1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

R. B. C., "To Mrs. Barbauld" Gentleman's Magazine 60 (February 1790) 163.



Why on yon bough neglected hangs the lyre,
That wak'd, by Stella charm'd, the listening throng;
Glow'd to her touch with Fancy's wildest fire,
Or softly, sweetly breath'd the moral song?

Ah, who like Thee can bid it sound again?
Can from its chords the mellow'd cadence fling?
And wherefore should the practis'd bard disdain
To pour her spirit on the trembling string?

Should Genius slumber on the couch of Ease,
Or active powers in indolence repose,
Vain were the gifts by Heav'n ordain'd to please,
To melt the heart, or dissipate its woes!

Not unemployed perhaps thy talents lie,
If looks, if converse fill the passing hour;
And rapid days may roll unheeded by,
While calm Retirement lulls Thee in her bower.

But shall thy life, no longer dear to Fame,
In Wisdom's secret vale unnotic'd glide;
Blest, tho' no triumphs swell thy wasted name,
If Learning's stores enrich the flowing tide?

Forbid it! every Virtue, every Muse,
That urg'd to public cares thy letter'd mind;
Taught their lov'd charge each favourite theme to chuse:
Her judgment fashion'd, and her taste refin'd.

Blest with their smiles, thy sense-illumin'd page
Could charm the serious and allure the gay;
With varied skill delight meridian Age,
Or chase the clouds from Reason's dawning ray.

Still may thy steps the brilliant track pursue!
To Honour's loftiest sleep with spirit soar!
Nor let the world receive thy last adieu,
Till Genius fires, and Fancy paints no more!

Shall Stella's powers the votive law fulfil?
Yes — the warm wish no longer is deny'd.
I see Thee lingering on the Muse's hill,
To cull fresh flowerets from its downy side.

These, from the public eye awhile conceal'd,
Shall round the sacred hearth their sweets dispense;
Or, haply, to some favour'd few reveal'd,
With native odours gratify their sense.

Yet ah! transplant them to a rougher soil!
Well may they brave the critic's frigid clime;
Their blazon'd charms will bless thy fostering toil,
Will load with honied wealth the sings of Time.

No common fate shall such sweet flowers attend,
But Fame shall snatch them from their lovely bed;
In one bright wreath their various beauties blend;
And place the roseate garland on thy head.