Tag Archives: death

Jane Cave, “Written by Desire of a Mother, on the Death of an Only Child”

JANE CAVE

 “Written by Desire of a Mother, on the Death of an Only Child”

 

As with delight we view the op’ning rose
Expand, and all her fragrant sweets disclose,
So did MATERNA view her lovely maid,
In all the charms of innocence array’d;
Oft had her little all, her only child,                                               5
The tedious hour with pleasing chat beguil’d,
But Heav’n, all-good, and infinitely wise,
Remov’d this darling idol to the skies,
Ere her young heart had been obdur’d by sin,
Or guilt, tormenting fiend, could brood therein,                         10
Ere she arriv’d at years that might destroy,
By one false step, a tender mother’s joy.

Behold she soars to yon celestial fields,
Where ev’ry plant aethereal odour yields;
With pitying eye, methinks she looks below,                                 15
Commis’rates a tender mother’s woe,
Bids her dejected heart from earth retire,
And all her future thoughts to Heav’n aspire;
Prepare, she cries,—prepare to meet the blest,
And join your SALLY in eternal rest.                                                 20

NOTES:

3 maid In this context, “a female infant” (OED).

4 charms “Fascinating quality; charmingness, attractiveness” (OED).

9 obdur’d “To harden in wickedness, or against moral influence” (OED).

13 celestial “Of or pertaining to the sky or material heavens” (OED).

14 aethereal “Of or relating to heaven, God, or the gods; heavenly, celestial” (OED).

Source: Poems on Various Subjects: Entertaining, Elegiac, and Religious (Bristol, 1786), pp. 49-50. [Google Books]

Edited by Marivic Victoria

Anonymous, “Sickness. An Ode”

ANONYMOUS

“SICKNESS. An ODE”

From the GRUBSTREET JOURNAL.

 

At midnight when the fever rag’d,
By physic’s art still unasswag’d,
And totur’d me with pain:
When most it scorch’d my acking head,
Like sulph’rous fire, or liquid lead,                                        5
And hiss’d through every vein:

With silent steps approaching nigh,
Pale death stood trembling in my eye,
And shook th’ up-lifted dart:
My mind did various thoughts debate                                 10
Of this, and of an after state,
Which terrify’d my heart.

I thought ‘twas hard, in youthful age,
To quit this fine delightful stage,
No more to view the day;                                                15
Nor e’er again the night to spend
In social converse with a friend,
Ingenious, learn’d, and gay.

No more in curious books to read
The wisdom of th’ illustrious dead;                                        20
All that is dear to leave,
Relations, friends, and MIRA too,
Without one kiss, one dear adieu,
To moulder in the grave.

Incircled with congenial clay,                                                  25
To worms and creeping things a prey,
To waste, dissolve, and rot:
To lie wrapp’d cold within a shroud,
Mingled amongst the vilest crowd,
Unnoted, and forgot.                                                        30

Oh horror by this train of thought
My mind was to distraction brought,
Impossible to tell:
The fever rag’d still more without,
Whilst dark despair, or dismal doubt,                                    35
Made all within my hell.

At length, with grave, yet cheerful air.
Repentance came, serenely fair,
As summer’s evening sun;
At sight of whom extatic joy                                                     40
Did all that horrid scene destroy;
And every fear was gone.

If join’d in consort, with one voice,
Angels at such a change rejoice;
I heard their joy exprest.                                                   45
If there be music in the spheres,
That music struck my ravish’d ears,
And charm’d my soul to rest.

NOTES:

 Title The Grubstreet Journal (January 1730-1738) was a critical and satirical newspaper published weekly in London (The Library of Congress).

2 unasswag’d An archaic spelling of unassuaged; “not soothed or relieved” (Oxford Dictionaries [no definition given in OED]).

24 moulder “To decay to dust; to rot; to crumble” (OED).

25 congenial “Suited to the nature of” (OED).

43 consort “To keep company with; to escort or attend” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (January 1733), p.42.

 Edited by Valerie Pedroche

Elizabeth Tollet, “On a Death’s Head”

ELIZABETH TOLLET

 “On a Death’s Head”

 Est illic Lethaeus Amor, qui pectora sanat,
Inque suas gelidam lampadas addit aquam.                                                                                 Ovid.

