Tag Archives: death

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


“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


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”


 “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.


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”


“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



Jacob Axford, “On my sudden going on board the Orford and her leaving the Land”


 “On my sudden going on board the Orford and her leaving the Land”

And must I go? so sudden the Surprize!
Not one last Look to feed my longing Eyes?
No Time to tell the Part’ner of my Heart,
How long, or wherefore we so soon must part?
Be torn from all, that ALL my Soul held dear?                                      5
My Life, my Love, my Bliss, my All was her.
The kind Companion of each anxious Hour,
Fair Nature’s Pride, and Virtue’s choicest Flower:
Whose Conversation charm’d the tedious Day,
Whilst the wing’d Hours stole unperceiv’d away:                                10
Who soft’ned Anguish with the Sweets of Love,
The last best Blessing of all bounteous Jove.
The Orford now, impatient for the Seas,
Waits the Conveyance of a gentle Breeze.
Th’ expectant Seaman now with eager Eyes                                         15
Sees the kind Zephyrs o’er the Waters rise.
The Waters whiten with th’ auspicious Gales
That fan the Air, and fill the swelling Sails:
The lofty Vessel thro’ the liquid Way
Triumphant rides, and cuts the yielding Sea:                                        20
To fair Britannia bids a long Adieu,
And with far distant Countries in her View
Mounts o’er the Billows, glides along the Main,
Nor leaves th’ Impression on the watry Plain.
Adieu, fair Britain, native lovely Isle,                                                 25
On whom Heaven deigns propitiously to smile;
Bright regal Seat of Princes and of Kings,
To whom each distant World its Tribute brings:
Blest Soil, where Plenty reigns thro’ every Part,
Where bounteous Ceres chears each honest Heart:                            30
Where every Blessing Nature can demand
The GOD of Nature gives with liberal Hand;
And all that Luxury can require, or Pride,
Is by the obedient Sea from far suppli’d:
Where pure Religion shines divinely bright;                                          35
Untainted here, and in its native Light:
Where Heaven born Liberty uprears its Head,
Its Godlike Influence thro’ the Land to spread;
Where beauteous Virgins crown each amouros Swain,
And happy Subjects bless great George’s Reign:                                  40
Farwel fair Isle! may every Blessing crown
Thy happy Shore, and mark it with Renown:
Thy mighty Arms may Conquest still attend,
Till haughty Spain shall sue to be thy Friend:
Till Europe’s Foes be greatly overthrown,                                                45
France find Submission and Lorrain a Throne:
O may no Faction vex thy friendly Shore,
But Peace prevail, and Discord be no more:
May differing Parties lay their Hatred by,
Ambition cease, and baneful Envy die:                                                   50
Bliss, Love, and Union reign throughout thy Isle,
And Joys eternal on thy Natives smile.
The mighty Vessel lab’ring with the Wind,
By narrow Seas no longer now confin’d,
To the vast Ocean wings her watry Way                                                 55
And cuts her Passage thro’ th’ Atlantic Sea.
So when th’ immortal Soul and Body part,
And Nature’s Call o’er-powers the Strength of Art;
Th’ aerial Mind from the embodying Clay
At the dread Summons breaks like Light away;                                     60
And, from the narrow Bound of Time set free,
Plunges into th’ Abyss of vast Eternity:
Stupendous Thought! here stop my Soul, and know
Th’ amazing Change that all must undergo:
When pale Disease proclaims thy parting Breath,                                 65
And sick’ning Nature tells approaching Death:
When the grim King of Terrors shall appear,
Thy tott’ring Frame when strong Convulsions tare:
How wilt thou dare to view thy future State?
Or stand the Shock of thy incumbent Fate?                                            70
Dar’st thou reflect upon that awful Day,
When the great Judge in terrible Array,
To doom the guilty and the just to clear,
In all his Father’s Glory shall appear?
Leaves conscious Guilt no Stain upon thy Mind?                                   75
Hast thou no unrepented Vice behind?
Within the secret Chamber of thy Breast,
Lurks there no guilty no deceitful Guest?
Is all serene, and calm, and clear within?
Does Recollection tell no darling Sin?                                                      80
Then boldly venture on the unknown Shore;
Death with his Terrors can affright no more:
Beyond the peaceful Mansions of the Grave,
No dismal Views thy guiltless Mind can have:
No Hopes, no Cares, thy Peace shall e’er annoy,                                   85
But Death shall prove thy Entrance into Joy:
When on the Bed of Sickness thou shalt lie,
And thy weak Frame shall totter, sink and die,
Thy conscious Innocence thy Mind shall chear,
And glorious Prospects op’ning shall appear:                                         90
Blest Choirs of Angels wait thy fleeting Soul,
And circling Joys thro’ endless Ages roll.
Eternity shall short liv’d Time devour,
And Guilt, and Pain, and Sorrow be no more.


