Tag Archives: death

Phillis Wheatley, “Isaiah lxiii. 1–8”


Isaiah lxiii. 1–8

Say, heav’nly muse, what king, or mighty God,
That moves sublime from Idumea’s road?
In Bozrah’s dies, with martial glories join’d,
His purple vesture waves upon the wind.
Why thus enrob’d delights he to appear                                                   5
In the dread image of the Pow’r of war?

Compress’d in wrath the swelling wine-press groan’d,
It bled, and pour’d the gushing purple round.

“Mine was the act,” th’ Almighty Saviour said,
And shook the dazzling glories of his head,                                            10
“When all forsook I trod the press alone,
And conquer’d by omnipotence my own;
For man’s release sustain’d the pond’rous load,
For man the wrath of an immortal God:
To execute th’ Eternal’s dread command                                                 15
My soul I sacrific’d with willing hand;
Sinless I stood before the avenging frown,
Atoning thus for vices not my own.”

His eye the ample field of battle round
Survey’d, but no created succours found;                                                20
His own omnipotence sustain’d the fight,
His vengeance sunk the haughty foes in night;
Beneath his feet the prostrate troops were spread,
And round him lay the dying, and the dead.

Great God, what light’ning flashes from thine eyes?                        25
What pow’r withstands if thou indignant rise?

Against thy Zion though her foes may rage,
And all their cunning, all their strength engage,
Yet she serenely on thy bosom lies,
Smiles at their arts, and all their force defies.                                          30


Title Isaiah First prophet in the Hebrew Bible.

2-3 Idumea’s road…Bozrah “Idumea” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Edom,” an area of modern-day Jordan settled by the Edomites; Bozrah is the capital of Edom, situated along the King’s Highway, an “ancient thoroughfare” that traverses Jordan (Britannica).

4 purple vesture Mourning clothes (OED).

20 succours “Aid, help, assistance” (OED).

27 Zion “The biblical land of Israel” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773), pp. 60-61. [Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History].

Edited by Olivia Veveiros

William Blake, “A War Song to Englishmen”


“A War Song to Englishmen”

Prepare, prepare, the iron helm of war,
Bring forth the lots, cast in the spacious orb;
Th’ Angel of Fate turns them with mighty hands,
And casts them out upon the darken’d earth!
Prepare, prepare.                                  5

Prepare your hearts for Death’s cold hand! prepare
Your souls for flight, your bodies for the earth!
Prepare your arms for glorious victory!
Prepare your eyes to meet a holy God!
Prepare, prepare.                                 10

Whose fatal scroll is that?  Methinks ‘tis mine!
Why sinks my heart, why faultereth my tongue?
Had I three lives, I’d die in such a cause,
And rise, with ghosts, over the well-fought field.
Prepare, prepare.                                  15

The arrows of Almighty God are drawn!
Angels of Death stand in the low’ring heavens!
Thousands of souls must seek the realms of light,
And walk together on the clouds of heaven!
Prepare, prepare.                                   20

Soldiers, prepare! Our cause is Heaven’s cause;
Soldiers, prepare! Be worthy of our cause:
Prepare to meet our fathers in the sky:
Prepare, O troops, that are to fall to-day!
Prepare, prepare.                                    25

Alfred shall smile, and make his harp rejoice;
The Norman William, and the learned Clerk,
And Lion Heart, and black-brow’d Edward, with
His loyal queen shall rise, and welcome us!
Prepare, prepare.                                   30


26 Alfred Alfred the Great (849-899), King of Wessex, 871-899, “a Saxon kingdom in southwestern England. He prevented England from falling to the Danes” (Britannica).

27 William William the Conqueror (c. 1028-1087), the first Norman King of England, ruled as William I from 1066 (Britannica); Clerk Probably a reference to Lanfranc (c. 1005-1089), “archbishop of Canterbury and trusted councellor of William” (Britannica).

28 Lion Heart King Richard I (1157-1199) reigned from 1189 to 1199, known for his “prowess in the Third Crusade (1189-1192” (Britannica); Edward King Edward IV (1442-1483), reigned “from 1461-1470, and again from April 1471-1483).”  He was a leading orchestrator of the Wars of the Roses (Britannica).

