On the Walks at Bath 1751

Ah how unlike the solitary Groves

Where the Muse haunts, and thought unfetter’d roves!

Those kind Companions love the peaceful shade

And fly the laughing Croud and gay Parade.

Those Walks indeed an ample theme supply.

Satiric theme, if Pope or Young were by:

The Censor Muse might here her pow’r display

To scourge the follies of the Vain and Gay;

But gentler themes the Sylvan Muse delight

And rural Scenes the artless Lay invite.

Dear native rural Scenes, for you I sigh,

Where Nature’s charms alone enchant the eye;

Where uncontroul’d sweet Meditation strays

And tunes the humble song to notes of praise

But see a lovely verdant Walk beneath.

There tall Shades rise and gentle Zephirs breath!

I bend my steps to this delightful Shade

And pensive here invoke the Muse’s aid.

Ah, if the sweet inspiring Muse were here

How fair the varied Landscape would appear.

Rais’d on the distant Hill, with proud disdain

Yon stately Dome* surveys the humble plain;

The humble plain, in artless beauties drest,

Where the pleas’d thought with calm delight can rest.

Here Meads with lively Verdure cheer the eyes;

There Trees irregularly beauteous rise;

Soft as the cadence of an easy Song,

The cool Stream rolls its gentle Waves along.

On its green banks delighted while I stray,

The smiling Scene invites the Sylvan Lay.

But hard yon Water-fall with solemn roar,

Whose white wave foams and murmurs to the shore,

Reflection deep and serious thought inspires:

Almost some awful theme my fancy fires,

But serious thoughts just rising fleet away, And Belles and Beaus forbid the coming Lay;

For Vanity has found this soft Retreat,

And here for idle chat the busie Triflers meet.

* Mr. Alleins House [Anne Steele’s note, referring to the

home of Ralph Allen, a Bath socialite who built a Palladian

mansion in Bath c. 1735-48.]

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regents Park College, STE 3/3/6, no. 21; this poem first published in Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 2 (ed. Julia B. Griffin), pp. 137-38.