Title Orford Ship possibly named after the Royal Navy Officer Edward Russell, the first Earl of Orford 1653-1727. Edward was one of the “Immortal Seven” who encouraged William of Orange to usurp James II (“Edward Russell” Wikipedia).

 12 Jove “The supreme deity of the ancient Romans, corresponding to the Greek Zeus; the ruler of gods and men, and the god of the heavens, whose weapon was the thunderbolt” (OED).

16 Zephyrs “A soft mild gentle wind or breeze” (OED).

 23 Billows A swelling wave of the sea produced by a high wind, but often used as a poetical reference to ‘the sea’ (OED).

 23 Main As in mainsail, which is “the principal sail of a ship” (OED).

26 Propitiously “Of God, the fates, etc.: disposed to be favorable; gracious; merciful, lenient” (OED).

30 Ceres “In Roman religion and mythology, goddess of grain; daughter of Saturn and Ops. She was identified by the Romans with the Greek Demeter. Her worship was connected with that of the earth goddess and involved not only fertility rites but also rites for the dead” (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia).

35 pure Religion Protestantism.

 39 amouros Swain A male servant who is in love, enamored, or fond (OED).

 40 George’s Reign George III (1738-1820), reigned from 1760.

 43-46 Thy mighty arms…France find Submission The Second Hundred Years’ War consisted of a series of military conflicts between France and England, including the Seven Years’ War over the colonization of North America. Such conflicts caused England and France to be bitter rivals, while Spain and France remained allies (“Second Hundred Years’ War,” Wikipedia; “Pacte de Famille,” Enclopedia Britannica).

46 Lorrain a Throne Dominion over Lorraine was exchanged between France and the Habsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire throughout the seventeenth century. “Lorraine was given to Stanisław I, the former king of Poland and father-in-law of the French king Louis XV, by the treaties (1738) ending the War of the Polish Succession.” After Stanislaw I’s death in 1766, Lorraine was officially under French rule (“Lorraine Region, France,” Encyclopedia Britannica).

50 baneful “Destructive to well-being, pernicious, injurious” (OED).

 68 tare “The weight of the wrapping, receptacle, or conveyance containing goods, which is deducted from the gross in order to ascertain the net weight” (OED).

Source: Poems on Various Subjects, Divine, Moral and Entertaining: The Posthumous Works of Mr. Jacob Axford, Of the city of Bath, Late Surgeon of his Majesty’s Ship, Scipio; Written for his own Amusement. (Bath: S. Martin, 1764), pp. 16-19). [Google Books]

Edited by Kandace Linstrom

Sarah Dixon, “On the Death of My Dear Brother…”


“On the DEATH of My Dear BROTHER, Late of University College, OXFORD. Who Dy’d Young.”

Mournful the Night! with utmost Horror spread;
Which told my trembling Soul, that thine was fled.
To Sense ’twas dreadful, Nature cou’d not bear
So great a Breach, nor the sad Tidings hear,
Without the Symptoms of a wild Despair.                                           5
’Twas then I lost, a Brother and a Friend!
What poinant Grief, must such a Stroke attend?
Tho’ as prophetick of so short a Date,
His Soul was disciplin’d, to meet his Fate,
Yet my Distress no Mitigation finds;                                                      10
That Blessing is reserv’d for stronger Minds:
Minds like his own, who can extend their View;
Sit loose to every transient Good below,
Rise to aetherial Joys, and the bright Track pursue.
Wond’rous young Man! thou early blooming Good,                            15
Snatch’d hence, e’re half thy Virtue’s understood.
In useful Learning, what swift Progress made!
How soon the tender Parents Care repaid.
His toward Genius did with Ease attain,
What some by long Fatigue have sought in vain;                                20
Strict were his Morals, his Address polite!
Wit, Judgment, and Humanity, unite
To make his Loss esteem’d, as infinite.
Ah! faint Description, of a Worth so great;
This a short Sketch, th’ Original compleat.                                            25
Like some Noviciate, I attempt to show,
Those Lines a Master Hand wants Skill to do:
Who can paint Souls? or trace to Realms of Light,
Spirits prepar’d, to reach that glorious Height.
’Twas Heav’n, not Death, that ravish’d him away,                                30
For such Perfection never can decay.


