A Character Poem by Joanna Baillie

A Character

ASK you, 'What charms first chain'd my heart,
'And held me from the world apart,
'Made young ambition's turmoil cease,
'And blest me in the haunts of peace?'
'Twas not th' unfolding of the rose,
That in the cheeks' fresh vermeil glows;
Not health, whose fragrant lip exhales
The breath it stole from morning gales;
Not the smooth front, as spotless fair,
As chaste as Guido's angel air;
Nor the blue eye, that brighter far
And steadier than Eve's herald star,
That passes lonely o'er the deep
When ocean rests in summer sleep:
It was not these that chain'd my heart,
And held me from the world apart:--
'Twas the pure soul that glow'd within,
'Twas innocence that thought no sin,

'Twas fancy, whose keen glance unsated
Beam'd on a world herself created,
And like the sun that pours alone
The beauteous light it looks upon,
Embellish'd every form it view'd,
And its own charm in all pursu'd.
'Twas more than these: 'twas fearless youth,
Whose guardian was celestial truth;
'Twas instinct, that like lightning caught
The slow result of patient thought;
'Twas quick sensation, that convey'd
The answer that the lip delay'd:
'Twas the first thought that spoke the soul,
Nor sought reflection's slow controul:
'Twas force with gentleness combin'd,
Mildness of heart with strength of mind,
And virtue, to itself severe,
That gave to woe--to sin--a tear.
These were the charms that chain'd my heart,
And held me from the world apart.
And yet I knew not at that hour,
The influence of that gentle pow'r:
I deem'd not that the future day
Would still some latent grace display,

Some virtue more and more reveal
That youth and beauty half conceal:
That when affliction's keenest dart
Pierc'd with domestic wound my heart,
That gentle spirit would sustain
My soul its firmness to regain,
Teach me to bear the trial grief,
And in submission find relief.
Such were the charms that chain'd my heart,
That held me from the world apart,
And brighter now than in their bloom,
With Hesper light my Eve illume.

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