29 His loyal queen King Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492) in 1464.  She was a daughter of Lancastrians, which angered the Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses (Britannica).

SOURCE: Poetical Sketches (London 1783), pp. 58-59.  [Google Books]

Edited by Grae Zimmerman

Elizabeth Carter, “To —-.”


“To ——.”

Say, dear Emilia, what untry’d Delight
Has Earth, or Air, or Ocean to bestow,
That checks thy active Spirit’s nobler Flight,
And bounds its narrow View to Scenes below?

Is Life thy Passion? Let it not depend                                                      5
On flutt’ring Pulses, and a fleeting Breath:
In sad Despair the fruitless Wish must end,
That seeks it in the gloomy Range of Death.

This World, deceitful Idol of thy Soul,
Is all devoted to his Tyrant Pow’r:                                                    10
To form his Prey the genial Planets roll,
To speed his Conquests flies the rapid Hour.

This verdant Earth, these fair surrounding Skies,
Are all the Triumphs of his wasteful Reign:
‘Tis but to set, the brightest Suns arise;                                                    15
‘Tis but to wither, blooms the flow’ry Plain.

‘Tis but to die, Mortality was born;
Nor struggling Folly breaks the dread Decree:
Then cease the common Destiny to mourn,
Nor wish thy Nature’s Laws revers’d for thee.                                  20

The Sun that sets, again shall gild the Skies;
The faded Plain reviving Flow’rs shall grace:
But hopeless fall, no more on Earth to rise,
The transitory Forms of Human Race.

No more on Earth:  but see, beyond the Gloom,                                     25
Where the short Reign of Time and Death expires,
Victorious o’er the Ravage of the Tomb,
Smiles the fair Object of thy fond Desires.

The seed of Life, below, imperfect lies,
To Virtue’s Hand its Cultivation giv’n:                                                  30
Form’d by her Care, the beauteous Plant shall rise,
And flourish with unfading Bloom in Heav’n.


Title “Of this beautiful Poem Mrs. Carter never chose to say to whom it was addressed, as some degree of censure seems to be implied by it.  It is one of the most highly finished of the collection” [Editor’s note]. (Montagu Pennington, ed., Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, with a New Edition of her Poems, vol. II [London, 1808], p. 85).

11 genial “Jovial; kindly” (OED).

18 Folly “Weakness of intellect” (Johnson).

23 fall “Like leaves– a very ancient metaphor.  See Isaiah xl. 6, &c.  And Homer, Il[iad]. 6. V. 146” [Editor’s note] (Pennington, Memoirs, p. 86). An allusion to Homer’s Iliad:  “Like the generation of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away” (The Iliad, Book 6, lines 171-175).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions. Second Edition (London, 1766), pp. 83-85.  [Google Books]

Edited by Jizelle Gonzalez 

Mary Leapor, “The Death of Abel”


“The Death of Abel”

When from the Shade of Eden’s blissful Bow’rs,
Its Fruit ambrosial and immortal Flow’rs,
Our gen’ral Mother (who too soon rebell’d,)
Was, with the Partner of her Crime, expell’d
To Fields less fruitful — where the rugged Soil                                            5
With Thorns and Thistles often paid their Toil;
Where the pale Flow’rs soon lost their chearful Hue,
And rushing Tempests o’er the Mountains flew:
Two Sons the Matron in her Exile bore,
Unlike in Feature but their Natures more;                                                  10
The eldest Youth for Husbandry renown’d,
Tore up the Surface of the steril Ground;
His nervous Arms for rugged Tasks were form’d;
His Cheek but seldom with a Smile adorn’d;
Drops rais’d by Labour down his Temples run,                                          15
His Temples tarnish’d by the mid-day Sun,
Robust of Body, and of Soul severe,
Unknown to Pity, and the like to Fear.

Not so his brother, cast in fairer Mold
Was he — and softer than his fleecy Fold;                                                   20
Fair were his Cheeks that blush’d with rosy Dye,
Peace dwelt for ever in his chearful Eye,
Nor Guilt, nor Rage his gentle Spirit knew;
Sweet were his Slumbers, for his Cares were few;
Those were to feed and watch the tender Lamb,                                      25
And seek fresh Pasture for its bleating Dam,
From burning Suns his thirsty Flocks to hide,
And seek the Vales where limpid Rivers glide.

