The Pleasures of Melancholy

Original Text: 
Thomas Warton, Jr., The Pleasures of Melancholy (London: for R. Dodsley, sold by M. Cooper, 1747).
--Praecipe lugubres
Cantus, Melpomene!--
29Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve,
30Where thro' some western window the pale moon
31Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
32While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
34Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
35Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
36Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
37Invests some wasted tow'r. Or let me tread
38Its neighb'ring walk of pines, where mus'd of old
39The cloister'd brothers: thro' the gloomy void
40That far extends beneath their ample arch
41As on I pace, religious horror wraps
42My soul in dread repose. But when the world
43Is clad in Midnight's raven-colour'd robe,
44'Mid hollow charnel let me watch the flame
45Of taper dim, shedding a livid glare
46O'er the wan heaps; while airy voices talk
47Along the glimm'ring walls; or ghostly shape
48At distance seen, invites with beck'ning hand
49My lonesome steps, thro' the far-winding vaults.
50Nor undelightful is the solemn noon
51Of night, when haply wakeful from my couch
52I start: lo, all is motionless around!
53Roars not the rushing wind; the sons of men
54And every beast in mute oblivion lie;
55All nature's hush'd in silence and in sleep.
56O then how fearful is it to reflect,
57That thro' the still globe's awful solitude,
58No being wakes but me! till stealing sleep
59My drooping temples bathes in opiate dews.
60Nor then let dreams, of wanton folly born,
61My senses lead thro' flow'ry paths of joy;
62But let the sacred Genius of the night
64When thro' bewild'ring Fancy's magic maze,
65To the fell house of Busyrane, he led
67When in abstracted thought he first conceiv'd
68All heav'n in tumult, and the Seraphim
69Come tow'ring, arm'd in adamant and gold.
92Few know that elegance of soul refin'd,
93Whose soft sensation feels a quicker joy
94From Melancholy's scenes, than the dull pride
95Of tasteless splendour and magnificence
97Had languish'd to the pangs of melting love,
98More genuine transport found, as on some tomb
99Reclin'd, she watch'd the tapers of the dead;
100Or thro' the pillar'd aisles, amid pale shrines
101Of imag'd saints, and intermingled graves,
103As thro' the mazes of the festive ball,
104Proud of her conquering charms, and beauty's blaze,
105She floats amid the silken sons of dress,
106And shines the fairest of th' assembled fair.
153Thro' Pope's soft song tho' all the Graces breathe,
154And happiest art adorn his Attic page;
155Yet does my mind with sweeter transport glow,
156As at the root of mossy trunk reclin'd,
157In magic Spenser's wildly-warbled song
159Thro' wasteful solitudes, and lurid heaths,
160Weary, forlorn; than when the fated fair
161Upon the bosom bright of silver Thames
162Launches in all the lustre of brocade,
163Amid the splendours of the laughing Sun.
164The gay description palls upon the sense,
165And coldly strikes the mind with feeble bliss.
196The taper'd choir, at the late hour of pray'r,
198The many-sounding organ peals on high,
199The clear slow-dittied chaunt, or varied hymn,
200Till all my soul is bath'd in ecstasies,
201And lapp'd in Paradise. Or let me sit
202Far in sequester'd aisles of the deep dome,
203There lonesome listen to the sacred sounds,
204Which, as they lengthen thro' the Gothic vaults,
205In hollow murmurs reach my ravish'd ear.
206Nor when the lamps expiring yield to night,
207And solitude returns, would I forsake
208The solemn mansion, but attentive mark
209The due clock swinging slow with sweepy sway,
210Measuring Time's flight with momentary sound.
211Nor let me fail to cultivate my mind
212With the soft thrillings of the tragic Muse,
213Divine Melpomene, sweet Pity's nurse,
214Queen of the stately step, and flowing pall.
216Her joys incestuous, and polluted love:
217Now let soft Juliet in the gaping tomb
218Print the last kiss on her true Romeo's lips,
219His lips yet reeking from the deadly draught:
221Nor seldom let the Moor on Desdemone
222Pour the misguided threats of jealous rage.
223By soft degrees the manly torrent steals
224From my swoln eyes; and at a brother's woe
225My big heart melts in sympathizing tears.
226What are the splendours of the gaudy court,
227Its tinsel trappings, and its pageant pomps?
228To me far happier seems the banish'd lord,
229Amid Siberia's unrejoicing wilds
230Who pines all lonesome, in the chambers hoar
231Of some high castle shut, whose windows dim
232In distant ken discover trackless plains,
233Where Winter ever whirls his icy car;
234While still repeated objects of his view,
235The gloomy battlements, and ivied spires,
236That crown the solitary dome, arise;
237While from the topmost turret the slow clock,
238Far heard along th' inhospitable wastes,
239With sad-returning chime awakes new grief;
240Ev'n he far happier seems than is the proud,
241The potent Satrap, whom he left behind
242'Mid Moscow's golden palaces, to drown
243In ease and luxury the laughing hours.


28] The motto is from Horace, Odes, I.xxiv.2-3, and may be translated: "Teach me sad strains, O Melpomene." Melpomene was the Muse of Tragedy. Back to Line
33] Cf. Gray's Elegy, 9-12. Back to Line
63] Cf. Spenser's Faerie Queene, III.xi-xii. Back to Line
66] Cf. Milton's Paradise Lost VI.99-110, especially lines 109-10:
Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold.
Back to Line
96] Cf. Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, 303 ff., with which is blended a confused recollection of lines 164 ff. Back to Line
102] Flavia: any woman of fashion. Back to Line
158] Cf. Spenser's Faerie Queene, I.160-63. Cf. Pope's Rape of the Lock, II.1-6. Back to Line
197] Cf. Milton's Eloisa and Abelard, 221-222. Back to Line
215] Monimia: the heroine of Otway's The Orphan. Back to Line
220] Jaffier: a character in Otway's Venice Preserved. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.684; RPO 1996-2000.