1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Hannah Cowley ("Anna Matilda"), "To Della Crusca" 1788; The World (26 February 1789).



Whilst I danced gailey in the round
Of Folly, on her fairey ground;
And play'd, and sung, and laugh'd away
The feath'ry hours of Life's short day,
Thy INVOCATION, like the flame
Which starts from the Electric Frame,
Struck on my Heart! I sigh'd, I turn'd,
And ANNA yet for DELLA CRUSCA mourn'd.
When WOUNDED PRIDE suffused its blush,
And o'er my Nerves its tremors rush.

Ne'er will I "leave my secret Bower
To cheer thy melancholy hour."
Secure within I will remain,
And smile at thy factitious pain;
And when thy Poetry so sweet
Shall next my wandering glances meet,
I'll spare a Sigh to moments fled,—
But ANNA shall to thee be dead.
See — to my Couch I laughing turn—
Poetic Passions vainly burn!
The freshest Rose-leaves for my head
Shall form a blushing scented Bed;
The elastic Camomile unprest
Invite the sick'ning Heart to rest:
FLORA shall every gift shower round,
And bid her bright gems deck the ground.

The MYRTLE only there
Shall ne'er unfold its od'rous Boughs;
Ne'er flaunt its Blossoms fair
Frail, and alluring as thy vows!
'Tis LOVE'S devoted Tree—
Oh! bid it seek some other home,
Nor spread its sweets for Me,
Nor shed its Poison round my Dome!

Hah! didst thou hope I should not trace
The mental features of thy Face?
Didst thou believe the thickest veil
Could DELLA CRUSCA'S brow conceal?
Oh! how impossible a task
To hide thy radiance in a Mask!
Thy living fires destroy the Skreen,
Thou stand'st confest! — thy form is seen!

Yes, write to LAURA! speed thy Sighs,
Tell her, her DELLA CRUSCA dies;
In sweetest measures sing thy woes,
And speak thy hot LOVE'S ardent throes;—
And when it next shall please your Heart
Towards some other Fair to start,
The gentle Maiden's vers'd in cures,
For every ill, fond Love endures.
She drinks Oblivion to its pains—
And vows to stain her pallid cheek
With juices of Red Grapes so sleek,
And sings adieus in Bacchanalian strains.
FALSE Lover! TRUEST Poet! now farewell!

Hark! in yon Curfew's sound is toll'd the knell
Of our departed Loves. The pensive tale
The surging aether floats across the Vale;
The Elegiac Sound, sooths my sad Ear,
And the moist Lid sustains a trembling Tear.
The Crimson Veil which deck'd yon Mountain's brow,
And glided into gentlest tints, but now,
Already blackens down its swelling side,
And soon the Beauties of the Plain will hide—
The outstretch'd Beauties! where salubrious TOIL
Calls Food and Riches from the sterile Soil.
O! wond'rous Magic! shall great Labour's name
Remain unhallow'd by the Voice of Fame?
CREATIVE LABOUR! whose all bounteous hand
Drops Flowers, and Fruits, and Forests o'er the Land;
Who bids th' indented River curving fly,
Or fix, a silv'ry Lake beneath the Eye!

But these all sink before the falling Night—
Who tries to seize the flitting beams of Light;
But the proud Light its am'rous touch eludes,
And a dim shadow o'er the Landscape broods.
Soft, drizling Rain, the patter'd Trees confess,
And chilling Breezes on my Bosom press.
My Hair, whose curls late floated o'er my Breast,
Weighty with moisture, cling around my vest—
Where — Where's the Hand to press those Tresses dry,
The fond, encircling Arm — the cheering Eye?
Why sigh the Winds tumultuous thro' the Woods,
Why weeps the Night in such impetuous Floods?
It is the loss of DELLA CRUSCA'S Muse,
Which thus with sorrow ev'ry Plant imbues;
For never shall again his "Golden Quill,"
With Magic Passion ev'ry Bosom thrill.
He yet may write, but ANNA 'twas alone
Lured down his guardian Goddess from her Throne;
And charm'd his Heart with bright Poetic Lore,
Prophetic, thus his future Hist'ry read,
And wreathed it in the Laurels for his Head:
"If false, MATILDA'S Heart thou e'er shouldst wring,
And to another Nymph presume to sing,
My Inspiration thou no more shalt know—
My Fire in Thee, no more divinely flow!"
The GODDESS spoke — her Words were mark'd by fate,
And DELLA CRUSCA mourns his ANNA'S wrongs, too late!
December 22, 1788.