"O, Montagu! forgive me, if I sing / red with the milder ray / Of soft humanity, and kindness bland: / So wide its influence, that the bright beams / Reach the low vale where mists of ignorance lodge, / Strike on the innate spark which lay immersed, / Thick-clogged, and almost quenched in total night."
— Yearsley, Ann (bap. 1753, d. 1806)
Thy wisdom tempered with the milder ray
Of soft humanity, and kindness bland:
So wide its influence, that the bright beams
Reach the low vale where mists of ignorance lodge,
Strike on the innate spark which lay immersed,
Thick-clogged, and almost quenched in total night--
On me it fell, and cheered my joyless heart.
Unwelcome is the first bright dawn of light
To the dark soul; impatient, she rejects,
And fain would push the heavenly stranger back;
She loathes the cranny which admits the day;
Confused, afraid of the intruding guest;
Disturbed, unwilling to receive the beam,
Which to herself her native darkness shows.
The effort rude to quench the cheering flame
Was mine, and e'en on Stella could I gaze
With sullen envy, and admiring pride,
Till, doubly roused by Montagu, the pair
Conspire to clear my dull, imprisoned sense,
And chase the mists which dimmed my visual beam.
Oft as I trod my native wilds alone,
Strong gusts of thought would rise, but rise to die;
The portals of the swelling soul ne'er oped
By liberal converse, rude ideas strove
Awhile for vent, but found it not, and died.
Thus rust the Mind's best powers. Yon starry orbs,
Majestic ocean, flowery vales, gay groves,
Eye-wasting lawns, and heaven-attempting hills
Which bound th' horizon, and which curb the view;
All those, with beauteous imagery, awaked
My ravished soul to ecstasy untaught,
To all the transport the rapt sense can bear;
But all expired, for want of powers to speak;
All perished in the mind as soon as born,
Erased more quick than cyphers on the shore,
O'er which cruel waves, unheedful roll.
Such timid rapture as young Edwin seized,
When his lone footsteps on the Sage obtrude,
Whose noble precept charmed his wondering.
Such rapture filled Lactilla's vacant soul,
When the bright Moralist, in softness dressed,
Opes all the glories of the mental world,
Deigns to direct the infant thought, to prune
The budding sentiment, uprear the stalk
Of feeble fancy, bid idea live,
Woo the abstracted spirit form its cares,
And gently guide her to scenes of peace.
Mine was than balm, and mine the grateful heart,
Which breathes its thanks in rough, but timid strains.
(ll. 30-79, pp. 395-6)
See Poems, on Several Occasions. By Ann Yearsley, a Milkwoman of Bristol., 2nd edition (London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1785). <Link to ESTC><Link to LION>
Text from Lonsdale, R. Ed. Eighteenth Century Women Poets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).