Anna Seward, “Written by Miss Anna Seward in the blank Leaves of her own Poems presented by her to William Newton…”

ANNA SEWARD

 “Written by Miss ANNA SEWARD in the blank Leaves of her own Poems, presented by her to WILLIAM NEWTON, Native of a Village upon Tideswell Moor, near Monsaldale in the Peak”

 

Thou gentle Bard, on whose internal sight
Genius has pour’d her many – colour’d light;
With whom the loveliest of the Virtues dwell,
And wave their halcyon plumes around thy cell,
Tho’ wayward Fortune has not deign’d to throw                           5
One gaudy trophy on thy pensive brow,
With conscious dignity thy tree-born soul
Disdains to court her insolent controul;
And tho’ proud Fame no sunny glance has shed
On the low roof that screens thy modest head,                             10
The same exalted spirit scorns to wail
Her echoes silent in thy lonely vale.

Yet, while one votary of the Muses blames
Th’ unjust neglect of the capricious dames,
Still may she stimulate that noble pride,                                          15
Which rather seeks in humblest roof to hide
The shining gifts that lavish Genius gave,
Than, courting Fortune’s smile, commence her slave;
Than climb Parnassus’ steep and thorny ways,
And drop the rose of Peace to grasp the bays.                               20

Thy quiet haunts Reflection loves to trace
Thro’ walks of savage, or of smiling, grace;
And pleas’d she finds the scenes, that gave thee birth,
Types of thy lot, thy talents, and thy worth.

As conscious Memory, with reverted glance,                             25
Roves o’er the wild and mountainous expanse,
Her faithful traces to my sight restore
The long, long tracts of Tideswell’s naked Moor;
Strech’d on vast hills, that far and near prevail,
Bleak, stony, bare, monotonous, and pale.                                       30
Wide o’er the waste, in noon-tide’s sultry rays,
The frequent lime-kiln darts her umber’d blaze;
Her suffocating smoke incessant breathes,
And shrouds the sun in black convolving wreaths;
And here, with pallid ashes heap’d around,                                      35
Oft sinks the mine, and blots the dreary ground.
In vain warm Spring demands her robe of green,
No sheltering hedge-rows vivify the scene;
O’er its grey breast no undulating trees
With lavish foliage court the lively breeze;                                         40
But from the Moor the rude stone walls disjoin,
With angle sharp, and long unvaried line,
The cheerless field, — where slowly wandering feed
The lonely cow, and melancholy steed,
Expos’d abide the summer’s ardent breath,                                      45
And wintry storm that yells along the heath.

At length benigner mountains meet the eyes;
Their shrubby heights in rounder grace arise;
And, from the first steep summit, pleas’d I throw
My eager glances on the depths below,                                             50
As sinks abrupt the sylvan Monsaldale
From the swart sun-beam and the howling gale.

Behold in front the lucid river spread
His bankless waters o’er the sunny mead;
As of his broad and sheety shallows proud,                                     55
Shine the clear mirror of the passing cloud;
Then to the left along the valley glide,
With smooth meander, and with narrower tide,
Thro’ banks, where thick the spreading alders grow,
And deep calm waves reflect their pendent bough.                        60
Refreshing sweets the breathing hay-cocks yield,
That richly tuft the long and narrow field,
As gently to the right it curves away
Round the green cliffs with scatter’d nut-trees gay;
Cliffs, whose smooth breast, above the silver stream,                   65
Swells to the sun, and yellows in his beam,
While on th’ opposing shore dwarf foliage hides,
Sombrous, and soft, the mountain’s lofty sides,
And throws its latest fringe upon the flood,
That laves the concave of the pensile wood;                                    70
Till down the rocks, rude, broken, mossy, steep,
In parted tides the foaming waters leap;
Then thro’ the mazes of the rambling dale
With silent lapse they flow, or rush with tuneful wail.

The self-taught Edwin, in his lowly state,                                   75
Feels this sweet glen an emblem of his fate;
For as it glows with beauty rich and rare,
Near healthy hills, unsightly, bleak, and bare,
So, ‘midst unletter’d hinds as rude as those,
He, pensive minstrel of the mountains, rose;                                   80
Who, like devoted Chatterton, was born
In Nature’s triumph, and in Fortune’s scorn;
With kindred talents, and in happier mind,
By prudence guarded, as by taste refin’d;
Whom industry preserves from woes fevere,                                   85
Which ill the noble spirit knows to bear;
Saves from those pains that Wealth’s mean sons deride,
Dependent hopes, and heart corroding pride,
When, for with’d amity, and ow’d respect,
It meets the chilling air of base neglect;                                             90
The stingy Patron’s contumelious aid;
The taunt of Envy, studious to upbraid;
Those thousand ills, by which the Great are prone
To crush the talents that eclipse their own.

Be thine the blessings, Edwin, that reward                                95
Ev’n manual labour to th’ enlighten’d bard!
Energic health, and, in rare union join’d
The melting heart, and philosophic mind;
Genius is thine — before her solar state,
O fly, ye mists of inauspicious fate!                                                     100
Hers is the flood of cloudless day, that shows
The charms that Nature, and that Art bestows;
And she has given thee wealth, that shames the toys
Which Fortune grants, and Vanity enjoys;
The toys of groveling souls, empower’d to seize                              105
On the soft splendors of luxurious ease;
Whom yet with scorn discerning eyes behold
Pleas’d with life’s tinsel, reckless of her gold;
Gold richer far than India’s mine affords,
Th’ internal wealth of intellectual hoards;                                          110
Which buy, disdaining Fortune’s bounded plain,
Creative Mind’s illimitable reign.

O! if in that wide range my Muse’s powers
May lure thy tarrience in her cypress bowers,
Should’st thou perceive that genuine sweets belong                       115
To the pale flowrets of her pensive song,
The thought, that they have sooth’d thy toils, shall dwell
Warm with the bosom joys that Fame’s bright meed excel.

 

NOTES:

Title WILLIAM NEWTON, Native of a Village upon Tideswell Moor, near Monsaldale in the Peak William Newton (1750–1830), a laboring-class poet often referred to as ‘the Peak Minstrel’ was a friend of Anna Seward, who encouraged him in his writing and corresponded with him until her death. He lived near the village of Tideswell in the valley of Monsal Dale in the Peak District of Derbyshire, England.

3 the loveliest of the Virtues The seven Christian virtues consisting of four cardinal virtues from ancient Greek philosophy which are prudence, justice, temperance (meaning restriction or restraint), and courage (or fortitude) and three theological virtues which are faith, hope, and charity (or love). We do not know which virtues Anna Seward considered “the loveliest.”

4 halcyon Calm, tranquil, prosperous, joyful.

13 Muses In Greek Mythology, nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science, and the arts.

19 Parnassus The home of the Muses; a mountain in Greece that became known as the home of poetry, music, and learning.

28 Moor A tract of open uncultivated upland area characterized by low growing vegetation.

32 lime-kiln A furnace, used for making quicklime for making plaster and cement.

43 convolving Rolling or winding together.

61 hay-cocks Conical mounds of hay.

68 Sombrous Gloomily dark; shadowy; dimly lighted, somber.

70 pensile “Situated on a steep downward slope” (OED).

75 Edwin Anna Seward’s poetic epistolary name for William Newton.

81 Chatterton Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), English poet who came from an underprivileged background, similar to William Newton. Chatterton, who was unable to find a patron for his art, lived in extreme poverty and took his life by drinking arsenic before his eighteenth birthday.

91 contumelious Scornful and insulting.

114 tarrience Delay, lingering.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (March, 1785), p. 213.

Edited by Irina Auerbuch


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