An EPISTLE to a LADY.
1 WHEN the heart akes with anguish, pines with grief,
2 And heav'n and you alike deny relief;
3 When ev'n the flatt'rer Hope is no where found,
4 'Tis hard to feel the smart, and not lament the wound.
5 Permit me then to sigh one last adieu,
6 Nor scorn a sorrow friendship owes to you:
7 A friendship modesty might well return;
8 A sorrow, cruelty itself might mourn.
9 Think how the miser, pierc'd with inward pain,
10 Looks down with horror on the troubled main,
11 Or wildly roams along the rocky coast,
12 T' explore his treasures in the tempest lost;[Page 200]
13 Hates his own safety, chides the waves that roll'd
14 Himself ashore, but sunk his dearer gold.
15 Like him afflicted, pensive, and forlorn,
16 I look on life and all its pomp with scorn.
17 You was the sweetner of each busy scene;
18 You gave the joy without, the pain within.
19 Pleasure and you were both so near ally'd,
20 That when I lost the one, the other dy'd;
21 Pain too has lavish'd all her killing store;
22 Nor can she add, nor can I suffer more.
23 In vain I view'd you with as chaste a fire,
24 As angels mingle, or as saints admire;
25 By reason prompted, passion had no part,
26 A virtuous ardour, that refin'd the heart.
27 In vain I sought a friendship free from fault,
28 Where sex and beauty were alike forgot:
29 A friendship by the noblest union join'd,
30 The female softness, and the manly mind.
31 Courage to conquer evils, or endure:
32 Sweetness to sooth the pain, and smiles to cure.
33 Scandal, a busy fiend, in Truth's disguise,
34 Like Fame all cover'd o'er with ears and eyes,
35 Learns the fond tale, and spreads it as she flies;
36 Nor spreads alone, but alters, adds, defames,
37 Affects to pity, tho' her duty blames;
38 Feigns not to credit all she sees or hears,
39 But hopes the evil only in her fears;[Page 201]
40 Pretends to weigh the fact in even scale,
41 And wish, at least, that justice may prevail;
42 Insinuates, dissembles, lyes, betrays,
43 Plays the whole hypocrite such various ways,
44 That Innocence itself must suffer wrong,
45 And Honour bleed the prey of Slander's tongue.
46 Such is my fate, so grievous my distress,
47 Condemn'd to suffer, but deny'd redress:
48 Too fond of joy, too sensible of pain,
49 To part with all that's dear, and not complain:
50 Too delicate to injure what I love,
51 To ask the pity fame will ne'er approve.
52 What more remains, then, but to drop my claim,
53 And by my conduct justify my flame?
54 Burst the dear bands that to my heart-strings join,
55 And sacrifice my peace to purchase thine?
56 As the fond mother, who delirious eyes
57 Her dying babe, will scarce believe it dies;
58 But strains it still with transport in her arms,
59 Dwells on its lips and numbers o'er its charms;
60 Pleads that it slumbers, and expects, in vain,
61 To see the little cherub live again:
62 So my torn heart must all the sorrows prove
63 That torture constancy, or sadden love:
64 Yet fondly follow your dear image still,
65 Fancy I hear you speak, I see you smile:
66 Doat on a phantom, idolize the name,
67 And wish the shade and substance were the same.
68 Alas! how fruitless is the idle pray'r!
69 The joy's imagin'd, real the despair.
70 Like Adam forc'd his Eden to forego,
71 I lose my only paradise below,
72 And dread the prospect of succeeding woe.