To Myrtilla, 1771

Oft has this feeble Voice aspir’d in vain

To tune to Friendship one enlivening strain,

Fain would I to my much lov’d Friend impart

The tender feelings of a grateful Heart.

When Reason first diffus’d its infant Ray

And childish Fancy thought each Prospect gay,

Ev’n then Myrtilla to my Heart was dear,

Ev’n then her Absence prompted many a Tear.

Fond Memory paints anew each harmless scene

When oft we rumbled o’er the daisied Green,

When oft we wasted many a Summer’s Day

In childish Innocence and sprightly Play;

Ah! little thought we of the impending storms

That e’vn the fairest Day of Life deforms,

The poignant Anguish we were doom’d to share

And the keen pangs the feeling Heart must bear.

Painfully pleasing Memory brings to Mind

Those Hours we passed in pleasures all refin’d,

When Friendship tun’d to Harmony my Soul

And all my Passions own’d her kind Controul;

In Bodenham’s fertile Vales, in Broughton’s Bow’rs,

We pass’d serene the quick revolving Hours,

When dewy Evening spread her musing reign.

There oft we wander’d o’er the verdant plain,

Pour’d forth the warm Effusions of the Heart,

No cold Reserve conceal’d the smallest part;

Dear Hours of Transport now forever flown!

Joys to unfeeling Gaiety unknown.

Alas! what checquer’d Scenes frail Life supplies,

What fairy prospects charm our youthful Eyes;

Hope’s dear deluder paints the future gay

And gilds each Prospect with her Magic Ray;

With eager steps some distant good we chase

Which still as swiftly flies our fond Embrace.

Thus now I heave the discontented Sigh

And wish in vain My Dear Myrtilla nigh,

To share the pleasures of this sylvan scene,

Now all like her is smiling and serene.

O much lov’d Partner of my earliest Hours!

May Heaven on Thee its choicest blessing pour;

Sweet as thy Temper may Thy minutes roll,

And calm Contentment harmonize thy Soul.

But Ah! how fruitless all my Efforts prove

To speak my wishes for the Friend I love;

How faint my Heart its feelings has exprest,

These trembling tears alone must speak the rest.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/5/iii; see also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 75-76.