Ode to the Evening Star
by Mark Akenside (1721-1770)
To-night retir’d, the queen of heaven
With young Endymion stays:
And now to Hesper it is given
Awhile to rule the vacant sky,
Till she shall to her lamp supply
A stream of brighter rays.
O Hesper! while the starry throng
With awe thy path surrounds,
Oh, listen to my suppliant song,
If haply now the vocal sphere
Can suffer thy delighted ear
To stoop to mortal sounds.
So may the bridegroom’s genial strain
Thee still invoke to shine;
So may the bride’s unmarried train
To Hymen chant their flattering vow,
Still that his lucky torch may glow
With lustre pure as thine.
Far other vows must I prefer
To thy indulgent power.
Alas! but now I paid my tear
On fair Olympia’s virgin tomb:
And lo, from thence, in quest I roam
Of Philomela’s bower.
Propitious send thy golden ray,
Thou purest light above:
Let no false flame seduce to stray
Where gulf or steep lie hid for harm:
But lead where music’s healing charm
May soothe afflicted love.
To them, by many a grateful song
In happier seasons vow’d,
These lawns, Olympia’s haunt, belong:
Oft by yon silver stream we walk’d,
Or fix’d, while Philomela talk’d,
Beneath yon copses stood.
Nor seldom, where the beechen boughs
That roofless tower invade,
We came while her enchanting Muse
The radiant moon above us held:
Till, by a clamorous owl compell’d,
She fled the solemn shade.
But hark: I hear her liquid tone.
Now, Hesper, guide my feet
Down the red marle with moss o’ergrown,
Through yon wild thicket next the plain,
Whose hawthorns choke the winding lane
Which leads to her retreat.
See the green space: on either hand
Enlarg’d it spreads around:
See, in the midst she takes her stand,
Where one old oak his awful shade
Extends o’er half the level mead,
Inclos’d in woods profound.
Hark, how through many a melting note
She now prolongs her lays:
How sweetly down the void they float!
The breeze their magic path attends:
The stars shine out: the forest bends:
The wakeful heifers gaze.
Whoe’er thou art whom chance may bring
To this sequester’d spot,
If then the plaintive Syren sing,
Oh, softly tread beneath her bower,
And think of Heaven’s disposing power,
Of man’s uncertain lot.
Oh, think, o’er all this mortal stage,
What mournful scenes arise:
What ruin waits on kingly rage:
How often virtue dwells with woe:
How many griefs from knowledge flow;
How swiftly pleasure flies.
O sacred bird, let me at eve,
Thus wandering all alone,
Thy tender counsel oft receive,
Bear witness to thy pensive airs,
And pity Nature’s common cares,
Till I forget my own.