An Evening Contemplation in a College

2With jarring sound the porter turns the key,
3Then in his dreary mansion slumb'ring waits,
4And slowly, sternly quits it -- tho' for me.
5Now shine the spires beneath the paly moon,
6And thro' the cloyster Peace and Silence reign,
7Save where some fidler scrapes a drowsy tune,
8Or copious bowls inspire a jovial strain:
9Save that in yonder cobweb-mantled room,
10Where lies a student in profound repose
11Oppress'd with ale, wide-echos thro' the gloom
12The droning music of his vocal nose.
13Within those walls, where thro' the glimm'ring shade
14Appear the pamphlets in a mold'ring heap,
15Each in his narrow bed till morning laid,
16The peaceful fellows of the college sleep.
17The tinkling bell proclaiming early pray'rs,
18The noisy servants rattling o'er their head,
19The calls of business, and domestic cares,
20Ne'er rouze these sleepers from their downy bed.
21No chatt'ring females crowd their social fire,
22No dread have they of discord and of strife;
23Unknown the names of husband and of sire,
24Unfelt the plagues of matrimonial life.
25Oft have they bask'd along the sunny walls,
26Oft have the benches bow'd beneath their weight:
27How jocund are their looks when dinner calls!
28How smoke the cutlets on their crowded plate!
29O let not Temp'rance too-disdainful hear
30How long our feasts, how long our dinners last;
31Nor let the fair with a contemptuous sneer
32On these unmarry'd men reflections cast!
33The splendid fortune and the beauteous face
34(Themselves confess it and their sires bemoan)
36These sons of Science shine in black alone.
37Forgive, ye fair, th' involuntary fault,
38If these no feats of gayety display,
41Say, is the sword well suited to the band,
42Does broider'd coat agree with sable gown,
44Or Learning's vot'ries ape the beaux of town?
45Perhaps in these time-tott'ring walls reside
46Some who were once the darlings of the fair;
47Some who of old could tastes and fashions guide,
48Controul the manager and awe the play'r.
49But Science now has fill'd their vacant mind
50With Rome's rich spoils and Truth's exalted views;
51Fir'd them with transports of a nobler kind,
52And bade them slight all females -- but the Muse.
53Full many a lark, high-tow'ring to the sky,
54Unheard, unheeded greets th' approach of light;
55Full many a star, unseen by mortal eye,
56With twink'ling lustre glimmers thro' the night.
58Rebellion's torrent shall like him oppose;
61From prince and people to command applause,
62'Midst ermin'd peers to guide the high debate,
63 To shield Britannia's and Religion's laws,
64And steer with steady course the helm of state
65Fate yet forbids; nor circumscribes alone
66Their growing virtues, but their crimes confines;
67Forbids in Freedom's veil t' insult the throne,
68Beneath her mask to hide the worst designs,
69To fill the madding crowd's perverted mind
70With "Pensions, Taxes, Marriages, and Jews;"
71Or shut the gates of heav'n on lost mankind,
72And wrest their darling hopes, their future views.
73Far from the giddy town's tumultuous strife,
74Their wishes yet have never learn'd to stray;
75Content and happy in a single life
76They keep the noiseless tenor of their way.
77Ev'n now their books from cobwebs to protect,
79On fluted pillars rais'd, with bronzes deck'd,
80They claim the passing tribute of a smile.
81Oft are the authors' names, tho' richly bound,
82Mis-spelt by blund'ring binders' want of care;
83And many a catalogue is strow'd around,
84To tell th' admiring guest what books are there.
85For who, to thoughtless Ignorance a prey,
86Neglects to hold short dalliance with a book?
87Who there but wishes to prolong his stay,
88And on those cases casts a ling'ring look?
89Reports attract the lawyer's parting eyes,
91For songs and plays the voice of Beauty cries,
93For thee, who mindful of thy lov'd compeers
94Dost in these lines their artless tales relate,
95If Chance, with prying search, in future years,
96Some antiquarian shall enquire thy fate,
97Haply some friend may shake his hoary head
98And say, 'Each morn, unchill'd by frosts, he ran
99'With hose ungarter'd, o'er yon turfy bed,
100'To reach the chapel ere the psalms began.
101'There in the arms of that lethargic chair,
102 'Which rears it's moth-devoured back so high,
103'At noon he quaff'd three glasses to the fair,
104'And por'd upon the news with curious eye.
105'Now by the fire, engag'd in serious talk
106'Or mirthful converse, would he loit'ring stand;
107'Then in the garden chose a sunny walk,
108 'Or launch'd the polish'd bowl with steady hand;
109'One morn we miss'd him at the hour of pray'r,
110'Beside the fire, and on his fav'rite green;
111'Another came, nor yet within the chair,
112'Nor yet at bowls, nor chapel was he seen.
113 'The next we heard that in a neighb'ring shire
114'That day to church he led a blushing bride;
115'A nymph, whose showy vest and maiden fear
116 'Improv'd her beauty while the knot was ty'd.
117'Now by his patron's bounteous care remov'd,
118'He roves enraptur'd thro' the fields of Kent;
119'Yet ever mindful of the place he lov'd,
120'Read here the letter which he lately sent.'
121The LETTER.
122"In rural innocence secure I dwell,
123"Alike to Fortune and to Fame unknown;
124"Approving Conscience chears my humble cell,
125"And social Quiet marks me for her own.
126"Next to the blessings of Religious Truth
127"Two gifts my endless gratitude engage;
128"A wife, the joy and transport of my youth,
129"Now, with a son, the comfort of my age.
130"Seek not to draw me from this kind retreat,
131"In loftier spheres unfit, untaught to move;
132"Content with calm, domestic life, where meet
133"The smiles of Friendship and the sweets of Love.

Notes

1] Curfew: bell signaling the evening 'all-in.' A parody of Thomas Gray's ." Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.." Back to Line
35] scarlet: scarlet fever (?). Back to Line
39] Ranelagh: Renalagh rotunda and gardens, London, a popular resort. Back to Line
40] Frasi: Giuilia Frasi (ca. 1743-59), soprano. Back to Line
43] Dresden's laces: highly fashionable in the mid-eighteenth century. Back to Line
57] HERRING: Thomas Herring, archbishop of Canterbury (1747-57). Back to Line
59] HARDWICKE: Philip Yorke, 1st earl of Hardwicke, Lord Chancellor of England (1737-1756). Back to Line
60] PELHAM: Henry Pelham, a Whig minister in Walpole's cabinet. Back to Line
78] Doric: Greek. Back to Line
90] Lord Fopling: a little fop. CF. George Etherege's play, The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter (1676). Sir Plume: a pompous nobleman in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, and beau of the injured Belinda: "Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain, / And the nice conduct of a clouded cane" (IV.123-24). Back to Line
92] Grandison: Samuel Richardson's novel, History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54). Back to Line
133] The edition opens with the following "Advertisement":

THE Author of the excellent POEM on which the fol- lowing PARODY is built, it is hop'd will forgive this innocent Play upon it; which a sincere admiration of its beauties invited the Parodist to attempt: and if it should be thought there is any merit in this Imitation, it must be at- tributed in a great measure to his working after so fine an Original. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
An Evening Contemplation in a College. Being a Parody on the Elegy in a Country Church-yard. By another Gentleman of Cambridge (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1753). D-10 4411 Fisher Rare Book Library
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire