The Rustic Maid, 1771

Happy the Nymph who steals unseen,

Along the Vale of rural Life

Where lonely Quiet glads each scene,

Remote from Hurry, Noise, and Strife.

Beneath thy notice, Lordly Man,

To Her a happier Lot is lent;

She views from far Thy guileful plan

With Solitude and Peace Content.

No fulsome flattery wounds her Ear,

No broken Vow disturbs her rest,

No lordly Husband’s frown she fears,

No discord rude invades his Breast;

What tho’ no fops in empty strains

Pronounce her every look divine,

What tho’ no Beaus compose her train

Whose tinsel Outsides only shine,

What tho’ her homely features boast

No sweet attractive winning Grace,

What tho’ her homespun Garb be coarse

Tho’ rude her Mein, tho’ brown her face,

Yet if Good humour sparkles there

And sweet Content herbosom warm,

She’s happier than the haughty fair

Whose face Illnature’s frowns deform.

The humble Violet tho’ below

The careful Gardener’s fost’ring care,

Not like the Tulip made for show

With sweetness fills the ambient Air;

Thus if some useful Virtues bloom

Within the rural Maiden’s breast,

They spread around a sweet perfume

And make the humble Owner blest,

Shelter’d beneath her native thorn,

From all the Rage of angry Skies.

Let gaudy Tulips look with scorn,

She blest tho’ all the Proud despise.

Unseen, Unknown she struts thro’ time,

But Friendship’s tears her Grave adorn;

While wafted to a happier Clime,

She blooms beyond the reach of Scorn.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/5/iii; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 71-72.