Hail generous Bard! Oh could my grateful Heart
Describe the transports which thy Strains impart
In Language worthy of thy Theme and Thee,
Sublime yet soft, and regular yet free,
How vain the wish! – too languid is my lay,
Too cold, my Heart’s warm feelings to convey.
Ah! why has Modesty conceal’d that Name
Which every Muse should consecrate to Fame?
Tho’ Indolence, with fascinating Pow’r,
Detains me captive in her Syren Bow’r,
Tho’ long this drooping Heart has ceas’d to glow,
New Life thy animating Strains bestow.
Display’d by Thee, see pleasures all refin’d
With sweet attraction court the enraptur’d Mind!
Science assumes her soul enchanting Mien
And smiling Virtue crowns the blissful scene.
Oh Lov’d and Hon’d! tho’ unknown whose Soul
Unlimited by Custom’s low Controul
With generous Ardor pleads the Female cause
Against thy Sex’s arbitrary Laws.
How few like Thee would bid a female Mind
Take every Knowledge in of every kind.
Alas, ev’n some on whom the sacred Ray
Of Learning pours an intellectual Day
Would limit Female Genius and deny
The paths of science to the longing Eye,
The noblest Gift of Heaven with selfish Pride
Forever from our hapless Sex would hide.
But thou with generous Ardor bids’t us soar
And all unfetter’d Learning’s paths explore.
The grateful Lay let every female raise
And every Shade grow vocal with thy Praise.
Nor let thy candid generous Mind refuse
This humble tribute from a rustic Muse;
If yet thy Feet thro’ Life’s long Labyrinth stray
Still may the Muses prompt the tuneful Lay,
To Thee may Heaven its choicest Gifts impart
And be thy Bliss as ample as thy Heart.
Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/5/iv; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 90. ‘The Female Right to Literature, in a Letter to a Young Lady, from Florence’ was a poem by Thomas Seward (1708-90), Prebend of Lichfield and father of the poet and popular literary figure, Anna Seward (1747-1809). The poem appeared anonymously in Robert Dodsley’s Collection of Poems. By Several Hands (London, 1748), vol. 2, pp. 295-302. The Steeles may have owned the Dodsley volume, or it may have come to Broughton by way of Mary Scott during her extended stay at the Steeles in late 1772-early 1773, for Scott also uses some lines from Seward’s poem as an inscription to The Female Advocate.