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Anna Seward (1747-1809): Poems on Female Friends


From Llangollen Vale
Inscribed to the Right Honourable Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby

Seward's poem is about two famous lady friend's who lived in the Welsh town of Llangollen. The Valle Crucis referred to is a ruined medieval monastery in area.

lines 84-234

Now with a vestal lustre glows the Vale,
Thine, sacred Friendship, permanent as pure;
In vain the stern authorities assail,
In vain persuasion spreads her silken lure,
High-born, and high-endow'd, the peerless twain,
Pant for coy Nature's charms 'mid silent dale, and plain.

Thro' ELEANORA, and her ZARA s mind,
Early tho' genius, taste, and fancy flow'd,
Tho' all the graceful arts their powers combin'd,
And her last polish brilliant life bestow'd,
The lavish promiser, in youth's soft morn,
Pride, pomp, and love, her friends, the sweet enthusiasts scorn.

Then rose the fairy palace of the Vale,
Then bloom'd around it the Arcadian bowers;
Screen'd from the storms of Winter, cold and pale,
Screen'd from the fervours of the sultry hours,
Circling the lawny crescent, soon they rose,
To letter'd ease devote, and Friendship's blest repose.

Smiling they rose beneath the plastic hand
Of energy, and taste; - nor only they,
Obedient Science hears the mild command,
Brings every gift that speeds the tardy day,
Whate'er the pencil sheds in vivid hues,
Th' historic tome reveals, or sings the raptured Muse.

How sweet to enter, at the twilight grey,
The dear, minute Lyceum of the dome,
When, thro' the colour'd crystal, glares the ray,
Sanguine and solemn 'mid the gathering gloom,
While glow-worm lamps diffuse a pale, green light,
Such as in mossy lanes illume the starless night.

Then the coy scene, by deep'ning veils o'erdrawn,
In shadowy elegance seems lovelier still;
Tall shrubs, that skirt the semi-lunar lawn,
Dark woods, that curtain the opposing hill
While o'er their brows the bare cliff faintly gleams,
And, from its paly edge, the evening-diamond streams.

What strains Aeolian thrill the dusk expanse,
As rising gales with gentle murmurs play,
Wake the loud chords, or every sense intrance
While in subsiding winds, they sink away!
Like distant choirs, 'when pealing organs blow,'
And melting voices blend, majestically slow.

'But ah! what hand can touch the strings so fine,
'Who up the lofty diapason roll
'Such sweet, such sad, such solemn airs divine
'Then let them down again into the soul!'
The prouder sex as soon, with virtue calm,
Might win from this bright pair pure Friendship's spotless palm.

What boasts tradition, what th'historic theme,
Stands it in all their chronicles confest
Where the soul's glory shines with clearer beam,
Than in our sea-zon'd bulwark of the west,
When, in this Cambrian Valley, Virtue shows
Where, in her own soft sex, its steadiest lustre glows?

Say, ivied Valle Crucis, time-decay'd,
Dim on the brink of Deva's wandering floods,
Your riv'd arch glimmering thro' the tangled glade,
Your grey hills towering o'er your night of woods,
Deep in the Vale's recesses as you stand,
And, desolately great, the rising sigh command,

Say, lonely, ruin'd pile, when former years
Saw your pale train at midnight altars bow;
Saw Superstition frown upon the tears
That mourn'd the rash irrevocable vow,
Wore one young lip gay ELEANORA'S smile?
Did ZARA'S look serene one tedious hour beguile?

For your sad sons, nor Science wak'd her powers;
Nor e'er did Art her lively spells display;
But the grim idol vainly lash'd the hours
That dragg'd the mute, and melandholy day;
Dropt her dark cowl on each devoted head,
That o'er the breathing corse a pall eternal spread.

This gentle pair no glooms of thought infest,
Nor Bigotry, nor Envy's sullen gleam
Sh6 d withering influence on the effort blest
Which most should win the other's dear esteem,
By added knowledge by endowment high,
By Charity's warm boon, and Pity's soothing sigh.

Then how should Summer-day or Winter-night
Seem long to them who thus can wing their hours!
O' e'er may pain, or sorrow's cruel blight,
Breathe the dark mildew thro' these lovely bowers,
But lengthen'd life subside in soft decay,
Illumed by rising Hope, and Faith's pervading ray.

May one kind ice-bolt, from the mortal stores,
Arrest each vital current as it flows,
That no sad course of desolated hours
Here vainly nurse the unsubsiding woes!
While all who honour Virtue, gently mourn
LLANGOLLEN's vanish'd Pair, and wreath their sacred Urn.


Elegy Written at the Sea-side, and Addressed to Miss Honoria Sneyd

I write, HONORA, on the sparkling sand!-
The envious waves forbid the trace to stay:
HONORA'S name again adorns the strand!
Again the waters bear their prize away!

So Nature wrote her charms upon thy face,
The cheek's light bloom, the lip's envermeil'd dye,
And every gay, and every witching grace,
That Youth's warm hours, and Beauty's stores supply.

But Time's stern tide, with cold Oblivion's wave
Shall soon dissolve each fair, each fading charm,
E'en Nature's self, so powerful, cannot save
Her own rich gifts from this o'erwhelming harm.

Love and the Muse can boast superior power,
Indelible the letters they shall frame;
They yield to no inevitable hour,
But will on lasting tablets write thy name.

Sonnet 32
To the Departing Spirit of an Alienated Friend

Behold him now his genuine colours wear,
That specious false-one, by whose cruel wiles
I lost thy amity; saw thy dear smiles
Eclips'd; those smiles, that used my heart to cheer,
Wak'd by the grateful sense of many a year
When rose thy youth, by Friendship's pleasing toils
Cultured; - but Dying! - O! for ever fade
The angry fires. - Each thought, that might upbraid
Thy broken faith, which yet my soul deplores,
Now as eternally is past and gone
As are the interesting, the happy hours,
Days, years, we shared together. They are flown!
Yet long must I lament thy hapless doom,
Thy lavish'd life and early hasten'd tomb.