Tag Archives: occasional verse

Phillis Wheatley, “On Virtue”

PHILLIS WHEATLEY

 “On Virtue”

 

O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound.                                                        5
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heav’n-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promis’d bliss.                                                       10

Auspicious queen, thine heav’nly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! Now her sacred retinue descends,
Array’d in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!                                                                 15
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give me an higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay                                                                          20
O thou, enthron’d with Cherubs in the realms of day!

NOTES

7 Virtue “A quality of people, divine beings” (OED).

9 fain “Glad, rejoiced, well-pleased” (OED).

11 pinions “The wing of a bird in flight” (OED).

12 Chastity “Purity from unlawful sexual intercourse; continence” (OED).

18 Greatness “Innate nobility or dignity,…grandeur” (OED); Goodness “The quality of being morally good; virtue; worthiness” (OED).

21 Cherubs Angels.

Source: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773), pg. 13-14. [Archive.org]

Edited by Joseph R. Adams

Anonymous, “Scattered Thoughts, by a Lady”

ANONYMOUS

“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!

NOTES:

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

Matthew Pilkington, “The Lost Muse”

MATTHEW PILKINGTON
“The Lost Muse”

Clio the sweetest Muse of Nine
Who charm the Gods with Lays divine,
Private and unperceiv’d withdrew,
And swift from sacred Pindus flew,
On some exalted Project bent,                                                    5
But told no Creature her Intent.

The God of Numbers heard it said,
His fav’rite, sweet-tongu’d Muse was fled,
And he had oft observ’d, of late
That she was absent from her Seat,                                        10
When all her tuneful Sister-Train
Were forming some immortal Strain.

He us’d to send her, now and then,
With Hints to some peculiar Men,
To Pope, Delany, Gay, or Swift,                                                    15
But now he cou’d not guess her Drift,
And wonders much, that she wou’d venture
To visit Bards, except he sent her;
So, half-provok’d, away he flies,
Takes Hermes with him in Disguise,                                          20
Resolv’d to roam the World around,
’Till Clio’s private Haunt is found.

The Gods, impatient of Delay,
To fam’d Eblana wing their Way,
And prudent, first at Swift’s descend,                                      25
Apollo’s best-regarded Friend,
And whom the God of Verse and Wit,
Inspir’d in ev’ry Line he writ;
There might they hope their Prize to gain
Where ev’ry Muse delights to Reign;                                        30
But she, to execute her Scheme,
Had left him just before they came.

Quick as descending Rays of Light,
To Delville next they take their Flight:
Delville, where all the Wise resort,                                            35
Where oft the Muses keep their Court;
And veil’d from ev’ry mortal Eye
Thro’ all the Doctor’s Rooms they pry,
They search his arbour’d Seats, and Garden,
(Fit Place to find a Muse or Bard in:)                                         40
Then turn’d his Papers o’er with Care,
And plainly found she had been there,
Such Learning, Elegance, and Ease,
Appear in all Delany’s Lays,
Such Beauties in his Numbers shine,                                      45
As prove their Origin divine.

With these their Disappointments vext,
They fly to fair Saphira’s next,
And found her, forming into Rhime
A Thought exalted and Sublime,                                              50
Perceiv’d such Excellence and Wit,
Such Charms in all she spoke and writ,
As soon convinc’d their wond’ring Eyes,
The Muse was with her in Disguise,
And, fond the rising Age to bless,                                            55
Assum’d a mortal Form and Dress.

The God, delighted, calms his Rage,
And crys, there Live, to charm the Age,
Be thou a gay inspiring Guest,
And fill, the soft Delights, her Breast,                                     60
That Breast with all that’s good replete,
But Clio, this will be thy Fate,
Thou shalt contrive the deathless Lays,
But see Saphira win the Praise.

NOTES:

1 Clio “Proper name of the Muse of epic poetry and history” (OED).

4 Pindus A range of mountains in west central Greece, stretching from the border with Albania southwards to the Gulf of Corinth (OED).