On this Resemblance, where we find
A Portrait drawn for all Mankind,
Fond Lover! gaze a while, to see
What Beauty’s Idol Charms shall be.
Where are the Balls that once cou’d dart                                               5
Quick Lightning thro’ the wounded Heart?
The Skin, whose Teint cou’d once unite
The glowing Red and polish’d White?
The Lip in brighter Ruby drest?
The Cheek with dimpled Smiles imprest?                                               10
The rising Front, where Beauty sate
Thron’d in her Residence of State;
Which, half-disclos’d and half-conceal’d,
The Hair in flowing Ringlets veil’d;
‘Tis vanish’d all! remains alone                                                                   15
This eyeless Scalp of naked Bone:
The vacant Orbits sunk within:
The Jaw that offers at a Grin.
Is this the Object then that claims
The Tribute of our youthful Flames?                                                          20
Must am’rous Hopes and fancy’d Bliss,
Too dear Delusions! end in this?
How high does Melancholy swell!
Which Sighs can more than Language tell:
Till Love can only grieve or fear;                                                                  25
Reflect a while, then drop Tear
For all that’s beautiful or dear.

NOTES:

Title Death’s Head A picture or depiction of a human skull as a symbol of mortality (OED).

Epigraph “Lethaean Love is there, who makes hearts whole, and pours cool water upon his torch” (Ovid, The Remedies of Love from The Art of Love and Other Poems, p. 214).

Epigraph Lethaean “Causing oblivion or forgetfulness of the past. From the river Lethe in Hades, whose water when drunk made the souls of the dead forget their life on earth” (OED).

7 Teint “Colour; shade” (Johnson).

11 Front “The face or forehead” (Johnson).

16 Scalp Originally denoting the “skull” or “cranium” (OED).

18 Orbits “The eyeball; the eye” (OED).

20 Flames “The passion of love” (Johnson).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII. An Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 58-59. [Google Books]

Edited by Carrie Siskind

Elizabeth Carter, “Ode to Melancholy”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“Ode to Melancholy”

Alas Darkness my sole light, gloom
O fairer to me than any sunshine
Take me take me to dwell with you
Take me                           Sophocles.

 

Come Melancholy! silent Pow’r,
Companion of my lonely Hour,
To sober Thought confin’d:
Thou sweetly-sad ideal Guest,
In all thy soothing Charms confest,                                                                                 5
Indulge my pensive Mind.

No longer wildly hurried thro’
The Tides of Mirth, that ebb and flow,
In Folly’s noisy Stream:
I from the busy Croud retire,                                                                                            10
To court the Objects that inspire
Thy philosophic Dream.

Thro’ yon dark Grove of mournful Yews
With solitary Steps I muse,
By thy Direction led:                                                                                                   15
Here, cold to Pleasure’s tempting Forms,
Consociate with my Sister-worms,
And mingle with the Dead.

Ye Midnight Horrors! Awful Gloom!
Ye silent Regions of the Tomb,                                                                                          20
My future peaceful Bed:
Here shall my weary Eyes be clos’d,
And ev’ry Sorrow lie repos’d
In Death’s refreshing Shade.

Ye pale Inhabitants of Night,                                                                                              25
Before my intellectual Sight
In solemn Pomp ascend:
O tell how trifling now appears
The Train of idle Hopes and Fears
That varying Life attend.                                                                                              30

Ye faithless Idols of our Sense,
Here own how vain your fond Pretence,
Ye empty Names of Joy!
Your transient Forms like Shadows pass,
Frail Offspring of the magic Glass,                                                                                      35
Before the mental Eye.

The dazzling Colours, falsely bright,
Attract the gazing vulgar Sight
With superficial State:
Thro’ Reason’s clearer Optics view’d,                                                                                  40
How stript of all its Pomp, how rude
Appears the painted Cheat.

Can wild Ambition’s Tyrant Pow’r,
Or ill-got Wealth’s superfluous Store,
The Dread of Death controul?                                                                                      45
Can Pleasure’s more bewitching Charms
Avert, or sooth the dire Alarms
That shake the parting Soul?

Religion! Ere the Hand of Fate
Shall make Reflexion plead too late,                                                                                    50
My erring Senses teach,
Admist the flatt’ring Hopes of Youth,
To meditate the solemn Truth,
These awful Relics preach.

Thy penetrating Beams disperse                                                                                          55
The Mist of Error, whence our Fears
Derive their fatal Spring:
‘Tis thine the trembling Heart to warm,
And soften to an Angel Form
The pale terrific King.                                                                                                        60

When sunk by Guilt in sad Despair,
Repentance breathes her humble Pray’r,
And owns thy Threat’nings just:
Thy Voice the shudd’ring Suppliant chears,
With Mercy calms her tort’ring Fears,                                                                                    65
And lifts her from the Dust.