‘Twas ere rude Hands had reap’d the waving Grain,
When Plenty triumph’d on the fertile Plain,                                               30
That to the Centre of a pleasant Down,
Where half was Pasture, half a plenteous Brown:
These Youths repair’d both emulous of Fame,
And rais’d an Altar to Jehovah’s Name,
With Heart elate and self-presuming Eye,                                                 35
First to the Pile unhappy Cain drew nigh.
Choice was his Off’ring, yet no Sign appear’d,
No Flame was seen, nor Voice celestial heard:
Astonish’d stood the late presumptuous Man,
Then came his Brother with a trembling Lamb;                                       40
His God accepts the Sacrifice sincere;
The Flames propitious round the Slain appear;
The curling Smoke ascended to the Skies:
This Cain beheld, and roll’d his glowing Eyes.
Stung to the Soul, he with his frantick Hand                                              45
A Stone up-rooted from the yielding Sand,
Nor spoke — for Rage had stop’d his failing Tongue;
This heavy Death impetuous whirl’d along:
This Abel met — his Heart receiv’d the Wound;
Amaz’d he fell, and grasp’d the bloody Ground.                                        50
The gentle Spirit sprung to endless Day,
And left behind her Case of beauteous Clay;
Pale stood the Brother — to a Statue chill’d,
A conscious Horror through his Bosom thrill’d:
His frighted Eyes abhorr’d the Beams of Light,                                         55
And long’d to find a never-ceasing Night.

      Shock’d at the Sight of Murder first begun,
Down the steep Heavens roll’d the radiant Sun,
Old Night assuming her appointed Sway,
Stretch’d her black Mantle o’er the Face of Day:                                      60
Now for their Leader mourn’d the bleating Lambs,
That rov’d neglected by their pensive Dams;
The careful Parents search the Fields around;
They call — the Woods roll back an empty Sound.

Within a Forest’s solitary Gloom,                                                            65
Slept gentle Abel in a secret Tomb,
And there (beneath a Cypress’ Shade reclin’d)
Cain breath’d his Sorrows to the rushing Wind:
That in the Branches made a doleful Sound;
‘Twas Silence else, and horrid Darkness round,                                        70
When lo ! a sudden and a piercing Ray
O’er-spread the Forest with a Blaze of Day,
And then descended on the hallow’d Ground,
A Seraph with empyreal Glory crown’d:
Afflicted Cain (that knew not where to fly)                                                  75
Gaz’d on the Vision with distracted Eye:
When thus the Angel — Why these mournful Cries,
These loud Complaints that pierce the nightly Skies.
Lye not to Heaven, but directly say,
Where roves thy Brother, where does Abel stray.                                      80
He said — and thus the guilty Wretch return’d;
O sacred Guardian, I for Abel mourn’d:
I ne’er beheld him since the Day began, —-
But why this Visit to a simple Man?
Thus the Celestial —- Wretch, canst thou presume,                                   85
Thy Brother’s Blood may slumber in its Tomb:
Or thou may’st ward off Vengeance with a Lye,
And dare attempt deceiving God most high;
But now thy Doom, O wretched Mortal hear;
The fleeting Hours nor the rolling Year,                                                        90
To thee nor Joy, nor chearful Ease shall bring:
Alike to thee the Winter and the Spring,
Still vex’d with Woe, thy heavy Days shall fly
Beneath a radiant or a gloomy Sky:
Curs’d shalt thou be amidst thy vagrant Band,                                            95
And curs’d the Labours of thy guilty Hand:
He ceas’d — But Cain all prostrate on the Ground,
Still in his Ears retain’d the dreadful Sound:
At length he rose, and trembling thus began;
This is too much — too much for Mortal Man:                                              100
The mighty Debt, O let me quickly pay,
And sweep me instant from the Beams of Day:
The yet unborn, that I am curs’d, shall know,
And all shall hate me to augment the Blow:
Ev’n my own Sons, if such are giv’n to be                                                      105
The Death of Abel, shall revenge on me:
Thus he to change the dreadful Sentence try’d,
Thus the seraphick Messenger reply’d;
This Mark, O Cain, I fix upon thy Brow:
And thus by Heav’n’s mighty Monarch vow,                                                 110
Who sheds thy Blood, that Criminal shall be
Curs’d – Sev’n times curs’d, and wretched more than thee.
Thus be that Mortal who shall tear the Rod
Of scorching Vengeance from the Hand of God;
That Man may learn to fear the King of Kings:                                              115
He said – and waving his immortal Wings,
That instant mingled with the starry Train,
And Darkness wrap’d the silent Shades again.


