Tag Archives: common meter stanzas

Elizabeth Carter, “To Miss Hall. 1746”


“To Miss Hall. 1746”


WHILE soft thro’ water, earth, and air,
The vernal spirits rove,
From noisy joys, and giddy crowds,
To rural scenes remove.

The mountain snows are all dissolv’d,                                    5
And hush’d the blust’ring gale:
While fragrant Zephyrs gently breathe,
Along the flow’ry vale.

The circling planets constant rounds
The wintry wastes repair:                                                  10
And still, from temporary death,
Renew the verdant year.

But ah! when once our transient bloom,
The spring of life is o’er,
That rosy season takes its flight,                                              15
And must return no more.

Yet judge by Reason’s sober rules,
From false opinion free,
And mark how little pilf’ring years
Can steal from you or me.                                                   20

Each moral pleasure of the heart,
Each lasting charm of truth,
Depends not on the giddy aid
Of wild, inconstant youth.

The vain coquet, whose empty pride                                         25
A fading face supplies,
May justly dread the wintry gloom,
Where all its glory dies.

Leave such a ruin to deplore,
To fading forms confin’d:                                                       30
Nor age, nor wrinkles discompose
One feature of the mind.

Amidst the universal change
Unconscious of decay,
It views, unmov’d, the scythe of Time                                          35
Sweep all besides away.

Fixt on its own eternal frame,
Eternal are its joys:
While, borne on transitory wings,
Each mortal pleasure flies.                                                     40

While ev’ry short-liv’d flower of sense
Destructive years consume,
Thro’ Friendship’s fair enchanting walks
Unfading myrtles bloom.

Nor with the narrow bounds of Time,                                           45
The beauteous prospect ends,
But lengthen’d thro’ the vale of Death,
To Paradise extends.


Title “Afterwards wife of the Rev. John Nairn, of Kingston, near Canterbury” [Author’s Note].

2 vernal “Of the springtime” (OED).

7 Zephyrs “The west wind, frequently personified” (OED).

25 coquet “A woman, who is a flirt for the gratification of vanity and has no intention on responding to the feelings provoked” (OED).

35 scythe of Time Typically a destructive force.

44 myrtles Evergreen shrubs or small trees with fragrant white flowers (OED).

Source: Montagu Pennington, ed., Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, with a New Edition of her Poems (London, 1807), pp. 394-395.  [Google Books]

Edited by Eileen Sosa

Anne Finch, “The Cautious Lovers”


“The Cautious Lovers”


Silvia, let’s from the Croud retire;
For, What to you and me
(Who but each other do desire)
Is all that here we see?

Apart we’ll live, tho’ not alone;                                                            5
For, who alone can call
Those, who in Desarts live with One,
If in that One they’ve All?

The World a vast Meander is,
Where Hearts confus’dly stray;                                                   10
Where Few do hit, whilst Thousands miss
The happy mutual Way:

Where Hands are by stern Parents ty’d
Who oft, in Cupid’s Scorn,
Do for the widow’d State provide,                                                       15
Before that Love is born:

Where some too soon themselves misplace;
Then in Another find
The only Temper, Wit, or Face,
That cou’d affect their Mind.                                                         20

Others (but oh! avert that Fate!)
A well-chose Object change:
Fly, Silvia, fly, ere ‘tis too late;
Fall’n Nature’s prone to range.

And, tho’ in heat of Love we swear                                                      25
More than perform we can;
No Goddess You, but Woman are,
And I no more than Man.

Th’ impatient Silvia heard thus long;
Then with a Smile reply’d:                                                               30
Those Bands cou’d ne’er be very strong,
Which Accidents divide.

Who e’er was mov’d yet to go down,
By such o’er-cautious Fear;
Or for one Lover left the Town,                                                              35
Who might have Numbers here?

Your Heart, ‘tis true, is worth them all,
And still preferr’d the first;
But since confess’d so apt to fall,
‘Tis good to fear the worst.                                                              40

In ancient History we meet
A flying Nymph betray’d
Who, had she kept in fruitful Crete,
New Conquest might have made.

And sure, as on the Beach she stood,                                                    45
To view the parting Sails;
She curs’d her self, more than the Flood,
Or the conspiring Gales.

