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O Reader! had you in your mind
O gentle Reader! you would find
What more I have to say is short,
I hope you'll kindly take it :
It is no tale; but should
Perhaps a tale you'll make it.
One summer-day I chanced to see
A stump of rotten wood.
The mattock totter'd in his hand;
So vain was his endeavour
That at the root of the old tree
He might have worked for ever.
"You're overtasked, good Simon Lee,
And at the word right gladly he
I struck, and with a single blow
At which the poor Old Man so long
The tears into his eyes were brought,
So fast out of his heart, I thought
They never would have done.
-I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning.
Alas! the gratitude of men
Has oftner left me mourning.
Written in April, 1798.
No cloud, no relique of the sunken day.
A balmy night! and tho' the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon
the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find.
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
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 pierc'd With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
Or slow distemper, or neglected love,
(And so, poor wretch! fill'd all things with himself,
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:
Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme
"Most musical, most melancholy." 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 thisremark, 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.
When he had better far have stretched his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell
By sun or moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
My Friend, and my Friend's Sister! we have learnt
And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale