OR FEMALE GENIUS.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCLI.
1 SHall lordly man, the theme of every lay,
2 Usurp the Muse's tributary bay?
3 In kingly state on Pindus' summit sit,
4 Tyrant of verse, and arbiter of wit? [Page 187]
5 By Salic law the female right deny,
6 And view their genius with regardless eye?
7 Justice forbid! and every muse inspire
8 To sing the glories of a sister-choir!
9 Rise, rise, bold swain; and to the listening grove
10 Resound the praises of the sex you love;
11 Tell how, adorn'd with every charm, they shine,
12 In mind and person equally divine,
13 Till man, no more to female merit blind,
14 Admire the person, but adore the mind.
15 To these weak strains, O thou! the sex's friend
16 And constant patron,m
m The author of those three celebrated works, Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison. Richardson! attend:
17 Thou, who so oft with pleas'd, but anxious care,
18 Hast watch'd the dawning genius of the fair,
19 With wonted smiles wilt hear thy friend display
20 The various graces of the female lay;
21 Studious from Folly's yoke their minds to free,
22 And aid the generous cause espous'd by thee.
23 Long o'er the world did Prejudice maintain,
24 By sounds like these, her undisputed reign:
25 "Woman! she cried, to thee, indulgent Heaven
26 " Has all the charms of outward beauty given:
27 "Be thine the boast, unrival'd, to enslave
28 " The great, the wise, the witty, and the brave;
29 "Deck'd with the Paphian rose's damask glow,
30 " And the vale-lily's vegetable snow,[Page 188]
31 "Be thine, to move majestic in the dance,
32 " To roll the eye, and aim the tender glance,
33 "Or touch the strings, and breathe the melting song,
34 " Content to emulate that airy throng,
35 "Who to the sun their painted plumes display,
36 " And gaily glitter on the hawthorn spray,
37 "Or wildly warble in the beechen grove,
38 " Careless of aught but music, joy, and love. "
39 Heavens! could such artful, slavish sounds beguile
40 The free-born sons of Britain's polish'd isle?
41 Could they, like fam'd Ulysses' dastard crew,
42 Attentive listen, and enamour'd view,
43 Nor drive the Syren to that dreary plain,
44 In loathsome pomp, where eastern tyrants reign;
45 Where each fair neck the yoke of slavery galls,
46 Clos'd in a proud seraglio's gloomy walls,
47 And taught, that levell'd with the brutal kind,
48 Nor sense, nor souls to women are assign'd.
49 Our British nymphs with happier omens rove,
50 At freedom's call, thro' wisdom's sacred grove,
51 And, as with lavish hand each sister grace
52 Shapes the fair form, and regulates the face,
53 Each sister muse, in blissful union join'd,
54 Adorns, improves, and beautifies the mind.
55 Ev'n now fond Fancy in our polish'd land
56 Assembled shews a blooming, studious band:
57 With various arts our reverence they engage,
58 Some turn the tuneful, some the moral page;
59 These, led by Contemplation, soar on high,
60 And range the Heavens with philosophic eye;[Page 189]
61 While those, surrounded by a vocal choir,
62 The canvas tinge, or touch the warbling lyre.
63 Here, like the stars 'mix'd radiance, they unite
64 To dazzle and perplex our wandering sight:
65 The muse each charmer singly shall survey,
66 And tune to each her tributary lay.
67 So when, in blended tints, with sweet surprize
68 Assembled beauties strike our ravish'd eyes,
69 Such as in Lely's melting colours shine,
70 Or spring, great Kneller! from a hand like thine,
71 On all with pleasing awe at once we gaze,
72 And, lost in wonder, know not which to praise,
73 But, singly view'd, each nymph delights us more,
74 Disclosing graces unperceiv'd before.
75 First let the muse with generous ardor try
76 To chase the mist from dark opinion's eye:
77 Nor mean we here to blame that father's care,
78 Who guards from learned wives his booby heir,
79 Since oft that heir with prudence has been known
80 To dread a genius that transcends his own:
81 The wise themselves should with discretion chuse,
82 Since letter'd nymphs their knowledge may abuse,
83 And husbands oft experience to their cost
84 The prudent housewife in the scholar lost:
85 But those incur deserv'd contempt, who prize
86 Their own high talents, and their sex despise,
87 With haughty mien each social bliss defeat,
88 And sully all their learning with conceit:
89 Of such the parent justly warns his son,
90 And such the muse herself will bid him shun.
91 But lives there one, whose unassuming mind,
92 Tho' grac'd by nature, and by art refin'd,
93 Pleas'd with domestic excellence, can spare
94 Some hours from studious ease to social care,
95 And with her pen that time alone employs
96 Which others waste in visits, cards, and noise;
97 From affectation free, tho' deeply read,
98 "With wit well natur'd, and with books well bred?"
