A Nocturnal Reverie

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
1661 – 1720

In such a night, when every louder wind

Is to its distant cavern safe confined;

And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,

And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;

Or from some tree, famed for the owl’s delight,

She, hollowing clear, directs the wand’rer right:

In such a night, when passing clouds give place,

Or thinly veil the heav’ns’ mysterious face;

When in some river, overhung with green,

The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;

When freshened grass now bears itself upright,

And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,

Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,

And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;

Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,

Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes

When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine,

Shew trivial beauties watch their hour to shine;

Whilst Salisb’ry stands the test of every light,

In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:

When odors, which declined repelling day,

Through temp’rate air uninterrupted stray;

When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,

And falling waters we distinctly hear;

When through the gloom more venerable shows

Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,

While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,

And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:

When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,

Comes slowly grazing through th’ adjoining meads,

Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,

Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:

When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,

And unmolested kine rechew the cud;

When curlews cry beneath the village walls,

And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;

Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,

Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;

When a sedate content the spirit feels,

And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;

But silent musings urge the mind to seek

Something, too high for syllables to speak;

Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,

Finding the elements of rage disarmed,

O’er all below a solemn quiet grown,

Joys in th’ inferior world, and thinks it like her own:

In such a night let me abroad remain,

Till morning breaks, and all’s confused again;

Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,

Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.

literature, poetry

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