1784 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Helen Maria Williams

Eliza, "To Miss Helen Maria Williams: on her Poem of Perus" Gentleman's Magazine 54 (July 1784) 532.



Accept, fair Helen, from a grateful heart,
The willing praise which sympathy bestows;
And let my feeble pen, those thanks impart,
With which delighted fancy warmly glows.

While others waste their smiling youthful hours,
In dissipation's light fantastic maze;
You in a bright display of mental pow'rs,
Burst on our reason, and command our praise.

Your polish'd verse with ev'ry beauty shines,
Which just design and harmony can give;
While brilliant fancy decorates your lines,
And in your sentiment doth feeling live.

A country ravag'd, yields a theme of woe,
For all that can affect the human soul:
Where each fond tie must force the tear to flow,
And griefs to rise which will not bear controul.

Your hoary Sires, our veneration claim,
Your youthful heroes, with their ardor charm;
Your nymphs on virtue build a lasting name,
Your matrons with the tend'rest feelings warm.

When soft description at your call draws nigh,
For love, you can command what dress you please,
While ardent hope — while ev'ry trembling sigh,
Aided by you, full on our passions seize.

And when Alzira mourns a father slain,
Or frantic, gazes on a slaughter'd Lord:
With her we feel each agonizing pain,
With her we snatch th' already reeking sword.

Or when the Priest before the altar falls,
And pity in a child's despair would plead;
How loud the impious deed for vengeance calls?
And Zilla's mis'ry makes our bosoms bleed.

But as a mother when thy Cora mourns,
When on her breast the languid babe reclines;
What various passions seize the heart by turns?
What tender sympathy the soul refines?

Thou, who so well, sharp misery canst paint,
Thou, who so sweetly canst the passions lead;
May all thy hours be kept from keen complaint,
And from love's griefs thy gentle breast be freed.

But should misfortune, that intrusive guest,
E'er cloud so fair, so bright a morning sun:
Should you with sad affliction be oppress'd,
E'er yet you finish life so well begun:

May some Las Casas' child of Heaven be near,
To soothe with pity thy soul refin'd:
To blend with thine the sympathetic tear,
And pour soft consolation o'er thy mind.
Woolwich, June 25.