99 With such (and such there are) each happy day
100 Must fly improving, and improv'd away;
101 Inconstancy might fix and settle there,
102 And wisdom's voice approve the chosen fair.
103 Nor need we now from our own Britain rove,
104 In search of Genius, to the Lesbian grove,
105 Tho' Sappho there her tuneful lyre has strung,
106 And amorous griefs in sweetest accents sung,
107 Since here, in Charles's days, amidst a train
108 Of shameless bards, licentious and profane,
109 The chasten
n Mrs. Catherine Philips: she was distinguished by most of the wits of king Charles's reign, and died young. Her pieces on friendship are particularly admired. Orinda rose; with purer light,
110 Like modest Cynthia, beaming thro' the night:
111 Fair Friendship's lustre, undisguis'd by art,
112 Glows in her lines, and animates her heart;
113 Friendship, that jewel, which, tho' all confess
114 Its peerless value, yet how few possess!
115 For her the never-dying myrtle weaves
116 A verdant chaplet of her odorous leaves;[Page 191]
117 If Cowley's or Roscommon's song can give
118 Immortal fame, her praise shall ever live.
119 Who can unmov'd nearo
o Anne countess of Winchelsea, a lady of great wit and genius, wrote (among others) a poem, much admired, on the Spleen, and is praised by Mr. Pope, &c. under the poetical name of Ardelia. Winchelsea reveal
120 Thy horrors, Spleen! which all, who paint, must feel?
121 My praises would but wrong her sterling wit,
122 Since Pope himself applauds what she has writ.
123 But say, what matron now walks musing forth
124 From the bleak mountains of her native North?
125 While round her brows two sisters of the Nine
126 Poetic wreaths with philosophic twine!
p Mrs. Catherine Cockburne was the wife of a clergyman, lived obscurely, and died a few years ago in an advanced age in Northumberland; her works on dramatic, philosophical, and sacred subjects have been lately collected by the learned Dr. Birch, and are generally admired. Cockburne, hail! ev'n now from Reason's bowers
128 Thy Locke delighted culls the choicest flowers
129 To deck his great, successful champion's head,
130 And Clarke expects thee in the laurel shade.
131 Tho' long to dark, oblivious want a prey,
132 Thy aged worth pass'd unperceiv'd away,
133 Yet Scotland now shall ever boast thy fame,
134 While England mourns thy undistinguish'd name,
135 And views with wonder, in a female mind,
136 Philosopher, divine, and poet join'd!
137 The modest muse a veil with pity throws
138 O'er vice's friends, and virtue's female foes;[Page 192]
139 Abash'd she views the bold unblushing mien
140 Of modernq
q The first of these wrote the scandalous memoirs called Atalantis, and the other two are notorious for the indecency of their plays. Manley, Centlivre, and Behn;
141 And grieves to see one nobly born disgrace
142 Her modest sex, and her illustrious race.
143 Tho' harmony thro' all their numbers flow'd,
144 And genuine wit its every grace bestow'd,
145 Nor genuine wit, nor harmony, excuse
146 The dangerous sallies of a wanton muse:
147 Nor can such tuneful, but immoral, lays
148 Expect the tribute of impartial praise:
149 As soon mightr
r These three ladies have endeavoured to immortalize their shame by writing their own memoirs. Philips, Pilkington, and V—
150 Deserv'd applause for spotless virtue gain.
151 But hark! whats
s The character of Mrs. Rowe and her writings is too well known to be dwelt on here. It may be sufficient to say, that without any previous illness she met at last with that sudden death for which she had always wished. nymph, in Frome's embroider'd vale,
