Hannah More (1745-1833), author, philanthropist, and Yearsley's early patron.
1 At this lone hour, when Nature silent lies,
2 And Cynthia, solemn, aids the rising scene,
3 Whilst Hydra-headed Care one moment sleeps,
4 And, listless, drops his galling chain to earth;
5 O! let swift Fancy plume her ruffled wing,
6 And seek the spot where sacred raptures rise;
7 Where thy mild form, relax'd in guiltless sleep,
8 Forgets to think, to feel; may dreams of bliss
9 Lull thy soft sense, nor paint the scene of woe,[Page 2]
10 I lately told; think not my spirit near,
11 Light airy shade, that would elude thine eye,
12 And shrink to nothing, conscious of thy worth.
13 Yet here I dare, in Fancy's boundless walk,
14 Invoke thy Muse, and hail thy song sublime.
15 Melpomene! thou sadly sighing maid!
16 Great Queen of Sorrows, in majestic weed,
17 Whose gayest airs are solemn sounds of woe;
18 Thou who awak'st fair Stella's soothing lay,
19 Soon as Aurora gilds the blushing East,
20 O lend thy aid, while thy soft votary sleeps,
21 And bid me boldly swell the artless line,
22 Lend me her pen, and guide my rustic hand,
23 To draw soft pity from the Tragic Tale,
24 Where goading misery drives her ploughshare deep;[Page 3]
25 Teach me to paint the tremors of the soul
26 In sorrow's deepest tints; assist the sigh,
27 And, with its breathings, swell the throbbing heart.
28 The tear-clad eye, when softer passions rush
29 T'assault the soul besieged by others' woe,
30 That eye where pity tips the pointed beam
31 With treble softness — Oh! that eye is hers.
32 The hoary hermit, chill'd by frigid rules,
33 Who totters on the hair-breadth verge of fate,
34 And dies an age that he may live for ever,
35 Would sudden stop, forgetful of the past,
36 Nor heed the future, list'ning to her song;
37 Her song, least part, her soaring spirit shares
38 An early Heaven, anticipates her bliss,
39 And quaffs nectareous draughts of joy sublime;[Page 4]
40 Beyond yon starry firmament she roves,
41 And basks in suns that never warm'd the earth;
42 Newtonian systems lag her rapid flight,
43 She pierces thro' his planetary worlds,
44 And, eager, grasps creations yet to be.
45 Ye busy World! what are your cobweb toils,
46 Your Sisyphéan labours? Infant piles,
47 To raise a bubble, which in air dissolves;
48 You toil an age to grasp the shining dust,
49 Death trips your heels, you throw it to the wind:
50 "Ah! let your irons on their anvils cool,"
