“Written in a Fit of Sickness, On Shipboard”
As tender plants in parching days, are seen
Withering to droop, forgetful to be green;
So droops my soul, so waste my limbs away;
So fade my cheeks, and so my pow’rs decay.
Some wrathful Angel sure infests the skies, 5
And scatters poison’d arrows as he flies;
He smites my head, the organs of my breath
Confess the baleful influence of Death.
Relentless Pow’r! why dost thou blast my bloom?
My age is yet unworthy of the tomb; 10
Too early dost thou come, this youthful breast
Is fitter to receive a softer guest:
To hoary heads, and bosoms cold repair,
More proper is thy reign, and grateful there.
Relentless Pow’r! remonstrances are vain, 15
His vengeful weapons rankle in my brain;
Where’er the circling life a channel knows,
His arrows gall me, and his venom flows.
Ah me! no tender parent here is by,
No sympathizing kind companion nigh; 20
Nor one kind matron to attend my bed,
Living to cherish, or enshroud me dead.
With Heav’n’s just vengeance I can be content,
But why should men my miseries augment?
Me here they keep, where things in all degrees, 25
Are foes to health, and enemies to ease;
With stench the smell, with noise the ear’s annoy’d:
A place, of ev’ry consolation void.
For this, may Heav’n avenging fix their doom,
With sorrow to descend into the tomb. 30
In their distress be no fond parent by,
Nor one of all their friends, or blood be nigh;
Nor one kind matron to attend their bed,
Living to cherish, or enshroud them dead.
8 baleful “Full of malign, deadly, or noxious influence; pernicious, destructive” (OED).
9 bloom “The blossom or flower of a plant” (OED).
13 hoary heads Old people.
15 remonstrances “An appeal, a request” (OED).
16 rankle “A festering sore; the fact or condition of festering” (OED).
17 channel “A tube or tubular passage, natural or artificial, usually for liquids or fluids” (OED).
18 gall “The secretion of the liver, bile. With reference to the bitterness of gall, ‘to dip one’s pen in gall’, to write with virulence and rancor” (OED).
Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1768), pp.19-21. [Google Books]
Edited by Geordie Stock