To Silvia (1)

While musing in the solitary hour,

My Silvia rises fair to fancy’s eye:

Soft, soothing melancholy, pensive power!

Awakes for her the anxious tender sigh.

Ah! how when entering on a world of snares,

Shall innocence preserve the artless maid?

Ah! who shall guide, through life’s bewildering cares,

Her steps in safety to some hallow’d shade?

Paternal love with ever-watchful eye

Shall guard from cares, if near her cares should press;

Shall kindly warn of every danger nigh,

And point the path of safety and of peace.

Friendship, for Silvia, shall collect her powers,

And o’er the scene diffuse a lucid ray,

Around her path shall strew the sweetest flowers,

And bid the muse attune her softest lay.

Delusive hope! what dangers rise unseen!

What unsuspected sorrows wait around!

And can a friend or parent step between,

When the wing’d arrow may so quickly wound?

Alas! not friendship’s tenderest, kindest art

Can gild affliction’s heart-oppressing gloom:

Nor can paternal love repel the dart,

If death stand threatening o’er the gaping tomb.

O for a friend whose life-inspiring smile

Can brighten dark affliction’s darkest hours;

Ease, every pain, and soften every toil,

And spread new life through nature’s fainting powers?

O for a friend whose all-sustaining arm

Can make the heart serenely view the tomb:

Can death of all his dead array disarm,

And place a smiling angel in his room!

And see, my Silvia, see that friend appears!

And hark! he calls you to his guardian arms!

Jesus, that friend indeed! for ever near,

When grief approaches, or when death alarms.

O hear his voice! for Heaven attends the sound!

To him alone devote your blooming days;

So shall your life with happiness be crown’d,

So shall you join with angels in his praise.

Text: 1780, vol. 3, pp. 50-1; also STE 3/3/5, sheet 16, MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regents Park College; also Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 2 (ed. Julia B. Griffin), pp. 32-34.