7 God of Numbers Apollo, God of poetry (OED).

15 Pope Alexander Pope ( 1688–1744 ), an English poet and a major figure of the Augustan age who is famous for his caustic wit and metrical skill, in particular his use of the heroic couplet (OED); Delany Patrick Delany (?1685–1768) an Irish clergyman and writer, friend of Jonathan Swift (OED); Gay John Gay (1685–1732) an English poet and playwright who is chiefly known for The Beggar’s Opera (1728) (OED); Swift Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) an Irish satirist, poet, and Anglican cleric; known as Dean Swift. He is best known for Gulliver’s Travels (1726) (OED).

18 Bards Poets (OED).

20 Hermes “In Greek mythology, a deity, the son of Zeus and Maia, represented as the messenger of the gods, the god of science, commerce, eloquence, and many of the arts of life” (OED).

24 Eblana Name recorded in Ptolemy’s geography (2nd cent. ad) for the site of what is now Dublin (OED).

26 Apollo The god of the sun, truth, music, poetry, dance and healing. Poets and bards put themselves under his protection (OED).

34 Delville The Delany estate located in Glasnevin, Ireland; a separate village in the eighteenth century, now part of Dublin.

48 Saphira Mary Barber (c. 1685-c.1755), poet and friend of Swift and Delany (Memoirs of Laetitia Pilkington, vol. I, ed. A.C. Elias, Jr, 393).

49 Rhime “Metre, measure” (in verse) (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (1730), pp. 52-58. [Google Books]

Edited by August Braddock

Stephen Duck, “On Music”

STEPHEN DUCK

 “On MUSIC

 I.

MUSIC the coldest Heart can warm,
The hardest melt, the fiercest charm;
Disarm the Savage of his Rage,
Dispel our Cares, and Pains assuage;
With Joy it can our Souls inspire,                                                  5
And tune our Tempers to the Lyre;
Our Passions, like the Notes, agree,
And stand subdu’d by Harmony.
This found the melancholy King,
When David tun’d the trembling String:                                     10
Sweet Music chas’d the fullen Spleen away,
And made his clouded Soul serenely gay.

II.

WHILE Music breathes in martial Airs,
The Coward dares forget his Fears;
Or, if the Notes to Pity sound,                                                     15
Revenge and Envy cease to wound:
The Pow’r of MUSIC has been known,
To raise or tumble Cities down:
Thus Theban Turrets, Authors say,
Were rais’d by MUSIC’s Magick Lay;                                            20
And antient Jericho’s Heav’n-hated Wall,
To sacred MUSIC, ow’d its destin’d Fall.

III.

NOR Mortals only MUSIC love;
It chears celestial Saints above:
Sweet Hallelujahs Angels sing                                                      25
Around their great Ethereal King;
CeaslessCeasless they sound the FATHER’S Praise,
The FATHER too approves their Lays;
For HE (as all Things) MUSIC made,
And SERAPHIMS before Him play’d:                                            30
When over Horeb’s Mount He came,
Array’d in Majesty and Flame;
After the sounding Trump, sublime, He rode;
The sounding Trump proclaim’d the’ approaching GOD.

IV.

MUSIC had Being, long before                                                     35
The solemn Organ learnt to roar:
When MICHAEL, o’er the heav’nly Plain,
Advanc’d, to fight the rebel Train;
Loud Trumpets did his Wrath declare,
In MUSIC, terrible to hear:                                                             40
And when the Universe was made,
On golden Harps the Angels play’d:
And when it falls, (as fall it must)
MUSIC shall penetrate the Dust;
The Trump shall sound with the Archangel’s Breath;                       45
And, sweetly dreadful! wake the Dead from Death.

NOTES:

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

9 melancholy King An allusion to King Saul in the Bible.

10 David tun’d the trembling String In the first book of Samuel, David would play the lyre to calm Saul when the evil spirit of God was upon him (1 Samuel 16:23).