Sublim’d by thee, the Soul aspires
Beyond the Range of low Desires,
In nobler Views elate:
Unmov’d her destin’d Change surveys,                                                                                  70
And, arm’d by Faith, intrepid pays
The universal Debt.

In Death’s soft Slumber lull’d to Rest,
She sleeps, by smiling Visions blest,
That gently whisper Peace:                                                                                                75
‘Till the last Morn’s fair op’ning Ray
Unfolds the bright eternal Day
Of active Life and Bliss.

NOTES:

Epigraph These lines are from Sophocles’s play Ajax, ll. 394-97; translation mine.

3 sober “Serious; solemn; grave” (Johnson).

5 Charms “Enchantments” (OED).

8 Mirth “A diversion or entertainment” (OED).

9 Folly’s “Act of negligence or passion” (Johnson).

14 Yews “The tree of the dead. (…) The yew tree was sacred to Hecate, the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, death, and necromancy; it was said to purify the dead as they entered Hades” (The Paris Review).

21 Bed “The grave” (OED).

27 Pomp “procession or sequence of things” (OED).

35 Glass Looking-glass.

41 Pomp “Splendor” (Johnson).

67 Sublim’d “To raise to an elevated sphere or exalted state” (OED).

72 universal Debt Original sin.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1776), pp. 79-83. [Google Books]

 Edited by Katarina Wagner

Thomas Woolston, “Sonnet to the Memory of Falconer, Author of the Shipwreck”

THOMAS WOOLSTON

“Sonnet to the Memory of Falconer, Author of the Shipwreck”

 

Ill-fated Bard marine, who strung the lyre,
A chilling tale of sorrow to rehearse,
In all the mournful melody of verse,
Warm’d by a beam of true Maeonian fire;
Well might the theme the tuneful breast inspire,                                  5
Who felt the rage of Fate’s most adverse storm,
And saw grim Death’s most drear terrific form,
Whilst struggling round thy gallant mates expire.
Thy strains to distant times their names shall give,
Snatch’d from oblivion’s ever-dreaded gloom,                                        10
Oh that my Muse could bid thy mem’ry live,
And paint in verse like thine thy mournful doom,
The plaintive strains with energy should flow,
And sympathy unborn should melt at Falconer’s woe.

NOTES:

 Title Falconer, the Author of the Shipwreck William Falconer (1732-1769), published a wildly popular epic poem titled The Shipwreck in 1762.

1 lyre “A stringed instrument of the harp kind, used by the Greeks for accompanying song and recitation” (OED).

4 Maeonian “A native inhabitant of Maeonia; a Lydian. Frequently in reference to Homer, who, according to some accounts, was born at Smyrna in Maeonia” or modern day Turkey (OED).

10 oblivion “The state or condition of having been forgotten” (OED).

11 Muse The source of poetic inspiration.

12 doom “It is said he was lost in the Aurora frigate going to the East Indies.—We should be glad to see some authentic memoirs of him” [Editor’s Note].

13 plaintive “Having the character of a lament; expressive of sorrow; mournful, sad” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (July 1789), p. 650.

Edited by Randall Pedersen

Nicholas Amhurst, “To Mrs. Centlivre at that time dangerously ill”

[NICHOLAS AMHURST]

 “To Mrs. CENTLIVRE at that time dangerously ill”

 

Struck with a Passion for unhappy ROWE,
To whom so many finish’d Scenes we owe,
I paid my Tribute to his mighty Name,
A Stranger to his Person —— but by Fame:
The Man, but not the Author was unknown,                                                  5
Oft have I made his well-wrought Verse my own;
Oft have I wept his dying Hero’s Cause,
And shook the ecchoing Dome with loud Applause:
From hence alone my grateful Sorrows rise,
Hence the prompt Tears o’erflow my swelling Eyes;                                      10
But double Pangs thy mournful Bosom rend,
I lose the Poet only, you the Friend.
You knew the secret Virtues of his Heart,
How void it was of every treacherous Art;
Search’d the vast hidden Treasures of his Mind,                                            15
And weep in him the Loss to all Mankind.
GARTH follow’d soon, from the unsparing Grave,
Not his own Art his mortal Life could save!
Two Bards at once the Tyrant swept away,
To feed the Worm, and mix with vulgar Clay;                                                  20
Nor yet content, unbounded in his Rage,
Of THEE too he attempts to rob the Age.
Insulting Death! oh stop thy savage Hand,
Reverse, tremendous Power, the rash Command;
Already you have given us too much Grief,                                                      25
Be kind at last, and minister Relief;
Stop our forboding Tears, asswage our Pain,
And give CENTLIVRE back to Health again.

