Classics  
English    1743-1825   
Anna Lætitia Aikin was born on June 20th, 1743. Her family lived near the village of Kibworth Harcourt, in Leicestershire. Her father, John Aikin, was a Presbyterian minister and schoolteacher. Both he and her mother, Jane Jennings Aikin, were Presbyterian Dissenters. As a child, Anna received a conventional domestic education ... Read more
Anna Lætitia Aikin was born on June 20th, 1743. Her family lived near the village of Kibworth Harcourt, in Leicestershire. Her father, John Aikin, was a Presbyterian minister and schoolteacher. Both he and her mother, Jane Jennings Aikin, were Presbyterian Dissenters. As a child, Anna received a conventional domestic education ... Read more

HER even lines her steady temper show ;
Neat as her dress, and polish'd as her brow ;
Strong as her judgment, easy as her air ;
Correct though free, and regular though fair :
And the same graces o'er her pen preside
That form her manners and her footsteps guide.

TIS past ! The sultry tyrant of the south
Has spent his short-liv'd rage ; more grateful hours
Move silent on; the skies no more repel
The dazzled sight, but with mild maiden beams
Of temper'd light, invite the cherish'd eye
To wander o'er their sphere ; where hung aloft
DIAN's bright crescent, like a silver bow
New strung in heaven, lifts high its beamy horns

Impatient for the night, and seems to push
Her brother down the sky. Fair VENUS shines
Even in the eye of day ; with sweetest beam
Propitious shines, and shakes a trembling flood
Of soften'd radiance from her dewy locks.
The shadows spread apace ; while meeken'd Eve
Her cheek yet warm with blushes, slow retires
Thro' the Hesperian gardens of the west,
And shuts the gates of day. 'Tis now the hour
When Contemplation, from her sunless haunts,
The cool damp grotto, or the lonely depth
Of unpierc'd woods, where wrapt in solid shade
She mused away the gaudy hours of noon,
And fed on thoughts unripen'd by the sun,
Moves forward ; and with radiant finger points
To yon blue concave swell'd by breath divine,
Where, one by one, the living eyes of heaven
Awake, quick kindling o'er the face of ether

One boundless blaze ; ten thousand trembling fires,
And dancing lustres, where th' unsteady eye
Restless, and dazzled wanders unconfin'd
O'er all this field of glories : spacious field !
And worthy of the master : he, whose hand
With hieroglyphics older than the Nile,
Inscrib'd the mystic tablet; hung on high
To public gaze, and said, adore, O man !
The finger of thy GOD. From what pure wells
Of milky light, what soft o'erflowing urn,
Are all these lamps so fill'd ? these friendly lamps,
For ever streaming o'er the azure deep
To point our path, and light us to our home.
How soft they slide along their lucid spheres !
And silent as the foot of time, fulfil
Their destin'd courses : Nature's self is hush'd,
And, but a scatter'd leaf, which rustles thro'
The thick-wove foliage, not a sound is heard

To break the midnight air ; tho' the rais'd ear,
Intensely listening, drinks in every breath.
How deep the silence, yet how loud the praise !
But are they silent all ? or is there not
A tongue in every star that talks with man,
And wooes him to be wise ; nor wooes in vain :
This dead of midnight is the noon of thought,
And wisdom mounts her zenith with the stars.
At this still hour the self-collected soul
Turns inward, and beholds a stranger there
Of high descent, and more than mortal rank ;
An embryo GOD ; a spark of fire divine,
Which must burn on for ages, when the sun,
(Fair transitory creature of a day !)
Has clos'd his golden eye, and wrapt in shades
Forgets his wonted journey thro' the east.

Ye citadels of light, and seats of GODS !
Perhaps my future home, from whence the soul

Revolving periods past, may oft look back
With recollected tenderness, on all
The various busy scenes she left below,
Its deep laid projects and its strange events,
As on some fond and doating tale that sooth'd
Her infant hours ; O be it lawful now
To tread the hallow'd circles of your courts,
And with mute wonder and delighted awe
Approach your burning confines. Seiz'd in thought
On fancy's wild and roving wing I sail,
From the green borders of the peopled earth,
And the pale moon, her duteous fair attendant;
From solitary Mars ; from the vast orb
Of Jupiter, whose huge gigantic bulk
Dances in ether like the lightest leaf;
To the dim verge, the suburbs of the system,
Where chearless Saturn 'midst her watry moons
Girt with a lucid zone, majestic sits

