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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

To the Evening Star

Mark Akenside (1721–1770)

TO-NIGHT retir’d the queen of heaven

With young Endymion stays:

And now to Hesper it is given

Awhile to rule the vacant sky,

Till she shall to her lamp supply

A stream of brighter rays.

O Hesper, while the starry throng

With awe thy path surrounds,

Oh, listen to my suppliant song,

If haply now the vocal sphere

Can suffer thy delighted ear

To stoop to mortal sounds.

So may the bridegroom’s genial strain

Thee still invoke to shine;

So may the bride’s unmarried train

To Hymen chaunt their flattering vow,

Still that his lucky torch may glow

With lustre pure as thine.

Far other vows must I prefer

To thy indulgent power.

Alas! but now I paid my tear

On fair Olympia’s virgin tomb;

And lo, from thence, in quest I roam

Of Philomela’s bower.

Propitious send thy golden ray,

Thou purest light above:

Let no false flame seduce to stray

Where gulf or steep lie hid for harm;

But lead where music’s healing charm

May soothe afflicted love.

To them, by many a grateful song

In happier seasons vow’d,

These lawns, Olympia’s haunt, belongs:

Oft by yon silver stream we walk’d,

Or fix’d, while Philomela talk’d,

Beneath yon copses stood.

Nor seldom, where the beechen boughs

That roofless tower invade,

We came while her enchanting Muse

The radiant moon above us held;

Till, by a clamorous owl compell’d,

She fled the solemn shade.

But hark; I hear her liquid tone.

Now, Hesper, guide my feet

Down the red marl with moss o’ergrown,

Through yon wild thicket next the plain,

Whose hawthorns choke the winding lane,

Which leads to her retreat.

See the green space: on either hand

Enlarg’d it spreads around:

See, in the midst she takes her stand,

Where one old oak his awful shade

Extends o’er half the level mead

Inclos’d in woods profound.

Hark how through many a melting note

She now prolongs her lays:

How sweetly down the void they float!

The breeze their magic path attends;

The stars shine out; the forest bends;

The wakeful heifers gaze.

Whoe’er thou art whom chance may bring

To this sequest’d spot,

If then the plaintive Siren sing,

O softly tread beneath her bower,

And think of heaven’s disposing power,

Of man’s uncertain lot.

O think, o’er all this mortal stage,

What mournful scenes arise;

What ruin waits on kingly rage;

How often virtue dwells with woe;

How many griefs from knowledge flow;

How swiftly pleasure flies.

O sacred bird, let me at eve,

Thus wandering all alone,

Thy tender counsel oft receive,

Bear witness to thy pensive airs,

And pity Nature’s common cares

Till I forget my own.