Emerging, hath awakened earth and sky With one sensation, and those wakeful Birds Have all burst forth with choral minstrelsy, As if one quick and sudden Gale had swept An hundred airy harps! And she hath watched Many a Nightingale perch giddily On blosmy twig still swinging from the breeze,
And to that motion tune his wanton song,
Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.
Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
And now for our dear homes. That strain again!
Full fain it would delay me! My dear Babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small forefinger up,
And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
To make him Nature's playmate. He knows well
The evening star: and once when he awoke
In most distressful mood (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream)
I hurried with him to our orchard plot,
And he beholds the moon, and hushed at once