Tag Archives: Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter, “Thoughts at Midnight. 1739”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“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.

NOTES:

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 test 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

Elizabeth Carter, “To Miss Hall. 1746”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“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.

NOTES:

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

Elizabeth Carter, “Ode to Melancholy”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“Ode to Melancholy”

Alas Darkness my sole light, gloom
O fairer to me than any sunshine
Take me take me to dwell with you
Take me                           Sophocles.

 

Come Melancholy! silent Pow’r,
Companion of my lonely Hour,
To sober Thought confin’d:
Thou sweetly-sad ideal Guest,
In all thy soothing Charms confest,                                                                                 5
Indulge my pensive Mind.

No longer wildly hurried thro’
The Tides of Mirth, that ebb and flow,
In Folly’s noisy Stream:
I from the busy Croud retire,                                                                                            10
To court the Objects that inspire
Thy philosophic Dream.

Thro’ yon dark Grove of mournful Yews
With solitary Steps I muse,
By thy Direction led:                                                                                                   15
Here, cold to Pleasure’s tempting Forms,
Consociate with my Sister-worms,
And mingle with the Dead.

Ye Midnight Horrors! Awful Gloom!
Ye silent Regions of the Tomb,                                                                                          20
My future peaceful Bed:
Here shall my weary Eyes be clos’d,
And ev’ry Sorrow lie repos’d
In Death’s refreshing Shade.

Ye pale Inhabitants of Night,                                                                                              25
Before my intellectual Sight
In solemn Pomp ascend:
O tell how trifling now appears
The Train of idle Hopes and Fears
That varying Life attend.                                                                                              30

Ye faithless Idols of our Sense,
Here own how vain your fond Pretence,
Ye empty Names of Joy!
Your transient Forms like Shadows pass,
Frail Offspring of the magic Glass,                                                                                      35
Before the mental Eye.

The dazzling Colours, falsely bright,
Attract the gazing vulgar Sight
With superficial State:
Thro’ Reason’s clearer Optics view’d,                                                                                  40
How stript of all its Pomp, how rude
Appears the painted Cheat.

Can wild Ambition’s Tyrant Pow’r,
Or ill-got Wealth’s superfluous Store,
The Dread of Death controul?                                                                                      45
Can Pleasure’s more bewitching Charms
Avert, or sooth the dire Alarms
That shake the parting Soul?

Religion! Ere the Hand of Fate
Shall make Reflexion plead too late,                                                                                    50
My erring Senses teach,
Admist the flatt’ring Hopes of Youth,
To meditate the solemn Truth,
These awful Relics preach.

Thy penetrating Beams disperse                                                                                          55
The Mist of Error, whence our Fears
Derive their fatal Spring:
‘Tis thine the trembling Heart to warm,
And soften to an Angel Form
The pale terrific King.                                                                                                        60

When sunk by Guilt in sad Despair,
Repentance breathes her humble Pray’r,
And owns thy Threat’nings just:
Thy Voice the shudd’ring Suppliant chears,
With Mercy calms her tort’ring Fears,                                                                                    65
And lifts her from the Dust.

Sublim’d by thee, the Soul aspires
Beyond the Range of low Desires,
In nobler Views elate:
Unmov’d her destin’d Change surveys,                                                                                  70
And, arm’d by Faith, intrepid pays
The universal Debt.

In Death’s soft Slumber lull’d to Rest,
She sleeps, by smiling Visions blest,
That gently whisper Peace:                                                                                                75
‘Till the last Morn’s fair op’ning Ray
Unfolds the bright eternal Day
Of active Life and Bliss.

NOTES:

Epigraph These lines are from Sophocles’s play Ajax, ll. 394-97; translation mine.

3 sober “Serious; solemn; grave” (Johnson).

5 Charms “Enchantments” (OED).

8 Mirth “A diversion or entertainment” (OED).

9 Folly’s “Act of negligence or passion” (Johnson).

14 Yews “The tree of the dead. (…) The yew tree was sacred to Hecate, the Greek goddess associated with witchcraft, death, and necromancy; it was said to purify the dead as they entered Hades” (The Paris Review).

21 Bed “The grave” (OED).

27 Pomp “procession or sequence of things” (OED).

35 Glass Looking-glass.

41 Pomp “Splendor” (Johnson).

67 Sublim’d “To raise to an elevated sphere or exalted state” (OED).

72 universal Debt Original sin.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1776), pp. 79-83. [Google Books]

 Edited by Katarina Wagner

Elizabeth Carter, “A Dialogue”

ELIZABETH CARTER

“A Dialogue”

 Says Body to Mind, ’Tis amazing to see,
We’re so nearly related yet never agree,
But lead a most wrangling strange Sort of a Life,
As great Plagues to each other as Husband and Wife.
The Fault is all your’s, who with flagrant Oppression,                                    5
Encroach ev’ry Day on my lawful Possession.
The best Room in my House you have seiz’d for your own,
And turn’d the whole Tenement quite upside down,
While you hourly call in a disorderly Crew
Of vagabond Rogues, who have nothing to do                                               10
But to run in and out, hurry scurry, and keep
Such a horrible uproar, I can’t get to sleep.
There’s my kitchen sometimes is as empty as Sound,
I call for my Servants, not one’s to be found:
They all are sent out on your Ladyship’s Errand,                                             15
To fetch some more riotous Guests in, I warrant!
And since Things are growing, I see, worse and worse,
I’m determined to force you to alter your Course.
Poor Mind, who hear all with extreme Moderation,
Thought it now Time to speak, and make her Allegation.                              20
‘Tis I, that, methinks, have most Cause to complain,
Who am crampt and confin’d like a Slave in a Chain.
I did but step out, on some weighty Affairs,
To visit, last Night, my good Friends in the Stars.
When, before I was got half as high as the Moon,                                           25
You dispatch’d Pain and Languor to hurry me down;
Vi & Armis they seiz’d me, in Midst of my Flight.
And shut me in Caverns as dark as the Night.
‘Twas no more, reply’d Body, than what you deserv’d,
While you rambled Abroad, I at Home was half starv’d:                                30
And, unless I had closely confin’d you in Hold,
You had left me to perish with Hunger and Cold.
I’ve a Friend, answers Mind, who, tho slow, is yet fare,
And will rid me, at last, of your insolent Power:
Will knock down at your Mud Walls, the whole Fabric demolishes,             35
And at once your strong Holds and my Slav’ry abolish:
And while in the Dust your dull Ruins decay,
I shall snap off my Chains, and fly freely away.

NOTES:

 27 Vi & Armis “With force and arms. Words used in [legal] indictments, etc. to express the charge of a forcible and violent committing any crime or trespass” (T. E. Tomlins, The Law-dictionary, vol. VI [1811], p. 351 [Google Books]).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions, 3rd edition (London, 1776), pp. 25-27. [Google Books]

Edited by Julia Ruiz