On the Eclipse of the Sun, April 1715


A PRIL 1715.

Now do I press among the learned throng,

To tell a great eclipse in little song.

At me nor scheme nor demonstration ask,

That is our Gregory's or fam'd Halley's task;

'Tis they who are conversant with each star,

We know how planets planets' rays debar;

This to pretend, my muse is not so bold,

She only echoes what she has been told.

Our rolling globe will scarce have made the sun

Seem half-way up Olympus to have run,

When night's pale queen, in her oft changed way,

Will intercept in direct line his ray,

And make black night usurp the throne of day.

The curious will attend that hour with care,

And wish no clouds may hover in the air,

To dark the medium, and obstruct from sight

The gradual motion and decay of light;

Whilst thoughtless fools will view the water-pail,

To see which of the planets will prevail;

For then they think the sun and moon make war,

Thus nurses' tales oft-times the judgment mar.

When this strange darkness overshades the plains,

'Twill give an odd surprise t' unwarned swains;

Plain honest hinds, who do not know the cause,

Nor know of orbs, their motions or their laws,

Will from the half-plough'd furrows homeward bend,

In dire confusion, judging that the end

Of time approacheth: thus possest with fear,

They 'll think the gen'ral conflagration near.

The traveller, benighted on the road,

Will turn devout, and supplicate his God.

Cocks with their careful mates and younger fry,

As if 't were ev'ning, to their roosts will fly.

The horned cattle will forget to feed,

And come home lowing from the grassy mead.

Each bird of day will to his nest repair,

And leave to bats and owls the dusky air:

The lark and little robin's softer lay

Will not be heard till the return of day.

Now this will be great part of Europe's case,

While Phebe 's as a mask on Phaebus' face.

The unlearn'd clowns, who don't our aera know,

From this dark Friday will their ages show;

As I have often heard old country men

Talk of dark Monday, and their ages then.

Not long shall last this strange uncommon gloom,

When light dispels the ploughman's fear of doom;

With merry heart he 'll lift his ravish'd sight

Up to the heav'ns, and welcome back the light.

How just 's the motions of these whirling spheres,

Which ne'er can err while time is met by years!

How vast is little man's capacious soul,

That knows how orbs thro wilds of aether roll!

How great 's the pow'r of that omnific hand,

Who gave them motion by his wise command,

That they should not, while time had being, stand!

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