3 Our gen’ral Mother Eve.

4 the Partner of her Crime Adam.

9 Two Sons Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, and Abel, his younger brother (OCB).

34  Jehovah “Name of God” (OCB).

40 Lamb A typical sacrificial animal in Ancient Egypt, often symbolically associated with Jesus (OCB).

74 Seraph A supernatural being associated with the presence of God (OCB).

109 This Mark See Genesis 4:15; the exact nature of Cain’s mark is mysterious, but Leapor follows the tradition that associates the mark with divine protection.

SOURCE: Poems Upon Several Occasions (London, 1748), pp. 232-237. [Google Books]

Edited by Lourdes Alcala-Guerrero

Charlotte Lennox, “To Moneses Singing”


To MONESES Singing


 Be hush’d as Death, Moneses sings,
Moneses strikes the sounding Strings;
Let sacred Silence dwell around,
And nought disturb the Magick Sound;
Let not the softly whisp’ring Breeze                                             5
Sob amidst the rustling Trees;
Murmur, ye plaintive Streams, no more,
But glide in Silence to the Shore:
Even Philomel thy Note suspend,
And to a sweeter Song attend;                                                      10
Ah! soft, ah! dang’rous, pow’rful Charm,
An Angel’s Voice, an Angel’s Form;
Attentive to the heav’nly Lay,
I hear and gaze my Soul away;
Now tender Wishes, melting Fires,                                                15
Infant Pains, and young Desires,
Steal into my softned Soul,
And bend it to the sweet Controul;
Yet, let me fly, e’er ‘tis too late,
The sweet Disease, and shun my Fate.                                          20
But ah! that softly, dying Strain
Arrests my Steps, I strive in vain.
Again I to the Syren turn,
Again with gentle Fires I burn;
Cease lovely Youth th’ inchanting Sound,                                       25
Too deep already is the Wound;
Thro’ all my Veins the Poison steals,
My Heart the dear Infection feels:
I faint, I die, by love opprest,
The Sigh scarce heaves my panting Breast;                                     30
Before my View dim Shadows rise,
And hides Thee from my ravish’d Eyes:
Thy Voice, like distant Sounds, I hear,
It dies in murmurs on my Ear:
In the too pow’rful Transport tost,                                                      35
Ev’n Thought, and ev’ry Sense is lost.


Title MONESES A made up pastoral name for an unidentified addressee.

7 plaintive “Mournful, sad” (OED).

9 Philomel “A poetic or literary name for the nightingale,” known for its sweet song (OED).

23 Syren “One who, or that which, sings sweetly, charms, allures, or deceives like the Sirens” (OED).

SOURCE:  Poems on Several Occasions. Written by a Young Lady (London, 1747), pp. 23-25. [Google Books]

Edited by Tomas E. Raudales-Beleche





Elizabeth Tollet, “On a Death’s Head”


“On a Death’s Head”


Esi illic Lethaeus Amor, qui pectora sanat,
Inque suas gelidam lampadas addit aquam.


