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La Solitude de St. Amant


O! Solitude, my sweetest choice
Places devoted to the night,
Remote from tumult, and from noise,
How you my restless thoughts delight!
O Heavens! what content is mine,
To see those trees which have appear'd
From the nativity of Time,
And which hall ages have rever'd,
To look to-day as fresh and green,
As when their beauties first were seen!


A cheerful wind does court them so,
And with such amorous breath enfold,
That we by nothing else can know,
But by their hieght that they are old.
Hither the demi-gods did fly To seek the sanctuary, when Displeased Jove once pierc'd the sky, To pour a deluge upon men, And on these boughs themselves did save, When they could hardly see a wave.
3 Sad Philomel upon this thorn, So curiously by Flora dress'd, In melting notes, her case forlorn, To entertain me, hath confess'd.
O! how agreeable a sight These hanging mountains do appear, Which the unhappy would invite To finish all their sorrows here, When their hard fate makes them endure Such woes, as only death can cure.
4 What pretty desolations make These torrents vagabond and fierce, Who in vast leaps their springs forsake, This solitary Vale to pierce.
Then sliding just as serpents do Under the foot of every tree, Themselves are changed to rivers too, Wherein some stately Nayade, As in her native bed, is grown A queen upon a crystal throne.
5 This fen beset with river-plants, O! how it does my sense charm! Nor elders, reeds, nor willows want, Which the sharp steel did never harm.
Here Nymphs which come to take the air, May with such distaffs furnish'd be, As flags and rushes can prepare, Where we the nimble frogs may see, Who frighted to retreat do fly If an approaching man they spy.
6 Here water-flowl repose enjoy, Without the interrupting care, Lest Fortune should their bliss destroy By the malicious fowler's snare.
Some ravish'd with so bright a day, Their feathers finely prune and deck; Others their amorous heats allay, Which yet the waters could not check: All take their innocent content In this their lovely element.
7 Summer's, nor Winter's bold approach, This stream did never entertain; Nor ever felt a boat or coach, Whilst either season did remain.
No thirsty traveller came near, And rudely made his hand his cup; Nor any hunted hind hath here Her hopeless life resigned up; Nor ever did the treacherous hook Intrude to empty any brook.
8 What beauty is there in the sight Of these old ruin'd castle-walls Of which the utmost rage and spight Of Time's worst insurrection falls? The witches keep their Sabbath here, And wanton devils make retreat.
Who in malicious sport appear, Our sense both to afflict and cheat; And here within a thousand holes Are nest of adders and of owls.
9 The raven with his dismal cries, That mortal augury of Fate, Those ghastly goblins ratifies, Which in these gloomy places wait.
On a curs'd tree the wind does move A carcase which did once belong To one that hang'd himself for love Of a fair Nymph that did him wrong, Who thought she saw his love and truth, With one look would not save the youth.
10 But Heaven which judges equally, And its own laws will still maintain, Rewarded soon her cruelty With a deserv'd and mighty pain: About this squalid heap of bones, Her wand'ring and condemned shade, Laments in long and piercing groans The destiny her rigour made, And the more to augment her right, Her crime is ever in her sight.
11 There upon antique marbles trac'd, Devices of past times we see, Here age ath almost quite defac'd, What lovers carv'd on every tree.
The cellar, here, the highest room Receives when its old rafters fail, Soil'd with the venom and the foam Of the spider and the snail: And th'ivy in the chimney we Find shaded by a walnut tree.
12 Below there does a cave extend, Wherein there is so dark a grot, That should the Sun himself descend, I think he could not see a jot.
Here sleep within a heavy lid In quiet sadness locks up sense, And every care he does forbid, Whilst in arms of negligence, Lazily on his back he's spread, And sheaves of poppy are his bed.
13 Within this cool and hollow cave, Where Love itself might turn to ice, Poor Echo ceases not to rave On her Narcissus wild and nice: Hither I softly steal a thought, And by the softer music made With a sweet lute in charms well taught, Sometimes I flatter her sad shade, Whilst of my chords I make such choice, They serve as body to her voice.
14 When from these ruins I retire, This horrid rock I do invade, Whose lofty brow seems to inquire Of what materials mists are made: From thence descending leisurely Under the brow of this steep hill It with great pleasure I descry By waters undermin'd, until They to Palaemon's seat did climb, Compos'd of sponges and of slime.
15 How highly is the fancy pleas'd To be upon the Ocean's shore, When she begins to be appeas'd And her fierce billows cease to roar! And when the hairy Tritons are Riding upon the shaken wave, With what strange sounds they strike the air Of their trumpets hoarse and brave, Whose shrill reports does every wind Unto his due submission bind! 16 Sometimes the sea dispels the sand, Trembling and murmuring in the bay, And rolls itself upon the shells Which it both brings and takes away.
Sometimes exposed on the strand, Th'effect of Neptune's rage and scorn, Drown'd men, dead monsters cast on land, And ships that were in tempests torn, With diamonds and ambergreece, And many more such things as these.
17 Sometimes so sweetly she does smile, A floating mirror she might be, And you would fancy all that while New Heavens in her face to see: The Sun himself is drawn so well, When there he would his picture view, That our eye can hardly tell Which is the false Sun, which the true; And lest we give our sense the lie, We think he's fallen from the sky.
18 Bernieres! for whose beloved sake My thoughts are at a noble strife, This my fantastic landskip take, Which I have copied from the life.
I only seek the deserts rough, Where all alone I love to walk, And with discourse refin'd enough, My Genius and the Muses talk; But the converse most truly mine, Is the dear memory of thine.
19 Thou mayst in this Poem find, So full of liberty and heat, What illustrious rays have shin'd To enlighten my conceit: Sometimes pensive, sometimes gay, Just as that fury does control, And as the object I survey The notions grow up in my soul, And are as unconcern'd and free As the flame which transported me.
20 O! how I Solitude adore, That element of noblest wit, Where I have learnt Apollo's lore, Without the pains to study it: For thy sake I in love am grown With what thy fancy does pursue; But when I think upon my own, I hate it for that reason too.
Because it needs must hinder me From seeing, and from serving thee.

Poem by Katherine Philips
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