On Friendship Addressed to Sylvia, 1770

Let Poets sing of Cytherea’s fires

A nobler flame my virgin muse inspires,

Sylvia, the lay is thine, the theme refin’d

Is well adapted to thy gentle mind.

’Tis sacred Friendship that inspires my Song

And “tunes if tun’d” to harmony my Tongue.

Rouz’d by her call, enliven’d by her fire,

Once more I seize the long neglected Lyre.

Prove, gentle Power, propitious to my Verse,

While I would fain thy matchless Charms rehearse.

Friendship, dear name of bliss!—’Tis thine to impart

A thousand pleasing passions to the heart;

If Fortune frowns, or if the Syren smile,

Then dost our Joys improve, our pains beguile.

Oh! bliss on Earth supreme! delightful state

“When Heart meets Heart reciprocally sweet”!

No powers of eloquence can e’er recite

The ecstasy when kindred Souls unite,

Angels with Joy the sacred Union view

And Fiends admire, but Ah! they envy too.

Oh may this bliss if Heaven permit be mine,

And such my Sylvia be forever thine.

Friendship!—before thy sacred Shrine I bend

Nor wish a higher Title than a Friend;

If e’er I turn apostate to thy name

Or dare indulge a more Ignoble Flame,

May I be banish’d from the Sylvan Shades

To Scenes where noise and ceaseless care invades,

By every muse may I forsaken be,

And Oh my Sylvia—be forgot by Thee.

But e’er these ills arrive may I be laid

In soft repose upon my dusty Bed.


Text: STE 5/2, in Mary Steele’s hand; Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, pp. 73-74. Steele’s response to this poem, ‘To Myra, occasioned by the foregoing’, can be found in 5/2; another version, titled ‘To Myra 1770 on receiving her Poem on Friendship’, can be found in 5/5/iii; see volume 3, poem 26.