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A POETICAL EPISTLE TO LADY
DEAR ANNA-between friend and friend,
Prose answers every common end;
Serves, in a plain and homely way,
T'express th' occurrence of the day;
Our health, the weather, and the news;
What walks we take, what books we choose;
And all the floating thoughts we find
Upon the surface of the mind.
But when a poet takes the pen,
Far more alive than other men,
He feels a gentle tingling come
Down to his finger and his thumb,
Derived from nature's noblest part,
The centre of a glowing heart:
And this is what the world, who knows
No flights above the pitch of prose,
His more sublime vagaries slighting,
Denominates an itch for writing.
No wonder I, who scribble rhyme
To catch the triflers of the time,
And tell them truths divine and clear,
Which, couched in prose, they will not hear;
Who labour hard t' allure and draw
The loiterers I never saw,
Should feel that itching, and that tingling,
With all my purpose intermingling,
To your intrinsic merit true,
When called t' address myself to you.
Mysterious are his ways, whose power
Brings forth that unexpected hour,
When minds, that never met before,
Shall meet, unite, and part no more:
It is th' allotment of the skies,
The hand of the Supremely Wise,
That guides and governs our affections,
And plans and orders our connexions:
Directs us in our distant road,
And marks the bounds of our abode.
Thus we were settled when you found us,
Peasants and children all around us,
Not dreaming of so dear a friend,
Deep in the abyss of Silver-End.*
Thus Martha, e'en against her will,
Perched on the top of yonder hill;
And you, though you must needs prefer
The fairer scenes of sweet Sancerre,†
Are come from distant Loire, to choose
A cottage on the banks of Ouse.
This page of Providence quite new,
And now just opening to our view,
An obscure part of Olney, adjoining to the residence of
Cowper, which faced the market-place.
Lady Austen's residence in France.
Employs our present thoughts and pains
To guess, and spell, what it contains;
But day by day, and year by year,
Will make the dark enigma clear;
And furnish us, perhaps, at last,
Like other scenes already past,
With proof, that we, and our affairs,
Are part of a Jehovah's cares:
For God unfolds, by slow degrees,
The purport of his deep decrees;
Sheds every hour a clearer light
In aid of our defective sight;
And spreads, at length, before the soul,
A beautiful and perfect whole,
Which busy man's inventive brain
Toils to anticipate in vain.
Say, Anna, had you never known
The beauties of a rose full blown,
Could you, though luminous your eye,
By looking on the bud, descry,
Or guess, with a prophetic power,
The future splendour of the flower?
Just so, th' Omnipotent, who turns
The system of a world's concerns,
From mere minutia can educe
Events of most important use;
And bid a dawning sky display
The blaze of a meridian day.
The works of man tend, one and all,
As needs they must, from great so small;
And vanity absorbs at length
The monuments of human strength.
But who can tell how vast the plan
Which this day's incident began?
Too small, perhaps, the slight occasion,
For our dim-sighted observation;
It passed unnoticed, as the bird
That cleaves the yielding air unheard,
And yet may prove, when understood,
A harbinger of endless good.
Not that I deem, or mean to call Friendship a blessing cheap or small: But merely to remark, that ours, Like some of nature's sweetest flowers, Rose from a seed of tiny size, That seemed to promise no such prize; A transient visit intervening, And made almost without a meaning, (Hardly the effect of inclination, Much less of pleasing expectation,) Produced a friendship, then begun, That has cemented us in one; And placed it in our power to prove, By long fidelity and love,
That Solomon has wisely spoken,
"A threefold cord is not soon broken."
Air-The Lass of Patie's Mill.
WHEN all within is peace,
How Nature seems to smile! Delights that never cease,
The live-long day beguile. From morn to dewy eve, With open hand she showers Fresh blessings to deceive,
And sooth the silent hours.
It is content of heart
Gives nature power to please; The mind that feels no smart, Enlivens all it sees: Can make a wintry sky
Seem bright as smiling May, And evening's closing eye As peep of early day.
The vast majestic globe,
So beauteously arrayed In Nature's various robe
With wondrous skill displayed, Is to a mourner's heart
A dreary wild at best;
It flutters to depart,
And longs to be at rest.
