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ADDRESS TO THE LADIES OF GREAT BRITAIN.
“ I honour dames, and think their sex divine." -DRYDEN.
I. Fair Ladies of the land, where all are fairSince beauty's self, throughout these laughing isles, Lights the blue eye, and dyes the auburn hair, And fills the bright blush and entrancing smiles, With all that woman has of witching wiles, And sweet attractions loveliest,-Oh! among Those hours, which pleasure, mirth, or pomp, beguiles :
Which to new triumphs and soft vows belong;
One can ye spare to me, and mine unpolish'd song?
Could I but pour my spirit into words,
And stamp my heart upon the glowing page,
That hails ye sovereigns of creation's lords
Then might, perchance, my verse awhile engage
Your hearts with gentlest violence—and assuage
Such pangs, as yield them to th' harmonious lyre-
Then, then, perchance, might many a future age
There trace some embers of undying fire,
Worthy their radiant charms, who did the lay inspire !
But, ah! the rapid fervour of the strain,
Lost in the cold transfusion, sinks and dies;
The kindling glow, that flash'd along the brain,
With viewless speed, like Heaver's own lightning, flies.-
Thou see'st the redden'd tints of evening skies,
But wouldst thou paint or grasp them ?--they, athwart
Th’ aërial void, have vanish'd from thine eyes ;
And thus the unembodied thoughts depart,
Ere fixed in shape precise, or terms of human art.
Yet, gentle dames, to you,--to each,—to all,
Some brief discourse the muse would fain address;
Some prayer, that here those orbs, which might enthral
Grey hermits, with their looks of loveliness,
Might shed their kindest lustre; fain express
Some hope, my fond endeavour might be crown'd
By you, whose favour is alone success
Rose, Mary, Julia, or whate'er the sound
The lover whispers soft, when eve enwraps the ground.
V. By the staid matron ; or the graceful girl, Whose virgin bosom beautifully glows, With the warm praise, which o'er her ringlets curl, Or lip, or brow, still deep’ning her cheek's rose, Th' adorer pours: the while she downward throws Her modest glance :or her, on whom the tide Of ebbless time has roll'd, and left its snows;
Each duty done, since, at the altar's side, Half-fearfully she stood a blooming, blushing, bride.
VI. By her, who, fairest of the festal throng, Some high-born pride of Albion's capital, With music of sweet motion floats along Where lamps and gems, more brilliant, light the hall, And glist'ning eyes—how far outshining all ! Or her, who, in some distant rural scene Where willows wave, and waters gently fall,
Remote from anxious rivalries and spleen, Lives her unenvied hours of happiness serene.
VII. Ye, then, mine inspiration, and my theme ! Ye, with the locks of flowing jet, or grey, Whom the proud court delights, or babbling stream, Worn with long griefs, or innocently gay, Listen alike. Though others wake the lay, Where nobler raptures swell the nervous line, None ever bask'd him yet in beauty's ray,
Or tun'd his praises to her charms divine, With passion more intense, or fonder heart than mine!
VIII. For, ever from my boyhood, was my mind A willing slave to woman's witchery : On her I lov'd to look, severe, or kind, As the young eagle gazes on the sky, Drinking the sun-beams with delighted eye: And all beside seem'd as a shrivell’d scroll, While her strong spells came o'er me, brooding nigh,
Like some eternal night-mare of the soul,
Which I could ne'er remove, and wish'd not to control.
To lie on some fond bosom, that could bear
A wounded spirit's waywardness ;-the wreck
Of wild consuming passions, and long care,
E’en thus to find some being, who would check
My vain remorse, and, ever smiling, deck,
With roseate tinge, my life's remaining day ;
Imbibe her voice, and hang upon her neck ;-
Is all I ask of Heaven, ere yet my clay
Is moulder'd to the dull congenial earth away!
Curs'd be the man, whose heart is not imbued
With the deep love of woman ; nor its 'hue
Thence caught and colour'd; who can, unsubdued,
Behold the forms that might a world subdue;
Nor burns, nor thrills, nor trembles at the view !
Curs'd be the man, whose melancholy bile,
Or frozen pride ne'er stoop'd to sigh or sue ;
Whose gloom no female sorcery can beguile;
Who breathes in other air, nor lives on woman's smile!
And yet we need not curse lim-he is curs'd
By his cold brain, and callous heart of stone ;
Still pining with a vague and quenchless thirst,
Lost to the fond endearments, which alone
Make life worth living,—ay, let him bemoan
His fate, sad dotard, who no charms can see
Within the circle of sweet woman's zone,
Without whose presence earth would sunless be,
And its wide populous realms a desert unto me.
For him no fair illusions beam around,
O'er the wild world a lovelier hue to throw;
Change it to bright, enchanted, fairy-ground;
Give zest to joy, or steal the sting from woe :
The life of life, ah! never shall he know,
The purest joy, the luxury most refin'd :
Nor with voluptuous dreams of rapture glow;
Nor taste, to sullen solitude consign’d,
The dear domestic ties that link us to our kind.
