On Solitude, 1770

All Hail sweet Solitude! Reflection’s friend,

O wrap thy Vot’ry in thy deepest Shade,

And softly pleasing meditation lend

Thy heart, improving thy delightful Aid.

Here from the Din of busy Crowds remov’d

Far from the trivial pleasures of the gay,

Lost in sweet Meditation let me rove

And o’er the Sylvan scenes in Silence stray.

What are the highest pleasures of the gay,

The laugh of Mirth, the gaudy pomp of pow’r?

One smile of true Contentment far outweighs

Those glittering idle pageants of an hour.

What tho’ the gay deride and Grandeur scorn

The pensive Hermit’s solitary Cell,

More real bliss its humble Walls adorn

Than all the pleasures which in Grandeur dwells.

Here in this secret, this secure recess,

O let me muse my numerous follies o’er;

May Penitence unfeign’d my heart possess

And fill my Soul with her celestial Lore.

Attend my Soul, attend the heavenly Voice

That softly whispers to thy mental Ear,

Make Wisdom’s pleasant Ways thy early Choice

Fix not thy Heart nor thy Affections here.

Then will sweet Solitude or social Joys

Delight, but not engage my nobler part,

While grateful Praise my every pow’r employs

To him who warms to Love this icy Heart.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/5/iii; STE 5/1 (transcribed by Mary Steele Tomkins, with stanzas numbered); also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 59-60. At the end of 5/5/iii, Steele has added, ‘written at Yeovil’.