A Dialogue (2)


Were I to chuse a mate, Myrtilla cries,

Not quite a fool I’d have nor yet too wise:

A wit too penetrating, sense too fine,

Would mark too soon such trifling fault in mine.

A beauteous shape and face, genteel his air,

A mind like mine quite free from thought or care –

Such be the man, but then to soothe my pride

I’d have a thousand charming things besides:

Dresses and Jewells, fit for Town or City,

And then methinks a coach were wondrous pretty;

Then for gay Visits, plays, Assemblies, Balls –

In short a Good Estate commands it all.


Says Sylvia gravely: Sure, my dear, you are wrong;

A choice like this could never please you long.

What tho’ your favorite shone in every grace,

And Beauty smiled triumphant in his face?

Those slight attractions quickly must decay,

And age or Sickness steal each Charm away.

Far other Charms, were I to chuse, must move

My heart and teach it to esteem and love;

A mind with solid sense and Judgment fraught

By Virtue, Reason and Religion taught;

Polite yet free, engaging and sincere,

Dear to the Muses and to Friendship dear.

Thus Reason speaks, not Fancy’s airy flight.

Say, dear Myrtilla, pray am I not right?


Nor right not wrong: ’tis all an idle Jest.

Then let Philander judge whose dream is best.


Well this is charming – Oh transporting theme!

Alack and well aday, ’tis all a Dream!

Patience, my Girls, ’till fickle fortune throws

Her random choice of Coxcombs, Parsons, Beaux;

Gay Equipages, honor-boasting Tools,

Rich Misers, Men of Sense and wealthy fools;

Then try your luck, pray Heaven a happy chance:

Call we be it what it will, I’ll lead the Dance.

“A good Estate is worth desiring too”:

For what? – to shine amid the empty gay?

Ah no – Mirtilla, learn a nobler way

To help the poor, to succour the distrest:

Divine delight in blessing to be blest –

The purest joy the gen’rous bosom knows,

Which melts compassionate at others’ woes;

Which thankful owns the bounteous hand of Heav’n

In giving freely what is freely given!

If such the will of Providence divine,

May this, Mirtilla, be your lot and mine;

If not, may Heav’n bestow a Heart resign’d

And to its wise disposal bind the mind.

Then rich or poor, exalted or deprest,

We shall confess that wise disposal best,

And in our happy lot with pleasure rest.

Text: STE 3/3/6, [no. 45 – omitted from catalogue] (not autograph); also STE 3/3/1, p. 50, Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford. The speakers are Anne Steele’s brother, William (‘Philander’), his daughter, Mary (‘Sylvia’), and Mary’s great friend, Jane Attwater (‘Myrtilla’ or ‘Mirtilla’0. Although there are no autograph copies, the poem’s presence in two MSS connected with her make it most probable that Anne Steele is the author of this lively little conversation.