11 Spleen “Excessive dejection or depression of spirits; gloominess and irritability.” (OED).

19 Theban Turrets A structure or tower belonging to Thebes, ancient capital of Boeotia in Greece.

20 Lay “A short lyric or narrative poem intended to be sung” (OED).

21 Jericho’s Heav’n-hated Wall In the Bible Joshua is instructed to sound trumpets before taking over the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:20).

30 Seraphims Biblical angels.

31 Horeb’s Mount The mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

32 Majesty and Flame Allusion to the Burning bush that the Lord appeared as to give Moses the Ten Commandments.

37 MICHAEL, o’er the heav’nly Plain Michael was an archangel who fought the Devil in heaven.

45 The Trump shall sound with the Archangel’s Breath An allusion to the archangel Michael sounding his triumph after defeating the Devil in heaven (Jude 1:9 and Revelation 12:7-9).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions, (3rd Edition) (London, 1753), pp. 49-51. [Google Books]

 Edited by Noelle Gallagher

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

ANONYMOUS

“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.

NOTES:

 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 seeing Saphira in a Riding Habit”

ANONYMOUS

 On seeing SAPHIRA in a Riding Habit

 WHEN Sapphira, in her sex’s garb we see,
The queen of beauty then she seems to be:
Now, fair Adonis, in this male disguise,
Or Cupid, killing with his mother’s eyes:
No stile of empire’s chang’d by this remove,                                                       5
Who seem’d the goddess, seems the god of love.

NOTES:

Title Riding Habit “A garment or outfit worn for horse riding; (in later use) a riding dress worn by women or girls, consisting of a long skirt and tight-fitting, double-breasted jacket” (OED).

3 Adonis In classical myth, a beautiful youth loved by both Aphrodite and Persephone. In extended usage, an Adonis is an extremely handsome young man (OCD).

4 Cupid, killing with his mothers eyes In classical mythology, the god of love and desire. He is often portrayed as the son of Venus, the goddess of love.

5 stile Variant spelling of the word “style.”

Source: The Gentlemans Magazine, vol. 36 (February 1766), p. 89.

Edited by Sierra Moreno

Anonymous, “Evening and Night”

       ANONYMOUS

“EVENING and NIGHT”

NOW all is calm, and through the ambient air
The breathing zephyrs, on their balmy wings,
Ambrosial odours waft, that glad the heart
And to the nerves relax’d on their tone restore,
The sun, just hovering on the giddy verge,                                           5
‘Twixt world and world, faint and oblique, emits
His blunted rays; that tinge with golden dye
The lofty mountain’s russet head from far,
Mean while he opes on some far distant realm
The chrystal portals of the joyful morn,                                               10
Proclaiming, as he moves, returning day.
As more to these he lends his chearing beams,
Night, from the east, in majesty sedate,
And slow progression comes, with shade o’er shade
Of growing darkness; and with silent force                                         15
Expels the last reluctant ling’ring ray.
Where art thou busy world? and in what cave
Profound and dark, now hush’d to silence deep,
Sleeps your loud noise, your tumult, and confusion
That lately beat the yielding air; and where                                          20
That soft harmonious change of various notes?
Now only the sad nightingale disturbs
The solemn silence while thro’ awful shades,
Sad as the night she sings, the warbler pours
Her plaintive notes. Or from his lonely haunt,                                     25
The tott’ring ruins of some antient dome,
The midnight owl, bent on black deeds, steals forth
And with dread cries, and harsh discordant notes,
To the drear hour adds horrors not its own.
Hail! sacred silence, thou who first of things                                 30
Erst held thro’ all th’ ilimitable void,
An universal sway, ere circling worlds
Were form’d, ere yon caerulean arch began
T’ expand its recent shape, and ere the sun
Was from blended mass, formless and rude,                                       35
Sever’d, and fix’d the lucid central point
Of fair creation’s wide extended round.
Blest pow’r, I feel thy sacred influence now,
Thine is the gen’rous plan that patriots form;
Thine is the glow that warms the poet’s mind;                                     40
Led forth by thee he wanders forth, beneath
The silver moon, and conscious satyrs, to view
The gloomy night, whose dusky horrors please
And wake in studious minds the lofty thought.
Not to the sons of riot spend their hours,                                            45
Sworn foes at once to silence and to peace,
These to ill deeds the midnight revel fires
To rude intemp’rance and to lawless love.
See o’er the north a blaze of meteors spread,
In mystic dance, and convolutions wild;                                               50
Dilated now, how dens’d, now brightness all,
Now stain’d with sanguine dye, swiftly they mix,
They thwart, extinguish, and renew. On these
Pale Superstition turns her eye aghast,
And sees, or thinks she sees, portended fate.                                     55
Yet these, and whate’er else the worlds above
Meteor or storm, produce, are but thy path
Father of light and life; whate’er we see,
Whate’er we know, is but the varied God,
He in black darkness oft, and thickest gloom,                                     60
Involves his awful brow, or mounts the blaze,
Of unextinguish’d light, and round the world,
The wond’ring world, displays Almighty pow’r,
And love, which, unconfin’d, sustains, directs,
Whatever is—to him be endless praise.                                        65
Sheerness, Dec. 11, 1760