152 With strains seraphic swells the vernal gale?
153 With what sweet sounds the bordering forest rings?
154 For sportive Echo catches, as she sings,
155 Each falling accent, studious to prolong
156 The warbled notes of Rowe's ecstatic song.
157 Old Avon pleas'd his reedy forehead rears,
158 And polish'd Orrery delighted hears.
159 See with what transport she resigns her breath,
160 Snatch'd by a sudden, but a wish'd-for death! [Page 193]
161 Releas'd from earth, with smiles she soars on high
162 Amidst her kindred spirits of the sky,
163 Where faith and love those endless joys bestow,
164 That warm'd her lays, and fill'd her hopes below.
165 Nor can her noblet
t Frances, Countess of Hertford, and afterwards dutchess dowager of Somerset, Mrs. Rowe's illustrious friend, lamented her death in some verses prefixed to her poems, and was author of the letters in her collection signed Cleora. friend escape unseen,
166 Or from the muse her modest virtues screen;
167 Here, sweetly blended, to our wondering eyes,
168 The peeress, poetess, and Christian rise:
169 And tho' the Nine her tuneful strains inspire,
170 We less her genius, than her heart, admire,
171 Pleas'd, 'midst the great, one truly good to see,
172 And proud to tell that Somerset is she.
[Page 194] 173 By generous views oneu
u Anne, viscountess Irwin, and aunt to the present earl of Carlisle: this lady, in a poetical epistle to Mr. Pope, has rescued her sex's cause from the aspersions cast on them by that satyrist in his essay on the characters of women. pceress more demands
174 A grateful tribute from all female hands;
175 One, who to shield them from the worst of foes,
176 In their just cause dar'd Pope himself oppose.
177 Their own dark forms deceit and envy wear,
178 By Irwin touch'd withw
w See Milton, book iv. ver. 811. truth's celestial spear.
179 By her disarm'd, ye witlings! now give o'er
180 Your empty sneers, and shock the sex no more.
181 Thus bold Camilla, when the Trojan chief
182 Attack'd her country, flew to its relief;
183 Beneath her lance the bravest warriors bled,
184 And fear dismay'd the host which great Aeneas led.
185 But ah! why heaves my breast this pensive sigh?
186 Why starts this tear unbidden from my eye?
187 What breast from sighs, what eye from tears refrains,
188 When, sweetly-mournful, haplessx
x Mrs. Wright, sister to the famous Wesleys, has published some pieces, which, tho' of a melancholy cast, are written in the genuine spirit of poetry. Wright complains?
189 And who but grieves to see her generous mind,
190 For nobler views and worthier guests design'd,
191 Admit the hateful form of black despair,
192 Wan with the gloom of superstitious care?
193 In pity-moving lays, with earnest cries,
194 She call'd on Heaven to close her weary eyes,
195 And, long on earth by heart-felt woes opprest,
196 Was borne by friendly death to welcome rest.
197 In nervous strains, lo! y
y Mrs. Madan is author of a poem called the Progress of Poetry, wherein the characters of the best Grecian, Roman, and English poets are justly and elegantly drawn.Madan's polish'd taste
198 Has poetry's successive progress trac'd,
199 From antient Greece, where first she fix'd her reign,
200 To Italy, and Britain's happier plain.
201 Praise well-bestow'd adorns her glowing lines,
202 And manly strength with female softness joins.
203 So female charms and manly virtues grace,
204 By her example form'd, her blooming race,[Page 195]
205 And, fram'd alike to please our ears and eyes,
206 There new Cornelias and new Gracchi rise.
207 O that you now, with genius at command,
208 Would snatch the penc l from my artless hand,
209 And give your sex's portraits, bold and true,
210 In colours worthy of themselves and you!
211 Now in ecstatic visions let me rove,
212 By Cynthia's beams, thro' Brackley's glimmering grove,
213 Where still each night, by startled shepherds seen,
z Mrs. Leapor, daughter to a Northamptonshire gardener, has lately convinced the world of the force of unassisted nature, by imitating and equalling some of our most approved poets, by the strength of her parts, and the vivacity of her genius. Leapor's form flies shadowy o'er the green.