Title On the DEATH of my Dear BROTHER A reference to James Dixon Jr. (1673-1700), brother of Sarah Dixon whose death inspired the poem (Kennedy, Poetic Sisters, 129).

7 poinant Poignant; “painfully sharp to the physical or mental feelings” (OED).

8 prophetick Prophetic; “of the nature of a prophecy or prediction” (OED).

10 Mitigation “Compassion, mercy, or favour” (OED).

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

26 Noviciate “A beginner, a novice; a person who is new to something” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Canterbury, 1740), pp. 169-170. [Google Books]

Edited by Lee Hammel

Anonymous, “Verses, Written by a Young Lady, On the Death of her Father.


“Verses, Written by a Young Lady, On the Death of her Father”

 How short a span of miserable life!
And short the blessings that on earth we know!
Forc’d from a tender and a loving wife,
A husband, and a father’s lost below.

No more with happiness I view the morn,                                             5
No more with joy I tread the well-known walk;
Each place to me is dreary and forlorn,
But think in every thing I hear him talk.

When on each plant I turn my wandering eye,
And on each flower I think I see his shade,                                    10
I often stop, and think my father by;
But he is gone, and left this vain parade.

Of life, that transitory, fleeting thing,
To happier realms of everlasting joy:
He’s couch’d beneath th’ Almighty’s heavenly wing,                            15
And bless’d with happiness nothing can destroy.


 7 forlorn “Pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely” (OED).

13 transitory “Not permanent” (OED).

15 Almighty God, the Creator.

12 Printer’s error, period added to this line.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 59 (Supplement, 1789), p. 1206.

Edited by Sierra Bagstad

Anonymous, “On the Dissection of a Body”


 “On the Dissection of a Body”


OBSERVE this wonderful machine,
View its connection with each part,
Thus furnish’d by the hand unseen,
How far surpassing human art!

Should ablest imitators try,                                                                       5
With utmost skill, to form a like,
Could they so charm the curious eye?
Could they with equal wonder strike?

See how the motion of each part
Upon some other still depends,                                                      10
When all a mutual aid impart,
Conductive to their various ends.

Whilst we th’amazing frame explore,
More secret wonders still we spy,
Yet there remain ten thousand more                                                     15
Hid from the microscopic eye.

Here may the stupid Atheist see
Convincing proofs —-which all combine
To overthrow his wretched plan,
And speak the Maker’s hand divine.                                               20

What great emoluments accrue
To those whose Nature’s laws obey?
From such instructions in her view,
Ye sons of Esculapius say!

Tho’God has call’d the life he lent,                                                         25
Each vital function, dormant laid,
Here we trace Nature’s deep intent,
And see how once the springs were play’d.

These tubes convey’d the purple juice,
WhichWhich with new strength supply’d the whole;                   30
And here branch’d forth the nerves, whose use
Was to keep converse with the soul.

This silent preacher points us out
The cause of many a latent ill,
Which, heretofore, lay hid in doubt,                                                       35
Baffling each effort of our skill.


10 other Corrected printer’s error; originally spelled as “othe.”

 21 emoluments “Profit or gain arising from station, office, or employment” (OED).

 24 son of Esculapius Modern physicians. Asclepius, a Greek healer who extended the knowledge of medicine among mankind, was killed by Zeus for charging money to raise the dead, but also revived by Zeus as the god of healing and medicine.

28 springs From the phrase “the springs of life,” or youth (OED).

29 purple juice Blood, as one of the four Hippocratic four humors, is the vital force and innate heat of the body. According to Hippocratic medicine, when blood loses its force and heat, its color changes from red to purple.

34 latent “Of a disease, disorder, infection, or infectious agent: present but not (yet) producing symptoms or clinical signs” (OED).

