On Mrs. MONTAGU[ed.]
Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800), author, critic, philanthropist, and Hannah More's patron.
1 Why boast, O arrogant, imperious man,
2 Perfection so exclusive? are thy powers
3 Nearer approaching Deity? can'st thou solve
4 Questions which high Infinity propounds,
5 Soar nobler flights, or dare immortal deeds,
6 Unknown to woman, if she greatly dares
7 To use the powers assign'd her? Active strength,
8 The boast of animals, is clearly thine;
9 By this upheld, thou think'st the lesson rare
10 That female virtues teach; and poor the height[Page 102]
11 Which female wit obtains. The theme unfolds
12 Its ample maze, for Montagu befriends
13 The puzzled thought, and, blazing in the eye
14 Of boldest Opposition, strait presents
15 The soul's best energies, her keenest powers,
16 Clear, vigorous, enlighten'd; with firm wing
17 Swift she o'ertakes his Muse, which spread afar
18 Its brightest glories in the days of yore;
19 Lo! where she, mounting, spurns the stedfast earth,
20 And, failing on the cloud of science, bears
21 The banner of Perfection. —
22 Ask Gallia's mimic sons how strong her powers,
23 Whom, flush'd with plunder from her Shakespeare's page,
24 She swift detects amid their dark retreats;
25 (Horrid as Cacus in their thievish dens)[Page 103]
26 Regains the trophies, bears in triumph back
27 The pilfer'd glories to a wond'ring world.
28 So Stella boasts, from her the tale I learn'd;
29 With pride she told it, I with rapture heard.
30 O, Montagu! forgive me, if I sing
31 Thy wisdom temper'd with the milder ray
32 Of soft humanity, and kindness bland:
33 So wide its influence, that the bright beams
34 Reach the low vale where mists of ignorance lodge,
35 Strike on the innate spark which lay immers'd,
36 Thick clogg'd, and almost quench'd in total night —
37 On me it fell, and cheer'd my joyless heart.
38 Unwelcome is the first bright dawn of light
39 To the dark soul; impatient, she rejects,[Page 104]
40 And fain won'd push the heavenly stranger back;
41 She loaths the cranny which admits the day;
42 Confus'd, afraid of the intruding guest;
43 Disturb'd, unwilling to receive the beam,
44 Which to herself her native darkness shews.
45 The effort rude to quench the cheering flame
46 Was mine, and e'en on Stella cou'd I gaze
47 With sullen envy, and admiring pride,
48 Till, doubly rous'd by Montagu, the pair
49 Conspire to clear my dull, imprison'd sense,
50 And chase the mists which dimm'd my visual beam.
51 Oft as I trod my native wilds alone,
52 Strong gusts of thought wou'd rise, but rise to die;
53 The portals of the swelling soul, ne'er op'd[Page 105]
54 By liberal converse, rude ideas strove
55 Awhile for vent, but found it not, and died.
56 Thus rust the Mind's best powers. Yon starry orbs,
57 Majestic ocean, flowery vales, gay groves,
58 Eye-wasting lawns, and Heaven-attempting hills,
59 Which bound th'horizon, and which curb the view;
60 All those, with beauteous imagery awak'd
61 My ravish'd soul to extacy untaught,
62 To all the transport the rapt sense can bear;
63 But all expir'd, for want of powers to speak;
64 All perish'd in the mind as soon as born,
65 Eras'd more quick than cyphers on the shore,
66 O'er which the cruel waves, unheedful, roll.
67 Such timid rapture as young*
* See the Minstrel. Edwin seiz'd,
68 When his lone footsteps on the Sage obtrude,[Page 106]
69 Whose noble precept charm'd his wond'ring ear,
70 Such rapture fill'd*
* The Author. Lactilla's vacant soul,
71 When the bright Moralist, in softness drest,
72 Opes all the glories of the mental world,
73 Deigns to direct the infant thought, to prune
74 The budding sentiment, uprear the stalk
75 Of feeble fancy, bid idea live,
76 Woo the abstracted spirit from its cares,
77 And gently guide her to the scenes of peace.
78 Mine was that balm, and mine the grateful heart,
79 Which breathes its thanks in rough, but timid strains.