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AN EVENING CONTEMPLATION
In a College.
With jarring sound the porter turns the key,
And slowly, sternly quits it—though for me. Now shine the spires beneath the paly moon,
And through the cloister peace and silence reign, Save where some fidler scrapes a drowsy tune,
Or copious bowls inspire a jovial strain : Save that in yonder cobweb-mantled room,
Where lies a student in profound repose Oppress'd with ale, wide-echoes through the gloom
The droning music of his vocal nose.
Within those walls, where, thro' the glimm'ring shade,
Appear the pamphlets in a mould'ring heap, Each in his narrow bed 'till morning laid,
The peaceful fellows of the college sleep. The tinkling bell, proclaiming early prayers,
The noisy servants, rattling o'er their head ; The calls of business and domestic cares,
Ne'er rouse these sleepers from their drowsy bed. No chattering females crowd their social fire,
No dread have they of discord and of strife; Unknown the names of husband and of sire,
Unfelt the plagues of matrimonial life.
Oft have they bask'd along the sunny walls,
Oft have the benches bow'd beneath their weight : How jocund are their looks when dinner calls !
How smoke the cutlets on their crowded plate!
O let not temperance, too disdainful, hear
How long their feasts, how long their dinners last ! Nor let the fair, with a contemptuous sneer,
On these unmarried men reflections cast!
The splendid fortune and the beauteous face,
Themselves confess it, and their sires bemoan, Too soon are caught by scarlet and by lace;
These sons of science shine in black alone.
Forgive, ye fair, th' involuntary fault,
If these no feats of gaiety display, Where through proud Ranelagh's wide echoing vault,
Melodious Frasi trills her quavering lay.
Say, is the sword well suited to the band,
gown, Can Mecklin laces shade a churchman's hand,
Or learning's vot'ries ape the beaux of town?
Perhaps in these time-tottering walls reside
Some who were once the darlings of the fair ; Some who of old could tastes and fashions guide,
Controul the manager, and awe the player :
But science now has fill'd their vacant mind
With Rome's rich spoils and truth's exalted views; Fir'd them with transports of another kind,
And bade them slight all females but the muse,
Full many a lark high-towering to the sky,
Unheard, unheeded, greets the approach of light; Full many a star, unseen by mortal
eye, With twinkling lustre glimmers through the night.
Some future Herring, who, with dauntless breast,
Rebellion's torrent shall, like him, oppose; Some mute, unconscious Hardwicke here
may rest, Some Pelbam, dreadful to his country's foes.
From prince and people to command applause,
Midst ermin'd peers to guide the high debate, To shield Britannia's and religion's laws,
And steer with steady course the helm of state,
Fate yet forbids; nor circumscribes alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confines; Forbids in freedom's veil t'insult the throne,
Beneath her mask to hide the worst designs :
To fill the maddiog crowd's perverted mind
With "pensions, taxes, marriages, and Jews ;" Or shut the gates of heaven on lost mankind,
And wrest their darling hopes, their future views !
Far from the giddy town's tumultuous strife,
Their wishes yet have never learn'd to stray; Content and happy in a single life,
They keep the noiseless tenour of their way.
Even now their books from cobwebs to protect,
Inclos'd by doors of glass, in Doric style, On polish'd pillars rais'd, with bronzes deck'd,
They claim the passing tribute of a smile.
Oft are the author's names, though richly bound,
Mis-spelt by blundering binders' want of care ; And many a catalogue is strew'd around,
To tell the admiring guest what books are there. For who, to thoughtless ignorance a prey,
Neglects to hold short dalliance with a book? Who there but wishes to prolong his stay,
And on those cases casts a lingering look ?
Reports attract the lawyer's parting eyes,
Novels Lord Fopling and Sir Plume require ; For songs and plays the voice of Beauty cries,
And sense and nature Grandison desire.
For thee who, mindful of thy loy'd compeers,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate,
Some antiquarian sball enquire thy fate.
Haply some friend may shake his hoary head,
“ each morn, unchill'd by frosts, he ran With bose ungarter'd, o'er yon turfy bed,
To reach the chapel ere the psalms began;
There in the arms of that lethargic chair,
Which rears its moth-devoured back so high, At noon he quaff'd three glasses to the fair,
And por'd upon the news with curious eye.
Now by the fire, engag'd in serious talk,
Or mirthful converse, would he loit’ring stand; Then in the garden chose a sunny walk,
Or launch'd the polish'd bowl with steady hand.
One morn we miss'd him at the bour of prayer,
Beside the fire, and on his favourite green; Another came, nor yet within the chair,
Nor yet at bowls, nor chapel was he seen;
The next we heard that in a neighbouring shire,
That day to church he led a blushing bride ; A nymph, whose snowy vest and maiden fear
Improv'd her beauty, while the knot was tied.
Now, by his patron's bounteous care remor'd,
He roves enraptur'd through the fields of Kent; Yet ever mindful of the place be lov'd,
Read here the letter which he lately sent."
" In rural innocence secure I live.
Alike to fortune and to fame unknown; Approving conscience cheers my humble cell,
And social quiet marks me for her own.
“Next to the blessings of religious truth
Two gifts my endless gratitude engage; A wife, the joy and transport of my youth,
A son, the pride and comfort of my age.
“ Seek not to draw me from this kind retreat,
In loftier spheres unfit, untaught to move ; Content with calm, domestic life, where meet
The smiles of friendship and the sweets of love."