“Scattered Thoughts, by a Lady”
Written in a long and painful Illness, after a disturbed and restless night.
While, child of sorrow, on my couch I lie,
And court sweet Sleep to seal my wakeful eye,
Still keenest anguish rankles at my heart,
And pains unceasing pierce each vital part.
I hear the joyless bird of omen sing, 5
And at my casement flap his blacken’d wing;
While nightly spirits hover round my head,
Haunting with horrid thoughts my widow’d bed.
Oh, come, thou kindest nurse! come, gentle Sleep!
Seal with thy wings those eyes which wake to weep. 10
Distill thy poppies on my unclos’d lid,
And on my pillow thy mild opiates shed.
Through night’s dark gloom I count the measur’d time,
And hear the knell of Death incessant chime:
The spider, spinning in some lonely notch, 15
Echoes the knell, and keeps th’ ill-omen’d watch.
My pensive pillow views my early life,
When in youth’s bloom I took the name of wife;
Scarce sixteen suns had dawn’d upon my years,
When I awoke to all a mother’s cares; 20
While, at my breast, the tender blossom hung,
Ere the soft accent loos’d the lisping tongue,
Grief’s sharpest arrows pierc’d my gentle heart,
And wounded Nature felt her festering dart;
No love congenial to my own I found, 25
But joyless pass’d night’s solitary round.
If lost in momentary sleep I lie,
What hideous forms appear to fancy’s eye!
With phantoms of a woe-worn feverish brain
I trembling start,—and wake to keener pain; 30
The spectres of delusion still in view,
And the night bag, my waking sense pursue.
My shorten’d sighs quick breathe around my room,
Where horrid darkness sheds a total gloom ;
Save one pale taper of a glimmering light, 35
Which dimly twinkles through the shades of night,
Like a true friend, such silent sorrow shows,
And “waxeth pale”—through sympathy of woes.
Sweet Sympathy! in whate’er form you dwell,
Welcome! thrice welcome! to my tear-wash’d cell. 40
Ev’n when I hear the nightly shrill owl scream,
Some friend I think is near—some hope unseen.
Hope! did I say? thou joyful, blessed sound!
Where beams thy ray? where art thou to be found?
Long have I sought thy visionary hand; 45
Lead me, dear phantom! to that blissful land!
That heaven of sure rest! that promis’d shore!
Where Peace shall dwell—and I shall weep no more!
Then strike, grim spectre! strike this yielding heart!
Strike down my sorrows with thy welcome dart. 50
And, when this “mortal coil” is laid in earth,
Then may my soul awake to Heaven’s new birth!
Then, like a pilgrim, view this rocky shore,
And rest—where thorns shall pierce my soul NO MORE!
14 knell “To ring (a bell); to ring slowly and solemnly, as for a death or at a funeral, to toll” (OED) ; chime “Living near the church” [Author’s note].
32 night bag “A travelling bag used to carry things needed for the night” (OED).
35 pale taper “A wax candle, in early times used chiefly for devotional or penitential purposes” (OED).
51 mortal coil “The bustle or turmoil of this mortal life” (OED).
Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (October 1787), pp. 914-15.
Edited by Arianna Ordonez