Helen Maria Williams.

Poems (1786), Volume I online

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On the pale youth with pity gaz'd,
And then in death repos'd.

"I'll go, the hapless Edwin said,
"And breathe a last adieu!
"And with the drops despair will shed,
"My mournful love bedew.

"I'll go to her for ever dear,
"To catch her melting sigh,
"To wipe from her pale cheek the tear,
"And at her feet to die." -

And as to her for ever dear
The frantic mourner flew,
To wipe from her pale cheek the tear,
And breathe a last adieu;

Appall'd his troubled fancy sees
Eltruda's anguish flow;
And hears in every passing breeze,
The plaintive sound of woe.

Meanwhile the anxious maid, whose tears
In vain would heav'n implore;
Of Albert's fate despairing hears,
But yet had heard no more.

She saw her much-lov'd Edwin near,
She saw, and deeply sigh'd;
Her cheek was bath'd in many a tear;
At length she faintly cried;

"Unceasing grief this heart must prove,
"Its dearest ties are broke; -
"Oh, say, what ruthless arm, my love,
"Could aim the fatal stroke?

"Could not thy hand, my Edwin, thine,
"Have warded off the blow?
"For oh, he was not only mine,
"He was _thy_ father too!"

No more the youth could pangs endure
His lips could never tell;
From death he vainly hop'd a cure,
As cold, on earth he fell.

She flew, she gave her sorrows vent,
A thousand tears she pour'd;
Her mournful voice, her moving plaint,
The youth to life restor'd.

"Why does thy bosom throb with pain
"She cried, my Edwin, speak;
"Or sure, unable to sustain
"This grief, my heart will break.

"Yes, it will break - he fault'ring cried,
"For me will life resign -
"Then trembling know thy father died -
"And know the guilt was mine!"

"It is enough," with short, quick breath,
Exclaim'd the fainting maid;
She spoke no more, but seem'd from death
To look for instant aid.

In plaintive accents, Edwin cries,
"And have I murder'd thee?
"To other worlds thy spirit flies,
"And mine this stroke shall free."

His hand the lifted weapon grasp'd,
The steel he firmly prest:
When wildly she arose, and clasp'd
Her lover to her breast.

"Methought, she cried with panting breath,
"My Edwin talk'd of peace;
"I knew 'twas only found in death,
"And fear'd that sad release.

"I clasp him still! 'twas but a dream -
"Help yon wide wound to close,
"From which a father's spirits stream,
"A father's life-blood flows.

"But see, from thee he shrinks, nor would
"Be blasted by thy touch; -
"Ah, tho' my Edwin spilt thy blood,
"Yet once he lov'd thee much.

"My father, yet in pity stay! -
"I see his white beard wave;
"A spirit beckons him away,
"And points to yonder grave.

"Alas, my love, I trembling hear
"A father's last adieu;
"I see, I see, the falling tear
"His wrinkled cheek bedew.

"He's gone, and here his ashes sleep -
"I do not heave a sigh,
"His child a father does not weep -
"For, ah, my brain is dry!

"But come, together let us rove,
"At the pale hour of night;
"When the moon wand'ring thro' the grove,
"Shall pour her faintest light.

"We'll gather from the rosy bow'r
"The fairest wreaths that bloom:
"We'll cull, my love, each op'ning flower,
"To deck his hallow'd tomb.

"We'll thither, from the distant dale,
"A weeping willow bear;
"And plant a lily of the vale,
"A drooping lily there.

"We'll shun the face of glaring day,
"Eternal silence keep;
"Thro' the dark wood together stray,
"And only live to weep.

"But hark, 'tis come - the fatal time
"When, Edwin, we must part;
"Some angel tells me 'tis a crime
"To hold thee to my heart.

"My father's spirit hovers near -
"Alas, he comes to chide;
"Is there no means, my Edwin dear,
"The fatal deed to hide?

"Yet, Edwin, if th' offence be thine,
"Too soon I can forgive;
"But, oh, the guilt would all be mine,
"Could I endure to live.

"Farewel, my love, for, oh, I faint,
"Of pale despair I die;
"And see, that hoary, murder'd saint
"Descends from yon blue sky.

"Poor, weak old man! he comes my love,
"To lead to heav'n the way;
"He knows not heaven will joyless prove,
"If Edwin here must stay!" -

"Oh, who can bear this pang!" he cry'd,
Then to his bosom prest
The dying maid, who piteous sigh'd,
And sunk to endless rest.

He saw her eyes for ever close,
He heard her latest sigh,
And yet no tear of anguish flows
From his distracted eye.

He feels within his shiv'ring veins,
A mortal chillness rise;
Her pallid corse he feebly strains -
And on her bosom dies.

* * * * *

No longer may their hapless lot
The mournful muse engage;
She wipes away the tears, that blot
The melancholy page.

For heav'n in love, dissolves the ties
That chain the spirit here;
And distant far for ever flies
The blessing held most dear;

To bid the suff'ring soul aspire
A higher bliss to prove;
To wake the pure, refin'd desire,
The hope that rests above! -


While thee I seek, protecting Power!
Be my vain wishes still'd;
And may this consecrated hour
With better hopes be fill'd.

Thy love the powers of thought bestow'd,
To thee my thoughts would soar;
Thy mercy o'er my life has flow'd -
That mercy I adore.

In each event of life, how clear,
Thy ruling hand I see;
Each blessing to my soul more dear,
Because conferr'd by thee.

