An Evening Contemplation in a College

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The Curfew tolls the hour of closing gates,With jarring sound the porter turns the key,Then in his dreary mansion slumb'ring waits,And slowly, sternly quits it -- tho' for me.

Now shine the spires beneath the paly moon,And thro' the cloyster Peace and Silence reign,Save where some fidler scrapes a drowsy tune,Or copious bowls inspire a jovial strain:

Save that in yonder cobweb-mantled room,Where lies a student in profound reposeOppress'd with ale, wide-echos thro' the gloomThe droning music of his vocal nose.

Within those walls, where thro' the glimm'ring shadeAppear the pamphlets in a mold'ring heap,Each in his narrow bed till morning laid,The peaceful fellows of the college sleep.

The tinkling bell proclaiming early pray'rs,The noisy servants rattling o'er their head,The calls of business, and domestic cares,Ne'er rouze these sleepers from their downy bed.

No chatt'ring females crowd their social fire,No dread have they of discord and of strife;Unknown the names of husband and of sire,Unfelt the plagues of matrimonial life.

Oft have they bask'd along the sunny walls,Oft have the benches bow'd beneath their weight:How jocund are their looks when dinner calls!How smoke the cutlets on their crowded plate!

O let not Temp'rance too-disdainful hearHow long our feasts, how long our dinners last;Nor let the fair with a contemptuous sneerOn these unmarry'd men reflections cast!

The splendid fortune and the beauteous face(Themselves confess it and their sires bemoan)Too soon are caught by scarlet and by lace:These sons of Science shine in black alone.

Forgive, ye fair, th' involuntary fault,If these no feats of gayety display,Where thro' proud Ranelagh's wide-echoing vaultMelodious Frasi trills her quav'ring lay.

Say, is the sword well suited to the band,Does broider'd coat agree with sable gown,Can Dresden's laces shade a churchman's hand,Or Learning's vot'ries ape the beaux of town?

Perhaps in these time-tott'ring walls resideSome who were once the darlings of the fair;Some who of old could tastes and fashions guide,Controul the manager and awe the play'r.

But Science now has fill'd their vacant mindWith Rome's rich spoils and Truth's exalted views;Fir'd them with transports of a nobler kind,And bade them slight all females -- but the Muse.

Full many a lark, high-tow'ring to the sky,Unheard, unheeded greets th' approach of light;Full many a star, unseen by mortal eye,With twink'ling lustre glimmers thro' the night.

Some future HERRING, that with dauntless breastRebellion's torrent shall like him oppose;Some mute, some thoughtless HARDWICKE here may rest,Some PELHAM, dreadful to his country's foes.

From prince and people to command applause,'Midst ermin'd peers to guide the high debate, To shield Britannia's and Religion's laws,And steer with steady course the helm of state

Fate yet forbids; nor circumscribes aloneTheir growing virtues, but their crimes confines;Forbids in Freedom's veil t' insult the throne,Beneath her mask to hide the worst designs,

To fill the madding crowd's perverted mindWith "Pensions, Taxes, Marriages, and Jews;"Or shut the gates of heav'n on lost mankind,And wrest their darling hopes, their future views.

Far from the giddy town's tumultuous strife,Their wishes yet have never learn'd to stray;Content and happy in a single lifeThey keep the noiseless tenor of their way.

Ev'n now their books from cobwebs to protect,Inclos'd by doors of glass, in Doric style,On fluted pillars rais'd, with bronzes deck'd,They claim the passing tribute of a smile.

Oft are the authors' names, tho' richly bound,Mis-spelt by blund'ring binders' want of care;And many a catalogue is strow'd around,To tell th' admiring guest what books are there.

For who, to thoughtless Ignorance a prey,Neglects to hold short dalliance with a book?Who there but wishes to prolong his stay,And on those cases casts a ling'ring look?

Reports attract the lawyer's parting eyes,Novels Lord Fopling and Sir Plume require;For songs and plays the voice of Beauty cries,And Sense and Nature Grandison desire.For thee, who mindful of thy lov'd compeersDost in these lines their artless tales relate,If Chance, with prying search, in future years,Some antiquarian shall enquire thy fate,

Haply some friend may shake his hoary headAnd say, 'Each morn, unchill'd by frosts, he ran'With hose ungarter'd, o'er yon turfy bed,'To reach the chapel ere the psalms began.

'There in the arms of that lethargic chair, 'Which rears it's moth-devoured back so high,'At noon he quaff'd three glasses to the fair,'And por'd upon the news with curious eye.

'Now by the fire, engag'd in serious talk'Or mirthful converse, would he loit'ring stand;'Then in the garden chose a sunny walk, 'Or launch'd the polish'd bowl with steady hand;

'One morn we miss'd him at the hour of pray'r,'Beside the fire, and on his fav'rite green;'Another came, nor yet within the chair,'Nor yet at bowls, nor chapel was he seen.

'The next we heard that in a neighb'ring shire'That day to church he led a blushing bride;'A nymph, whose showy vest and maiden fear 'Improv'd her beauty while the knot was ty'd.

'Now by his patron's bounteous care remov'd,'He roves enraptur'd thro' the fields of Kent;'Yet ever mindful of the place he lov'd,'Read here the letter which he lately sent.'


"In rural innocence secure I dwell,"Alike to Fortune and to Fame unknown;"Approving Conscience chears my humble cell,"And social Quiet marks me for her own.

"Next to the blessings of Religious Truth"Two gifts my endless gratitude engage;"A wife, the joy and transport of my youth,"Now, with a son, the comfort of my age.

"Seek not to draw me from this kind retreat,"In loftier spheres unfit, untaught to move;"Content with calm, domestic life, where meet"The smiles of Friendship and the sweets of Love.


© Duncombe John