On this Resemblance, where we find
A Portrait drawn for all Mankind,
Fond Lover! gaze a while, to see
What Beauty’s Idol Charms shall be.
Where are the Balls that once cou’d dart                                          5
Quick Lightning thro’ the wounded Heart?
The Skin, whose Teint cou’d once unite
The glowing Red and polish’d White?
The Lip in brighter Ruby drest?
The Cheek with dimpled Smiles imprest?                                         10
The rising Front, where Beauty sate
Thron’d in her Residence of State;
Which, half-disclos’d and half-conceal’d,
The Hair in flowing Ringlets veil’d;
‘Tis vanish’d all! remains alone                                                            15
This eyeless Scalp of naked Bone:
The vacant Orbits sunk within:
The Jaw that offers at a Grin.
Is this the Object then that claims
The Tribute of our youthful Flames?                                                   20
Must am’rous Hopes and fancy’d Bliss,
Too dear Delusions! end in this?
How high does Melancholy swell!
Which Sighs can more than Language tell:
Till Love can only grieve or fear;                                                           25
Reflect a while, then drop a Tear
For all that’s beautiful or dear.


Epigraph “There dwells Lethean Love, who heals the heartsick/And quenches in cold water his fierce flame.” From Ovid, Remedia Amoris (The Cures for Love), ll. 551-52 (Ovid: The Love Poems, trans. A.D. Melville [Oxford and New York: OUP, 1990], p. 166).

4  Idol  “False” (OED).

5 Balls  Eyeballs.

7  Teint  Taint, “color, hue, tint” (OED).

11  sate  “To be placed or situated” (OED).

16  Scalp  “Skull” (OED).

17  Orbits  “Eye sockets” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII, an Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 58-59.  [Google Books]

 Edited by Terry Luo

Elizabeth Carter, “On the DEATH of Mrs. Rowe”


“On the DEATH of Mrs. Rowe”


Oft’ did Intrigue its guilty Arts unite,
To blacken the Records of female Wit:
The tuneful Song lost ev’ry modest Grace,
And lawless Freedoms triumph’d in their Place:
The Muse, for Vices not her own accus’d,                                             5
With Blushes view’d her sacred Gifts abus’d;
Those Gifts for nobler Purposes assign’d,
To raise the Thoughts, and moralize the Mind;
The chaste Delights of Virtue to inspire,
And warm the Bosom with seraphic Fire;                                              10
Sublime the Passions, lend Devotion Wings,
And celebrate the first great CAUSE of Things.

These glorious Tasks were Philomela’s Part,
Who charms the Fancy, and who mends the Heart.
In her was ev’ry bright Distinction join’d,                                                15
Whate’er adorns, or dignifies the Mind:
Hers ev’ry happy Elegance of Thought,
Refin’d by Virtue, as by Genius wrought.
Each low-born Care her pow’rful Strains controul,
And wake the nobler Motions of the Soul.                                              20
When to the vocal Wood or winding Stream,
She hymn’d th’ Almighty AUTHOR of its Frame,
Transported Echoes bore the Sounds along,
And all Creation listen’d to the Song:
Full, as when raptur’d Seraphs strike the Lyre;                                       25
Chaste, as the Vestal’s consecrated Fire;
Soft as balmy Airs, that gently play
In the calm Sun-set of a vernal Day;
Sublime as Virtue; elegant as Wit;
As Fancy various; and as Beauty sweet.                                                   30
Applauding Angels with Attention hung,
To learn the heav’nly Accents from her Tongue:
They, in the midnight Hour, beheld her rise
Beyond the Verge of sublunary Skies;
Where, rapt in Joys to mortal Sense unknown,                                       35
She felt a Flame as extatic as their own.

O while distinguish’d in the Realms above,
The blest Abode of Harmony and Love,
Thy happy Spirit joins the heav’nly Throng,
Glows with their Transports, and partakes their Song,                            40
Fixt on my Soul shall thy Example grow,
And be my Genius and my Guide below;
To this I’ll point my first, my noblest Views,
Thy spotless Verse shall regulate my Muse.
And O forgive, tho’ faint the Transcript be,                                                45
That copies an Original like thee:
My justest Pride, my best Attempt for Fame,
That joins my own to Philomela’s Name.


Title Mrs. Rowe Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737), respected poet, essayist, and fiction writer.

10 seraphic Fire “Rapturous; ecstatically devout” (OED).

13 Philomela Rowe’s pseudonym early in her career. In Greek mythology, Philomela became associated with the nightingale’s song, symbolic of pure poetry.

