1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, "Verses" General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer (3 July 1782).



Mr. Sheridan meeting Miss Linley, now Mrs. Sheridan, at the entrance of a Grotto in the vicinity of Bath, took the liberty of offering her some advice, with which apprehending that she was displeased, he left the following lines in the Grotto the next day:

Uncouth is this moss-cover'd grotto of stone,
And damp is the shade of this dew-dripping tree;
Yet I this rude grotto with rapture will own,
And, willow, thy damps are refreshing to me.

For this is the grotto where Delia reclin'd,
As late I in secret her confidence sought;
And this is the tree kept her safe from the wind,
As blushing she heard the grave lesson I taught.

Then tell me thou grotto of moss-cover'd stone,
And tell me thou willow with leaves dropping dew,
Did Delia seem vex'd when Horatio was gone?
And did she confess her resentment to you?

Methinks now each bough, at you're waving it, tries
To whisper a cause for the sorrow I feel;
To hint how she frown'd when I dar'd to advise,
And sigh'd when she saw that I did it with zeal.

True, true, silly leaves, so she did, I allow;
She frown'd, but no rage in her looks could I see:
She frown'd, but reflection had clouded her brow;
She sigh'd, but, perhaps, 'twas in pity to me.

Then wave thy leave brisker, thou willow of woe;
I tell thee, no rage in her looks could I see:
I cannot, I will not, believe it was so;
She was not, she could not, be angry with me.

For well did she know that my heart meant no wrong;
It sunk at the thought of but giving her pain:
But trusted its task to a fault'ring tongue,
Which err'd from the feelings it could not explain.

Yet, oh! if indeed I've offended the maid;
If Delia my humble monition refuse;
Sweet willow, the next time she visits thy shade,
Fan gently her bosom, and plead my excuse.

And thou stony grot, in thy arch may'st preserve
Two lingering drops of the night-fallen dew;
And just let them fall at her feet, and they'll serve
As tears of my sorrow intrusted to you.

Or lest they unheeded should fall at her feet,
Let them fall on her bosom of snow; and I swear
The next time I visit thy moss-cover'd seat,
I'll pay thee each drop with a genuine tear.

So may'st thou, green willow, for ages thus toss
Thy branches so lank o'er the slow-winding stream;
And thou, stony grotto, retain all thy moss,
While yet there's a poet to make thee his theme.

Nay more — may my Delia still give you her charms
Each evening, and sometimes the whole evening long;
Then, grotto, be proud to support her white arms,
Then, willow, wave all thy green tops to her song.