Anna Laetitia Barbauld

(20 June 1743 – 9 March 1825 / Leicestershire, England)

Epistle To Dr. Enfield


ON HIS REVISITING WARRINGTON IN 1789

Friend of those years which from Youth's sparkling fount
With silent lapse down Time's swift gulf have run!
Friend of the years, whate'er be their amount,
Which yet remain beneath life's evening sun!
O when thy feet retrace that western shore
Where Mersey winds his waters to the main,
When thy fond eyes familiar haunts explore,
And paths well-nigh effaced are tracked again;
Will not thy heart with mixed emotions thrill,
As scenes succeeding scenes arise to view?
While joy or sorrow past alike shall fill
Thy glistening eyes with Feeling's tender dew.

Shades of light transient Loves shall pass thee by,
And glowing Hopes, and Sports of youthful vein;
And each shall claim one short, half pleasing sigh,
A farewell sigh to Love's and Fancy's reign.
Lo there the seats where Science loved to dwell,
Where Liberty her ardent spirit breathed;
While each glad Naiad from her secret cell
Her native sedge with classic honours wreathed.
O seats beloved in vain! Your rising dome
With what fond joy my youthful eyes surveyed;
Pleased by your sacred springs to find my home,
And tune my lyre beneath your growing shade!
Does Desolation spread his gloomy veil
Your grass-grown courts and silent halls along?
Or busy hands there pile the cumbrous sail,
And Trade's harsh din succeed the Muse's song?

Yet still, perhaps, in some sequestered walk
Thine ear shall catch the tales of other times;
Still in faint sounds the learned echoes talk,
Where unprofaned as yet by vulgar chimes.
Do not the deeply-wounded trees still bear
The dear memorial of some infant flame?
And murmuring sounds yet fill the hallowed air,
Once vocal to the youthful poet's fame?
For where her sacred step impressed the Muse,
She left a long perfume through all the bowers;
Still mayst thou gather thence Castalian dews
In honeyed sweetness clinging to the flowers.
Shrowded in stolen glance, here timorous Love
The grave rebuke of careful Wisdom drew,
With wholesome frown austere who vainly strove
To shield the sliding heart from Beauty's view.

Go fling this garland in fair Mersey's stream,
From the true lovers that have trod his banks;
Say, Thames to Avon still repeats his theme;
Say, Hymen's captives send their votive thanks.
Visit each shade and trace each weeping rill
To holy Friendship or to Fancy known,
And climb with zealous step the fir-crowned hill,
Where purple foxgloves fringe the rugged stone:
And if thou seest on some neglected spray
The lyre which soothed my careless hours so much;
The shattered relic to my hands convey,—
The murmuring strings shall answer to thy touch.
Were it, like thine, my lot once more to tread
Plains now but seen in distant perspective,
With that soft hue, that dubious gloom o'erspread,
That tender tint which only time can give;

How would it open every secret cell
Where cherished thought and fond remembrance sleep!
How many a tale each conscious step would tell!
How many a parted friend these eyes would weep!
But O the chief!—If in thy feeling breast
The tender charities of life reside,
If there domestic love have built her nest,
And thy fond heart a parent's cares divide;
Go seek the turf where worth, where wisdom lies,
Wisdom and worth, ah, never to return!
There, kneeling, weep my tears, and breathe my sighs,
A daughter's sorrows o'er her father's urn!

Submitted: Monday, September 06, 2010

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