Elegy written at Broughton, 1779

Ye Scenes where Fancy waked her earliest Lay,

And memory’s first faint Vestiges endear,

How oft as thro’ your silent scenes I stray,

The Visions of departed Days appear.

Each Object round me whispers to my heart,

They speak of Months and Years forever fled!

And feelings indescribable impart

A soothing sadness, and a pleasing dread.

They speak:—Ah no! far sweeter Sounds I hear,

To memory’s Eye still lives each long lost Friend,

Their well known Voices glad my raptur’d Ear,

Their venerable Forms my steps attend.

Mysterious Memory! whose resistless art

Can from the present bear the Soul away,

Engross each feeling of the passive heart

And hide each Object in the blaze of Day.

Say, can thy power of recollecting Joy

For thy deep shades of Sorrow e’er atone?

Those tints which time himself can ne’er destroy

Till Reason abdicate her mental Throne.

Yet would I not thy glowing Hues forego,

Thou dear Recorder of our pleasures past,

For all that thoughtless mirth can e’er bestow

Thy Joys, unlike to hers, forever last.

A pensive sweetness mingles with thy pains,

Mark’d by thy Pencil every Scene delights;

Each common Object our attention gains

Which Memory with some past Event unites.

Hence Learning’s Sons with curious Eyes explore

The mouldering Column, or decaying Bust.

Hence seek the Ruins on Italia’s Shore,

And view with reverence ev’n her very dust.

But sweeter feelings fill the social Mind

That late returning seeks its native home,

Some lov’d memento of the past to find,

And o’er the Scenes of thoughtless Childhood roam.

Thus as Affection waves her magic Wand

To me a lovelier grace these Scenes assume,

A Father’s taste their vary’d beauties plann’d,

That dear Idea gives them brighter bloom.

Yon verdant Bower recalls another Friend,

Ah never did his Eyes its beauties view;

E’er Summer bade the infant Plants ascend,

Cold was the Hand from whose kind aid they grew!

O! mournful Luxury, to muse at Eve

O’er Friends long lost and pleasures ever fled,

A thousand little Incidents retrieve,

Sit where they sat, and in their footsteps tread.

Here arching Limes their verdant Shades extend

And here and there, emerging midst the Green,

The fragrant Woodbines their tall Tops ascend,

And breathe like modest worth their sweets unseen.

This was my Theodosia’s favorite spot

Her dear Idea all around renews,

Ah, never is that circumstance forgot

Whene’er beneath its shades I lonely muse.

Each Flower that blooms this vary’d bank along,

And gives its fragrance to the passing Air,

Still lives anew in her enchanting Song*

Sweet as their Odours as their Colours fair.

Here oft she wander’d, oft each Object sung,

And learn’d from Nature, Nature’s God to praise;—

Now sweeter music warbles from her Tongue,

Now nobler worship her rapt Spirit pays!

How tasteless all that charm’d my Soul before,

Since that dread Hour that sent her to the Skies,

Creation’s beauties animate no more,

Beheld with languid inattentive Eyes.

Oh! if one Ray of Poesy e’er fir’d

My languid strains from her I caught the glow,

And with her too that little spark expir’d,

The Source once dried the stream no more can flow.

Parent and Friend in one! whose anxious care

Watch’d o’er my helpless Childhood, bless’d my Youth,

Taught virtue’s self a livelier Smile to wear

And dress’d in flowers the awful form of Truth.

O sweet, O sad remembrance! Even in Death

The Child of her affection shar’d her thought,

And the last efforts of her short’ning breath

With love and tenderness for her were fraught.

“Think of me as a Friend whom once you lov’d,

Who lov’d you—to the last will love you still.”

Yes, Honor’d Saint, till to the Grave remov’d

My heart its mournful duty shall fulfill.

* See Rural Meditation Theodosia’s Poems [Mary Steele’s note.]

Text: STE 5/3; STE 5/5/vii and 5/1 (transcribed by Mary Steele Tomkins); also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 112-15. This poem commemorates the death of Anne Steele.