The Complaint: Or, Night Thoughts "How Blessings Brighten As They Take Their Flight!"

Edward Young

"How Blessings Brighten As They Take Their Flight!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Although once ranked almost as great as Milton as a religious poet, Edward Young is now regarded as a minor eighteenth century literary figure; his Night Thoughts, once hailed as a religious poem of importance scarcely less than Paradise Lost, is now seldom read except as bits and snatches appear in anthologies. Modern interest, such as it is, disregards the poet's primary aims. He intended the poem as a religious work with two purposes: to assail deism and to promote interest in the eternal life after death. But recent generations see the poem differently, regarding it as an unusually personal, and thus romantic, work written in a period when romanticism was not the dominant literary temper in England. Young had lost three persons close to him to death, and much of the poem is given over to a description of the individual's reaction to the loss of persons dear to him. In this passage the poet is mourning in a personal way:

. . . Philander is no more.
Think'st thou the theme intoxicates my song?
Am I too warm?–Too warm I cannot be.
I loved him much; but now I love him more.
Like birds, whose beauties languish, half-conceal'd,
Till, mounted on the wing, their glossy plumes
Expanded shine with azure, green, and gold;
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!