 NOTES:

Title  Centlivre  Susanna Centlivre (1669-1723), English poet, playwright, and actress.

1  Rowe  Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), Poet Laureate (1715-1718), playwright and editor.

8  Dome  “A building, a house, a fabrick”  (Johnson).

11  Pangs  “A sudden access of keen feeling or emotion”  (OED).

12  You the friend  Centlivre and Rowe were frequent collaborators; both Centlivre and Amhurst dedicated tributes to Rowe in 1719.

14  Art  “Cunning”  (Johnson).

17  Garth  Samuel Garth (1661-1719), English poet and physician.

18  Art  “Skill in applying the principles of a special science”  (OED).

19  Bards  “A lyric or epic poet” (OED); here references to Rowe and Garth.

27  asswage  “Common form of assuage in 16-18thc.”  (OED).

Source:  Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1723), pp. 68-69.  [Google Books]

Edited by Jerry Andersen

William Hamilton, A Day Labourer, “Address to Humanity”

WILLIAM HAMILTON, A  DAY LABOURER

“Address to Humanity”

 

What discordant strains I hear,
Rudely bursting on my ear!
Sure they speak the God of War,
Rolling in his iron car.
Thrills the sound in every vein;                                    5
Language pregnant, big with pain.
All the grief that mortals know,
All the anguish, all the woe,
Each deluded subject feels,
Echoes to his thundering wheels.                               10
Fairest daughter of the sky,
Dove-ey’d, soft HUMANITY!
Sweetest of celestial race,
Tears shall veil thy beauteous face;
Grief shall heave thy snowy breast,                            15
Grief that cannot be exprest:
Vain thy soft, persuasive power
In the passion-clouded hour.

Hear, ah hear the clarion’s note,
Louder through expansion float;                                 20
This declares the coming God;
Desolation marks his road;
Fury drives his foaming steeds,
Where the glowing battle bleeds,
Panting with disorder’d breath,                                    25
Breathing anguish, breathing death.

See the din and clank of arms
Wide diffuse the dread alarms;
Now they rally, now they fly;
Here they languish, there they die.                             30
Wider still the victor’s hand
Spreads destruction o’er the land.
Driven from their long-lov’d home,
See the wretched wanderers roam,
Despairing, o’er the ravag’d plains;                              35
Gleams the town behind in flames.
Night increasing horrors sheds,
Tempests rattle o’er their heads.
Now forlorn, expos’d they lie
Spent, in vain they wish to die.                                    40
Orphans importune for bread;
Rous’d at this, the waste they tread;
Long in vain till friendly Death
Seals their gladly-yielded breath.
Lo! the wretches that remain,                                      45
Still reserv’d for future pain;
Mangled limbs and fractur’d bones
Waste the tedious hours in groans.
Drop the veil—enough—no more—
Pity bleeds at every pore.                                             50

Goddess of the melting eye,
Cease the deep, heart-rending sigh;
See, Reflection lends her aid,
Wing’d with thought, in white array’d:
From her lily hand behold                                            55
Waves the sacred key of gold.
Truth proclaims, ’tis only this
Mortals bring to lasting bliss.

Oh, improve the happy hour,
Discord then shall feel thy power,                               60
And with thunder’s mimic sound
Cease to shake the vaulted ground;
Cease the wild alarm to keep,
Cease to feed the yawning deep;
Cease to stain with human gore                                   65
Where the roses blush’d before.
All shall own thy blissful sway,
And ev’n Bellona thy behests obey

NOTES:

3 God of war…iron car A reference to the Roman god Mars, often depicted as riding in a chariot.

 19 clarion “A shrill-sounding trumpet with a narrow tube, formerly much used as a signal in war” (OED).

27 din “A loud noise; particularly a continued confused or resonant sound, which stuns or distresses the ear” (OED).

38 tempest “A violent storm of wind, usually accompanied by a downfall of rain, hail, or snow, or by thunder” (OED).

41 importune “To ask or request something of (a person) persistently or pressingly; to accost with questions or requests; to beg, beseech” (OED).

