Song to Sarissa, 1778

All hail! to fair Freedom and her happy train

Come come, my Sarissa, and join in the strain,

Like the Birds on the wing let us carol the Lay,

Unconfin’d by the Cage or the gluttonous Spray.

No fanciful troubles shall ruffle our Breasts,

With Health, Peace and Friendship, and Competence bless’d,

Yet we’ll feast not on Life’s pleasant Banquet alone,

Though our Time and our Actions shall still be our own.

Independent of others and free as the Day,

We may ramble or read, we may work or may play.

No Tyrant to thwart us, no cares to torment,

When Reason presides, there will still be content.

No whining Complaints shall disturb our repose,

Men profess themselves Friends, but they prove themselves Foes,

Our Freedom and Peace they insidiously steal

And the Sorrows they feign, we too frequently feel.

We’ll laugh at the sneers of the misjudging train

Who envy the bliss which they cannot obtain;

So the poor fetter’d Slave, dead to hopes of relief,

May wish for Companions to soften his Grief.

In a Forest where Weeds so unnumbered abound,

And Nettles and Brambles o’errun all the Ground,

Who to pluck them would venture, tho’ mix’d with their bloom,

A Rose here and there should diffuse its perfume?

The Weed the most noxious may lovely appear,

The Bramble an elegant Blossom may wear,

But should you approach it you’ll find to your pain,

The Bramble has power to wound and detain.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/3; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 110-11. ‘Sarissa’ was Sarah Froude (also spelled Frowd, Froud) (b.c. 1755). She had two sisters, Mary (‘Amanda’, baptized in 1753) and Susan (1758-1837), and a brother (possibly a twin to Mary), the Revd John Thaine Froude (1753-1826), who served as vicar at Kemble for nearly fifty years. They were the children of James Froude of Sweetwell Farm, Sedgehill, the adopted son of Edward Froude (d. 1744) of Sedgehill, brother to Anne Froude Steele (1684-1720), the mother of Anne Steele. Thus, the Froude sisters were distant cousins of Mary Steele. Edward Froude, like his sister, was a Baptist, but his adopted son remained an Anglican, as did his children, by all accounts. Most likely James Froude was dead by the date of the above letter, his daughters living at East Knoyle with the Revd Russ, local Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Mary. The Russes had probably been designated guardians of Froude’s daughters in his will. Both Sarah and Mary appear on several occasions in Mary Steele’s poetry and letters. In fact, it was Sarah Froude’s copy of Mary Scott’s The Female Advocate (now at the Huntington Library, Los Angeles) that was used as the copy-text for Gae Holladay’s reprint of the poem in 1784. Both Sarah and her sister, Mary, remained unmarried. Susan, however, married Edward Pellew (1757-1833), who eventually became 1st Viscount Exmouth (see below, letter 120). William Steele owned property at Sedgehill, and in a letter to Mary Steele, 13 December 1777, told her he would be selling timber from his property at the Black Horse Inn at East Knoyle on 31 December 1777. During that week Mary stayed with her cousins in the home of the Russes, probably presenting the above poem to Sarah when she left. For more on the Froudes, see Broome, A Bruised Reed, p. 121; Reeves, Pursuing the Muses, pp. 3-10.