1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah Cowley

Laura, "To Anna Matilda" The World (6 March 1789).



O ANNA, since thy graceful Song,
Can wind the cadence soft among
The HEART'S fine Nerves — and ravish thence
The wond'ring POET'S captive Sense;
'Till warm'd by the electric fire,
His yielding soul, with fond desire,
Glows but for THEE — dispel thy fears,
Nor stain thy downy cheek with tears.
O quit thy easy-pillow'd bed,
Pluck the dank Willow from thy head;
Again with native lustre shine,
And round thy polish'd brow, th' unfading Myrtle twine.

Subdue the haggard Witch, whose em'rald eye,
Darts fell REVENGE, and pois'nous JEALOUSY;
Mark, where amidst her ebon hair,
The scaly Serpent mingling twine,
While darting thro' th' infected air,
The murd'rous vapours thine!

O turn thee, ANNA, quickly turn
Where DELLA CRUSCA'S torch shall burn
For THEE alone; — his Lyre is strung
To the soft Music of thy Tongue;
No Verse of MINE, his Song inspir'd;
Thy strains so lov'd — so long admir'd,
Still vibrate in his glowing heart,
Where every chord is tun'd, to THY Poetic Art.

Ah! let me, let me seek repose,
Where Sorrow steals to weep her woes;
Deep in some cave, or craggy cell,
Where the lone SCREECH-OWL loves to dwell.

My chearless couch I'll spread,
While spangled with the Midnight dew,
The Nightshade, and the baneful Yew,
Shall wind about my head.

There will I breathe a strain forlorn,
And like a ling'ring Wintry Morn,
Pale, and with ebbing rays appear,
Cold glimm'ring thro' a crystal tear.

Yet let me DELLA CRUSCA'S strain admire,
Still gaze with hallow'd rapture on his fire;
List his soft Notes, of melting mood,
Sweeter than Ring-dove ever coo'd,
Tuneful as METASTASIO'S tongue,
Or glowing PETRARCH'S witching Song.

I feel no wish, no selfish joy,
Another's raptures to destroy,
AMBITION is not worth the name,
That meanly shines with borrow'd fame.
No counterfeited bliss, my heart shall own,
The conscious mourner sighs, for PETRARCH'S vows alone.

Since his lov'd voice first caught my ear,
Oft have I try'd to calm my woe,
Oft, have I brush'd away the tear—
The tear his numbers taught to flow.

I seize the Lyre, to soothe my grief,
Court mazy Science for relief;
Vain is the effort, 'tis in vain—
THE SOFT VIBRATION FILLS MY BRAIN;
Burns thro' each aching nerve, with poignant smart,
And riots careless in my bleeding heart.

'Tis not "the Bacchanalian strain"
Can draw the sick'ning soul from pain;
The "brew'd enchantment's" poison fell!
The mellow grape's nectarious juice
Suits the base mind — its baneful use
Throw's o'er the sense a torpid spell.

But LETHE'S pure and limpid stream,
Wakes the rapt soul, from Passion's dream,
'Tis THERE my breast shall seek repose,
And "drink Oblivion to its woes."