In gloomy grandeur ; like an exil'd queen
Amongst her weeping handmaids: fearless thence
I launch into the trackless deeps of space,
Where, burning round, ten thousand suns appear,
Of elder beam ; which ask no leave to shine
Of our terrestrial star, nor borrow light
From the proud regent of our scanty day ;
Sons of the morning, first born of creation,
And only less than him who marks their track,
And guides their fiery wheels. Here must I stop,
Or is there aught beyond ? What hand unseen
Impels me onward thro' the glowing orbs
Of inhabitable nature ; far remote,
To the dread confines of eternal night,
To solitudes of vast unpeopled space,
The desarts of creation, wide and wild ;
Where embryo systems and unkindled suns
Sleep in the womb of chaos; fancy droops,

And thought astonish'd stops her bold career.
But oh thou mighty mind ! whose powerful word
Said, thus let all things be, and thus they were,
Where shall I seek thy presence ? how unblam'd
Invoke thy dread perfection ?
Have the broad eye-lids of the morn beheld thee ?
Or does the beamy shoulder of Orion
Support thy throne ? O look with pity down
On erring guilty man ; not in thy names
Of terrour clad ; not with those thunders arm'd
That conscious Sinai felt, when fear appall'd
The scatter'd tribes; thou hast a gentler voice,
That whispers comfort to the swelling heart,
Abash'd, yet longing to behold her Maker.

But now my soul unus'd tostretch her powers
In flight so daring, drops her weary wing,
And seeks again the known accustom'd spot,

Drest up with sun, and shade, and lawns, and streams,
A mansion fair and spacious for its guest,
And full replete with wonders. Let me here
Content and grateful, wait th' appointed time
And ripen for the skies: the hour will come
When all these splendours bursting on my sight
Shall stand unveil'd, and to my ravished sense
Unlock the glories of the world unknown.

When life as opening buds is sweet,
And golden hopes the fancy greet,
And Youth prepares his joys to meet,--
Alas! how hard it is to die!

When just is seized some valued prize,
And duties press, and tender ties
Forbid the soul from earth to rise,--
How awful then it is to die!

When, one by one, those ties are torn,
And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
And man is left alone to mourn,--
Ah then, how easy 'tis to die!

When faith is firm, and conscience clear,
And words of peace the spirit cheer,
And visioned glories half appear,--
'Tis joy, 'tis triumph then to die.

When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
And films, slow gathering, dim the sight,
And clouds obscure the mental light,--
'Tis nature's precious boon to die.

1 When life as opening buds is sweet,
2 And golden hopes the fancy greet,
3 And Youth prepares his joys to meet,--
4 Alas! how hard it is to die!

5 When just is seized some valued prize,
6 And duties press, and tender ties
7 Forbid the soul from earth to rise,--
8 How awful then it is to die!

9 When, one by one, those ties are torn,
10 And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
11 And man is left alone to mourn,--
12 Ah then, how easy 'tis to die!

13 When faith is firm, and conscience clear,
14 And words of peace the spirit cheer,
15 And visioned glories half appear,--
16 'Tis joy, 'tis triumph then to die.

17 When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
18 And films, slow gathering, dim the sight,
19 And clouds obscure the mental light,--
20 'Tis nature's precious boon to die.

LIFE! I know not what thou art,
But know that thou and I must part;
And when, or how, or where we met,
I own to me 's a secret yet.
But this I know, when thou art fled,
Where'er they lay these limbs, this head,
No clod so valueless shall be
As all that then remains of me.

O whither, whither dost thou fly?
Where bend unseen thy trackless course?
   And in this strange divorce,
Ah, tell where I must seek this compound I?
To the vast ocean of empyreal flame
   From whence thy essence came
Dost thou thy flight pursue, when freed
From matter's base encumbering weed?
   Or dost thou, hid from sight,
   Wait, like some spell-bound knight,
Through blank oblivious years th' appointed hour
To break thy trance and reassume thy power?
Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say, what art thou, when no more thou'rt thee?

Life! we have been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
   'Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
   Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;--
   Then steal away, give little warning,
   Choose thine own time;
Say not Good-night, but in some brighter clime
   Bid me Good-morning!