215 Those envied honours nature lov'd to pay
216 The briar-bound turf, where erst her Shakespear lay,
217 Now on her darling Mira she bestows;
218 There o'er the hallow'd ground she fondly strows
219 The choicest fragrance of the breathing spring,
220 And bids each year her favourite linnet sing.
221 Let cloister'd pedants, in an endless round,
222 Tread the dull mazes of scholastic ground;
223 Brackley unenvying views the glittering train
224 Of learning's useless trappings idly vain;
225 For, spite of all that vaunted learning's aid,
226 Their fame is rivall'd by her rural maid.
227 So, while in our Britannia's beechen sprays
228 Sweet Philomela trills her mellow lays,[Page 196]
229 We to the natives of the sultry line
230 Their boasted race of parrots pleas'd resign:
231 For tho' on citron boughs they proudly glow
232 With all the colours of the watery bow,
233 Yet thro' the grove harsh discord they prolong,
234 Tho' rich in gaudy plumage, poor in song.
235 Now bear me, Clio, to that Kentish strand,
236 Whose rude o'erhanging cliffs and barren sand
237 May challenge all the myrtle-blooming bowers
238 Of fam'd Italia, when, at evening hours,
239 Thy owna
a Mrs. Eliza Carter of Deal, well known to the learned world for her late translation of Epictetus, has translated, from the Italian, Algarotti's dialogues on light and colours; and lately published a small collection of elegant poems. Eliza muses on the shore,
240 Serene, tho' billows beat, and tempests roar.
241 Hail, Carter, hail! your favourite name inspires
242 My raptur'd breast with sympathetic fires;
243 Ev'n now I see your lov'd Ilyssus lead
244 His mazy current thro' th' Athenian mead;
245 With you I pierce thro' academic shades,
246 And join in Attic bowers th' Aonian maids;
247 Beneath the spreading plane with Plato rove,
248 And hear his morals echo thro' the grove.
249 Joy sparkles in the sage's looks, to find
250 His genius glowing in a female mind;
251 Newton admiring sees your searching eye
252 Dart thro' his mystic page, and range the sky;[Page 197]
253 By you his colours to your sex are shown,
254 And Algarotti's name to Britain known.
255 While, undisturb'd by pride, you calmly tread
256 Thro' life's perplexing paths, by wisdom led;
257 And, taught by her, your grateful muse repays
258 Her heavenly teacher in nocturnal lays.
259 So when Prometheus from th' Almighty Sire,
260 As sings the fable, stole celestial fire,
261 Swift thro' the clay the vital current ran,
262 In look, in form, in speech resembling man;
263 But in each eye a living lustre glow'd,
264 That spoke the heavenly source from whence it flow'd.
265 "What magic powers inb
b We could not here, with justice, with-hold our tribute of praise from Mrs. Brooke, author of the tragedy of Virginia. Celia's numbers dwell,
266 "Which thus th' unpractis'd breast with ardor swell
267 " To emulate her praise, and tune that lyre
268 "Which yet no bard was able to inspire!
269 " With tears her suffering Virgin we attend,
270 "And sympathize with father, lover, friend!
271 " What sacred rapture in our bosom glows,
272 "When at the shrine she offers up her vows!
273 " Mild majesty and virtue's awful power
274 "Adorn her fall, and grace her latest hour."
275 Transport me now to those embroider'd meads,
276 Where the slow Ouze his lazy current leads;
277 There, while the stream soft-dimpling steals along,
278 And from the groves the green-hair'd Dryads throng,[Page 198]
279 Clio herself, orc
c This lady has written two beautiful odes to Cynthia and the Spring. Ferrar tunes a lay,
280 Sweet as the darkling Philomel of May.
281 Haste, haste, ye Nine, and hear a sister sing
282 The charms of Cynthia, and the joys of spring:
283 See! night's pale goddess with a grateful beam
284 Paints her lov'd image in the shadowy stream,
285 While, round his votary, spring profusely showers
286 "A snow of blossoms, and a wild of flowers."
287 O happy nymph, tho' winter o'er thy head,
288 Blind to that form, the snow of age shall shed;
289 Tho' life's short spring and beauty's blossoms fade,
290 Still shall thy reason flourish undecay'd;
291 Time, tho' he steals the roseate bloom of youth,
292 Shall spare the charms of virtue and of truth,
293 And on thy mind new charms, new bloom bestow,
294 Wisdom's best friend, and only beauty's foe.
295 Nor shall thy much-lov'dd
d Mrs. Pennington has happily imitated Mr. Philips's Splendid Shilling, in a burlesque poem called The Copper Farthing. Pennington remain
