Tag Archives: Ann Yearsley

Ann Yearsley, “Soliloquy”




—What folly to complain,
Or throw my woes against the face of Heaven?
Ills, self-created, prey upon my soul,
And rob each coming hour of soften’d Peace.
What then? Is Fate to blame? I chose distress;                                   5
Free will was mine; I might have still been happy
From a fore-knowledge of the dire effect,
And the sad bondage of resistless love.
I knew the struggles of a wounded mind,
Not self-indulging, and not prone to vice,                                           10
Knew all the terrors of conflicting passion,
Too stubborn foe, and ever unsubdu’d;
Yet rashly parley’d with the mighty victor.
Infectious mists upon my senses hang,
More deadly than LETHEAN dews which fall                                        15
From SOMNUS’ bough, on the poor wearied wretch,
Whose woes are fully told!—
The dire contagion creeps thro’ all my frame,
Seizes my heart, and drinks my spirit up.
Ah! fatal poison, whither dost thou tend?                                              20
Tear not my soul with agonizing pains;
There needs no more; the world to me is lost,
And all the whirl of life-unneeded thrift.
I sicken at the Sun, and fly his beams,
Like some sad ghost which loves the moonless night,                         25
And pensive shuns the morn. The deep recess
Where dim-ey’d Melancholy silent sits,
Beckoning the poor desponding slighted wretch,
Suits well. ‘Tis here I find a gloomy rest;
‘Tis here the fool’s loud clatter leaves me still,                                       30
Nor force unwilling answers to their tale:
But, ah! this gloom, this lethargy of thought,
Yields not repose; I sigh the hour away;
The next rolls on, and leaves me still opprest.
But, oh! swift-footed Time, thou ceaseless racer,                                   35
Thou who hast chac’d five thousand years before thee,
With all their great events, and minute trifles,
Haste, with redoubled speed, bring on the hour,
When dark Oblivion’s dusky veil shall shroud
Too painful Memory. —                                                                               40


15 LetheanPertaining to the river Lethe; hence, pertaining to or causing oblivion or forgetfulness of the past” (OED).

16 Somnus Roman god of sleep.

23 thrift “Means of thriving; industry, labour; profitable occupation” or “prosperous growth; physical thriving” (OED).

38 Redoubled “To double (a thing) for a second or further time; (also) to double repeatedly” (OED).

Source: Poems, on Several Occasions, fourth edition (London, 1786), pp. 58-60.  [Google Books]

 Edited by Willis Plowman

Ann Yearsley, “To a Friend, on Valentine’s Day”


“To a Friend, on Valentine’s Day”


Tho’ blooming shepherds hail this day
With love, the subject of each lay,
Yet friendship tunes my artless song,
To thee the grateful themes belong.

STREPHON, I never will repine,                                                5
Tho’ desin’d not thy Valentine;
O’er friendship’s nobler heights we’ll rove,
Nor heed the soft’ning voice of love.

Strangers to Passion’s tyrant reign,
Careless, we’ll range the happier plain,                                  10
Where all those calmer joys we’ll prove,
Which wait sublime platonic love.

Yet I’ll allow a future day,
When friendship must at last give way;
When thou, forgetful, shalt resign                                             15
The maid who wrote this Valentine.

Think not, my friend, I dream of love ,
That with some happier maid thou’lt prove;
Friendship alone is my design
In this officious Valentine.                                                            20

Yet, when that victor God shall reign,
And conquer’d Friendship quits the plain,
This gentle whisperer captive take,
‘T will all they former kindness wake.

But if its pleadings you deny,                                                        25
And fain wou’d have remembrance die,
Then to devouring flames consign
My too ill-fated Valentine.


1 blooming “In the bloom of health and beauty, in the prime of youth” (OED).

5 STREPHON A typical male name used in pastoral poetry (Oxford Reference); repine “To feel or express discontent or dissatisfaction; to grumble, complain” (OED).

12 sublime “ perfect, consummate; supreme” (OED); platonic “ Of love, affection, or friendship: intimate and affectionate but not sexual; spiritual rather than physical” (OED).

26 fain “Gladly, willingly, with pleasure” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1786), p. 21.  [Google Books]

Edited by Katherine Lowden

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