False Theseus, since thy Vows are broke,
May following Nymphs beware:                                                      50
Methinks I hear how thus she spoke,
And will not trust too far.

In Love, in Play, in Trade, in War
They best themselves acquit,
Who, tho’ their Int’rests shipwreckt are,                                                     55
Keep unreprov’d their Wit.


9 Meander “A winding course, like a labyrinth” (OED).

42 Nymph Poetical for woman in this context; an allusion to Ariadne, daughter of Minos and princess of Crete (Britannica).

43 Crete The largest island in Greece. Inhabited by the Minoans, a Bronze Age civilization, ruled by King Minos (Britannica).

45 Beach Refers to the shores of Naxos, the island where Ariadne was abandoned by her lover Theseus (Ancient History Encyclopedia).

48 Gales “A wind of considerable strength” (OED).

49 Theseus Athenian hero noteworthy for slaying the minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth with the help of Ariadne, who provided a yarn ball as aid for navigating the labyrinth (Ancient History Encyclopedia).

56 unreprov’d “Uncensured” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London 1714), pp. 118-122. [Google Books]

 Edited by Roland Shepherd

Mary Leapor, “On Sickness”


“On Sickness”


WHEN Heav’n’s almighty King prepares,
The angry Shaft to throw;
Ev’n Fortitude itself despairs
To bear the deadly Blow.

Cold Tremors shake each fainting Limb,                                  5
That weeps a sickly Dew;
The Features, chang’d to pale and dim,
Resign their cheerful Hue.

No more soft Eloquence shall flow,
Nor dress the silent Tongue;                                               10
But the dull Heart refuse to glow,
Tho’ charm’d by melting Song.

Those laughing Eyes, that lately shone
So sprightly and so gay,
Sunk down with Sickness, faint and wan,                                  15
Decline the piercing Day.

And scarcely bear a cheerful Beam,
To light the drooping Soul;
While round the weak afflicted Brain
Romantick Vapours roll.                                                          20

Deceitful Earth and all its Joys
Elude our grasping Hands:
Tho’ Nature all her Skill employs,
To bind the failing Bands.

Death drives us to the horrid Steep;                                             25
And while we vainly mourn,
He pointing shews th’ unmeasur’d Deep,
From whence we ne’er return.

There the grim Spectre, with a Smile,
His panting Victim fees:                                                             30
Who fain wou’d linger here a while,
To swallow nauseous Lees.

Who Death’s great Empire wou’d dispute,
And hugs the gilded Pill,
Not knowing That his faithful Mute,                                                35
Whose Business is to kill.

The lost, the slipp’ry Hold to save,
To lenient Arts we run;
They cast us headlong on the Wave,
And we are twice undone.                                                          40

The Pow’r who stamp’d the reas’ning Mind,
Its Partner can restore;
There we a lasting Cordial find,
And learn to sigh no more.

But if the slow-consuming Ill                                                               45
Shou’d lead us to the Grave,
Our Faith persuades us that he will
The trembling Spirit save.

O thou, whose Bounty all things taste,
Whose Anger none can bear;                                                        50
Revive the melancholy Breast,
Nor let the Wretch despair.


6 Dew  “Perspiration, sweat” (OED).

8  Hue  “External appearance of the face and skin, complexion,” color (OED).

15 wan  “Lacking light, or lustre” (OED).

20 Romantick “Fantastic, extravagant, quixotic” (OED).

29 Spectre  “An apparition, phantom, or ghost” (OED).

32 Lees  “Basest part, ‘dregs’, ‘refuse’” (OED).

38 lenient Arts Here a reference to gentle, or “soothing” medical practices (OED).

43 Cordial “A medicine, food or beverage which invigorates the heart and stimulates the circulation” (OED).

Source:  Poems Upon Several Occasions (London, 1748), pp. 263-266. [Google Books]  

Edited by Kaitlan Gomez  

Mary Masters, “To Lucinda”


To Lucinda”

 LUCINDA, you in vain disswade
Two Hearts from mutual Love.
What am’rous Youth, or tender Maid
Could e’er their Flames remove?