And, summoned to partake its fellow's wo, Starts from its office, like a broken bow.
Votaries of business, and of pleasure prove Faithless alike in friendship and in love. Retired from all the circles of the gay, And all the crowds, that bustle life away, To scenes, where competition, envy, strife, Beget no thunder-clouds to trouble life, Let me, the charge of some good angel, find One, who has known, and has escaped mankind; Polite, yet virtuous, who has brought away The manners, not the morals, of the day: With him, perhaps with her, (for men have known No firmer friendships than the fair have shown,) Let me enjoy, in some unthought-of spot, All former friends forgiven, and forgot, Down to the close of life's fast fading scene, Union of hearts, without a flaw between. 'Tis grace, 'tis bounty, and it calls for praise, If God give health, that sunshine of our days! And if he add, a blessing shared by few, Content of heart, more praises still are dueBut if he grant a friend, that boon possessed, Indeed is treasure, and crowns all the rest; And giving one, whose heart is in the skies, Born from above, and made divinely wise, He gives, what bankrupt nature never can, Whose noblest coin is light and brittle man, Gold, purer far than Ophir ever knew, A soul, an image of himself, and therefore true.
SELECTED FROM AN OCCASIONAL POEM, ENTITLED
On Friendship! Cordial of the human breast
So little felt, so fervently professed!
Thy blossoms deck our unsuspecting years;
The promise of delicious fruit appears:
We hug the hopes of constancy and truth,
Such is the folly of our dreaming youth;
But soon, alas! detect the rash mistake
That sanguine inexperience loves to make;
And view with tears th' expected harvest lost,
Decayed by time, or withered by a frost,
Whoever undertakes a friend's great part
Should be renewed in nature, pure in heart,
Prepared for martyrdom, and strong to prove
A thousand ways the force of genuine love.
He may be called to give up health and gain,
T'exchange content for trouble, ease for pain,
To echo sigh for sigh, and groan for groan,
And wet his cheeks with sorrows not his own.
The heart of man, for such a task too frail,
When most relied on, is most sure to fail;
•Written at the request of Lady Austen.
HERE Johnson lies-a sage by all allowed,
Whom to have bred, may well make England proud;
Whose prose was eloquence, by wisdom taught,
The graceful vehicle of virtuous thought;
Whose verse may claim-grave, masculine, and
Superior praise to the mere poet's song;
Who many a noble gift from Heaven possessed,
And faith at last, alone worth all the rest.
O man, immortal by a double prize,
By fame on earth-by glory in the skies!
TO MISS C-, ON HER BIRTH-DAY
How many between east and west,
Disgrace their parent earth,
Whose deeds constrain us to detest
The day that gave them birth!
Not so when Stella's natal morn
Revolving months restore,
We can rejoice that she was born,
And wish her born once more.
ADDRESSED TO LADY HESKETH.
THIS cap, that so stately appears, With ribbon-bound tassel on high, Which seems by the crest that it rears Ambitious of brushing the sky: This cap to my cousin I owe,
She gave it, and gave me beside, Wreathed into an elegant bow,
The ribbon with which it is tied.
This wheel-footed studying chair,
Contrived both for toil and repose,
Wide elbowed and wadded with hair,
In which I both scribble and dose,
Bright studded to dazzle the eyes,
And rival in lustre of that
In which, or astronomy lies,
Fair Cassiopeia sat:
These carpets, so soft to the foot,
Caledonia's traffic and pride,
O spare them ye knights of the boot,
Escaped from a cross-country ride.
This table and mirror within,
Secure from collision and dust,
At which I oft shave cheek and chin,
And periwig nicely adjust:
This moveable structure of shelves,
For its beauty admired and its use,
And charged with octavos and twelves,
The gayest I had to produce;
Where, flaming in scarlet and gold,
My poems enchanted I view,
And hope, in due time, to behold
My Iliad and Odyssey too;
This china, that decks the alcove,
Which here people call a buffet,
But what the gods call it above,
Has ne'er been revealed to us yet;
These curtains, that keep the room warm
Or cool, as the season demands,
These stoves that for pattern and form,
Seem the labour of Mulciber's hands:
All these are not half that I owe
To one from her earliest youth
To me ever ready to show
Benignity, friendship, and truth:
For time the destroyer declared
And foe of our perishing kind,
If even her face he has spared,
Much less could he alter her mind.