14 Fancy Imagination.

25 Seraphs “Supernatural beings associated with the presence of God” (OCB).

26 Vestal’s A reference to the vestal virgins “who had charge of the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta at Rome” (OED).

28 vernal Summer.

35 rapt “To carry away in spirit; to enrapture, transport” (OED). The copy text reads “rap’d,” a printer’s error that was corrected to “rapt” only in the fourth edition of 1789.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions. The Second Edition (London,1766), pp. 10-12. [Google Books]

Edited by Sally Mejia

Francis Hawling, “HAMLET’s Reflection in the Scene of the Gravedigger imitated”


“HAMLET’s Reflection in the Scene of the Gravedigger imitated”

Sacred to the Memory of Mr. J. Lisset


All human Bliss, we liken to a Span,
How short is Friendship, and how frail is Man!
Fled is the Soul, no sordid Passion knew,
That Eye extinguish’d, ne’er had venal View,
The friendly Tongue, which frankly did impart                                            5
The honest Image, of an open Heart,
Now mute, and lost, consign’d to endless Night,
No more profit, and no more delight:
That gentle Hand, no more the Poor shall bless,
No more it minister to their Distress;                                                            10
No more the Anguish of thy Breast be known,
To throb with tender Sorrows, not thy own:
What lively Joys in ev’ry Face awoke,
And call’d forth all the Heart, whene’er he spoke?
Where’s now the easy Joke, the pleasing Jest,                                              15
Which gave high flavour’d Life, that sprightly Zest;
The broad loud Laugh, did such Delight afford,
And spread a wanton Triumph round the Board:
Ah! Joys, that ever more must be deplor’d!
Ah! never, never more to be restor’d!                                                            20
Remorseless Fate! how pitifully sunk,
A livid, senseless, putrifying Trunk:
Go, to the Thoughtless, to the Vicious preach,
Speak to the Vain, the Proud, Ambitious teach,
Tell to the Fair, to what their Beauties tend,                                                25
And all its Purpose show, and all its End;
View ev’ry Age, the present, and the past,
To this, the Great, and Wisest, come at last,
No mortal Pow’r, its firm Decree can shun,
‘Twas Caesar’s Fate, and Ammon’s mighty Son.                                            30


 Title A reference to Act V scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, where Hamlet questions mortality and the nature of fate when mourning the loss of his love, Ophelia.

Dedication Mr. J. Lisset [Unable to trace.]

1 Span “A short space of time, esp. as the duration of human life” (OED).

4 venal “Connected or associated with sordid and unprincipled bargaining; subject to mercenary or corrupt influences” (OED).

7 consign’d  “To commit” (OED).

16 flavour’d  “A distinctive appealing or enlivening quality” (OED); sprightly “With spirit” (OED).

18 wanton “Unrestrained in merriment, jovial” (OED).

22 putrifying Alternate spelling of “putrefying,” “to cause to decompose with a foul smell” (OED); Trunk “A dead body or corpse” (OED).

30 Caesar’s fate Allusion to the death of the Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar who was murdered in the Roman Senate House by a group of nobles in March 15, 44 BCE (Britannica). Caesar is also referenced in the scene that this poem imitates: “Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,/ Might stop a hole to keep the wind away” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, V.i.220-221); Ammon’s mighty Son Alexander the Great (356 BCE-323BCE), king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and conqueror of the Persian Empire.

Source: A Miscellany of Original Poems on Various Subjects, Part I (London, 1751), pp. 132-133. [Google Books]

Edited by Brittany Prodan

William Farquhar, “Death, a Poem”


 “Death, a Poem”


