Ode II(ii); On The Winter Soltice

A poem by Mark Akenside

The radiant ruler of the year
At length his wintry goal attains;
Soon to reverse the long career,
And northward bend his steady reins.
Now, piercing half Potosi's height,
Prone rush the fiery floods of light
Ripening the mountain's silver stores:
While, in some cavern's horrid shade,
The panting Indian hides his head,
And oft the approach of eve implores.
But lo, on this deserted coast
How pale the sun! how thick the air!
Mustering his storms, a sordid host,
Lo, winter desolates the year,
The fields resign their latest bloom;
No more the breezes waft perfume,
No more the streams in music roll:
But snows fall dark, or rains resound;
And, while great nature mourns around,
Her griefs infect the human soul.
Hence the loud city's busy throngs
Urge the warm bowl and splendid fire:
Harmonious dances, festive songs
Against the spiteful heaven conspire.
Meantime perhaps with tender fears
Some village-dame the curfew hears,
While round the hearth her children play:
At morn their father went abroad;
The moon is sunk and deep the road;
She sighs, and wonders at his stay.
But thou, my lyre, awake, arise,
And hail the sun's returning force:
Even now he climbs the northern skies,
And health and hope attend his course.
Then louder howl the aerial waste,
Be earth with keener cold imbrac'd,
Yet gentle hours advance their wing;
And fancy, mocking winter's might,
With flowers and dews and streaming light
Already decks the newborn spring.
O fountain of the golden day,
Could mortal vows promote thy speed,
How soon before thy vernal ray
Should each unkindly damp recede!
How soon each hovering tempest fly,
Whose stores for mischief arm the sky,
Prompt on our heads to burst amain,
To rend the forest from the steep,
Or, thundering o'er the Baltic deep,
To whelm the merchant's hopes of gain!
But let not man's unequal views
Presume o'er nature and her laws:
'Tis his with grateful joy to use
The indulgence of the sovran cause;
Secure that health and beauty springs
Through this majestic frame of things,
Beyond what he can reach to know;
And that heaven's all-subduing will,
With good the progeny of ill,
Attempereth every state below.
How pleasing wears the wintry night,
Spent with the old illustrious dead!
While, by the taper's trembling light,
I seem those awful scenes to tread
Where chiefs or legislators lie,
Whose triumphs move before my eye
In arms and antique pomp array'd;
While now I taste the Ionian song,
Now bend to Plato's godlike tongue
Resounding through the olive shade.
But should some cheerful, equal friend
Bid leave the studious page awhile,
Let mirth on wisdom then attend,
And social ease on learned toil.
Then while, at love's uncareful shrine,
Each dictates to the god of wine
Her name whom all his hopes obey,
What flattering dreams each bosom warm,
While absence, heightening every charm,
Invokes the slow-returning May!
May, thou delight of heaven and earth,
When will thy genial star arise?
The auspicious morn, which gives thee birth,
Shall bring Eudora to my eyes.
Within her sylvan haunt behold,
As in the happy garden old,
She moves like that primeval fair:
Thither, ye silver-sounding lyres,
Ye tender smiles, ye chaste desires,
Fond hope and mutual faith, repair.
And if believing love can read
His better omens in her eye,
Then shall my fears, o charming maid,
And every pain of absence die:
Then shall my jocund harp, attun'd
To thy true ear, with sweeter sound
Pursue the free Horatian song:
Old Tyne shall listen to my tale,
And echo, down the bordering vale,
The liquid melody prolong.

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