To Theodosia (1769)

Hey day and must I write to you too

Such stuff as I am sure won’t suit you?

Can you encourage Rhymes Lines so idle

That gingling go like Dido’s bridle?

Your Poetry must be forsooth 5

Repleat with Wisdom, Goodness, Truth;

Harmonious too, and well refin’d,

To mend the Heart and raise the mind!

If you some trifling Lines should write,

O they must never see the light! 10

But you I may write suchvery true,

They’r fit for me, tho’ not for you;

I may hold up by way of fun

My farthing candle, to the Sun!

’Twill twinkle prettily no doubt, 15

Unless a puff should blow it out.

My Pride indeed is much abated

Since heretofore time when I hated

To perch so low and sing so small,

But must I have no pride at all? 20

Your verses, tho’ I must approve

(And if I envy yet must love,

Or else I should commit high treason

Against my judgement, and my reason.)

Yet pray, could anybody blame me, 25

If I endeavor’d to defame ye,

Since ’tis the way of human Elves

To censure what they want themselves.

How many people rail at wit

Because they cannot get a bit. 30

And Fools are apt to take offence

At taste refin’d, and true good sense.

With Ladies very old, or ^very^ plain

Beauty’s a worthless thing, and vain!

They wonder, men should so admire it! 35

They have more sense than to desire it.

And as for wealth, what Bard can love it,

Whose Genius soarsso far above it?

The fable of the Fox and Grapes

Fits many a Mind of different Shapes. 40

And since good poetry I fail in,

Like Reynard, let me stick to railing.

What then, are soft poetic numbers

But lullabies to gentle Slumbers?

Like bleating flocks, on plains or hills, 45

Or murmuring streams and gurgling rills,

What’s the Majestic, and Sublime?

A ladderfor the mind to climb

Up craggy Rocks, to from some high low Creek,

Then, tumble downand break its neck! 50

Heroic Verse, and Epic Song?

O! that will draw the mind along

As an old horse! Of whom which you’r chary

Will drag you on till you are weary,

Thro’ thick and thin, o’er smooth and rough, 55

’Till you have rodemore than enough.

But ^what^ shall Odes, and Essays be?

Why any thing, an Ox, an flea!

What best may suit the Poet’s humour

When once it gathers to a tumour! 60

His pen he draws, (with such a vapour)

And takes lets the matter out on Paper.

Then pastoral Elegiac Singing,

May be compar’d to Pigs a ringing.

Such Music, breathing o’er the plains, 65

O how it charms the Nymphs and Swains!

A hundred other sorts of rhimesters,

Some rumbling rough, some puling whinesters,

If I could tend to go in quest of,

I might find out, to make a jest of; 70

But here’s enough you’ll say already,

So now my Keel shall be steady,

With Verse of a Religious kind.

I do not jest, as you may find

Unless I liken Erskine’s sonnets 75

To Scotchmans Scotsmens’ gude auld greasy bonnets.

But verse that really good, tho’ scarce,

I would by no means turn to farce,

Nor rail at serious thoughts and hymns,

Tho’ Bradbury has call’d them whims! 80

Because, tho’ he was stuff’d with Learning,

In poetry he’d no discerning.

Another sticking Instance that

(Which happens to come in so pat)

That ev’n the Learn’d, the Good, the Wise, 85

A Brother’s talent shall despise!

If it should differ from his own;

And also, where like haste is shewn,

Would it be strange if the inferiour

Should chance to envy his superiour? 90

He ought not, that indeed we know,

But nature, nature makes it so!

For notwithstanding ’tis the fashion

In this, our now enlighten’d nation,

To make a pother, and a cry 95

About our Nature’s dignity,

I’m apt to think it is but ill,

Just gilded over, like a pill!

With many a foul ingredient under

In pill and man, or I should wonder. 100

But what a hodge podge – little’s here!

I’ve weary’d you quite out I fear,

For tho’ my gingling rhimes and jokes

May serve to please the little folks,

They are, I doubt, a sad transgression 105

Against sage judgment and discretion.

If so? I trust your better sense

Will kindly hide this fresh offence;

As I’ve no sort of harm intended,

And soon my verse it will be ended, 110

As ’tis high time my letter should.

And so, I wish you every good,

And am, your hearty friend and true.

Amira. – now M. W.

April 3 1769

Text: Steele Collection, 10/2, where there are two versions: one appears in the loosely bound collection that contains the majority of these poems by Mary Wakeford (10/2), and the other (10/2/a) can be found on one side of a loose bifolium, transcribed by Anne Steele; see also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, p. Reference here is to the Revd Thomas Bradbury, who wrote a Preface to Erskine’s Sermons (London, 1738), in which he praised Erskine’s religious poetry but denigrated most popular poetry as consisting mostly of ‘swelling words of vanity, distorted images, and monstrous allusions’. He recommended Erskine’s poems ‘for the Sweetness of the Verse, the Disposition of the Subjects, the Elegancy of the Composition, and, above all, for that which animates the whole, the Savour of divine and experimental Knowledge’. See A Collection of Sermons on Several Subjects (Boston, 1744), p. i.