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1 WHILE envious crowds the summit view,
2 Where Danger with Ambition strays;
3 Or far, with anxious step, pursue
4 Pale Av'rice, thro' his winding ways;
5 The selfish passions in their train,
6 Whose force the social ties unbind,
7 And chill the love of human kind,
8 And make fond Nature's best emotions vain;
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9 O, POESY! O nymph most dear,
10 To whom I early gave my heart,
11 Whose voice is sweetest to my ear
12 Of aught in nature or in art;
13 Thou, who canst all my breast controul,
14 Come, and thy harp of various cadence bring,
15 And long with melting music swell the string
16 That suits the present temper of my soul.
17 O! ever gild my path of woe,
18 And I the ills of life can bear;
19 Let but thy lovely visions glow,
20 And chase the forms of real care;
21 O still, when tempted to repine
22 At partial Fortune's frown severe,
23 Wipe from my eyes the anxious tear,
24 And whisper that thy soothing joys are mine!
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25 When did my fancy ever frame
26 A dream of joy by thee unblest?
27 When first my lips pronounc'd thy name,
28 New pleasure warm'd my infant breast.
29 I lov'd to form the jingling rhyme,
30 The measur'd sounds, tho' rude, my ear could please,
31 Could give the little pains of childhood ease,
32 And long have sooth'd the keener pains of time.
33 The idle crowd in fashion's train,
34 Their trifling comment, pert reply,
35 Who talk so much, yet talk in vain,
36 How pleas'd for thee, O nymph, I fly!
37 For thine is all the wealth of mind,
38 Thine the unborrow'd gems of thought;
39 The flash of light by souls refin'd,
40 From heav'n's empyreal source exulting caught.
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41 And ah! when destin'd to forego
42 The social hour with those I love,
43 That charm which brightens all below,
44 That joy all other joys above,
45 And dearer to this breast of mine,
46 O Muse! than aught thy magic power can give,
47 Then on the gloom of lonely sadness shine,
48 And bid thy airy forms around me live.
49 Thy page, O SHAKESPEARE! let me view,
50 Thine! at whose name my bosom glows;
51 Proud that my earliest breath I drew
52 In that blest isle where SHAKESPEARE rose!
53 Where shall my dazzled glances roll?
54 Shall I pursue gay Ariel's flight?
55 Or wander where those hags of night
56 With deeds unnam'd shall freeze my trembling soul?
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57 Plunge me, foul sisters! in the gloom
58 Ye wrap around yon blasted heath:
59 To hear the harrowing rite I come,
60 That calls the angry shades from death!
61 Away my frighted bosom spare!
62 Let true Cordelia pour her filial sigh,
63 Let Desdemona lift her pleading eye,
64 And poor Ophelia sing in wild despair!
65 When the bright noon of summer streams
66 In one wide flash of lavish day,
67 As soon shall mortal count the beams,
68 As tell the powers of SHAKESPEARE'S lay!
69 O, Nature's Poet! the untaught,
70 The simple mind thy tale pursues,
71 And wonders by what art it views
72 The perfect image of each native thought.
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73 In those still moments, when the breast,
74 Expanded, leaves its cares behind,
75 Glows by some higher thought possest,
76 And feels the energies of mind;
77 Then, awful MILTON, raise the veil
78 That hides from human eye the heav'nly throng!
79 Immortal sons of light! I hear your song,
80 I hear your high-tun'd harps creation hail!
81 Well might creation claim your care,
82 And well the string of rapture move,
83 When all was perfect, good, and fair,
84 When all was music, joy, and love!
85 Ere Evil's inauspicious birth
86 Chang'd Nature's harmony to strife;
87 And wild Remorse, abhorring life,
88 And deep Affliction, spread their shade on earth.
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89 Blest Poesy! O, sent to calm
90 The human pains which all must feel,
91 Still shed on life thy precious balm,
92 And every wound of nature heal!
93 Is there a heart of human frame
94 Along the burning track of torrid light,
95 Or 'mid the fearful waste of polar night,
96 That never glow'd at thy inspiring name?
97 Ye Southern Isles,
* "The song of the bards or minstrels of Otaheite was unpremeditated, and accompanied with music. They were continually going about from place to place; and they were rewarded by the master of the house with such things as the one wanted, and the other could spare." Cook's Voyage.
emerg'd so late
98 Where the Pacific billow rolls,
99 Witness, though rude your simple state,
100 How heav'n-taught verse can melt your souls!
101 Say, when you hear the wand'ring bard,
102 How thrill'd ye listen to his lay,
103 By what kind arts ye court his stay,
104 All savage life affords his sure reward.
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105 So, when great HOMER'S chiefs prepare,
106 Awhile from War's rude toils releas'd,
107 The pious hecatomb, and share
108 The flowing bowl, and genial feast:
109 Some heav'nly minstrel sweeps the lyre,
110 While all applaud the poet's native art;
111 For him they heap the viand's choicest part,
112 And copious goblets crown the Muse's fire.
113 Ev'n here, in scenes of pride and gain,
114 Where faint each genuine feeling glows;
115 Here, Nature asks, in want and pain,
116 The dear illusions verse bestows;