A map of every country known,
With not a foot to call his own.
A list of folks that kicked a dust
On this poor globe, from Ptol. the First;
He hopes,-- indeed it is but fair,--
Some day to get a corner there.
A group of all the British kings,
Fair emblem! on a packthread swings.
The Fathers, ranged in goodly row,
A decent, venerable show,
Writ a great while ago, they tell us,
And many an inch o'ertop their fellows.
A Juvenal to hunt for mottos;
And Ovid's tales of nymphs and grottos.
The meek-robed lawyers all in white;
Pure as the lamb,-- at least, to sight.
A shelf of bottles, jar and phial,
By which the rogues he can defy all,--
All filled with lightning keen and genuine, 20 And many a little imp he'll pen you in;
Which, like Le Sage's sprite, let out,
Among the neighbours makes a rout;
Brings down the lightning on their houses,
And kills their geese, and frights their spouses.
A rare thermometer, by which
He settles, to the nicest pitch,
The just degrees of heat, to raise
Sermons, or politics, or plays.
Papers and books, a strange mixed olio,
From shilling touch to pompous folio;
Answer, remark, reply, rejoinder,
Fresh from the mint, all stamped and coined here;
Like new-made glass, set by to cool,
Before it bears the workman's tool.
A blotted proof-sheet, wet from Bowling.
--'How can a man his anger hold in?'--
Forgotten rimes, and college themes,
Worm-eaten plans, and embryo schemes;--
A mass of heterogeneous matter,
A chaos dark, no land nor water;--
New books, like new-born infants, stand,
Waiting the printer's clothing hand;--
Others, a mottly ragged brood,
Their limbs unfashioned all, and rude,
Like Cadmus' half-formed men appear;
One rears a helm, one lifts a spear,
And feet were lopped and fingers torn
Before their fellow limbs were born;
A leg began to kick and sprawl
Before the head was seen at all,
Which quiet as a mushroom lay
Till crumbling hillocks gave it way;
And all, like controversial writing,
Were born with teeth, and sprung up fighting.

'But what is this,' I hear you cry,
'Which saucily provokes my eye?'--
A thing unknown, without a name,
Born of the air and doomed to flame.

Pure spirit! O where art thou now!
O whisper to my soul!
O let some soothing thought of thee,
The bitter grief control!

'Tis not for thee the tears I shed,
Thy sufferings now are o'er;
The sea is calm, the tempest past,
On that eternal shore.

No more the storms that wrecked thy peace
Shall tear that gentle breast;
Nor Summer's rage, nor Winter's cold,
Thy poor, poor frame molest.

Thy peace is sealed, thy rest is sure,
My sorrows are to come;
Awhile I weep and linger here,
Then follow to the tomb.

And is the awful veil withdrawn,
That shrouds from mortal eyes,
In deep impenetrable gloom,
The secrets of the skies?

O, in some dream of visioned bliss,
Some trance of rapture, show
Where, on the bosom of thy God,
Thou rest'st from human woe!

Thence may thy pure devotion's flame
On me, on me descend;
To me thy strong aspiring hopes,
They faith, thy fervours lend.

Let these my lonely path illume,
And teach my weakened mind
To welcome all that's left of good,
To all that's lost resigned.

Farewell! With honour, peace, and love,
Be thy dear memory blest!
Thou hast no tears for me to shed,
When I too am at rest.

YES, DELIA loves! My fondest vows are blest ;
Farewel the memory of her past disdain ;
One kind relenting glance has heal'd my breast,
And balanc'd in a moment years of pain.

O'er her soft cheek consenting blushes move,
And with kind stealth her secret soul betray ;

Blushes, which usher in the morn of love,
Sure as the red'ning east foretells the day.

Her tender smiles shall pay me with delight
For many a bitter pang of jealous fear ;
For many an anxious day, and sleepless night,
For many a stifled sigh, and silent tear.

DELIA shall come, and bless my lone retreat ;
She does not scorn the shepherd's lowly life ;
She will not blush to leave the splendid seat,
And own the title of a poor man's wife.

The simple knot shall bind her gather'd hair,
The russet garment clasp her lovely breast :
DELIA shall mix amongst the rural fair,
By charms alone distinguish'd from the rest.

And meek Simplicity, neglected maid,
Shall bid my fair in native graces shine :
She, only she, shall lend her modest aid,
Chaste, sober priestess, at sweet beauty's shrine !

How sweet to muse by murmuring springs reclin'd ;
Or loitering careless in the shady grove,
Indulge the gentlest feelings of the mind,
And pity those who live to aught but love !

When DELIA's hand unlocks her shining hair,
And o'er her shoulder spreads the flowing gold,
Base were the man who one bright tress would spare
For all the ore of India's coarser mold.

