1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charlotte Smith

Pastor Fido, "On Passing the Retreat of Charlotte Smith, near Chichester, in Sussex" The World (7 August 1788).



O! sacred be this calm sequester'd SEAT,
And blest the Spot that claims so soft a Care!
Sacred, that gives to VIRTUE a retreat;
And blest, that shields a persecuted FAIR!

I past the Spot: — 'twas rustic and recluse,
The Roof was lowly, and the Fields were rude,
Where liv'd, who VIRTUE lov'd, who lov'd the MUSE;
There flown for Safety and for Solitude.

Beneath the Covert of an aged Tree,
Whose Foliage wide o'erspread the daisi'd Green,
Her lowly Head reclining on her Knee;
She sate alone — unwilling to be seen.

She seem'd as tho' her All on Earth were flown,
Nor car'd she now for all that Earth could bring,
Nor mov'd her Eyes to greet the cheering Sun,
To smile on NATURE, or salute the SPRING.

And all around, upon the tender Grass,
Her little Children play'd in Gambols Fair;
Unconscious they of Woes they have to pass,
Regret unknowing, and devoid of Care.

And as around they led the devious Dance,
Or Flow'rets pick'd, or join'd in Frolicks near;
Oft would her Eyes enjoy a thoughtless Glance,
She oft would Smile — and Smiling drop a Tear.

I saw her Face, it pierc'd me to the Soul,
DEJECTION on her Brow was seated high;
Wan CARE her lovely Cheeks had ravag'd foul,
And bitter Anguish beam'd within her Eye.

I heard her Voice, and it was Music still,
And who unmov'd at such sweet sounds could be;
Lost now the Sprightlier Notes, the rapt'rous thrill,
But tun'd to Tones of Plaintive Malady.

"Play on, (she cried) unmindful of your fate,
For why should INFANCY a pang sustain?
May Heav'n your joys prolong to latest date,
And give a pleasure for my every pain.

"For me, what now avails that NATURE blest,
That Genius warm'd, that Taste enrich'd my Mind;
Can these the wayward strokes of Fate Arrest?
Or move a HUSBAND, faithless and unkind?

"Nought now remains but all the live-long day,
To waste my hours in Woe and Sorrows pale;
And still at Night, to take my lonely way,
And by the Moon-beam woo the NIGHTINGALE."