To Theodosia, 1771

O thou whom every tender tie endears!

That Duty, Friendship, Gratitude e’er form’d,

The kind Protectress of my infant years

Whose precepts taught me, whose Example warm’d.

Tho’ Death relentless in my infant years

Snatch’d my lov’d Parent to her native Skies,

(Her Dear Idea prompts my fillial tears)

Thy kindness still the fatal loss supplies.

Yes with the tender’st unremitting care

Thy precepts taught my feet fair Virtues way,

Taught me to shun each fatal lurking snare,

And shew’d the path to Realms of endless Day.

And when I lisp’d my artless Infant Lays

Thy smile indulgent fed the growing fire,

(Tho’ harsh my strains, tho’ rude my faint Essays,

And bade me still attempt the trembling Lyre.)

Thy skillful Hand attun’d each uncouth strain,

Rais’d the low thought, inspir’d the languid Line;

Nor were these kind Instructions quite in vain,

Thy forming Hand my untaught lays refine.

Enough for me if these unartful Lays

Can to my Friend a dawn of Joy impart;

Enough if tho’ but faintly this conveys

The warm Emotions of a grateful heart.

Text: Two versions of this poem can be found in the Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/5/iii (a and b); the latter version is dated 21 October 1771; see also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 74-75. Anne Steele addressed several poems to her niece. ‘On the Birth Day of a Child, Three Years Old’, ‘To the Same’, ‘To the Same, with a Posie of Snow-drops and Pansies, and a Sprig of Bay. January 3d’, appeared in the 1803 edition of Anne Steele’s posthumous publication, Verses for Children (Bampton, Oxon: W. Hollaway), pp. 5-9 (the latter two poems also appeared in the 1788 edition of Verses for Children [Salisbury: E. Easton], pp. 3, 8-9, but under different titles). ‘To Silvia’, ‘To Silvia Pensive’, and three other poems, also titled ‘To Silvia’, appeared in Anne Steele’s posthumous publication, Miscellaneous Pieces, pp. 50-53, 87-88, 102-03. An untitled poem beginning ‘Amid Life’s real, or its fancied cares’ can be found in STE 3/3/6, as well as a charming dialogue between Philander (William Steele), Silvia (Mary Steele), and Myrtilla (Jane Attwater), in Anne Steele’s hand, beginning ‘Were I to chuse a mate, Myrtilla cries.’ All of these poems can be found in Julia B. Griffin, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 2, pp. 32-34, 58, 64, 67, 95-100, 182, 205-06.