To dignify the trifles of their brain,
The Muses heavenly aid whilst some invoke;
Be it my task, in solemn verse, to paint
The gloomy horrors which attendant wait
On Death, their king, whose still insatiate scythe,                                         5
The young, the gay, the rich, the wise, cuts off.
Young as I am, my breast has felt the shock
His direful stroke can give; my second sire,
The dear, dear guardian of my infant years,
E’er yet his worth I knew, Death’s ruthless arm                                            10
Snatch’d from my eager grasp, and ever hid
In dark recess of the gloomy grave.
Far, far away, amid the burning plains
Of Florida, while yet a child, my sire
From me, from his lov’d family, retir’d!                                                           15
But while an Uncle’s fondness still remain’d,
Scarce could we feel our loss—Death! cruel Death!
How could you pierce that heart, where virtue join’d
With mild benevolence, still smil’d to view
The peace, the pleasure, of his fellow men.                                                  20
But hold, my Muse, the elegiac strain
Departed virtue scorns, her worth is grav’d
Deep in the mem’ry of all human kind.
The pompous column, and the bust, She scorns,
And, conscious of her innate power to please,                                             25
For deathless fame leans on herself alone.
Death, thou’rt the touch-stone of all human Virtue!
If, with a cowardly, an unmanly fear
We fly thy stroke, then ‘tis, alas! too certain
Some future ill our conscience bids us dread.                                              30
But if, with firmness, thy near approach
Unmov’d we can behold; then are we sure
Self-approbation can alone support us
In that dread awful moment! when thy dart
Has pierc’d our panting breast, to separate                                                  35
These dear companions, who so long have liv’d
In perfect unity, in perfect peace.
Into the grave, as useless lumber, drops
Then senseless carcase; and the soul swift wings
Back to her great original, her flight.                                                              40
Thro’ life’s wild scenes where’er I thoughtful turn
Far as my eye can reach, ‘tis tumult all,
And maddest opposition; foe meets foe
With discord dire, and jarring interests clash
Loud as thro’ heaven’s wide arch the thunders roar,                                   45
O man! vile man! how long deceiv’d by vice,
With senseless folly wilt thou devious stray,
In paths unpleasing to thy Maker’s eye?
Hear how he calls, invites thee to his breast,
And offers endless pleasures to thy grasp.                                                     50
Thus by his prophets spoke th’ Eternal’s voice:
“ Come to my bosom, ye who loudly groan
Beneath the burthen which tyrannic sin
Has o’er you whelm’d, behold me ever glad,
The worst, the basest, of your race to save.”                                                      55
And shall mankind the gracious offer spurn?
Forbid it, virtue, gratitude, and love!
Man, youngest child of heaven, full often needs
To feel his father’s kind afflictive rod,
Which wounds to heal, as the physician’s probe                                           60
May pain the patient, while it aids his cure.
Did not afflictions, thro’ life’s chequerd scene,
Walk with kind hand to warn us of our end;
Man would forget he were to die at all,
And scorn the terrors of the gloomy grave.                                                   65
Hope, with contracted wing, no more would mount
To the empyrean heaven for endless bliss;
But, stooping, snatch the empty joys of sense,
And quick contracting all her broad desires,
Sit down, contented with the scanty joys                                                      70
Which the vile empire of the brute confers.
See the warm youth, even in his rosy bloom,
When mounting blood and passion fire his breast,
Pierc’d by thy dart, drops cold and lifeless down,
And moulders in the murky silent grave.                                                      75
Behold the beauteous maid, whose rosy cheek
Charms and attracts the roving eye of youth;
While something whispers to her heaving breast,
That Nature gave not her these softening powers
Her crimson cheek, her ruby lip, in vain.                                                       80
Even in the moment, when her raptur’d soul
Clings to the bosom of some darling youth,
Death, with one cruel stroke, forever blasts
Love’s dawning bliss, and stretches her a corse,
A cold pale corse, amid her weeping friends!                                                85
To grasp her much lov’d son, the mother spreads
Her anxious arms,—behold! he faints, he dies!
And stiffens in the cold embrace of death!
See, how to heaven she sorrowing lifts her eyes!
See, how her bosom heaves, thick beats her heart                                       90
With anguish, with parental fondness torn!
How vain, how fleeting, are the joys of time!
How idly foolish he who leans upon them
For steady comfort, or for endless bliss!
Behold, at one dire stroke of death’s huge scythe,                                         95
Fathers and sisters, friends and lovers, fall!


14 Florida Reference to the territory of North America named after Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival in the area during the “season of flowers” (Britannica).

33 Self-approbation The feeling of self-satisfaction or “approval” (OED).

62 chequerd  “Diversified in character; full of constant alternation” (OED).