Thus compassed about with the goods
And chattels of leisure and ease,
I indulge my poetical moods
In many such fancies as these;
And fancies I fear they will seem
Poet's goods are not often so fine; The poets will swear that I dream, When I sing of the splendour of mine.
WHEN a bar of pure silver, or ingot of gold,
Is sent to be flatted or wrought into length,
It is passed between cylinders often and rolled
In an engine of utmost mechanical strength.
Thus tortured and squeezed, at last it appears
Like a loose heap of ribbon, a glittering show,
Like music it tinkles and rings in your ears,
And, warmed by the pressure, is all in a glow.
This process achieved, it is doomed to sustain
The thump-after-thump of a goldbeater's mallet,
And at last is of service in sickness or pain
To cover a pill for a delicate palate.
Alas for the poet! who dares undertake
To urge reformation of national ill—
His head and his heart are both likely to ache
With the double employment of mallet and mill
If he wish to instruct, he must learn to delight,
Smooth, ductile, and even, his fancy must flow,
Must tinkle and glitter like gold to the sight,
And catch in its progress a sensible glow.
After all, he must beat it as thin and as fine
As the leaf that unfolds what an invalid swal
For truth is unwelcome, however divine,
And unless you adorn it a nausea follows.
TO MRS. THROCKMORTON,
ON HER BEAUTIFUL TRANSCRIPT OF HORACE'S ODE,
AD LIBRUM SUUM.
MARIA, Could Horace have guessed
What honour awaited his ode,
To his own little volume addressed,
The honour which you have bestowed,
Who have traced it in characters here
So elegant, even and neat,
He had laughed at the critical sneer,
Which he seems to have trembled to meet.
And sneer if you please he had said,
A nymph shall hereafter arise,
Who shall give me, when you are all dead,
The glory your malice denies.
Shall dignity give to my lay,
Although but a mere bagatelle;
And even a poet shall say,
Nothing ever was written so well.
On the late indecent liberties taken with the remains of the great Milton-Anno 1790.
"ME too, perchance, in future days,
The sculptured stone shall show, With Paphian myrtle or with bays Parnassian on my brow.
"But I, or ere that season come,
Escaped from every care,
Shall reach my refuge in the tomb,
And sleep securely there."*
So sang, in Roman tone and style,
The youthful bard, ere long Ordained to grace his native isle
With her sublimest song.
Who then but must conceive disdain,
Hearing the deed unblest
Of wretches who have dared profane
His dread sepulchral rest?
Ill fare the hands that heaved the stones
Where Milton's ashes lay,
That trembled not to grasp his bones
And steal his dust away!
O ill-requited bard! neglect
Thy living worth repaid,
And blind idolatrous respect
As much affronts thee dead.
On her kind Present to the Author, a Patch-work Counterpane of her own making.
THE Bard, if e'er he feel at all,
Must sure be quickened by a call
Both on his heart and head,
To pay with tuneful thanks the care
And kindness of a lady fair
Who deigns to deck his bed.
A bed like this, in ancient time,
On Ida's barren top sublime,
(As Homer's Epic shows) Composed of sweetest vernal flowers, Without the aid of sun and showers, For Jove and Juno rose.
Less beautiful, however gay,
Is that which in the scorching day
Receives the weary swain
• Forsitan et nostros ducat de marmore vultus Necteus aut Paphia myrti aut Parnasside lauri Fronde comas-At ego secura pace quiesquam. Milton in Mansa.
Who, laying his long scythe aside,
Sleeps on some bank with daisies pied,
Till roused to toil again.
What labours of the loom I see!
Looms numberless have groaned for me!
Should every maiden come
To scramble for the patch that bears
The impress of the robe she wears,
The bell would toll for some.
And oh, what havoc would ensue!
This bright display of every hue
All in a moment fled!
As if a storm should strip the bowers
Of all their tendrils, leaves, and flowers-
Each pocketing a shred.
Thanks, then, to every gentle fair
Who will not come to peck me bare,
As bird of borrowed feather,
And thanks, to One, above them all,
The gentle Fair of Pertenhall,
Who put the whole together.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE POETS.
