1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lucy Peacock

Jane West, "To Miss C—e, with The Adventures of the Six Princesses of Babylon" Miscellaneous Poems (1791) 122-27.



A King, dear Matilda, reign'd;
'Tis a fabulous legend I quote—
Six daughters he had whom a Fairy maintain'd;
Then Fairies were people of note.
Of droll Robin Goodfellow often you've heard,
Benigna was one of his sort;
But wisdom and virtue by her were conferr'd—
Little Robin taught junkets and sport.

These 'foresaid young ladies, observe they'd no brothers,
Were handsome as — stop, I've forgot;
I could mention their likeness if writing to others;
To you, I believe, I'd best not.
Now the Fairy, regardless of beauty and birth,
Bade them only in virtue seek fame,
For rank she affirm'd was enobled by worth,
And I know your Mamma says the same.

In an elegant grotto, sequester'd and cool,
Long time she her pupils did teach:
But when they were old enough all to quit school,
She allotted a journey to each.
Miranda was clever — I doubt she was idle,
So the Fairy, that fault to restrain,
For discipline bad inclinations will bridle,
Desir'd her a distaff to gain.

What a princess to spin? I assure you I'm grave.
This distaff had powers would surprize you;
It was Industry call'd, health and riches it gave,
And to gain it I strongly advise you.
The lady Florisa possess'd a good heart,
But her temper her virtues obscur'd;
She would often be sullen, or answer so tart,
That her manners could scarce be endur'd.

Now her excellent governess knew of a river,
Which lay in a country far fam'd,
One draught of which courteous demeanour would give her,
Good Humour the river was named.
So the Fairy bestow'd a gold bottle upon her,
And told her what course to pursue;
But when she return'd, I declare on my honour,
I should hardly have known her from you.

Clementina, in all the warm ardour of youth,
From the grotto exulting tripp'd forth,
Her charge was to fetch, from the genius of truth,
A spear of unparallel'd worth.
Poor damsel full often she met with mischance,
By the magic of falshood deceiv'd;
But firm resolution procur'd her the lance,
The same you from Nature receiv'd.

By Bonetta the Mantle of meekness was worn,
Its whiteness the snow might express;
It was bright as the lustre that waits on the morn,
Don't you long for this elegant dress?
Allow me to mention one property more,
All who saw these fair dames did declare,
Though Bonetta was rather hard-featur'd before,
She now seem'd transcendently fair.

Of narrow soul'd Avarice doubtless you've heard,
It is selfish, and odious, and mean;
Its contrast, Profusion, is rash and absurd,
But there lies a sweet virtue between.
To prove it, when free from fictitious pretence,
A wonderful magnet was wrought;
This talisman, sacred to judgement and sense,
By lovely Orinda was sought.

Would you know her adventures at large, pray pursue her,
She gives a delightful narration;
It was found by a gallant young Knight, and brought to her
On a shield which he call'd Moderation.
Thus five of these ladies their wishes achiev'd,
At last your young name-sake was sent;
She too, from Benigna, a mandate receiv'd,
'Twas to fetch the white wand of Content.

Disappointment, ingratitude, envy, and grief,
Did many a peril devise;
But a cherub, nam'd Innocence, brought her relief,
And with chearfulness gave her the prize.
And now to Benigna the travellers came,
The reward of their toils to receive;
She gave them, I know you will wish for the same,
Bright virtue's unperishing wreath.

Now was I a Fairy, I vow I would send
To Matilda this magical wealth;
But as I am not, I'll intreat my young friend
To tray to acquire it herself.
The distaff, the mantle, the spear, and the wand,
The magnet, and river, so rare,
Your Mamma, my dear girl, has them all at command,
And can tell you at once where they are.

For the wreath which Benigna procur'd by her art,
You need not to Fairies appeal;
For the moment these qualities glow in your heart,
Your brow the bright cincture will feel.
To speed your exertions, I'll tell you a truth,
Disclos'd by Experience the sage;
Without them you'll never know the pleasures of youth,
Nor the rational comforts of age.