Five irregular stanzas by the Swan of Lichfield that imitate Lycidas in the graveyard mode. General Richard Vyse (1746-1825) had paid court to Anna Seward in 1765 before marrying a wealthier lady, who died in childbirth a year later.
Author's note: "This poem was written the day before the lady's funeral, and in view of the villa where she died, in the Vale of Stowe, near Lichfield" (1810) 1:104n.
Walter Scott: "Miss Seward was in practice trained and attached to that school of picturesque and florid description, of lofty metaphor and bold personification, of a diction which inversion and the use of compound epithets rendered as remote as possible from the tone of ordinary language, which was introduced, or at least rendered fashionable, by Darwin, but which was too remote from common life, and natural expression, to retain its popularity. Yet her taste, though perhaps over-dazzled by the splendour which she adopted in her own compositions, readily admitted the claims of Pope, Collins, Gray, Mason, and of all those bards who have condescended to add the graces of style and expression to poetical thought and imagery. But she particularly demanded beauty, elegance, or splendour of language; and was unwilling to allow that sublimity or truth of conception could atone for poverty, rudeness, or even simplicity, of expression. To Spenser, and the poets of his school, she lent a very unwilling ear; and what will, perhaps, best explain my meaning, she greatly preferred the flowing numbers and expanded descriptions of Pope's Iliad to Cowper's translation, which approaches nearer to the simple dignity of Homer. These peculiarities of taste, Miss Seward was always ready to defend; nor was it easy for the professors of an opposite faith to sustain either the art of her arguments, or the authorities which her extensive acquaintance with the best British classics readily supplied" Memoir in Seward, Poetical Works (1810) 1:xxv-vi.
'Tis gloom, and silence all! — where late so gay
The strains of pleasure in each gale were borne;
Where white-robed Truth had fix'd her stedfast sway,
And love's bright florets deck'd the rising morn.
How constantly, beneath yon shade,
The little, rosy Comforts play'd!
While to the warblings of the plumy choir
Responsive transport struck her golden lyre!—
Thou dashing stream, swift hurrying down the glade,
Oft has thy clear and sparkling wave convey'd
The balmy whispers tender thoughts inspire,
As shed the bridal star its gay enamour'd fire.
Now through the vale a sullen stillness reigns,
The shades embrown'd by woe,
Frown o'er the house of death! — the blasted plains
No more with beauty glow!
Or is it Sorrow's misty shower
That dims the hue of every flower,
Draws from the lake the livid gleam,
And hears the ominous raven scream?—
Round Anna's bower the damps of horror rise,
And shroud the splendours of the azure skies,
Since she, who brighten'd summer's charms,
Is torn in life's gay bloom,
From young Ricardo's widow'd arms,
The victim of the tomb.
To that loved bower she shall no more return!
Bend your dark tops, ye pines, and guard her sacred urn!
Ah! gentle pair, your bliss was too refined,
Too subtly sweet, too exquisite to last;
For ne'er shall man unfading pleasures find,
Where Grief, and Pain, may breathe the withering blast.
How dire the ravage in that hour
When sunk, beneath their baleful power,
Each joy, bright springing from congenial taste,
From warm impassion'd Love, from Friendship chaste;
From Plenty, summon'd by approving Fate,
To glide serenely through your open gate;
From all that softens life, from all that cheers,
And nurses Eden's rose in this chill vale of tear.
Rash man was made to mourn: — exempt alone
Who transport ne'er have felt;
Whose hearts, girt round by Dulness' leaden zone,
Nor Love, nor Pity melt;
On whose dead calm of vacant hours
Nor Rapture beams, nor Anguish lours.—
Lone mourner o'er thy Anna's grave,
Since Youth and Love were weak to save,
Thy fruitless sorrows with this truth controul,
Soft whispering to thy fond, thy faithful soul,
That all the woes, which shroud thy noon-tide rays,
Bend thee to earth, and lay thy prospects waste;
Are borne for her, whose fair, unclouded days
Of wintry storm had never felt the blast;
The large arrears of grief she must have paid,
Had she not early sunk in death's eternal shade.
O! think, had fell disease assaulted thee,
The rushing fever, or the slow decline,
These sufferings had been hers-this agony
Wrung her mild bosom, that now tortures thine;
And shall not her far happier doom
Gild, with its seraph rays, thy gloom?
Since sun-eyed Faith empowers thee to pervade
The dreary grave's incumbent shade;
Lift its dark curtains from the regions bright,
And see thy love ascend her throne of light,
Where bliss, that ne'er shall end, and ne'er can cloy,
Succeeds your nuptial year of seldom equall'd joy.
[Poetical Works (1810) 1:104-07]