Sonnet to Mr. Dunscombe, January 1797

Should melancholy brooding o’er the past

Still on this weaken’d mind incessant prey;

Say, will thy tenderness unwearied last,

Thro’ life’s long, comfortless, and dreary Day?

Ah, will not soon the fond Illusion fly!

Canst thou with pleasure view this faded form?

This pale cold Cheek, this dim and hollow Eye,

Can Love inspirit, or can Rapture warm?

Yet shall thy virtues o’er Life’s Evening Hour

Shed a mild lustre on that Hour serene,

Far dearer than the Glare of Pomp and Power,

The little Pageants of Life’s passing Scene.

Yes, on this rock my weary Soul reclines,

And all the rest to Heaven and Thee resigns.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/3, where the poem appears as two quatrains followed by a sestet; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 156. In January 1797 Mary Steele married her long-time acquaintance, the Revd Thomas Dunscombe, though her expectations were anything but romantic, as the above poem suggests (and comments in some of her correspondence with her half-sister, Anne).