1766 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Darwall

B. F., "To Miss Whately on her Poems" Gentleman's Magazine 36 (April 1766) 188-89.



When female softness tunes the warbling lyre
To amorous strains, it ravishes the soul;
It in our hearts excites the genial fire,
And sacred transports o'er our bosoms roll;

Whately, thy moving lays this truth declare,
I feel their influence, and its power I own,
For they are soft and sweet as evening air
Yet chaste as pure Diana's virgin zone;

But when thy muse to loftier themes aspires
And mounts on tow'ring contemplation's wings
To heaven, thy numbers glow with nobler fires,
And lift the soul above terrestrial things.

Go on, bright maid, instruct the British fair,
To be, like thee, exalted and refin'd,
Bid them, forsake the toilette's idle cares,
And learn to improve and cultivate the mind;

Ah! little do they know what bliss attends
The culture of the mind (our noblest part;)
Wisdom well pleas'd the arduous toil befriends,
And knowledge opes her treasures to the heart.

Whately these rude unpolish'd lines excuse
Which inharmonious flow, tho' you inspire
In vain I try to sing, the unskillful muse
Attempts in vain to tune the jarring lyre.

I adulation's soothing eloquence
Detest, the dictates of my heart I write,
Stranger to speech refin'd, to lofty sense,
And all the gay impertinence of wit,

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Unbless'd with learning's scientific ray;
By virtue's laws I regulate my life,
And in thy paths, O simple nature, stray;

Yet oft when night extends her brownest shade,
And takes, with solemn pace, her silent round;
Me, tuneful bards thro' fancy's regions lead,
And the mind wanders o'er inchanted ground:

Now my rapt soul with Milton's muse ascends,
And seems to visit empyreal skies,
And now to Pope's harmonious lyre attends,
And now o'er Otway's melting music dies.

With thee, too, tuneful maid, I often rove,
Delighted, o'er Ambarra's fragrant vale;
Explore the cool recesses of the grove,
And listen to the turtle's plaintive tale,

Or lie beside some murmuring cascade
While to my view, elysian scenes appear,
When thy sweet lyre, soft warbling from the glade
To heavenly strains attun'd, salutes my ear.

Borne on Favonian gales, the chearful notes
Fraught with the sweetest harmony, arise
Trembling in ambient air, the musick floats,
And with a soft and gentle cadence dies.

On thee, may Phoebus and the sacred nine,
Still liberally their choicest gifts bestow;
Thy future lays with equal lustre shine,
And bid the virtuous breast with rapture glow.

Nor pain, nor care disturb thy musing hours,
Nor in thy heart grief fix its direful sting,
Nor adverse fate, depress thy souls bright powers,
Nor spoil thy draught at the Pierian spring.
Shipton upon Stour, Worcestershire.