Source: The Gentlemen’s Magazine, Vol. 40 (August 1770), pp. 385-86.

 Edited by Tammy J. Allen

Thomas Poynton, “A Ballad written by Thomas Poynton, a Pauper…after he had read Drummond of Hawthornden’s History of Scotland”


“A Ballad written by THOMAS POYNTON, a Pauper… after he had read Drummond of Hawthornden’s History of Scotland”

 The beauties I sing of my Jane,
No damsel her charms can outvie;
At wake, rural feast, or beltein,
She eclipses all others when by.
Thus when Phoebus his glory displays,                                             5
The lustre of stars quickly fade,
O’erwhelm’d in the glittering blaze,
To shine they must wait the dun shade.
At the quern, luaghahb, or the wheel,
Her music enraptures my ear;                                                            10
What emotions my bosom must feel,
When with transport her sweet voice I hear!
The deeds of the mighty Fingal
‘Tis pleasure to hear her repeat;
But Crimera and Connald’s sad fall                                                    15
To hear her lament is more sweet.
T’other day as she work’d at her wheel,
She sang of fair Eleanor’s fate,
Who fell by stern jealousy’s steel,
As on Kirtle’s smooth margin she sate.                                              20
Her lover to shield from the dart,
Most eagerly she interpos’d;
The arrow transpierc’d her fond heart,
The fair in his arms her eyes clos’d.
O, Fleming! how wretched thy doom,                                                25
Thy love to see wounded to death;
No wonder that, stretch’d on her tomb,
In grief thou surrender’st thy breath.
Yet one consolation was thine,
To soften fate’s rigid decree,                                                               30
Thy mistress her life did resign,
A martyr to love and to thee.
Would Jenny, should I haply die
A victim to love in youth’s bloom,
Heave o’er my remains a soft sigh,                                                     35
And shed a fond tear on my tomb?
Would she at my Coranick weep,
Transported I’d yield up my breath,
Contented I surely should sleep,
Delighted and happy in death,                                                           40
If my bones they were earth’d in cold clay,
And my spirit in heavenly bowers,
Delighted I’d look down each day,
To see Jenny my grave shew with flowers.
Inthron’d ‘midst immortals above,                                                     45
Transported I’d lift from my sphere,
To hear from the lips of my love,
“The dust of my Jammie lies here.”


Title Drummond of Hawthornden’s History of Scotland The Scottish poet and book collector William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649) whose prose work, The History of Scotland, from the year 1423 until the Year 1542, was first published in 1655.  The text was republished several times in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

2 outvie “To outdo in a context or in rivalry; to compete successfully against” (OED).

3 beltein Alternative spelling of “beltane,” the Gaelic May Day festival, widely observed in both Scotland and Ireland.

5 Phoebus Another name for Apollo, the Greek God of the Sun (Encyclopedia Britannica).

8 dun “Of a dull or dingy brown color, esp. dull grayish brown” (OED).

9 quern “A simple, typically hand-operated, device for grinding corn, etc., consisting of two stones, the upper of which is rotated or rubbed on the lower” (OED); luaghahb [Unable to trace]

13 Fingal A Celtic warrior famous for uniting different clans to defend Scotland against invaders, widely popularized by James MacPherson’s book The Works of Ossian, Son of Fingal (1796).

15 Crimera and Connald’s [Unable to trace]

18 fair Eleanor’s fate A reference to the story of Ellen who, according to Scottish balladry, chose between two suitors only to sacrifice herself to save her lover when her spurned suitor sought revenge. The story may be grounded in historical fact, though the nature of those facts was much in dispute in the late eighteenth century (see, for example, letters sent to the GM in 1797 (vol. 81, pp. 202, 293). Drummond’s text does not appear to be a source for this story.

20 Kirtle  A small river in the historical county of Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The tragedy is said to have unfolded at Kirkconnell Chapel, located on the bank of the Kirtle, where the lovers were supposedly buried.

23 Transpierced “To pierce through from side to side” (OED).

26 Fleming A reference to Ellen’s chosen lover, who appears as “William” or “Adam” in various ballads. He is said to have returned from successful military feats on the Continent and died on Ellen’s grave at Kirkconnell Chapel.

37 Coranick [Unable to trace]

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (July 1783), p. 607.