What, if the Charms in him I see                                      5
Only exist in Thought:
Yet CUPID’S like the Medes Decree,
Is firm and changeth not.

Seek not to know my Passion’s spring,
The Reason to discover:                                            10
For Reason is an useless Thing,
When we’ve commenc’d the Lover.

Should Lovers quarrel with their Fate,
And ask the Reason why,
They are condemn’d to doat on That,                              15
Or for This Object die?

They must not hope for a Reply,
And this is all they know;
They sigh, and weep, and rave, and die,
Because it must be so.                                                20

LOVE is a mighty God you know,
That rules with potent Sway:
And, when he draws his awful Bow,
We Mortals must obey.

Since you the fatal Strife endur’d,                                     25
And yielded to his Dart:
How can I hope to be secur’d,
And guard a weaker Heart?


1 disswade Variation of dissuade “to give advice against” (OED).

7 CUPID’S The Roman God of love, son of Venus; often appears as an infant with wings carrying a bow, and arrows that have the power to inspire love in those they pierce (Encyclopædia Britannica); Medes Decree Refers to the laws of the Medes and Persians, “Medes” being an ancient Indo-European people whose empire encompassed most of Persia; in the Bible, “laws of the Medes” is a proverbial phrase meaning, “something that is unalterable” (OED).

21 LOVE The God of love, Cupid.

22 Sway “Power” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London: T. Browne, 1733), pp. 151-53.  [Hathi Trust]

Edited by Brittany Kirn

James Graeme, “Rona: An Elegiac Ballad”


“RONA: An Elegiac Ballad”

 “The noise of war is on the breeze,
And can Hidallan stay?
My soul is in the strife of shields—”
He spoke, and burst away.

O! where shall Morna’s maid repose,                                    5
‘Till heroes have their fame?
On Morna’s silent hill of hinds,
Or by its rushy stream?

But what if in the hour of blood
The lovely hero fall?                                                        10
While some dark warrior hangs his shield?
A trophy in his hall!

Leave, Slumber! leave the eye of tears,
Forsake my limbs, Repose!
Lean, love-lorn maidens! from your clouds,                      15
And aid me with your woes.

Fair was Hidallan, as the flow’r
That dyes the dusky heath;
But raise not, bards! the mournful song
Around his stone of death.                                           20

How fell the hero? In his might,
Amid his growing fame!
Not feeble was Hidallan’s foe,
His sword a meteor’s flame.

No more shall Morna’s hall rejoice,                                     25
The feast of shells be spread;
The sigh of Rona’s secret soul,
In Death’s dark house is laid.

Lour not on Rona from your cloud,
The rolling of your rest!                                                 30
Not weak, Hidallan! was my sire,
No fear disturb’d his breast.

In aged Cairbar’s lonely hall,
The strife of heroes rose;
His was Rivine’s stolen glance,                                             35
And many were his foes.

In strength he grasp’d his sword of fire,
The stoutest started back:
Not weak, Hidallan! was my sire,
Nor is his daughter weak.                                             40

Ah! whether rolls thy airy hall?
The sky its blue resumes;
Her father’s sword prepares the cloud,
On which thy Rona comes.


Title Rona The characters who appear in this poem are taken from The Poems of Ossian (1760) by James Macpherson, a collection of poems Macpherson claimed to have translated from Gaelic word of mouth but were, in truth, largely poems of Macpherson’s own creation based loosely in Gaelic or Celtic myths. Rona is the only character mentioned in this poem that does not appear in Macpherson’s The Poems of Ossian. The poems do, however, mention a character named “Ronnan,” who is the male lover of Rivine mentioned in line 35 here (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

2 Hilladan The son of Lamor, one of Fingal’s heroes, whose love had been slighted by the woman Comala. He debuts in the poem “Comala” in The Poems of Ossian (David Scott Kastan, The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, 170; James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

5 Morna Also known as Muirne—first appears in “Fragment 14” by James Macpherson prior to the release of The Poems of Ossian; debuts in “Carthon” in The Poems of Ossian as the daughter of Cormac (King of Ireland), sister of Classammor, wife of  Comhal, mother of Fingal; “fairest of maidens” and “beloved by all” (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

