Anna Laetitia Barbauld
To Love And Time - Poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld
TO MRS. MULSO.
On Stella's brow as lately envious Time
His crooked lines with iron pencil traced,
That brow, erewhile like ivory tablets smooth,
With Love's high trophies hung, and victories graced,
Digging him little caves in every cell,
And every dimple, once where Love was wont to dwell;
He spied the God: and wondered still to spy,
Who higher held his torch in Time's despite;
Nor seemed to care for aught that he could do.
Then sternly thus he sought him thence to' affright:
The sovereign boy entrenched in a smile,
At his sour crabbed speech sat mocking all the while.
“What dost thou here, fond boy? Away, for shame!
Mine is this field, by conquest fairly won;
Love cannot reap his joys where Time has ploughed,
Thou and thy light-winged troop should now begone.
Go revel with fresh Youth in scenes of folly,
Sage Thought I bring, and Care, and pale-eyed Melancholy.
“Thy streams are froze, that once so briskly ran,
Thy bough is shaken by the mellow year;
Boreas and Zephyr dwell not in one cave,
And swallows spread their wings when winter's near;
See where Florella's cheeks soft bloom disclose,
Go seek the springing bud, and leave the faded rose.”
Thus spake old Time, of Love the deadliest foe,—
Ah me, that gentle Love such foes should meet!
But nothing daunted he returned again,
Tempering with looks austere his native sweet;
And, “Fool!” said he, “to think I e'er shall fly
From that rich palace where my choicest treasures lie.
“Dost thou not see,—or art thou blind with age,—
How many Graces on her eyelids sit,
Linking those viewless chains that bind the soul,
And sharpening smooth discourse with pointed wit;
How many where she moves attendant wait,
The slow smooth step inspire, or high commanding gait?
“Each one a several charm around her throws,
Some to attract, some powerful to repell,
Some mix the honeyed speech with winning smiles,
Or call wild Laughter from his antic cell;
Severer some, to strike with awful fear
Each rude licentious tongue that wounds the virtuous ear.
“Not one of them is of thy scythe in dread,
Or for thy cankered malice careth aught,
Thy shaking fingers never can untwist
The magic cæstus by their cunning wrought;
And I, their knight, their bidding must obey,
For where the Graces are, will Love for ever stay.
“In my rich fields now boast the ravage done,
Those lesser spoils,—her brow, her cheek, her hair,
All that the touches of decay can feel,—
Take these, she has enough besides to spare;
I cannot thee dislodge, nor shalt thou me,
So thou and I, old Time, perforce must once agree.
“Nor is the boasted ravage all thine own,
Nor was the field by conquest fairly gained;
For leagued with Sickness, Life and Nature's foe,
That fiend accurst thy savage wars maintained;
His hand the furrows sunk where thou didst plough,
He undermined the tree, where thou didst shake the bough.
“But both unite, for both I here defy;
Spoil ye have made, but have no triumphs won;
And though the daffodil more freshly blooms,
Spreading her gay leaves to the morning sun,
Yet never will I leave the faded rose,
Whilst the pale lovely flower such sweetness still bestows.”
This said, exulting Cupid clapped his wings.
The sullen power, who found his rage restrained,
And felt the strong controul of higher charms,
Shaking his glass, vowed while the sands would run
For many a year the strife should be maintained:
But Jove decreed no force should Love destroy,
Nor time should quell the might of that immortal boy.
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