For him, when lying, envious, tongues defame;
Or scornful foes exult, unpitying, o'er
The ruin’d fortunes, and the blighted name;
Or penury's palsied hand assaults his door;
Or all disgusts, that most had pleas'd before ;
No angel-form, with mild, unaltered, air,
Shall chase the gloomy fiends, that evermore
Must slumber from his aching eye-lids scare,
And lull awhile to rest the demon of despair.
For him, no soul-felt happiness-for him,
No gentle spirit o'er the couch shall stand,
Should weary sickness shake the fainting limb,
Till pain, half-smiling, flies at her command.
No anxious fears, no feverish hopes expand,
Shooting through every nerve a bliss unknown;
No mutual vows ; no touch of lip or hand ;-
Trifles, to which a word, a look, a tone,
Can lend a magic power, and value not their own!
But he in rude, obstreperous, drunken joys,
Madly shall vegetate his life away ;
Or, sated with delight, that palls or cloys,
All listless lie, and execrate the day :
And when he withers in forlorn decay,
Shall hired attendants round his dying bed
Tread heedless :—there man seldom cares to stay;
Nor woman then shall raise his languid head,
Or soothe the parting hour, which blends him with the dead.
Yet bards have often told, that worst it fares
With such as most have loved thee,--that thy tongue,
Face, motion, form, and thousand siren snares,
In guilt and sweet perdition drown the young,
And madden while-haired age—it has been sung
That bloodshed, misery, crime, from some false dame,
As evil first from the first woman sprung ;
'Then Helen sounds, or Cleopatra's name,
Or Messalina stamp'd with every brand of shame.
Some say, thou art a vain and fickle thing,
Changeful and fitful as th' autumnal breeze,
Still, as thou soarest wild on wanton wing,
Laughing at steadfast faith, and tranquil ease,
As all too dull for polish'd times like these !
Some say, that in thy smiles, and in thy tears,
Dwells treachery,—that thine heart alone can please
Wealth, pomp, or toys, that suit but infant
years, Or proud, ambitious hopes, 10 rise above thy peers.
They say the fond heart can repose on none,
Or will be pierced by thorns of sharp deceit ;
For of created women breathes not one
Whose honeyed promise is not false as sweet ;
From the gay sylph, who skims with fairy feet
Light as a shadow, o'er the figur'd floor,
To her, who must reluctantly retreat,
Some dowager of beauty, queen no more,
Who sees her daughter reign as she has reign'd before.
Alas! in thee detracting tongues will say,
Spite, envy, rancour, are most uncontroll'd;
Thy love of luxury, thy lust of sway,
Force thee to fondly clasp what thou shouldst hold.
In scorn and utter loathing-damning gold,
Thy hate of e'en deformity disarms,
And woman's heart is barter'd, bought, and sold;
And wither'd age can bribe into its arms
Shapeś mocking sculpture's skill, proud prostituted charms.
Ah! that it has been thus indeed !-dark tales,
Yet true, at times thy votaries must hear
Of giddy faithlessness, and art that veils
Its frauds in guise of tenderest love sincere,
And flattery grateful to thy foolish eaf,
And frivolous weakness ;-yet, when thou hast smild,
Man all forgets his spleen, unsays his sneer,
And, sooth'd a moment, like a froward child,
Hangs on thy lip again, too gladly reconcil'd.
Deceit is thine, as hearts now withering
Have felt too keenly, and have known 100 well ;
Yet scarce thy treacheries are desigu’d, but spring
Half heedlessly; still spread they round them hell,
And raise hot strifes not e'en thyself canst quell:
And, wishing to please all, thou painest long
The heart ’gainst which thine own could ne'er rebel ;
Less from avow'd premeditated wrong,
Than that thy meteor love gleams fugitive as strong.
Yet has thy firmness been in perils prov'd,
In pain thy patience. Thou alone canst blend
With tender nieekness fortitude unmov'd,
Skilful to soothe in grief, in sickness tend,
The gentlest nurse, the kindest, truest friend.
Thou, when no aid from heav'n or man is nigh,
pangs and fears, that might the bravest bend,
Hast look'd on dangers with undaunted eye,
Still smiling by his side, whom all were taught to fly.
And if it be, that woes from woman spring,
Those very woes with rapture are allied :
Remove them, gladness from the world you fling,
Dark’ning the tints with which our life was dyed.
Thus, when the spear has pierc'd the warrior's side,
Upon some fatal, not inglorious day,
The shaft, infix’d, restrains th' impatient tide;
Else the red food streams forth, with rushing sway,
And with the steel you draw the soul itself away.
Better th' alternate thrill of fear and hope,
Rapture and pangs, vows pledg’d, and vows betray'd,
Than dark monotony, that yields no scope
To the fine impulses, by which are sway'd
They, o'er whose hearts the light from heav'n has play'd ;
The stony sleep of soul, that ne'er can wake!
Nobler the torrent dashing through the glade,
Or down the steep, than the green stagnant lake,
Where only noxious things their torpid dwelling make.