296 Unsung, unhonour'd in my votive strain.
297 See where the soft enchantress, wandering o'er
298 The fairy ground that Philips trod before,
299 Exalts her chymic wand, and swift behold
300 The basest metals ripen into gold:
301 Beneath her magic touch, with wondering eye,
302 We view vile copper with pure sterling vie;
303 Nor shall the farthing, sung by her, forbear
304 To claim the praises of the smiling fair;[Page 199]
305 Till chuck and marble shall no more employ
306 The thoughtless leisure of the truant boy.
307 Returning now to Thames's flowery side,
308 See how his waves in still attention glide!
309 And, hark! what songstress shakes her warbling throat?
310 Is it the nightingale, ore
e This lady has written odes to Peace, Health, and the Robin Redbreast, which are here alluded to; and she has been celebrated in a sonnet by Mr. Edwards, author of the Canons of Criticism. Delia's note?
311 The balmy zephyrs, hovering o'er the fair,
312 On their soft wings the vocal accents bear;
313 Thro' Sunbury's low vale the strains rebound,
314 Ev'n neighbouring Chertsey hears the chearful sound,
315 And wondering sees her Cowley's laurel'd shade
316 Transported listen to the tuneful maid.
317 O may those nymphs, whose pleasing power she sings,
318 Still o'er their suppliant wave their fostering wings!
319 O long may Health and soft-ey'd Peace impart
320 Bloom to her cheek, and rapture to her heart!
321 Beneath her roof the red-breast shall prolong,
322 Unchill'd by frosts, his tributary song;
323 For her the lark shall wake the dappled morn,
324 And linnet twitter from the blossom'd thorn.
325 Sing on, sweet maid! thy Spenser smiles to see
326 Kind Fancy shed her choicest gifts on thee,
327 And bids his Edwards, on the laurel spray
328 That shades his tomb, inscribe thy rural lay.
329 With lovely mienf
f This lady has successfully applied herself to the sister arts of drawing and poetry, and has written an ingenious allegory, wherein two pilgrims, Fidelio and Honoria, after a fruitless search for the palace of Happiness, are at last conducted to the house of Content. Eugenia now appears,
330 The muse's pupil from her tenderest years;
331 Improving tasks her peaceful hours beguile,
332 The sister arts on all her labours smile,
333 And while the Nine their votary inspire,
334 "One dips the pencil, and one strings the lyre."
335 O may her life's clear current smoothly glide,
336 Unruffled by misfortune's boisterous tide!
337 So while the charmer leads her blameless days
338 With that content which she so well displays,
339 Her own Honoria we in her shall view,
340 And think her allegoric vision true.
341 Thus wandering wild among the golden grain
342 That fruitful floats on Bansted's airy plain,
343 Careless I sung, while summer's western gale
344 Breath'd health and fragrance thro' the dusky vale;
345 When from a neighbouring hawthorn, in whose shade
346 Conceal'd she lay, up-rose th' Aonian maid:
347 Pleas'd had she listen'd; and, with smiles, she cried,
348 "Cease, friendly swain! be this thy praise and pride,
349 " That thou, of all the numerous tuneful throng,
350 "First in our cause hast fram'd thy generous song.
351 " And ye, our sister choir! proceed to tread
352 "The flowery paths of fame, by science led!
353 " Employ by turns the needle and the pen,
354 "And in their favourite studies rival men! [Page 201]
355 " May all our sex your glorious track pursue,
356 "And keep your bright example still in view!
357 " These lasting beauties will in youth engage,
358 "And smooth the wrinkles of deelining age,
359 " Secure to bloom, unconscious of decay,
360 "When all Corinna's roses fade away.
361 " For ev'n when love's short triumph shall be o'er,
362 "When youth shall please, and beauty charm no more,
363 " When man shall cease to slatter; when the eye
364 "Shall cease to sparkle, and the heart to sigh,
365 " In that dread hour, when parent dust shall claim
366 "The lifeless tribute of each kindred frame,
367 " Ev'n then shall wisdom for her chosen fair
368 "The fragrant wreaths of virtuous fame prepare;
369 " Those wreaths which flourish in a happier clime.
370 "Beyond the reach of envy and of time;
371 " While here, th' immortalizing muse shall save
372 "Your darling names from dark Oblivion's grave;
373 " Those names the praise and wonder shall engage
374 "Of every polish'd, wise, and virtuous age;
375 " To latest times our annals shall adorn,
376 "And save from folly thousands yet unborn."