67 empyrean “The highest or most exalted part or sphere of heaven” (OED).

75 moulders “To decay to dust; to rot” (OED).

84 corse Archaic spelling of “corpse,” “a dead body” (OED).

 Source: William Farquhar, Poems on Several Occasions (Edinburgh, 1794), pp. 102-105. [Google Books]

 Edited by Joshua Navarro

Elizabeth Carter, “Thoughts at Midnight. 1739”


“Thoughts at Midnight. 1739”


WHILE Night in solemn shade invests the Pole,
And calm reflection soothes the pensive soul;
While Reason undisturb’d asserts her sway,
And life’s deceitful colours fade away:
To thee! all-conscious presence!  I devote                                             5
This peaceful interval of sober thought.
Here all my better faculties confine,
And be this hour of sacred silence thine.
If by the day’s illusive scenes misled,
My erring soul from Virtue’s path has stray’d:                                       10
If by example snar’d, by passion warm’d,
Some false delight my giddy sense has charm’d,
My calmer thoughts the wretched choice reprove,
And my best hopes are center’d in thy love.
Depriv’d of this, can life one joy afford!                                                  15
Its utmost boast a vain unmeaning word.
But ah! how oft’ my lawless passions rove,
And break those awful precepts I approve!
Pursue the fatal impulse I abhor,
And violate the virtue I adore!                                                                   20
Oft’ when thy gracious Spirit’s guardian care
Warn’d my fond soul to shun the tempting snare,
My stubborn will his gentle aid represt,
And check’d the rising goodness in my breast,
Mad with vain hopes, or urg’d by false desires,                                      25
Still’d his soft voice, and quench’d his sacred fires.
With grief opprest, and prostrate in the dust,
Should’st thou condemn, I own the sentence just.
But oh thy softer titles let me claim,
And plead my cause by Mercy’s gentle name.                                        30
Mercy, that wipes the penitential tear,
And dissipates the horrors of despair:
From rig’rous Justice steals the vengeful hour:
Softens the dreadful attribute of power;
Disarms the wrath of an offended God,                                                   35
And seals my pardon in a Saviour’s blood.
All pow’rful Grace, exert thy gentle sway,
And teach my rebel passions to obey:
Lest lurking Folly with insidious art
Regain my volatile inconstant heart.                                                         40
Shall ev’ry high resolve devotion frames,
Be only lifeless sounds and specious names?
Or rather while thy hopes and fears controul,
In this still hour each motion of my soul,
Secure its safety by a sudden doom,                                                         45
And be the soft retreat of sleep my tomb.
Calm let me slumber in that dark repose,
‘Till the last morn its orient beam disclose:
Then, when the great Archangel’s potent sound,
Shall echo thro’ Creation’s ample round,                                                  50
Wak’d from the sleep of Death, with joy survey
The op’ning splendors of eternal day.


1 Pole “The sky, the heavens” (OED).

2 pensive “Implying thought, anxiety, or melancholy” (OED).

9 illusive scenes “Deceptive; illusory” (OED).

13  reprove “To censure, condemn” (OED).

16 Its The copy test reads “It’s,” a printer’s error.

17 rove “Waver, vacillate” (OED).

31 penitential tear “Indicative of repentance” (OED).

40 volatile “Changeable, fickle” (OED).

48 orient beam disclose The rising of the sun (OED); its The copy text reads “it’s,” a printer’s error.

49 the great Archangel’s potent sound A reference to a Christian tradition (more literary than Biblical) that has the archangel Gabriel blowing a trumpet or horn to wake the dead and announce the return of Jesus on Judgment Day (S. Vernon McCasland, “Gabriel’s Trumpet,” Journal of Bible and Religion, vol. 9, no. 3 [August 1941], pp. 159-161).

Source: Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter: With a New Edition of Her Poems; to Which Are Added, Some Miscellaneous Essays In Prose, Together With Her Notes On the Bible, And Answers to Objections Concerning the Christian Religion, ed. Rev. Montagu Pennington. (London, 1808), vol. II, pp. 37-39.  [Google Books]

Edited by Heyzell Raudes