117 The poor, from hunger, and from cold,
118 Spare one small coin, the ballad's price,
119 Admire their poet's quaint device,
120 And marvel much at all his rhymes unfold.
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121 Ye children, lost in forests drear,
122 Still o'er your wrongs each bosom grieves,
123 And long the red-breast shall be dear,
124 Who strew'd each little corpse with leaves;
125 For you my earliest tears were shed,
126 For you the gaudy doll I pleas'd forsook,
127 And heard, with hands uprais'd, and eager look,
128 The cruel tale, and wish'd ye were not dead!
129 And still on Scotia's northern shore,
130 "At times, between the rushing blast,"
131 Recording mem'ry loves to pour
132 The mournful song of ages past;
133 Come, lonely Bard "of other years!"
134 While dim the half-seen moon of varying skies,
135 While sad the wind along the grey moss sighs,
136 And give my pensive heart "the joy of tears!"
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137 The various tropes that splendour dart
138 Around the modern poet's line,
139 Where, borrow'd from the sphere of art,
140 Unnumber'd gay allusions shine,
141 Have not a charm my breast to please
142 Like the blue mist, the meteor's beam,
143 The dark-brow'd rock, the mountain stream,
144 And the light thistle waving in the breeze.
145 Wild Poesy, in haunts sublime,
146 Delights her lofty note to pour;
147 She loves the hanging rock to climb,
148 And hear the sweeping torrent roar!
149 The little scene of cultur'd grace
150 But faintly her expanded bosom warms;
151 She seeks the daring stroke, the awful charms,
152 Which Nature's pencil throws on Nature's face.
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153 O, Nature! thou whose works divine
154 Such rapture in this breast inspire,
155 As makes me dream one spark is mine
156 Of Poesy's celestial fire;
157 When doom'd, "in cities pent," to leave
158 The kindling morn's unfolding view,
159 Which ever wears some aspect new,
160 And all the shadowy forms of soothing eve;
161 Then, THOMSON, then be ever near,
162 And paint whatever season reigns;
163 Still let me see the varying year,
164 And worship Nature in thy strains;
165 Now, when the wint'ry tempests roll,
166 Unfold their dark and desolating form,
167 Rush in the savage madness of the storm,
168 And spread those horrors that exalt my soul!
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169 And, POPE the music of thy verse
170 Shall winter's dreary gloom dispel,
171 And fond remembrance oft rehearse
172 The moral song she knows so well;
173 The sportive sylphs shall flutter here,
174 There Eloise, in anguish pale,
175 "Kiss with cold lips the sacred veil,
176 " And drop with every bead too soft a tear! "
177 When disappointment's sick'ning pain
178 With chilling sadness numbs my breast,
179 That feels its dearest hope was vain,
180 And bids its fruitless struggles rest;
181 When those for whom I wish to live,
182 With cold suspicion wrong my aching heart;
183 Or, doom'd from those for ever lov'd to part,
184 And feel a sharper pang than death can give;
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185 Then with the mournful Bard I go,
186 Whom "melancholy mark'd her own,"
187 While tolls the curfew, solemn, slow,
188 And wander amid graves unknown;
189 With yon pale orb, lov'd poet, come!
190 While from those elms long shadows spread,
191 And where the lines of light are shed,
192 Read the fond record of the rustic tomb!
193 Or let me o'er old Conway's flood
194 Hang on the frowning rock, and trace
195 The characters that, wove in blood,
196 Stamp'd the dire fate of EDWARD'S race;
197 Proud tyrant! tear thy laurell'd plume;
198 How poor thy vain pretence to deathless fame!
199 The injur'd Muse records thy lasting shame,
200 And she has power to "ratify thy doom."
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201 Nature, when first she smiling came,
202 To wake within the human breast
203 The sacred Muse's hallow'd flame,
204 And earth, with heav'n's rich spirit blest!
205 Nature in that auspicious hour,
206 With awful mandate, bade the Bard
207 The register of glory guard,
208 And gave him o'er all mortal honours power.
209 Can Fame on Painting's aid rely?
210 Or lean on Sculpture's trophy'd bust?
211 The faithless colours bloom to die,
212 The crumbling pillar mocks its trust;
213 But thou, O Muse, immortal maid!
214 Canst paint the godlike deeds that praise inspire,
215 Or worth, that lives but in the mind's desire,
216 In tints that only shall with Nature fade!
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217 O tell me, partial nymph! what rite,
218 What incense sweet, what homage true,
219 Draws from thy fount of purest light
220 The flame it lends a chosen few?
221 Alas! these lips can never frame
222 The mystic vow that moves thy breast;
223 Yet by thy joys my life is blest,
224 And my fond soul shall consecrate thy name.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): AN ADDRESS TO POETRY.
Themes: poetry; literature; writing
Genres: address; ode

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Source edition

Poems on various subjects: with introductory remarks on the present state of science and literature in France. London: G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1823, pp. [3]-17. 

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

Other works by Helen Maria Williams