Elizabeth Singer Rowe, “To one that persuades me to leave the Muses”


“To one that perswades me to leave the Muses”


Forgo the charming Muses! No, in spight
Of your ill-natur’d Prophecy I’ll write,
And for the future paint my thoughts at large,
I waste no paper at the Hundreds charge:
I rob no Neighbouring Geese of Quills, nor slink                                             5
For a collection to the Church for ink:
Besides my Muse is the most gentle thing
That ever yet made an attempt to sing:
I call no Lady Punk, nor Gallants Fops,
Nor set the married world an edge for Ropes;                                                  10
Yet I’m so scurvily inclin’d to Rhiming,
That undesign’d my thoughts burst out a chiming;
My active Genius will by no means sleep,
And let it then its proper channel keep.
I’ve told you, and you may believe me too,                                                     15
That I must this, or greater mischiefe do;
And let the world think me inspir’d, or mad,
I’le surely write whilst paper’s to be had;
Since Heaven to me has a Retreat assign’d,
That would inspire a less harmonious mind.                                                     20
All that a Poet loves I have in view,
Delight some Hills, refreshing Shades, and pleasant Valleys too,
Fair spreading Valleys cloath’d with lasting green,
And Sunny Banks with gilded streams between,
Gay as Elisium, in a Lovers Dream,                                                                       25
Or Flora’s Mansion, seated by a stream,
Where free from sullen cares I live at ease,
Indulge my Muse, and wishes, as I please,
Exempt from all that looks like want or strife,
I smoothly glide along the Plains of Life,                                                                 30
Thus Fate conspires, and what can I do to’t?
Besides, I’m veh’mently in love to boot,
And that there’s not a Willow Sprig but knows,
In whose sad shade I breathe my direful woes.
But why for these dull Reasons do I pause,                                                         35
When I’ve at hand my genuine one, because!
And that my Muse may take no counter Spell,
I fairly bid the Boarding Schools farewel:
No Young Impertinent, shall here intrude,
And vex me from this blisful solitude.                                                                   40
Spite of her heart, Old Puss shall damn no more
Great Sedley’s Plays, and never look ’em o’re;
Affront my Novels, no, nor in a Rage,
Force Drydens lofty Products from the Stage,
Whilst all the rest of the melodious crew,                                                               45
With the whole System of Athenians too,
For Study’s sake out of the Window flew.
But I’to Church, shall fill her Train no more,
And walk as if I sojurn’d by the hour.
To Stepwel and his Kit I bid adieu,                                                                    50
Fall off, and on, be hang’d and Coopee too
Thy self for me, my dancing days are o’re;
I’le act th’ inspired Bachannels no more.
Eight Notes must for another Treble look,
In Burlesque to make Faces by the book.                                                               55
Japan, and my esteemed Pencil too,
And pretty Cupid, in the Glass adieu,
And since the dearest friends that be must part,
Old Governess farewell with all my heart.
Now welcome all ye peaceful Shades and Springs,                                                60
And welcome all the inspiring tender things;
That please my genius, suit my make and years,
Unburden’d yet with all but lovers cares.


1 Muses “The nine goddesses regarded as presiding over and inspiring learning and the arts, esp. poetry and music” (OED).

4 Hundreds Corrected from “Hunderds;” a printer’s error.

9 Lady Punk “Prostitute” (OED); Fop “One who is foolishly attentive to and vain of his appearance, dress, or manners; a dandy, an exquisite” (OED).

25 Elisium Elysium; the paradise where the gods determined a hero’s immortality, a land of perfect happiness (Britannica).

26 Flora’s Mansion The natural world; Flora is the Roman goddess of the flowering plants (Britannica).

32 to boot “In addition” (OED).

33 Sprig “A small branch of a tree” (OED).

41 Old Puss A contemptuous term for a woman.

42 Sedley Sir Charles Sedley, 4th Baronet, (1639-1701), “an English Restoration poet, dramatist, wit, and courtier.” One of his most notable plays was Bellamira (1687) (Britannica).

44 Force Drydens lofty Products from the Stage John Dryden (1631-1700), poet, playwright, and influential critic; the suppression of Rowe’s work was linked to censorship of Dryden’s dramas (John West, Dryden and Enthusiasm: Literature, Religion, and Politics in Restoration England, p. 170).

46 whole system of Athenians A reference to The Athenian Society, founded by John Dunton (1659-1733), bookseller and author, in 1691.  Rowe regularly published poetry in The Athenian Mercury, the society’s periodical published by Dunton, between 1693 and 1696.

50 Stepwel A made up name for a dancing master; Kit “A small fiddle, formerly much used by dancing masters” (OED).

51 Coopee Coupee; “a dance step” typically included in a minuet (OED).

53 Bachannels Bacchanals; “a dance or song in honour of Bacchus,” Roman god of wine and fertility (OED).

54 Eight Notes Eighth notes; “The note separated from any given one above or below by an interval of an eighth” (OED);Treble The G clef, “pertaining to, or suited to the highest part in harmonized musical composition” (OED).

56 Japan A black compound applied to the eye; Pencil “A small brush suitable for delicate work” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1696), pp. 6-9.  [Google Books]

Edited by Celina Lopez

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