Friday, October 22, 2010


Shadows Brown

John Milton, Il Penseroso, lines 131-138:
And, when the sun begins to fling
His flaring beams, me goddess bring
To archèd walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves,
Of pine, or monumental oak,
Where the rude axe with heavèd stroke,
Was never heard the nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallowed haunt.
Il Penseroso is the melancholy man, whose pleasure it is to walk in the woods. See, e.g., Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. 1, Sect. 3, Mem. 1, Subs. 2:
It was one of the chiefest reasons why the citizens of Abdera suspected Democritus to be melancholy and mad, because that, as Hippocrates related in his Epistle to Philopaemenes, "he forsook the city, lived in groves and hollow trees, upon a green bank by a brook side, or confluence of waters all day long, and all night." Quae quidem (saith he) plurimum atra bile vexatis et melancholicis eveniunt, deserta frequentant, hominumque congressum aversantur; which is an ordinary thing with melancholy men.
Id., Part. 1, Sec. 2, Mem. 2, Subs. 6:
[M]ost pleasant it is at first, to such as are melancholy given, to lie in bed whole days, and keep their chambers, to walk alone in some solitary grove, betwixt wood and water, by a brook side, to meditate upon some delightsome and pleasant subject, which shall affect them most; amabilis insania, et mentis gratissimus error: a most incomparable delight it is so to melancholise, and build castles in the air...
Id., Part 2., Sec. 2, Mem. 4:
If my testimony were aught worth, I could say as much of myself; I am vere Saturnus; no man ever took more delight in springs, woods, groves, gardens, walks, fishponds, rivers, &c.
John Crome (1768-1821), Woodland Path

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