1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Indifference.

European Magazine 13 (January 1788) 49.

Hannah Cowley


An allegorical ode in couplets of mixed lengths signed "Anna Matilda." This ode was no doubt intended as the "L'Allegro" companion to Cowley's "Invocation to Horror." Perhaps, having for some time been working her muse into a frenzy on a weekly basis in the pages of The World, she was ready for a rest: "'Tis true no glowing bliss thy vot'ries know, | From thee no poignant extacy can flow; | But oh! thou shield'st the heart from rankling pain, | And Misery strikes, when bless'd with thee, in vain; | Wan Jealousy's empoisoning tooth, | And Love, which feeds upon our youth, | And holy Friendship's broken tie, | Ne'er dim the lustre of thy eye." Still, one suspects a lack of commitment in her dismissal of Sensibility — the torrent of Della Cruscan verse appearing in The World would continue unabated for months to come.

Anna Seward to Hester Thrale Piozzi: "Anna's poem to Indifference, with D. Crusca's answer to it, are each of them a twin-mixture of wild ideas and absurd appellations, illumined with flashes of poetic fire. Who would conceive that sensibility was meant to be addressed in the following verses? 'Savage untam'd! she smiles to drink our tears, | And where's no solid ill she wounds our fears.' Sensibility of all things an untam'd savage!!! — and she, who is undubitably the source of our tears, is made to drink them! — then what a senseless vulgar abbreviation of 'where there is' no solid ill. The idea is a plagiarism from Beattie's Minstrel, miserably mangled in the expression" 13 March 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:54-55.



Oh Nymph, long sought, of placid mien,
With careless steps, and brow serene!
I woo thee from the tufted bowers,
Where listless pass thy easy hours—
Or, if a Naiad of the silver wave
Thou rather lov'st thy purly limbs to lave
In some clear lake, whose fascinating face
Lures the soft willow to its pure embrace;
Or, if beneath the gelid rock
Thy smiles all human sorrows mock,
Where'er thou art, in truth or air,
Oh! come, and chase the fiend DESPAIR!

Have I not mark'd thee on the green
Roving, by vulgar eyes unseen?
Have I not watch'd thy lightsome dance
When evening's soften'd glows advance?
Dear Goddess, yes! and whilst the rustic's mirth
Proclaims the hour which gives wild gambols birth;
Supine, I've found thee in the elm-row's shade,
Lull'd by the hum returning bees have made,
Who chary of their golden spoils
Finish their fragrant, rosy toils
With rest-inviting, slumb'rous song,
As to their waxen couch they throng.
Chaste Nymph! the Temple let me seek
Where thou resid'st in lustre meek;
My future life to thee I give—
Irradiate ev'ry hour I live!
'Tis true no glowing bliss thy vot'ries know,
From thee no poignant extacy can flow;
But oh! thou shield'st the heart from rankling pain,
And Misery strikes, when bless'd with thee, in vain;
Wan Jealousy's empoisoning tooth,
And Love, which feeds upon our youth,
And holy Friendship's broken tie,
Ne'er dim the lustre of thy eye.

For thee, it is all Nature blooms,
For thee, the Spring new charms assumes,
Nor vainly flings her blossoms round,
Nor vainly bids her groves resound;
Her music, colours, odours, all are thine,
To thee her months their richest gifts consign;
To thee the morn is bright, and sweet the ray
That marks the progress of the sinking day;
Each change is grateful to thy soul,
For its fine taste no woes controul,
The powers of Nature, and of Art,
Alike entrance the easy heart.

And oh! beneath thy gentle dome
Which the calm comforts make their home,
That cruel imp is never found,
Whose fame such idle songs resound—
Dread SENSIBILITY! — Oh! let me fly
Where Greenland darkness drinks the beamy sky,
Or where the Sun, with downward torrid ray
Kills, with the barb'rous glories of the day!
I'd dare th' excess of ev'ry clime,
Grasp ev'ry evil known by time,
Ere live beneath that witch's spell,
With whom no lasting pleasure dwells,
Her lovely form deceives the heart,
The tear for ever prompt to start,
The tender look, the ready sigh,
And soft emotion always nigh;
And yet Content th' insidious fiend forbids—
Oh! she has torn the slumber from my lids;
Oft rous'd my torpid sense to living woe,
And bid chill anguish to my bosom grow.
She seals her prey! — in vain the Spring
Wakes rapture, thro her groves to sing;
The roseate Morn's hygeian bloom
Fades down, unmark'd, to evening's gloom,

Oh SENSIBILITY! thy sceptre sad
Points where the frantic glance proclaims THE MAD!
Strain'd to excess, Reason is chain'd thy slave,
Or the poor Victim shuns thee in the grave;
To thee each crime, each evil owes its birth,
That, in gigantic horror treads the earth!

SAVAGE UNTAM'D! she smiles to drink our tears,
And where's no solid ill, she wounds with fears;
Riots in sighs, is sooth'd when most we smart—
Now, whilst she guides my pen, her PANG'S within my heart.

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