5 Morna’s Maid A maid whose proper name is Moina. In “Fingal, Book One” Cuthullin refers to her as the “maid.” Moina is the daughter of Reuthamir, wife of Clessammor, and mother of Carthon (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

7 Hinds “Female deer, especially of the red deer” (OED).

13 Slumber The Gaelic goddess of sleep and dreams, Caer Ibormeith (Edain McCoy, Celtic Women’s Spirituality, 246).

26 The feast of shells “The ancient Scots, as well as the present Highlanders, drank in shells; hence it is that we so often meet, in the old poetry, with ‘chief of shells’ and ‘the hall of shells’” (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

28 Death Manannan mac Lir: a sea deity, the guardian of the Underworld, and the one responsible for ferrying souls to the afterlife (John Green, Celtic Gods and Heroes, 9).

29 Lour A gloomy or sullen look; a frown, a scowl (OED).

33 Cairbar First mentioned first in “Fingal, Book One” in The Poems of Ossian; he is the tyrannical lord of Atha and chief of the race of Fir-bolg; father of Degrena and Ullin, husband of Deugala, son of Borbar-duthul. He is slain by Moran, called the “hoary chief of shells,” and he kills Cormac, the father of Morna (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

35 Rivine First appears in the poem “Fragment 9” by James Macpherson prior to the release of The Poems of Ossian; also called the “fairest of maids,” daughter of Conar, sister of Connan, lover of Ronnan. At the death of her brother and her lover, she had herself buried alive beside them (James Macpherson, “Fragment 9”).

 Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Edinburgh, 1773), pp. 51-53. [Google Books]

Edited by Amanda Nelson

“E. V.”, “The Nightingale’s Complaint”

“E. V.”

“The Nightingale’s Complaint”


Why, my mournful warbler, why
Dost waste the tedious day
With many a tear, and many a sigh,
And many a plaintive lay?

Dost thou the captive state bewail                                          5
In which thou’rt doom’d to dwell?
No more to visit hill or dale,
Or woods or shaded dell?

To which my bird, my fav’rite bird,
With sweet persuasion sung;                                            10
Nor sweeter numbers e’er were heard
From Linley’s tuneful tongue:

“Is there not cause for tears and sighs,
“For loss of sacred home?
“For loss of freedom of the skies                                              15
“Giv’n us at large to roam?

“Is there not cause for tears and sighs,
“When, in some distant grove,
“Perhaps my Philomela dies
“In absence from her love?                                                 20

“Oft, after Vespers, would repair
“The woods and groves among,
“The matron, and her virgin care,
“And listen to my song.

“The hermit, too, would oft attend                                            25
“Unseen by mortal eye;
“Awhile his beads, his pray’rs suspend,
“And praise my melody.

“Oft wou’d some hapless shepherd swain
“Beneath the shade recline;                                                30
“Of love’s vicissitudes complain,
“And mingle woes with mine.

“What is the fretted roof to me,
“Or spacious splendid dome,
“Compar’d to sweet simplicity,                                                     35
“Compar’d to humbler home?

“Some other birds of brighter dyes,
“Some bird of happier grace,
“May boast, perhaps, might proudly prize
“This gay, distinguish’d place.                                               40

“Vain of his plumage, vain of dress,
“Vain of his gaudy cage;
“But sure the graces ne’er will bless,
“Nor will his note engage.

“Ne’er was the servile votive song                                                45
“To harmony ally’d;
“Nor e’er shall slav’ry guide my tongue;”
He said, he bow’d and dy’d.


Title Nightingale The nightingale is used frequently in poetry. Its song is emphasized and usually linked to the art involved in the creation of poetry.

7 dale A valley.

8 dell A deep natural hollow or vale of no great extent, the sides usually clothed with trees or foliage (OED).

12 Linley’s tuneful tongue Elizabeth Ann Linley (1754-1792) was the daughter of the famous musician Thomas Linley and belonged to a musically-gifted family. Elizabeth Ann was known for her singing voice and her career was at its height during the mid 1770s.

19 Philomela A poetic term for nightingale.

21 Vespers The Evening Prayer or Evensong; this prayer was typically said around sunset.

29 swain A man, a youth, a boy (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 45 (London, 1775), p. 492.

Edited by Shanna Cooper