By her dear side with what content I'd toil,
Patient of any labour in her sight ;
Guide the slow plough, or turn the stubborn soil,
Till the last, ling'ring beam of doubtful light.

But softer tasks divide my DELIA's hours ;
To watch the firstlings at their harmless play ;
With welcome shade to screen the languid flowers,
That sicken in the summer's parching ray.

Oft will she stoop amidst her evening walk,
With tender hand each bruised plant to rear ;
To bind the drooping lily's broken stalk,
And nurse the blossoms of the infant year.

When beating rains forbid our feet to roam,
We'll shelter'd sit, and turn the storied page ;
There see what passions shake the lofty dome
With mad ambition or ungovern'd rage :

What headlong ruin oft involves the great ;
What conscious terrors guilty bosoms prove ;
What strange and sudden turns of adverse fate
Tear the sad virgin from her plighted love.

DELIA shall read, and drop a gentle tear ;
Then cast her eyes around the low-roof'd cot,
And own the fates have dealt more kindly here,
That blest with only love our little lot.

For love has sworn (I heard the awful vow)
The wav'ring heart shall never be his care,
That stoops at any baser shrine to bow :
And what he cannot rule, he scorns to share.

My heart in DELIA is so fully blest,
It has not room to lodge another joy ;
My peace all leans upon that gentle breast,
And only there misfortune can annoy.

Our silent hours shall steal unmark'd away
In one long tender calm of rural peace ;
And measure many a fair unblemish'd day
Of chearful leisure and poetic ease.

The proud unfeeling world their lot shall scorn
Who 'midst inglorious shades can poorly dwell :
Yet if some youth, for gentler passions born,
Shall chance to wander near our lowly cell,

His feeling breast with purer flames shall glow ;
And leaving pomp, and state, and cares behind,
Shall own the world has little to bestow
Where two fond hearts in equal love are join'd.

OH ! born to sooth distress, and lighten care ;
Lively as soft, and innocent as fair ;
Blest with that sweet simplicity of thought
So rarely found, and never to be taught ;
Of winning speech, endearing, artless, kind,
The loveliest pattern of a female mind ;
Like some fair spirit from the realms of rest
With all her native heaven within her breast ;
So pure, so good, she scarce can guess at sin,

But thinks the world without like that within ;
Such melting tenderness, so fond to bless,
Her charity almost becomes excess.
Wealth may be courted, wisdom be rever'd,
And beauty prais'd, and brutal strength be fear'd ;
But goodness only can affection move ;
And love must owe its origin to love.


*
OF gentle manners, and of taste refin'd,
With all the graces of a polish'd mind ;
Clear sense and truth still shone in all she spoke,

And from her lips no idle sentence broke.
Each nicer elegance of art she knew ;
Correctly fair, and regularly true :
Her ready fingers plied with equal skill
The pencil's task, the needle, or the quill.
So pois'd her feelings, so compos'd her soul,
So subject all to reason's calm controul,
One only passion, strong, and unconfin'd,
Disturb'd the balance of her even mind :
One passion rul'd despotic in her breast,
In every word, and look, and thought confest ;
But that was love, and love delights to bless
The generous transports of a fond excess.

No, helpless thing, I cannot harm thee now;
Depart in peace, thy little life is safe,
For I have scanned thy form with curious eye,
Noted the silver line that streaks thy back,
The azure and the orange that divide
Thy velvet sides; thee, houseless wanderer,
My garment has enfolded, and my arm
Felt the light pressure of thy hairy feet;
Thou hast curled round my finger; from its tip,
Precipitous descent! with stretched out neck,
Bending thy head in airy vacancy,
This way and that, inquiring, thou hast seemed
To ask protection; now, I cannot kill thee.
Yet I have sworn perdition to thy race,
And recent from the slaughter am I come
Of tribes and embryo nations: I have sought
With sharpened eye and persecuting zeal,
Where, folded in their silken webs they lay
Thriving and happy; swept them from the tree
And crushed whole families beneath my foot;
Or, sudden, poured on their devoted heads
The vials of destruction.--This I've done
Nor felt the touch of pity: but when thou,--
A single wretch, escaped the general doom,
Making me feel and clearly recognise
Thine individual existence, life,
And fellowship of sense with all that breathes,--
Present'st thyself before me, I relent,
And cannot hurt thy weakness.--So the storm
Of horrid war, o'erwhelming cities, fields,
And peaceful villages, rolls dreadful on:
The victor shouts triumphant; he enjoys
The roar of cannon and the clang of arms,
And urges, by no soft relentings stopped,
The work of death and carnage. Yet should one,
A single sufferer from the field escaped,
Panting and pale, and bleeding at his feet,
Lift his imploring eyes,-- the hero weeps;
He is grown human, and capricious Pity,
Which would not stir for thousands, melts for one
With sympathy spontaneous:-- 'Tis not Virtue,
Yet 'tis the weakness of a virtuous mind.

