1752 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Susanna Duncombe

Thomas Edwards, "Ode, occasioned by a Lady's being burnt with Curling Irons" Nichols, Select Colletion (1780-84) 6:107-08.



Fair British ladies, whom with matchless charms
Profuse the daedal hand of nature stor'd,
So that for beauty ye're almost ador'd,
And in the lovely circle of your arms
Lies the chief earthly bliss, by Heaven design'd
To chear the toils and sorrows of mankind;

The lamp of Beauty was in Heaven first tin'd
To light us through this weary pilgrimage;
Then with due care preserve the precious gage,
As erst in native purity it shin'd;
Nor let adulterate Art its lustre hide,
For which ye far and near are glorified:

Both far and near your charms are glorified,
And with sweet tyranny despotic reign
In hearts of men, who hug the silken chain;
The merchant's wealth, the king's imperial pride,
The victor's laurel, poet's ivy crown,
All at your feet are laid submissive down.

O strike not dead with an heart-thrilling frown
Your faithful liegeman, while he begs you spare
Th' ambrosial tresses of your flowing hair,
Which Love, our common lord, asserts his own;
In them well pleas'd he lurks, and of them makes
Those subtle nets with which fond hearts he takes.

For Love's dread power, and for the Graces' sakes,
Let far away the murderous sheers be thrown,
Nor give those locks, the virgin's radiant crown,
To torturing fire which their fine texture breaks,
Drinks up their juice, and brings with quick decay
December's hoary badge on blooming May.

Let Gallia's dames, in borrow'd beauty gay,
Who o'er their cheeks the plaistering ceruse spread,
And youth's sweet flush disgrace with tawdry red,
In nature's spite make artful ringlets play;
And when the fire denies its wonted aid,
With purchas'd curls their faded temples shade:

In native charms secure, the British maid
Should trust to Nature; since to her she owes
Th' unsullied lily, and the glowing rose;
Let her point out how best may be display'd
Those beaming glories, which her hand has shed
With various bounty on the beauteous head.

[Samuel Richardson to Thomas Edwards, 21 February 1752: "That careless girl, who has often set the hearts of young fellows on fire, and warmed herself by it, the other day set herself in a blaze with her torturing curling-irons. She has scorched her left-hand and arm, and her neck; for her papers first, and her handkerchief, or neckerchief, which is it to be called? took fire, and without a Jove she made herself another Semele. She is, however, in a fair way of recovering from mischief. Chide her, for a warning to her sex, in verse. Has she not been often warned by her mother against playing with fire? Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 3:34-35.]