Hiding, with out-stretched form, the genial light;
And still, beneath thine icy bosom's dun
And cloudy plumage, hatching fog-breathed blight,
And embryo storms, and crabbed frosts, that shun
Day's warm caress. The owls from ivied loop
Are shrieking homage, as thou cowerest high,
Like sable crow pausing in eager stoop
On the dim world thou gluttest thy clouded eye,
Silently waiting latest time's fell whoop,
When thou shalt quit thine eyrie in the sky,
To pounce upon the world with eager claw,
And tomb time, death, and substance in thy maw.
Charles Johnston's life is obscure. Joanna Baillie (1762–1851) included these
sonnets in A Collection of Poems, Chiefly Manuscript, and From Living Authors
(1823). But she notes in her preface that, despite the title of the volume,
Johnston “has sunk into an early grave.”
I know thee not, bright creature, ne'er shall know;
Thy course and mine lie far and far away;
Yet heaven this once has given me to survey
Those charms that seldom may be seen below.
We part as soon as met, but where I go
Thy form shall ever be; upon thy way
Shall heaven, for thou art heaven's, its mildest ray
Shed ever bright; yet though disease and woe
Thy cheek consume not, Time will have his prey,
And I may meet and know thee not again.
But what lives in the mind shall not decay.
And thus shall mine thy form divine retain,
In all the freshness of youth's dawning day,
When thou may'st be no more, and earth laments in vain.
Spirit of evil, with which the earth is rife,
Revenge, Revenge! thee all abjure and blame,
Yet, when their hour is come, invoke thy name.
Base men for thee in secret bare the knife;
The brave partake the peril and the strife;