Two nymphs, both nearly of an age,
Of numerous charms possessed,
A warm dispute once chanced to wage,
Whose temper was the best.
The worth of each had been complete,
Had both alike been mild:
But one, although her smile was sweet,
Frowned oftener than she smiled.
And in her humour, when she frowned,
Would raise her voice and roar,
And shake with fury to the ground
The garland that she wore.
The other was of gentler cast,
From all such frenzy clear, Her frowns were seldom known to last, And never proved severe.
To poets of renown in song
The nymphs referred the cause, Who, strange to tell, all judged it wrong, And gave misplaced applause.
They gentle called, and kind and soft,
The flippant and the scold,
And though she changed her mood so oft, That failing left untold.
No judges, sure, were e'er so mad,
Or so resolved to err
In short, the charms her sister had
They lavished all on her.
Then thus the god whom fondly they
Their great inspirer call,
Was heard, one genial summer's day,
To reprimand them all:
Since thus ye have combined," he said,
"My favourite nymph to slight,
Adorning May, that peevish maid,
With June's undoubted right,
"The minx shall, for your folly's sake,
Still prove herself a shrew,
Shall make your scribbling fingers ache,
And pinch your noses blue."
ON MRS. M. HIGGINS, OF WESTON.
LAURELS may flourish round the conqueror's tomb, But happiest they, who win the world to come: Believers have a silent field to fight,
And their exploits are veiled from human sight. They in some nook, where little known they dwell,
Kneel, pray in faith, and rout the hosts of hell;
Eternal triumphs crown their toils divine,
And all those triumphs, Mary, now are thine.
THE RETIRED CAT.
A POET's Cat, sedate and grave
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught the trick.
Nature perhaps herself had cast her
In such a mould PHILOSOPHIQUE,
Or else she learned it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair,
An apple-tree, or lofty pear,
Lodged with convenience in the fork,
She watched the gardener at his work;
Sometimes her ease and solace sought
In an old empty watering-pot,
There wanting nothing, save a fan,
To seem some nymph in her sedan,
Appareled in exactest sort,
And ready to be borne to court.
But love of change it seems has place
Not only in our wiser race;
Cats also feel, as well as we,
That passion's force, and so did she.
Her climbing, she began to find,
Exposed her too much to the wind,
And the old utensil of tin
Was cold and comfortless within:
She therefore wished, instead of those,
Some place of more serene repose,
Where neither cold might come, nor air
Too rudely wanton with her hair,
And sought it in the likeliest mode
Within her master's snug abode.
A drawer it chanced, at bottom lined
With linen of the softest kind,
With such as merchants introduce
From India, for the ladies' use;
A drawer impending o'er the rest,
Half open in the topmost chest,
Of depth enough, and none to spare,
Invited her to slumber there;
Puss with delight, beyond expression,
Surveyed the scene and took possession.
Recumbent at her ease, ere long,
And lulled by her own humdrum song,
She left the cares of life behind,
And slept as she would sleep her last,
When in came, housewifely inclined,
The chambermaid, and shut it fast,
By no malignity impelled,
But all unconscious whom it held.
Awakened by the shock, (cried puss)
"Was ever cat attended thus!
The open drawer was left, I see,
Merely to prove a nest for me,
For soon as I was well composed,
Then came the maid, and it was closed.
How smooth these 'kerchiefs, and how sweet!
Oh what a delicate retreat!
I will resign myself to rest
Till Sol declining in the west,
Shall call to supper, when, no doubt,
Susan will come, and let me out."
The evening came, the sun descended,
And puss remained still unattended.
The night rolled tardily away,
(With her indeed 'twas never day)
The sprightly morn her course renewed,
The evening gray again ensued,
And puss came into mind no more,
Than if entombed the day before;
With hunger pinched, and pinched for room,
She now presaged approaching doom.
Nor slept a single wink, nor purred,
Conscious of jeopardy incurred.
That night, by chance, the poet, watching,
Heard an inexplicable scratching;
His noble heart went pit-a-pat,
And to himself he said-" what's that?"
He drew the curtain at his side,
And forth he peeped, but nothing spied.