1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah More

Chiron, "To H. M. on her appearing in the character of a Shepherdess of the Alps, at a late Masquerade" St. James's Chronicle (21 July 1774).



A tender Tale, O Hannah, wilt thou hear,
That makes thine aged Shepherd's Heart full gay?
Tho' length of Days untuned hath his Ear,
And stole his easy Melody away;
Yet shalt thou once indulge what once was dear,
And sigh to think how many a sweeter Lay
The Harpy Hands of TIME and DEATH have snatch'd away!

O Hannah, late o'er this sequester'd Wild
Sought my sad Steps for ev'ry mournful Shade,
All wrapt in Sorrow, for a long-lov'd Child
That, hapless, from her Father's Fields had stray'd,
And, oh! said I, what Caitiff has beguil'd,
With Wizard Arts, my unsuspecting Maid?
And to the baneful Lures of courtly Haunts betray'd.

Long griev'd my Heart, and Cause had I to grieve
For her, the Pride of these distinguish'd Plains;
For her would oft Sabrina deign to leave
Her purple Waves, and listen to her Strains;
For her would oft the hoary Avon weave
Fair Flowers, collected with ingenious Pains,
From Banks where Shakespeare dream'd in Slumber's Fairy Chains.

With Happiness her tuneful Lay began,
With early Virtue, and each moral Care;
And well could she each Female Folly scan,
And teach the thoughtless Elfin to beware.
Ah, me! said I, that e'er so fair a Plan
Like Fancy's Fabrics, should dissolve in Air!
Where now her "peaceful Shades," her "Solitudes," ah! where?

Oft has she sung, that in the "humble Shed,"
Far from the specious Walks of splendid Care,
Fair Peace resides, "from Courts and Cities fled,"
And cherishes the silent Virtues there:
And still with these her gentle Life she led—
Then, Woe the Thought! that ever Life so fair,
Should to the bashful Lures of courtly Haunts repair!

Thus in the Shade of MENDIP'S Mountains wild,
I wak'd the Lyre, and fondly fed my Woe;
And oft the Muse that wayward Woe beguil'd,
And lent me soothing Strains, and Accents slow;
When late a lovely Form, advancing, smil'd,
"And, Swain, she cry'd, thy tender Grief forgoe,
Nor for thy Laura lost, let fancy'd Sorrows flow.

"She is not lost — Shepherd, she treads the Plain,
She winds the Hills, and wakes the vocal Glade;
Yet not where AVON murmurs to the Main,
Nor on SABRINA'S Margin hath she stray'd,
In other Fields she joins the choral Train,
Where RHOETIAN hills the neighb'ring Skies invade,
And ALPINE Fairies dance along the star-light Shade.

"O, wilds of RHOETIA! with her Presence bless'd,
Your Mountains melt their everlasting Snow,
Bare their green Bosoms for so great a Guest,
And ATHESIS essays a softer Flow.
At her soft Lay your ruder Voice shall rest,
Ye Storms that o'er TELLINA'S Valley blow,
And ADDA'S angry Waves roll indolently slow."

She said, and o'er my languid Temples threw
A Wreath of Flow'rs my Laura's Hand had twin'd;
Right well the Fancy of that Wreath I knew,
And with sweet Hope allay'd my anxious Mind;
Happy my lovely Shepherdess to view
In foreign Scenes, for nobler Fame design'd,
Than dies in Mendip's Shades, dies on the murm'ring Wind.