Edited by: Karinna Seward


Stephen Duck, “To Death. An Irregular Ode”


 “To DEATH. An Irregular ODE”


HAIL, formidable KING!
My Muse thy dreaded fame shall sing.
Why should old HOMER’S pompous lays
Immortalize ACHILLES’ Praise!
Or why should ADDISON’S harmonious Verse                                   5
Our MARLBRO’S nobler Deeds rehearse?
Alas! no more these Heroes shine;
Their Pow’r is all subdu’d by Thine.
Where are these mighty Leaders now,
Great POMPEY, CAESAR, and Young AMMON too,                            10
Who thought he drew immortal Breath ?
These bold ambitious Sons of MARS
Who dy’d the Globe with bloody Wars,
Are vanquish’d all by thee, victorious DEATH !


Ev’n while they liv’d, their Martial Hate                                                 15
But firmer fix’d thy Throne;
Nor, tho’ it hasten’d others Fate,
Could it delay their own.
Nor didst thou want their Rage to kill;
Thy own can execute thy Will;                                                          20
Whene’er thou dost exert thy Pow’r,
A Thousand morbid Troops thy Call obey;
Sometimes thy wasting Plagues devour,
And sweep whole realms away.
Now with contagious Biles the City mourns,                                         25
And now thy scorching Fever burns,
Or trembling Quartan chills;
Of Heat and Cold the dire extremes
Now freeze, now fire the Blood with Flames,
Till various Torment kills.                                                                  30


CONSUMPTIONS, and Rheumatic Pain,
And Apoplectic Fits, that rack the Brain;
Soul-panting Asthmas, Dropsy, and Catarrh,
Gout, Palsy, Lunacy and black Despair;
Pangs, that neglected Lovers feel;                                                     35
Corroding Jealousy, their earthly Hell,
Which makes the injur’d Woman wild;
And pow’rful Spleen that gets the Man with Child;
Physicians, surgeons, Bawds, and Whores, and Wine,
Are all obsequious servants of Thine;                                                         40
Nay, and RELIGION, too
When Hypocrites their interest pursue,
Or frantic Zeal inspires,
It calls for Racks, and Wheels, and Fires:
Then all our mystic Articles of Faith                                                             45
Instead of saving Life, become the Cause of DEATH.


GREAT MONARCH! how secure must be thy Crown,
When all these Things conspire to prop thy Throne?
Yet, in thy universal Reign,
Thou dost not use tyrannic Sway.                                                        50
Whate’er the Weak and Tim’rous say,
Who tremble at thy Frown;
Thou art propitious to our Pain,
And break’st the groaning Pris’ner’s Chain,
Which Tyranny put on.                                                                   55
In Thee the Lover quits his Care,
Nor longer courts the cruel Fair,
Her Coldness mourns no more:
In Thee Ambition ends it Race,
And finds at length the destin’d Place,                                                60
It ne’er could find before:
The Merchant too, who plows the Main,
In greedy Quest of Gain,
By Thee to happier Climes is brought,
Than those his wild, insatiate Av’rice sought.                                            65


PROPITIOUS Succourer of the Distrest,
Who often, by the Dead, dost make the Living blest !
How could profusive Heirs attend
Their Mistress, Bottle, Ball, and Play,
If timely Thou wert not their Friend,                                                    70
To snatch the scraping Sire away?
How would dull Poets weary Time
With their insipid Rhyme,
And teaze and tire the Reader’s Ears
With Party Feuds, and Paper Wars,                                                     75
If Thou, great Critic! didst not use
Thy Pow’r, to point a Period for their Muse?
The Bard, at thy decisive Will,
Discards his mercenary Quill,
Then all his mighty Volumes lie                                                           80
Hid in the peaceful Tomb of vast Obscurity.


I, like the rest, advance my Lays;
With uncouth Numbers, rumble forth a Song,
Sedately dull, to celebrate thy Praise;
And lash, and spur the heavy lab’ring Muse along:                                 85
But soon the fatal Time must come,
(Ordanin’d by Heav’n’s unerring Doom)
When Thou shalt cut the vital Thread,
And shove the verbal Embryos from my Head.
Thence, since I’m sure to meet my Fate,                                            90
How vain would Hope appear?
Since Fear cannot protract the Date,
How foolish ‘twere to fear?
I’ll strive, at least, to stand prepared,
Thy Summons to obey;                                                                  95
Nor would I think thy Sentence hard,
Nor wish, nor fear the Day;
But live in conscious Peace, and die without Dismay.


