Mary Barber, “Written for a Gentlewoman in Distress. To her Grace ADELIDA, Dutchess of Shrewsbury”


Written for a Gentlewoman in Distress. To her Grace ADELIDA, Dutchess of Shrewsbury”

Might I inquire the Reasons of my Fate,
Or with my Maker dare expostulate;
Did I, in prosp’rous Days, despise the Poor,
Or drive the friendless Stranger from my Door?
Was not my Soul pour’d out for the Distress’d?                          5
Did I not vindicate the Poor oppress’d?
Did not the Orphan’s Cry with me prevail?
Did I not weep the Woes I could not heal?
Why then, Thou gracious, Thou all-pow’rful God,
Why do I feel th’ Oppressor’s Iron Rod?                                         10
Why thus the Scorners cruel Taunts endure,
Who basely fret the Wounds, they will not cure?
O Thou, whose Mercy does to All extend,
Say, shall my Sorrows never, never, end?
Let not my Tears for ever, fruitless, flow;                                     15
Commiserate a Wretch, o’erwhelm’d with Woe;
No longer let Distress my Bosom tear:
O shield me from the Horrors of Despair!

Forgive me, Madam, that I thus impart
The Throbs, the Anguish, of a breaking Heart.                            20
Oft, when my weary’d Eyes can weep no more,
To sooth my Woes, I read your Letters o’er.
Goodness, and Wit, and Humour, there I find;
And view with Joy those Pictures of your Mind;
With Pleasure on the lov’d Resemblance gaze,                            25
Till peaceful Slumbers on my Eye-lids seize.
Then, then, Imagination glads my Sight
With transient Images of past Delight;
My aking Heart of ev’ry Care beguiles;
Then TALBOT lives, and ADELIDA smiles.                                       30

Delightful Forms! why will you fleet away,
And leave me to the Terrors of the Day?
In vain from Reason I expect Relief;
For sad Reflection doubles ev’ry Grief.
Some of my Friends in Death’s cold Arms I see;                            35
Others, tho, living, yet are dead to me?
Of Friends, and Children both, I am bereft,
And soon must lose the only Blessing left;
A Husband form’d for Tenderness and Truth,
The lov’d, the kind Companion of my Youth;                                  40
With him, thro’ various Storms of Fate I pass’d;
Relentless Fate!—And must we part at last?
O King of Terrors, I invoke thy Pow’r;
Oh! stand between me and that dreadful Hour;
From that sad Hour thy wretched Suppliant save;                         45
Oh! shield me from it!—Hide me in the Grave!


Title ADELIDA, Dutchess of Shrewsbury Adelhilda Talbot (née Palleotti) (1660-1726), married Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, in 1705.

2 expostulate “To argue or debate” (OED).

10 Iron Rod “A symbol of power or tyranny” (OED).

16 Wretch “A miserable, unhappy, or unfortunate person” (OED).

30 TALBOT Charles Talbot, Duke and twelfth Earl of Shrewsbury (1660-1718). English statesman and leading figure in the Glorious Revolution, in support of William and Mary.  Also played a key role in the “peaceful succession” of George I in 1714 (Britannica).

43 King of Terrors “Death personified” (OED).

45 Suppliant “A person who makes a humble or earnest plea to another, especially to a person in power or authority” (OED).

SOURCE: Mary Barber, Poems on Several Occasions (London,1735), pp. 51-53. [Google Books]

Edited by Madelyn Yukich

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