1806
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Reply.

Literary Magazine and American Register 5 (February 1806) 158-60.

Sabina


A pastoral ballad in fifteen double-quatrain stanzas signed "Sabina." The poet overhears a conversation in a bower between two women; Maria appeals to Mira to compose a song to comfort Alexis: "The voice of sweet pity assume, | It may something like comfort convey, | At least it may steal from the gloom | That's wearing our kinsman away." But Mira is herself unhappy with the way her poetry has been received by the world, and refuses to comply with the request: "Is mercy with hyenas found? | Know they justice who love to condemn?" Sabina was a regular contributor to Philadelphia's Literary Magazine.



The dew-drops of morning appeared
In clusters on every spray,
When the murmur of voices was heard,
A chiding it seem'd for delay.
I turn'd to a neighb'ring bower,
Encircled by woodbine around
When, fair as the jessamine flower,
Maria in converse I found.

Though blooming as spring was the maid,
As the cinnamon rose in its pride,
A tear on her bosom had stray'd,
While addressing the friend by her side.
"Awake," she said, "Mira, the strain
Alexis was wont to admire;
Perhaps he'll from weeping refrain,
Allur'd by the sound of thy lyre.

"From apathy, Mira, awake,
For cold and insensate you seem;
The hearts of all round you might break,
While you are enwrapt in a dream.
Too long, O too long, you have slept,
To the meltings of pity unknown,
While I with the mourner have wept,
And made all his sorrows my own.

"The voice of sweet pity assume,
It may something like comfort convey,
At least it may steal from the gloom
That's wearing our kinsman away.
Let echo reply to a strain,
The tend'rest that sympathy knows:
It fails not to soften our pain,
When others partake of our woes.

"Sure sympathy warm from the heart
May easily dictate the lay,
Nor eloquence fail to impart
What ambition might seek to pourtray.
O let him not sorrow alone,
The desolate victim of fate;
Your heart, once to feeling so prone,
Seems strangely unfeeling of late."

"Maria, nay tempt me no more,"
Said Mira, "my pen to resume;
Those days of indulgence are o'er,
I've wrapt me in apathy's gloom.
The verse, the employment of hours
While all those around me have slept,
The world, by its censuring powers,
Of every charm have bereft.

"They deem it the offspring of pride,
Of a daring and arrogant mind;
Ambition, 'tis said, is my guide,
My talents are light as the wind.
Perhaps they may make it appear:
Yet little I know of my heart
If it shelters a thought insincere,
Or wears the entrappings of art.

"To error I feel I am prone,
I feel it each morning I see;
Yet a treasure there is to atone,
A mercy unbounded and free.
Though frailties and many are mine,
I am not ambitious of fame,
I never have bow'd at its shrine,
From the world I have nothing to claim.

"The talent that nature bestow'd
Is feeble, most feeble, I own,
Afar from the muse's abode,
I've ponder'd, unsmil'd on, alone.
The unsodded grave of a friend
Taught something like numbers to flow;
Nor favour I look'd to attend,
My heart was alive but to woe.

"My pen since a solace has prov'd,
Though weak, it imparted relief,
It was the companion I lov'd,
I found it a rival to grief.
Fate destines to some paths of flow'rs,
I prove one with brambles o'ergrown,
Yet alive to sweet sympathy's pow'rs,
The woes of my friends are my own.

"The sorrow, Maria, that wears
The form of Alexis away
My bosom in sympathy shares,
I've wept them by night and by day:
Yet sympathy warm from my heart
Will not lull his sorrows to rest,
Nor strains, though enflower'd by art,
Give ease to his tortured breast.

"To cheer his disconsolate mind,
The sea I as soon could becalm;
Or stay by my hand the strong wind,
As find for his sorrows a balm.
Oh, no! there is none to be found,
Where a sensitive mind is possess'd,
For cruel ingratitude's wound
On the core of the bosom imprest.

"The power that meant he should feel
So deeply, by giving the mind,
That power his sorrows must heal,
The heart that is broken must bind.
Then tempt me, Maria, no more
The strain once so lov'd to resume,
Those days of indulgence are o'er,
I've wrapt me in apathy's gloom.

"Should heaven a favour bestow,
This boon, and this only I crave,
Let me pass through this valley of woe,
Uncensur'd, unknown, to the grave.
Yet let not my foes, who abound,
Once think I crave mercy from them;
Is mercy with hyenas found?
Know they justice who love to condemn?"

She ceas'd; and I saw through the bow'r,
Through parting of leaves I could trace
The aching heart's eloquent power
On a sorrow and time-injur'd face.
She ceas'd, and Maria replied,
But her voice was so soften'd and low,
The sound ere it reach'd me had died,
I heard but the sobbings of woe.

[pp. 158-60]