NOTES:

2 zephyrs A soft, gentle breeze (OED). Wind that blows from the west.

3 Ambrosial Something very pleasing to taste or smell (OED).

22 nightingale A small bird known for its rich song (OED). In literature and poetry, the nightingale and its nocturnal song are often used as symbols of love and loss.

31 Erst Formerly (OED).

33 caerulean A sky-blue color.

 42 satyrs Woodland figures of Classical mythology who resemble men with horse or goat-like physical features. Typically represented as lustful and hedonistic.

 52 sanguine Optimistic, especially in an apparently difficult situation. In medieval science,     “sanguine” referred to a ruddy complexion and an optimistic disposition symptomatic of an excess of blood in the bodily humors (OED).

66 Sheerness A coastal town in Southeast England that began as a naval fort and dockyard in the seventeenth century (BBC).

SOURCE: The Gentleman’s Magazine (December, 1760), pp. 586-87.

 Edited by Ariana Balagtas

Mary Masters, “On seeing a Lady…”

 

MARY MASTERS

“On seeing a Lady with a new fashion’d Riding-Dress, and a Hat cock’d up”

The Round-ear’d Cap (once worn with decent Pride)
And Velvet Bonnet both are thrown aside;
The Beaver, now, cock’d up with bolder Air,
And manly Habit, please the fickle Fair.
Yet, for Excuse, it justly may be said,                              5
A Scheme with deepest Policy is laid:
Since, among Men, there is a stupid Race,
Who slight the Graces of the Female Face:
Since Fops so long have self-enamour’d been,
And view the Mirror with a raptur’d Mien;                    10
They hope in this Disguise each Beau to charm,
And win th’ Apostates with a mimick Form.
With happy Art so justly they improve,
Sure all must now the Manlike Beauties love.


NOTES:

Title Riding-Dress, and a Hat cock’d up The female riding habit dates from the 1660s, and was usually comprised of a jacket and waistcoat in imitation of men’s fashion at the time, with a similar cravat worn at the neck, a periwig and cocked hat on the head, and full skirts and petticoats. Criticism of this androgynous female fashion came from influential literary men like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, John Gay, Samuel Richardson, and Horace Walpole through the first half of the century, and popular periodicals like the London Journal and the Gentleman’s Magazine inveighed against the practice in the 1730s.

1 Round-ear’d cap Headwear for women, made of linen or cotton, that curved around the head to cover the ears and edged with lace or ruffles; fashionable in the early decades of the eighteenth century.

3 Beaver…cock’d up A hat made of felted beaver fur, with the brim folded up; probably a reference to the popular tri-corner style hat.

9 Fops A derogatory term for a vain, dandyish man.

11 Beau A handsome, fashionable young man; here a synonym for “fop.”

12 Apostates Those who have abandoned their religious faith, political allegiances, or principles in general.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1733), pp. 157-8.

Edited by Bill Christmas