The inscription imitates (it has been suggested) the opening formula of Milton's companion poems. William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft deduce a date for this postumously-published poem of around 1779 from its placement in the anthology; Poems (1994) 277n.
Literary Gazette: "Born in 1743, married in 1774, and dying in 1825 at the advanced age of 82, Mrs. Barbauld not only set a great example to the female talent of her country, but spread her efforts over a longer space than is usually the lot of authorship. Her principal writings are very extensively known, but we are not sure that some of her familiar letters, now first printed, do not impress us with a higher opinion of her heart and head than even these popular publications. Into certain political questions alone do we think she entered with more than a woman's proper spirit: all the rest is truly beautiful, characteristic, harmonious, and feminine. In every relation of life she seems to have been an example to her sex; and in all her productions for the press (with the exception already made) to have been led by a sound judgment as well as the best of feelings"(24 September 1825) 611.
A. Mary F. Robinson: "She expresses herself clearly and with grace; a certain artificiality of manner harmonises with her choice of subject. Her poetry is without deep thought or passion; but it is free from blunders of an avoidable kind. The spirit of self-criticism which prompted her to destroy all her juvenile verses, never permitted her to include with her published works any ill-considered thought or unsuccessful effort. 'I had rather,' she declared, in answer to remonstrance, 'that it should be asked of twenty pieces why they are not here, than of one why it is.' The bulk of Mrs. Barbauld's poetry is inspired by the trivial occasions of domestic life; and when she quits the personal vein, it is of Delia and Damon, of Sylvia and Corin, that she sings; pretty shepherdesses and tuneful shepherds, whose delicate pretence of loving claims no relation to the passions of reality" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 3:576.
Surly Winter, come not here;
Bluster in thy proper sphere:
Howl along the naked plain,
There exert thy joyless reign:
Triumph o'er the withered flower,
The leafless shrub, the ruined bower;
But our cottage come not near;—
Other springs inhabit here,
Other sunshine decks our board,
Than the niggard skies afford.
Gloomy Winter, hence! away!
Love and Fancy scorn thy sway;
Love and Joy, and friendly Mirth,
Shall bless this roof, these walls, this hearth;
The rigour of the year control,
And thaw the winter in the soul.