O Thou, the Nymph with placid eye !
O seldom found, yet ever nigh !
Receive my temperate vow :
Not all the storms that shake the pole
Can e'er disturb thy halcyon soul,
And smooth unalter'd brow.

O come, in simplst vest array'd,
With all thy sober cheer display'd

To bless my longing sight ;
Thy mien compos'd, thy even pace,
Thy meek regard, thy matron grace,
And chaste subdued delight.

No more by varying passions beat,
O gently guide my pilgrim feet
To find thy hermit cell ;
Where in some pure and equal sky
Beneath thy soft indulgent eye
Thy modest virtues dwell.

Simplicity in Attic vest,
And Innocence with candid breast,
And clear undaunted eye ;
And Hope, who points to distant years,
Fair opening through this vale of tears
A vista to the sky.

There Health, thro' whose calm bosom glide
The temperate joys in even tide,
That rarely ebb or flow ;
And Patience there, thy sister meek,
Presents her mild, unvarying cheek
To meet the offer'd blow.

Her influence taught the Phrygian sage
A tyrant master's wanton rage
With settled smiles to meet ;
Inur'd to toil and bitter bread
He bow'd his meek submitted head,
And kiss'd thy sainted feet.

But thou, oh Nymph retir'd and coy !
In what brown hamlet dost thou joy
To tell thy simple tale ;

The lowliest children of the ground,
Moss rose, and violet, blossom round,
And lily of the vale.

O say what soft propitious hour
I best may chuse to hail thy power,
And court thy gentle sway ?
When Autumn, friendly to the Muse,
Shall thy own modest tints diffuse,
And shed thy milder day.

When Eve, her dewy star beneath,
Thy balmy spirit loves to breathe,
And every storm is laid ;
If such an hour was e'er thy choice,
Oft let me hear thy soothing voice
Low whispering thro' the shade.

SWEET daughter of a rough and stormy fire,
Hoar Winter's blooming child ; delightful Spring !
Whose unshorn locks with leaves
And swelling buds are crowned ;

From the green islands of eternal youth,
(Crown'd with fresh blooms, and ever springing shade,)
Turn, hither turn thy step,
O thou, whose powerful voice

More sweet than softest touch of Doric reed,
Or Lydian flute, can sooth the madding winds,
And thro' the stormy deep
Breathe thy own tender calm.

Thee, best belov'd ! the virgin train await
With songs and festal rites, and joy to rove
Thy blooming wilds among,
And vales and dewy lawns,

With untir'd feet ; and cull thy earliest sweets
To weave fresh garlands for the glowing brow
Of him, the favour'd youth
That prompts their whisper'd sigh.

Unlock thy copious stores ; those tender showers
That drop their sweetness on the infant buds,
And silent dews that swell
The milky ear's green stem.

And feed the slowering osier's early shoots ;
And call those winds which thro' the whispering boughs
With warm and pleasant breath
Salute the blowing flowers.

Now let me sit beneath the whitening thorn,
And mark thy spreading tints steal o'er the dale ;
And watch with patient eye
Thy fair unfolding charms.

O nymph approach ! while yet the temperate sun
With bashful forehead, thro' the cool moist air
Throws his young maiden beams,
And with chaste kisses woes

The earth's fair bosom ; while the streaming veil
Of lucid clouds with kind and frequent shade
Protect thy modest blooms
From his severer blaze.

Sweet is thy reign, but short ; The red dog-star
Shall scorch thy tresses, and the mower's scythe
Thy greens, thy flow'rets all,
Remorseless shall destroy.

Reluctant shall I bid thee then farewel ;
For O, not all the Autumn's lap contains,
Nor Summer's ruddiest fruits,
Can aught for thee atone

Fair Spring ! whose simplest promise more delights
Than all their largest wealth, and thro' the heart
Each joy and new-born hope
With softest influence breathes.

 
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