FALLACIOUS Reas’ners wrong Thee, when
They call the Laws severe.                                                                   100
Severe! to whom? To wicked Men:
Then let the Wicked fear.
Thou judgest all with equal Laws,
No venal Witness backs thy Cause,
NoNo Bribes to Thee are known;                                                105
If thy impartial Hand but strike,
The Prince and Peasant fall alike,
The Courtier and the Clown.
What tho’ a-while the Beggar groans,
While Kings enjoy their gilded Thrones?                                           110
What are Distinctions, Pomp, and Regal Train,
And Honours, got with Care, and kept with Pain?
One friendly Stroke of Thine sets level all again.
All earthly Grandeur must decline;
Nay, ev’n Great GEORGE’S Pow’r submit to Thine:                                  115
But thy Dominion shall endure,
Till PHOEBUS measures Time no more:
Then all shall be in dark Oblivion cast,
And ev’ry mortal Kingdom fall; but thine shall fall the last.


1 King King George II (1683-1760), reigned from 1727.

3 Homer (Precise birth/death unknown; estimated to be ~750BCE). Ancient classical Grecian poet, author of the epics The Iliad and The Odyssey

4 Achilles Highly-acclaimed and famous warrior from Greek mythos; central character of The Iliad.

5 Addison Joseph Addison (1672-1719), author and co-founder of The Spectator, and poet.

6 Marlboro John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). English statesman whose lengthy career earned him extreme fame, power, and wealth.

10 Pompey (106 BC-48 BC) Supremely successful military general of Ancient Rome; Caesar Julius Caesar (100 BC-44 BC), prominent Roman statesman, prose author, and dictator. Assassinated by his own senators; Young Ammon Possibly refers to Molech, an ancient God worshipped by Phoenicians and Canaanites.

12 Mars Mars was a figure of meaningful conflict and male aggression in the Roman mythos.

27 Quartan A malarial fever that reoccurs every 72 hours.

33 Dropsy Medical condition where swelling of fluid beneath the skin causes great pain.

33 Catarrh A disorder of inflammation of mucous membranes in an airway or bodily cavity.

38 Spleen Most often used in this period to describe the nature of melancholy or hysterical affectation. But in this context, used to describe the surge of emotion that man feels towards women; ends in pregnancy.

39 Bawd A prostitute.

44 Racks, Wheels, Fires Refers to various methods of torture associated with religious inquisitions; the rack stretched an individual to dislocate/break limbs; the wheel was an actual wagon wheel that an individual was strapped to, then beaten. Fires could refer to a funeral pyre or burning at the stake.

45 Articles of Faith Refers to passages of the Bible that suggest death as a solution for sins.

62 Main Refers to the merchant “plowing” the main street of a city; a peddler seeking profit.

117 Phoebus Another name for Apollo, the god of the Sun in classical Greek mythology.

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1738), pp. 99-104. [Google Books]

Edited by Spencer Lam

Ann Yearsley, “Thoughts on the Author’s Own Death. Written when very Young”


Thoughts on the Author’s Own Death. Written when very Young”


Thus, when the fatal stroke of Death’s design’d,
On oozy banks th’ expiring swan reclin’d,
Her own sad requiem sings in languid note,
While o’er the stream the dying echoes float.

