The solitary bird of night

First Line The solitary bird of night
Author Elizabeth Carter
Date 1747

Ode [Conduct, morality; Passions, sentiments; Classical themes]. 

Transcribed from "To Wisdom. A nocturnal Ode." The Gentleman's Magazine: and historical chronicle, vol. 17, December 1747, p. 585. British Periodicals, [ProQuest document ID:] 8900471.



The solitary bird of night

Thro' the pale shades now wings his flight,

And quits the time shook tow'r,

Where shelter'd from the blaze of day

In philosophic gloom he lay

Beneath his ivy bow'r.


With joy, I hear the solemn sound,

Which midnight echoes waft around,

And sighing gales repeat;

Fav'rite of Pallas! I attend,

And, faithful to thy summons, bend

At Wisdom's awful seat.


She loves the cool, the silent eve,

Where no false shows of life deceive,

Beneath the lunar ray.

Here Folly quits each vain disguise,

Nor sport her gayly-colour'd dyes,

As in the beam of day.


O Pallas! queen of ev'ry art

'That glads the sense, or mends the heart,

Blest source of purer joys,

In ev'ry form of beauty, bright,

That captivates the mental sight

With pleasure, and surprize,


To thy unspotted shrine I bow, 

Attend thy modest suppliant's vow

That breathes no wild desires,

But taught by thy unerring rules

To shun the fruitless wish of fools, 

To nobler views aspires!


Not Fortune's gem, Ambition's plume,

Nor Cytherea's short-liv'd bloom,

Be objects of my pray'r,

Let Av'rice, Vanity, and Pride

These glitt'ring envy'd toys divide

The dull rewards of Care.


To me thy better gifts impart,

Each moral beauty of the heart,

By studious thought refin'd;

For wealth, the smiles of glad content,

For pow'r, its amplest best extent,

An empire o'er my mind.


When Fortune drops her gay parade,

When Pleasure's transient roses fade,

And wither on the tomb,

Unchang'd is thy immortal prize,

Thy ever verdant lawrels rise

In undecaying bloom.


By thee protected I defy

The Coxcomb's sneer, the stupid lye

Of Ignorance and Spite,

Alike contemn the leaden Fool, 

And all the pointed ridicule

Of undiscerning Wit. 


From envy, hurry, noise and strife,

The dull impertinence of life,

In thy retreat I rest,

Persue thee to thy peaceful groves,

Where Plato's sacred spirit roves

In all thy beauties drest.

He bade Ilyssus tuneful stream

Convey the philosophic theme

Of Perfect, Fair, and Good.

Attentive Athens caught the sound,

And all her list'ning sons around

In awful silence stood.


Reclaim'd, her wild licentious youth

Confest the potent voice of truth,

And felt its just controul;

The passions ceas'd their loud alarms,

And Virtues's soft persuasive charms,

O'er all their senses stole.


Thy breath inspires the Poet's song,

The Patriot's free, unbias'd tongue,

The Hero's gen'rous strife.

Thine are Retirement's silent joys,

And all the sweet, engaging tyes

Of still, domestic life. 


No more to fabled names confin'd,

To Thee! supreme, all perfect Mind,

My thoughts direct their flight.

Wisdom's thy gift, and all her force

From thee deriv'd eternal Source

Of intellectual light!


O send her sure, her steady ray

To regulate my doubtful way

Thro' life's perplexing road,

The mists of Error to controul,

And thro' its gloom direct my soul

To happiness and good.


Beneath her clear discerning eye,

The visionary shadows fly

Of Folly's painted show,

She sees through ev'ry fair disguise,

That all but Virtue's solid joys

Is vanity, and woe.