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JAMES MONTGOMERY: 1771-1854.
Montgomery, the most popular writer of religious poetry in the period, was
the son of a Moravian missionary. He was born at Irvine in Ayrshire, and was educated at the Moravian school at Fulneck, Leeds. In 1791 he became a clerk in a newspaper office in Sheffield, and shortly afterwards, with the aid of friends, he established the Sheffield Iris, a weekly journal, which he conducted with marked ability up to 1825. Montgomery's larger poems are The Wanderer of Switzerland, The West Indies, The World before the Flood, Greenland, and The Pelican Island.
Night is the time for rest ;
How sweet, when labours close,
To gather round an aching breast
The curtain of repose,
Stretch the tired limbs, and lay the head
Upon our own delightful bed!
Night is the time for dreams ;
The gay romance of life,
When truth that is and truth that seems,
Blend in fantastic strife ;
Ah! visions less beguiling far
Than waking dreams by daylight are !
Night is the time for toil ;
To plough the classic field,
Intent to find the buried spoil
Its wealthy furrows yield;
Till all is ours that sages taught,
That poets sang or heroes wrought.
Night is the time to weep ;
To wet with unseen tears
memory where sleep The joys of other years ;
Hopes that were angels in their birth, But perished young like things on earth!
Night is the time to watch;
On ocean's dark expanse
To hail the Pleiades, or catch
The full moon's earliest glance,
That brings unto the home-sick mind
All we have loved and left behind.
Night is the time for care ;
Brooding on hours misspent, To see the spectre of despair
Come to our lonely tent; Like Brutus, 'midst his slumbering host, Startled by Cæsar's stalwart ghost.
Night is the time to muse ;
Then from the eye the soul
Takes flight, and with expanding views
Beyond the starry pole,
Descries athwart the abyss of night
The dawn of uncreated light.
Night is the time to pray ;
Our Saviour oft withdrew
To desert mountains far away ;
So will his followers do ;
Steal from the throng to haunts untrod,
And hold communion there with God.
Night is the time for death ;
When all around is peace, Calmly to yield the weary breath,
From sin and suffering cease: Think of heaven's bliss, and give the sign To parting friends—such death be mine!
THE ICE BLINK. From Greenland.
Amidst black rocks, that lift on either hand
Their countless peaks, and mark receding land;
Amidst a tortuous labyrinth of seas,
That shine around the Arctic Cyclades ;
Amidst a coast of dreariest continent,
In many a shapeless promontory rent;
O'er rocks, seas, islands, promontories spread,
The ice-blink rears its undulated head,
On which the sun, beyond the horizon shrined,
Hath left his richest garniture behind ;
Piled on a hundred arches, ridge by ridge,
O’er fixed and fluid strides the alpine bridge,
Whose blocks of sapphire seem to mortal eye
Hewn from cerulean quarries in the sky;
With glacier battlements that crowd the spheres,
The slow creation of six thousand years, .
Amidst immensity it towers sublime,
Winter's eternal palace, built by Time:
All human structures by his touch are borne
Down to the dust; mountains themselves are worn
With his light footsteps ; here for ever grows,
Amid the region of unmelting snows,
A monument; where every flake that falls
Gives adamantine firmness to the walls.
The sun beholds no mirror in his race,
That shews a brighter image of his face ;
The stars, in their nocturnal vigils, rest
Like signal-fires on its illumined crest ;
The gliding moon around the ramparts wheels,
And all its magic lights and shades reveals ;
Beneath, the tide with equal fury raves,
To undermine it through a thousand caves ;
Rent from its roof, though thundering fragments oft
Plunge to the gulf, immovable aloft,
From age to age, in air, o'er sea, on land,
Its turrets heighten and its piers expand.
John Wilson, for many years Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Univer
sity of Edinburgh, was a native of Paisley. His poetical works consist of The Isle of Palms, The City of the Plague, and several smaller pieces. (For a specimen of Wilson's prose, see Readings in English Prose, p. 190.)
Like fire, strange flowers around them flame,
Sweet, harmless fire, breathed from some magic urn,
The silky gossamer that may not burn,
Too wildly beautiful to bear a name.
And when the Ocean sends á breeze,
To wake the music sleeping in the trees,
Trees scarce they seem to be ; for many a flower,
Radiant as dew, or ruby polished bright,
Glances on every spray, that bending light
Around the stem, in variegated bows,
Appear like some awakened fountain-shower,
That with the colour of the evening glows.
And towering o'er these beauteous woods,
Gigantic rocks were ever dimly seen,
Breaking with solemn gray the tremulous green,
And frowning far in castellated pride ;
While, hastening to the Ocean, hoary floods
Sent up a thin and radiant mist between,
Softening the beauty that it could not hide.
Lo! higher still the stately Palm-trees rise,
Checkering the clouds with their unbending stems,
And o'er the clouds amid the dark-blue skies,
Lifting their rich unfading diadems.
How calm and placidly they rest
Upon the Heaven's indulgent breast,
As if their branches never breeze had known !
Light bathes them aye in glancing showers,
And Silence mid their lofty bowers
Sits on her moveless throne. ....
All things are here
Delightful to the eye and ear,
And fragrance pure as light floats all around.
But if they look—those mystic gleams,
The glory we adore in dreams,
May here in truth be found.
Fronting the bower, eternal woods,
Darkening the mountain solitudes,
With awe the soul oppress :
There dwells, with shadowy glories crowned,
Rejoicing in the gloom profound,
The Spirit of the Wilderness.
Lo! stretching inward on the right,
A winding vale eludes the sight,
But where it dies the happy soul must dream :
Oh! never sure beneath the sun,
Along such lovely banks did run
So musical a stream.
But who shall dare in thought to paint
Yon fairy water-fall?
Still moistened by the misty showers,
From fiery-red, to yellow soft and faint,
Fantastic bands of fearless flowers
Sport o'er the rocky wall ;
And ever, through the shrouding spray,
Whose diamonds glance as bright as they,
Float birds of graceful form, and gorgeous plumes,
Or dazzling white as snow;
While, as the passing sun illumes
The river's bed, in silent pride
Spanning the cataract roaring wide,
Unnumbered rainbows glow.
But turn around, if thou hast power
To leave a scene so fair,
And looking left-wards from the bower,
What glory meets thee there!
For lo! the heaven-encircled Sea
Outspreads his dazzling pageantry,
As if the whole creation were his own,
And the Isle, on which thy feet now stand,
In beauty rose at his command,
And for his joy alone.