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Poem by Mary Robinson

Second Ode to the Nightingale

BLEST be thy song, sweet NIGHTINGALE, 
Lorn minstrel of the lonely vale ! 
Where oft I’ve heard thy dulcet strain 
In mournful melody complain; 
When in the POPLAR’S trembling shade, 
At Evening’s purple hour I’ve stray’d, 
While many a silken folded flow’r 
Wept on its couch of Gossamer, 
And many a time in pensive mood 
Upon the upland mead I’ve stood, 
To mark grey twilight’s shadows glide 
Along the green hill’s velvet side; 
To watch the perfum’d hand of morn 
Hang pearls upon the silver thorn, 
Till rosy day with lustrous eye 
In saffron mantle deck’d the sky, 
And bound the mountain’s brow with fire, 
And ting’d with gold the village spire: 
While o’er the frosted vale below 
The amber tints began to glow: 
And oft I seek the daisied plain 
To greet the rustic nymph and swain, 
When cowslips gay their bells unfold, 
And flaunt their leaves of glitt’ring gold, 
While from the blushes of the rose 
A tide of musky essence flows, 
And o’er the odour-breathing flow’rs 
The woodlands shed their diamond show’rs, 
When from the scented hawthorn bud 
The BLACKBIRD sips the lucid flood, 
While oft the twitt’ring THRUSH essays 
To emulate the LINNET’S lays; 
While the poiz’d LARK her carol sings 
And BUTTERFLIES expand their wings, 
And BEES begin their sultry toils 
And load their limbs with luscious spoils, 
I stroll along the pathless vale, 
And smile, and bless thy soothing tale. 

But ah ! when hoary winter chills 
The plumy race­and wraps the hills 
In snowy vest, I tell my pains 
Beside the brook in icy chains 
Bound its weedy banks between, 
While sad I watch night’s pensive queen, 
Just emblem of MY weary woes: 
For ah ! where’er the virgin goes, 
Each flow’ret greets her with a tear 
To sympathetic sorrow dear; 
And when in black obtrusive clouds 
The chilly MOON her pale cheek shrouds, 
I mark the twinkling starry train 
Exulting glitter in her wane, 
And proudly gleam their borrow’d light 
To gem the sombre dome of night. 
Then o’er the meadows cold and bleak, 
The glow-worm’s glimm’ring lamp I seek. 
Or climb the craggy cliff to gaze 
On some bright planet’s azure blaze, 
And o’er the dizzy height inclin’d 
I listen to the passing wind, 
That loves my mournful song to seize, 
And bears it to the mountain breeze. 
Or where the sparry caves among 
Dull ECHO sits with a”ery tongue, 
Or gliding on the ZEPHYR’S wings 
From hill to hill her cadence flings, 
O, then my melancholy tale 
Dies on the bosom of the gale, 
While awful stillness reigning round 
Blanches my cheek with chilling fear; 
Till from the bushy dell profound, 
The woodman’s song salutes mine ear. 

When dark NOVEMBER’S boist’rous breath 
Sweeps the blue hill and desart heath, 
When naked trees their white tops wave 
O’er many a famish’d REDBREAST’S grave, 
When many a clay-built cot lays low 
Beneath the growing hills of snow, 
Soon as the SHEPHERD’s silv’ry head 
Peeps from his tottering straw-roof’d shed, 
To hail the glimm’ring glimpse of day, 
With feeble steps he ventures forth 
Chill’d by the bleak breath of the North, 
And to the forest bends his way, 
To gather from the frozen ground 
Each branch the night-blast scatter’d round.­ 
If in some bush o’erspread with snow 
He hears thy moaning wail of woe, 
A flush of warmth his cheek o’erspreads, 
With anxious timid care he treads, 
And when his cautious hands infold 
Thy little breast benumb’d with cold, 
”Come, plaintive fugitive,” he cries, 
While PITY dims his aged eyes, 
”Come to my glowing heart, and share 
”My narrow cell, my humble fare, 
”Tune thy sweet carol­plume thy wing, 
”And quaff with me the limpid spring, 
”And peck the crumbs my meals supply, 
”And round my rushy pillow fly.” 

O, MINSTREL SWEET, whose jocund lay 
Can make e’en POVERTY look gay, 
Who can the poorest swain inspire 
And while he fans his scanty fire, 
When o’er the plain rough Winter pours 
Nocturnal blasts, and whelming show’rs, 
Canst thro’ his little mansion fling 
The rapt’rous melodies of spring. 
To THEE with eager gaze I turn, 
Blest solace of the aching breast; 
Each gaudy, glitt’ring scene I spurn, 
And sigh for solitude and rest, 
For art thou not, blest warbler, say, 
My mind’s best balm, my bosom’s friend ? 
Didst thou not trill thy softest lay, 
And with thy woes my sorrows blend ? 
YES, darling Songstress ! when of late 
I sought thy leafy-fringed bow’r, 
The victim of relentless fate, 
Fading in life’s dark ling’ring hour, 
Thou heard’st my plaint, and pour’d thy strain 
Thro’ the sad mansion of my breast, 
And softly, sweetly lull’d to rest 
The throbbing anguish of my brain. 

AH ! while I tread this vale of woe, 
Still may thy downy measures flow, 
To wing my solitary hours 
With kind, obliterating pow’rs; 
And tho’ my pensive, patient heart 
No wild, extatic bliss shall prove, 
Tho’ life no raptures shall impart, 
No boundless joy, or, madd’ning love, 
Sweet NIGHTINGALE, thy lenient strain 
Shall mock Despair, AND BLUNT THE SHAFT OF PAIN.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson's other poems:
  1. Sonnet 42. Oh! Canst Thou Bear
  2. Sonnet 24. O Thou! Meek Orb
  3. Stanzas Written under an Oak in Windsor Forest
  4. The Widow’s Home
  5. To Cesario

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