51 Goddess of the melting eye That is, “Humanity”; see lines 9-15 above.

 55 Lily hand White hand.

69 Bellona “Bellona, original name Duellona, in Roman religion, goddess of war…Sometimes known as the sister or wife of Mars, she has also been identified with his female cult partner Nerio. Her temple at Rome stood in the Campus Martius, outside the city’s gates near the Circus Flaminius and the temple of Apollo. There the Senate met to discuss generals’ claims to triumphs and to receive foreign ambassadors. In front of it was the columna bellica, where the ceremony of declaring war by the fetiales (a group of priestly officials) took place(Encyclopedia Britannica).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (July 1786), p. 601.

Edited by Juliet Paulson

Anne Ross, “To the memory of a Young Lady, who died in the eleventh year of her age”

[ANNE ROSS]

“To the memory of a Young LADY, who died in the eleventh year of her age”

All ye who mourn
The loss of friends that’s dear,
The mournful scene that is exhibit here,
Bids envy cease, and pity drop a tear.

To you, whose hearts can feel when others mourn,
This is address’d, it soon may be your turn;
Their case to day, to-morrow may be your’s,
The clearest sun oft sets in clouds and showers.

A tender mother reared a darling child,                                                   5
Joy of her friends, and all the country’s pride;
Her person graceful, her complexion fair,
An antient Baronet’s apparent heir.

Her comely face display’d a lively bloom,
Which promis’d health, and many years to come;                               10
T’ inform her mind, and make her wise as fair,
Was still her honour’d mother’s constant care.

For her, to Heav’n, she still address’d her prayer,
That it might always keep her in its care;
That she, in ev’ry stage of life, might shine,                                            15
And see her race, a long and prosp’rous line.

Her aunt and mother saw, with glad surprise,
Inherent virtues near perfection rise:
Their hopes were rais’d, their expectations high;
But soon, alas! their expectations fly.                                                       20

How fleeting are our pleasures, here below?
A stream of joy, now turns a tide of woe.

From bloom of health, this darling child is seiz’d,
Laid on her bed and pain’d with sore disease;
If human aid could cure, that aid was giv’n;                                           25
But who can alter the decree of Heav’n.

How calm and patient in distress she lay;
In all her trouble never ceas’d to pray:
Th’ afflicted mother sends her sighs to Heav’n,
Restore my child, and all I wish is giv’n.                                                   30

If this request’s deny’d, O! help me still,
To be resign’d unto thy heavenly will;
Heav’n, oft in mercy, does our wish deny,
Our surest hope is fix’d above the sky.

The child was quite resign’d; to die was gain,                                           35
Her prayer was not for life, but ease from pain:
Her prayer was not unheard, her wish was given;
Her blessed Saviour takes her home to heaven.

In youth and innocence, the child she dies,
And angels waft her spirit to the skies.                                                     40

NOTES:

Epigraph Unable to trace; possibly provided by the author.

5 reared “To raise a person” (OED).

8 antient “The spelling of ‘ancient’ from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century; it refers to the titles of office or position formerly occupied” (OED).

16 race A poetical term that refers to “a set of children or descendants” (OED).

24 sore “Violent with pain” (Johnson).

40 waft “To carry through the air” (Johnson).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Glasgow, 1791), pp. 36-38. [Google Books]

Edited by Ka Wing Tsang

James Shirley, “Death’s Final Conquest”

[JAMES SHIRLEY]

 “Death’s Final Conquest.”

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things:
There is no armour against Fate,
Death lays his icy hands on kings.
Sceptre and crown                                                               5
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill:                                  10
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still.
Early or late
They stoop to Fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath                                   15
When they, pale captives, creep to Death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds,
Upon Death’s purple altar now
See where the victor victim bleeds.                                         20
All heads must come
To the cold tomb,
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust.

NOTES:

Author James Shirley “Shirley flourished in the reign of Charles I. and II. He died October 29, 1666, aged 72.” [GM Note]

8 Scythe “A tool used for cutting crops such as grass or wheat, with a long curved blade at the end of a long pole attached to which are one or two short handles” (OED).

10 Laurels “The foliage of the bay tree woven into a wreath or crown and worn on the head as an emblem of victory or mark of honour in classical times” (OED).

17 Garlands “A wreath of flowers and leaves, worn on the head or hung as a decoration” (OED).

19 Purple “(In ancient Rome) a position of rank, authority, or privilege” (OED). Generally pertaining to someone of royal blood.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 51 (December 1781), p. 583.

Edited by Jeanine Tatiana Shands-Ballas

“C.S.,” Written in a Fit of Sickness, On Shipboard”

[C.S.]

“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.

NOTES:

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