But, ah! can youth dwell on the tragic part?                                  5
Can I describe the trembling, panting heart?
In Fancy’s frolic age can I relate
The pangs, the terrors of a dying state?
Yes—tho’ unskill’d, I’ll the grim shade pursue,
And bring the distant terror to my view;                                               10
Dwell on the horrors of that gloomy hour;
Death, made familiar, loses half his power.
Peace then, ye passions of ungovern’d youth,
Foes to reflection, enemies to the truth!
Let me, unruffled by your clamorous voice,                                          15
Make the drear regions of the tomb my choice;
And while sad Fancy paints the dismal scene,
Where reflects ghosts by midnight moons are seen
Stalk o’er the gloomy grave, Muse! be it thine
To rouse the vain, the giddy, and supine,                                              20
Who Pleasure’s rounds pursue; while young Desire
Wakes the gay dream, and feeds the dangerous fire:
From these I fly—and now, my pensive soul
Mark the harsh scream of yon death-bonding owl;
Perhaps she calls some lingering, tardy ghost                                     25
To smell the world, ere the dread hour be loft
That parts the night from morn. Come, restless souls,
Relax from torture; you whom Fate controuls
To purge your earthly crimes in liquid fire,
In anguish plung’d, till ages shall expire;                                               30
(This, ROME’S grand tenet) sin thus wash’d away,
Pure, bright, and cleans’d, you’ll wing to endless day.
Presumption, hold! Lo, o’er yon misty tomb
Leans a sad spectre, and bemoans the doom
Of never-erring Justice; heavenly power!                                               35
Support and guard me in this gloomy hour
Of dread inquiry!—”Say, thou wretched soul,
O teach a young, rash, inexperienced fool,
What ‘tis to die, and where thou wing’dst thy way,
When turn’d a wanderer from thy house of clay?                                40
Did’st tread soft lawns, or seek Elysian groves,
Where Poets feign lover’s spirit roves?
Or, on light pinions cut the closing air,
And to each planetary world repair?
Or, guideless, stray where dismal groans rebound,                             45
And forked lightnings quiver on the ground?
Or did sad fiends thy unhous’d spirit meet,
And with shrill yellings the poor trembler greet
To the dark world? Describe that scene of woe
Which thou hast felt, and may I ever know!”                                         50
“Thou’lt know, indeed,” it answers with a groan,
“The pangs of death too sure shall by thy own;
Pains yet unfelt must seize thy every part,
And Death’s cold horrors hover round thy heart;
Thy dying eyes fix’d on some darling friend,                                          55
While strong convulsions their wild orbs extend;
One gasp, and deep eternity in view,
The soul shoots forth, and groans a last adieu.
I dare no more—but Oh! too curious maid,
Seek not to pierce th’impenetrable shade                                             60
Which wraps futurity; thou‘rt sure to die;
Rest there, nor farther search, nor question why;
Scan not Omnipotence—of that beware;
Oft the too curious eye is dimm’d by blank despair.”

Farewel, poor Ghost! ye horrors of the night,                                 65
Begone, nor more my shudd’ring soul affright;
The question unresolv’d I soon shall know,
Then let me haste from this sad scene of woe.

Henceforth, vain Pleasure, I renounce thy joy,
Enchanting Fair, who tempt’st but to destroy;                                        70
Ye thoughtless maids who transient dreams pursue,
No more my moments must be lost with you;
No more my soul in empty mirth shall share,
Or fondly relish pleasures ting’d with care.

And thou, all-merciful! omniscient Power!                                       75
O teach me to redeem each mis-spent hour;
In youth the mind’s best gifts most strongly shine,
Ah! let them not too suddenly decline!
In mercy add a few remaining years,
The grave shall lose its sting, my soul shall lose its fears.                     80


2 expiring swan reclin’d Greek mythological “swan-song;” “a song like that fabled to be sung by a dying swan; the last work of a poet or musician, composed shortly before death; any final performance, action, or effort” (OED).

20 supine Lying on one’s back (OED).

24 Harsh scream of yon death-bonding owl Roman mythology denotes the owl as an omen of ill-fortune or death; contrarily, the Greeks thought owls to bring imminent good fortune.

31 tenet A doctrine, dogma, principle, or opinion, in religion, philosophy, politics, or the like, held by a school, sect, party, or person (OED).

40 house of clay Colloquially this means, “of the Earth”; see also King James Bible, Job 4:19, “How much more them that dwell in houses of clay….”

41 Elysian Of the nature of, or resembling, what is in Elysium (The supposed state or abode of the blessed after death in Greek mythology.); beatific, glorious (OED).

43 pinions A bird’s wing; esp. the wing of a bird in flight (OED).

61 futurity The quality, state, or fact of being future (OED).

63 Omnipotence As an abstract concept: all-powerfulness, almightiness; force, person, or being representing or embodying this quality; God (OED).

71 transient Passing by or away with time; not durable or permanent; temporary (OED).

73 mirth Pleasurable feeling; enjoyment, gratification; joy, happiness (OED).

Source: Poems, on Several Occasions, 4th edn. (London, 1786), pp. 15-20. [Google Books]

Edited by Abby Bergman