To Miss Aikin, on Reading her Poems

Hail, charming Aikin, hail Thy name inspires

My glowing bosom with congenial fires.

Oh! would the Muse her tuneful aid impart,

And teach to speak the raptures of my heart;

Teach me to praise the beauties of that line,

Where strength of thought, and lively fancy join;

Where shines each happy art, that boasts to please,

Wit, genius, learning, elegance, and ease;

The pleasing theme unwearied I’d rehearse,

And, with thy name, immortalize my verse.

Thy tuneful strains, with more than magic art,

Can rouze, can soothe, or charm th’ impassion’d heart.

Thou, whose transcendent worth and matchless lays

Extort from critic’s lips the meed of praise,

Tho’ thine each boasted elegance of art,

A nobler energy expands thy heart;

Thine, heavenly Piety’s seraphic flames,

To which compar’d all gifts are empty names,

Forms that rise fair to Fancy’s cheated eye,

But in possession lose their charms and die:

Not so Religion—she, propitious power,

With lenient influence cheers each gloomy hour,

When pain assails, and woes on woes impend,

When, trembling on the grave’s dread verge we bend,

She calms each fear, suppresses every sigh,

And points to realms above the swimming eye.


Text: Gentleman’s Magazine 44 (1774), p. 327; Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, p. 27. No manuscript of this poem exists in the Steele Collection, but the language and style is consistent with other poems by Scott from the early 1770s that can be found in the Steele Collection; the signature ‘Mira’ is also consistent with other poems and letters in the Steele Collection. The poem complements Scott’s work on Barbauld and the other women poets that would appear in The Female Advocate, published a few months after the appearance of this poem. Anna Letitia Aiken (1743-1825) was the eldest daughter of the Revd John Aikin, Presbyterian schoolmaster and tutor at the Warrington Academy, 1758-1780. She published Poems in 1773, the occasion for the above poem by Scott. She also published that year, in conjunction with her brother, Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose. In May 1774 she married the Revd Rochemont Barbauld (1749-1808), a former student at Warrington who became a Presbyterian minister and educator, operating schools for boys in Suffolk and at Hampstead, Middlesex, between 1787 and 1802 before retiring to Stoke Newington, Hackney. Though she published numerous poems, periodical pieces, and political pamphlets, Barbauld was mostly known for her children’s books, such as Lessons for Children (4 vols, 1778-79), Hymns in Prose for Children (1781), and her contributions to the popular multi-volume series, Evenings at Home (primarily composed by her brother John) (1792-96).