51 And list a while to Stella's moral strain;
52 She'll teach thy eye in mental maze to creep,
53 Timid and trembling, to explore the past;
54 Alarm'd by her, the monitor within[Page 5]
55 Shall aid thy search, and bring thyself to view.
56 Examine deep; that secret arbitrator
57 Shall give thee self-applause or deep remorse.
58 Heav'n guard thee from that Harpy, never fill'd,
59 Still, still insatiate as the bird of Jove,
60 That deeply gores the breast for meals eternal,
61 Nor knows a glut from ever-growing food.
62 Still struggle, restless; sink to depths profound,
63 Nor ever own a thought beneath immortal;
64 As such Jehovah views thee in the dust,
65 As such he'll waft thee to the plains of Heaven.
66 What's Death? Like infants sick of senseless toys,
67 We sink to rest — awake to love and joy;
68 To love and joy awakes the ravish'd soul,
69 Who liv'd to virtue, and who own'd a God.
70 But, ah! too daring theme — Stella, assist! [Page 6]
71 My humble spirit waits your social hand,
72 Whose friendly beckon points to realms of bliss;
73 See, Stella soars, nor heeds my plaintive note,
74 Nor will the Muse assist my sluggard flight;
75 With rapture, see, she clasps her fav'rite maid,
76 And bids me fix where Science never dawn'd;
77 Hard, hard command! and yet I will obey;
78 Unaided, unassisted, will deplore
79 That learning, Heaven's best gift, is lost to me.
80 Cheerless and pensive o'er the wilds of life,
81 Like the poor beetle creep my hours away;
82 The journey clos'd, I shoot the gulf unknown,
83 To find a home, perhaps — a long lost mother.
84 How does fond thought hang on her much-lov'd name,
85 And tear each fibre of my bursting heart.
86 Ah! dear supporter of my infant mind,[Page 7]
87 Whose nobler precept bade my soul aspire
88 To more than tinsel joy; the filial tear
89 Shall drop for thee when pleasure loudest calls.
90 The dark sky lour'd, and the storms of life
91 Rose high with wildest roar; no voice was heard,
92 But Horror's dismal train affrights our souls.
93 For see, from the dark caverns of the deep,
94 Their griesly forms arise; the crown of Death
95 Shone horribly resplendent. See! they seize
96 A trembling, fainting, unresisting form,
97 Which hourly met their grasp: Ah! spare her yet.
98 See from the shore V— wafts his friendly hand;
99 He's born to bless, and we may yet be happy:
100 Quick let me clasp her to my panting heart,
101 And bear her swiftly o'er the beating wave.
102 In vain, in vain; some greater power unnerves[Page 8]
103 My feeble arm; inexorable Death,
104 Why wilt thou tear her from me? Oh! she dies,
105 Tho' V—'s dear name had lent a feeble glow
106 To her pale cheek, — she owns him, and expires.
107 Tremendous stroke! this is thy pastime, Fate:
108 If shrinking atoms thus thy vengeance feel,
109 What the grand stroke of final dissolution?
110 Believe me, gentle friend, I could complain;
111 But what avails the deep repining sigh?
112 How inexpressive of the heart-felt pang!
113 When Heav'n afflicts, none should oppose the plea,
114 For who shall hold the arm that thus has wreck'd me?
115 Say, bright Instructress! soother of the soul,
116 Whose flowing numbers, strong as Jesse's harp,[Page 9]
117 Despair ne'er heard, but loathing left the soul;
118 Dire fiend! whom sounds of joy could ne'er allure;
119 O say, for strong-eyed Faith has borne you far
120 Beyond the gloomy chambers of the grave;
121 Speak loudly to my late corrected soul,
122 That sure reward awaits the blameless mind;
123 Else will I give the strenuous struggle o'er,
124 Deny a V— as delegate of Heaven,
125 Throw up your Angel mind, as painted shade,
126 Or notion strong from early precept caught,
127 Rove thro' the maze of all-alluring sense,
128 And this side Jordan every hope shall fix:
129 Mere ravings all — these crude ideas die,
130 As Faith to Calvary's mount directs my view;
131 Nor will I lose, thus humbled as I am,
132 My dear-bought claim to Immortality. [Page 10]
133 Excuse me, Stella! lo, I guideless stray,
134 No friendly hand assists my wilder'd thought;
135 Uncouth, unciviliz'd, and rudely rough,
136 Unpolish'd, as the form thrown by by Heaven,
137 Not worth completion, or the Artist's hand,
138 To add a something more. Such is the mind
139 Which thou may'st yet illumine; 'tis a task
140 For Angels thus to raise the groveling soul,
141 And bid it pant for more than earthly bliss.
142 Then show Heaven's opening glories to my eyes;
143 And I will view thee as the fount of light,
144 Which pierc'd old Chaos to his depth profound,
145 While all his native horrors stood reveal'd.
146 Yet more I ask — Ah, Stella! aid my pen
147 To paint the grateful rapture, to describe[Page 11]
148 How the big heart, exulting, scarcely beats,
149 And joy too vast oppresses all the frame!
150 The extacy in languor leaves the soul,
151 And all her slacken'd faculties relax.
152 The web of Gratitude's so finely wrought,
153 Thought hardly dares to touch it; soft'ning time,
154 And frequent pauses, give it strength of growth,
155 E'en to oppression. Oh, delightful pain!
156 My soul wants firm support. The gloomy joy
157 I once preferr'd, and thought the nobler choice,
158 Has lost its relish; grand mistake of fools,
159 In sullen self absorb'd! Lo! far estrang'd
160 From social joy, I fix'd my woe-fraught eye
161 Where riches blaz'd upon a murky soul,
162 And serv'd to light its errors to the world;
163 I met th'ungenial influence, bright, but cold,[Page 12]
164 And, hardening by th'encounter, deep I sunk
165 Abstracted — Scorn and Silence led the way,
166 No matter whither: — The too gaudy Sun
167 Shines not for me; no bed of Nature yields
168 Her varied sweets; no music wakes the grove;
169 No vallies blow, no waving grain uprears
170 Its tender stalk to cheer my coming hour;
171 But horrid Silence broods upon my soul,
172 With wing deep-drench'd in Misery's torpid dews.
173 That heart which once had join'd the laughing train,
174 Whose guiltless rapture flew on Fancy's wing,
175 Nor once suspected thus to feel the gripe
176 Of iron-claw'd Despair, now yields to pangs,
177 To agonies more exquisite than Death;
178 That is — to live. O, Nature! shriek no more,
179 I have no answer for thy thrilling voice;[Page 13]
180 Go, melt the soul, less frozen in her pow'rs,
181 And bid her weep o'er miseries not her own;
182 Hold up the fainting babe who sighs its wants,
183 So mutely incoherent; mark the head
184 Which age and woe bend tremulous to earth;
185 Whose lamp, now quivering in the socket, calls
186 In haste for aid, ne'er finds it, and goes out.
187 Plead thou for those, but never talk of aid
188 For miseries like mine, which mock relief.
189 Thus desperately I reason'd, madly talk'd —
190 Thus horrid as I was, of rugged growth,
191 More savage than the nightly-prowling wolf;
192 She feels what Nature taught; I, wilder far,
193 Oppos'd her dictates — but my panting soul
194 Now shivers in the agony of change,[Page 14]
195 As insects tremble in the doubtful hour
196 Of transmigration; loth to lose the form
197 Of various tints, its fondly cherish'd pride;
198 Disrob'd like me they fall, and boast no more.
199 Stella, how strong thy gentle argument!
200 By the convinc'd, I scorn the iron lore,
201 The savage virtues of untutor'd minds:
202 In thy mild rhetoric dwells a social love
203 Beyond my wild conceptions, optics false!
204 Thro' which I falsely judg'd of polish'd life.
205 This is the sullen curse of surly souls,
206 To disbelieve the virtues which they feel not.
207 Ah, Stella! I'm a convert; thou hast tun'd
208 My rusting powers to the bright strain of joy:[Page 15]
209 My chill'd ideas quit their frozen pole
210 Of blank Despair, and, gently usher'd in
211 By grateful Rapture, meet thy genial warmth:
212 'Tis more than joy, or joy to an extreme;
213 Then teach my honest heart to feel more faint,
214 More moderate in her grateful change, or lend
215 Fair Elocution, who the Mimic aids,
216 To paint in brightest hues the unfelt joy.
217 Accept the wild and untaught rapture, form'd
218 From simple Nature, in her artless guise;
219 Yet in its wildness charming to excess
220 To souls like thine, distasteful to the vain,
221 Who relish nothing honest; nothing love
222 But flattering strains, trick'd out with every art
223 Of gaudy Eloquence, and trim Deceit.