Elizabeth Tollet, “To a Gentleman in Love”

ELIZABETH TOLLET

“To a Gentleman in Love.”

Say, in what gentle Sounds, what healing Strain,
The friendly Muse shall sooth the wounded Swain?
Thy self, the Muses Servant, best may know
To mourn in moving Verse the latent Woe:                                            5
Such Verse where Fear and humble Passion speak,
Where crowding Thoughts in soft Confusion break,
With falt’ring Eloquence the Fair might move,
Tho’ cold as Northern Snows to mutual Love.
Tho’ that perhaps thou hast in vain essay’d:                                          10
The Muse, at best, is but a faithless Aid;
So Princes by Auxiliars are betray’d.
Lonely tho wander’st where the founding Stones
Of Balliol’s Walls return thy hollow Groans;
Or where Severus’ Work describes the Bound                                       15
Of Roman Conquests on the British Ground.
The ruin’d Pile stood threatening o’er the Waste;
Prodigious Monument of Greatness past!
Hither perhaps the pensive Lover goes,
To shun his chearful Friends, and Speak his Woes.                              20
How art thou chang’d? Thou! who wert always known,
With modest Wit our temp’rate Mirth to crown.
What? Cannot Politicks and deep Debate
What menaces the Church, or shakes the State,
How great Eugenius clouds the waning Moon,                                       25
What Spain intends, or they who drink the Rhone,
From thy unquiet Breast these Cares remove?
This ‘tis, unhappy Youth! to be in Love.

Or when thy jocund Friends the Board surround,
With rural Stores and native Liquors crown’d,                                      30
Such as the British Swains, industrious, drain,
From blushing Apples, or the bearded Grain;
The love-sick Youth discovers his Suprize,
By faded Cheeks and unregarding Eyes:
By rising Sighs which heave his struggling Breast,                               35
And wand’ring Speech with sudden Pause supprest.
All Smile; and some with friendly Anger chide,
Some pity thy Distress, but most deride:
While you sit by, with careless Head reclin’d;
The only Fair employs your absent Mind.                                               40
We by your Doctrines may perhaps improve
For we, alas! are Hereticks in Love:
We may wish Vows of Constancy make bold;
But you de Jure love—–to have and hold.

Amantem languor & silentium                

Arguit, & latere

Petitus imo spiritus.

Hor. Epod.

NOTES:

2 Swain “A country gallant or lover” (OED).

12 Auxiliars Subordinates.

14 Balliol A college of Oxford University, founded before 1268.

15 Severus’ Work The Wall of Severus, also known as “Hadrian’s Wall;” built to defend the northwestern frontier of the Roman empire. Emperor Septimius Severus (reigned 193–211 AD) is said to have fortified Hadrian’s original turf wall with stone around 208 AD (Encyclopedia Britannica).

25 Eugenius Probably a reference to Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), Austrian general and statesman who figured prominently as an ally of England in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) and the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35).

26 they who drink the Rhone The French, who were known for a “wine made from grapes grown in the Rhône valley, esp. in the region between Lyons and Avignon France” (OED).

42 Hereticks Those “who maintains theological or religious opinions at variance with the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church” (OED).

43 Constancy “Steadfastness of attachment to a person or cause; faithfulness, fidelity” (OED).

44 De Jure Archaic spelling of the French phrase “du jour,” which means “of the day” (OED).

Postscript Where my listlessness, my silences, and the sighs/ That were drawn from the depths of my heart, proved my love-sick state” (from Epode 11, ll. 9-10, by Quintus Horatius Flaccus [65-8 BC], published in 30 BC).

 Source: Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII: An Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 28-30. [Google Books]

Edited by Taylor Albert


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