In every joy that crowns my days,
In every pain I bear,
My heart shall find delight in praise,
Or seek relief in prayer.

When gladness wings my favour'd hour,
Thy love my thoughts shall fill:
Resign'd, when storms of sorrow lower,
My soul shall meet thy will.

My lifted eye without a tear
The lowring storm shall see;
My stedfast heart shall know no fear -
That heart will rest on Thee!


_The day is thine, the night also is thine; thou hast prepared the
light and the sun_.

_Thou hast set all the borders of the earth; thou hast made summer and

PSALM lxxiv. 16, 17.

My God! all nature owns thy sway,
Thou giv'st the night, and thou the day!
When all thy lov'd creation wakes,
When morning, rich in lustre breaks,
And bathes in dew the op'ning flower,
To thee we owe her fragrant hour;
And when she pours her choral song,
Her melodies to thee belong!

Or when, in paler tints array'd,
The evening slowly spreads her shade;
That soothing shade, that grateful gloom,
Can more than day's enliv'ning bloom
Still every fond, and vain desire,
And calmer, purer, thoughts inspire;
From earth the pensive spirit free,
And lead the soften'd heart to Thee.

In every scene thy hands have drest,
In every form by thee imprest,
Upon the mountain's awful head,
Or where the shelt'ring woods are spread;
In every note that swells the gale,
Or tuneful stream that cheers the vale,
The cavern's depth, or echoing grove,
A voice is heard of praise, and love.

As o'er thy work the seasons roll,
And sooth with change of bliss, the soul,
Oh never may their smiling train
Pass o'er the human scene in vain!
But oft as on the charm we gaze,
Attune the wond'ring soul to praise;
And be the joys that most we prize,
The joys that from thy favour rise!

_Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should
not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea,
they may forget, yet will I not forget thee._

ISAIAH xlix. 15.

Heaven speaks! Oh Nature listen and rejoice!
Oh spread from pole to pole this gracious voice!
"Say every breast of human frame, that proves
"The boundless force with which a parent loves;
"Say, can a mother from her yearning heart
"Bid the soft image of her child depart?
"She! whom strong instinct arms with strength to bear
"All forms of ill, to shield that dearest care;
"She! who with anguish stung, with madness wild,
"Will rush on death to save her threaten'd child;
"All selfish feelings banish'd from her breast,
"Her life one aim to make another's blest.
"When her vex'd infant to her bosom clings,
"When round her neck his eager arms he flings;
"Breathes to her list'ning soul his melting sigh,
"And lifts suffus'd with tears his asking eye!
"Will she for all ambition can attain,
"The charms of pleasure, or the lures of gain,
"Betray strong Nature's feelings, will she prove
"Cold to the claims of duty, and of love?
"But should the mother from her yearning heart
"Bid the soft image of her child depart;
"When the vex'd infant to her bosom clings
"When round her neck his eager arms he flings;
"Should she unpitying hear his melting sigh,
"And view unmov'd the tear that fills his eye;
"Should she for all ambition can attain,
"The charms of pleasure, or the lures of gain,
"Betray strong Nature's feelings - should she prove
"Cold to the claims of duty, and of love!
"Yet never will the God, whose word gave birth
"To yon illumin'd orbs, and this fair earth;
"Who thro' the boundless depths of trackless space
"Bade new-wak'd beauty spread each perfect grace;
"Yet when he form'd the vast stupendous whole,
"Shed his best bounties on the human soul;
"Which reason's light illumes, which friendship warms,
"Which pity softens, and which virtue charms;
"Which feels the pure affections gen'rous glow,
"Shares others joy, and bleeds for others woe -
"Oh never will the gen'ral Father prove
"Of man forgetful, man the child of love!"
When all those planets in their ample spheres
Have wing'd their course, and roll'd their destin'd years;
When the vast sun shall veil his golden light
Deep in the gloom of everlasting night;
When wild, destructive flames shall wrap the skies,
When Chaos triumphs, and when Nature dies;
Man shall alone the wreck of worlds survive,
Midst falling spheres, immortal man shall live!
The voice which bade the last dread thunders roll,
Shall whisper to the good, and cheer their soul.
God shall himself his favour'd creature guide
Where living waters pour their blissful tide,
Where the enlarg'd, exulting, wond'ring mind
Shall soar, from weakness and from guilt refin'd;
Where perfect knowledge, bright with cloudless rays,
Shall gild eternity's unmeasur'd days;
Where friendship, unembitter'd by distrust,
Shall in immortal bands unite the just;
Devotion rais'd to rapture breathe her strain,
And love in his eternal triumph reign!

_Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them._

MATT. vii. 12.

Precept divine! to earth in mercy given,
O sacred rule of action, worthy heaven!
Whose pitying love ordain'd the bless'd command
To bind our nature in a firmer band;
Enforce each human suff'rer's strong appeal,
And teach the selfish breast what others feel;
Wert thou the guide of life, mankind might know
A soft exemption from the worst of woe;
No more the powerful would the weak oppress,
But tyrants learn the luxury to bless;
No more would slav'ry bind a hopeless train,
Of human victims, in her galling chain;
Mercy the hard, the cruel heart would move
To soften mis'ry by the deeds of Jove;
And av'rice from his hoarded treasures give
Unask'd, the liberal boon, that want might live!
The impious tongue of falshood then would cease
To blast, with dark suggestions, virtue's peace;
No more would spleen, or passion banish rest
And plant a pang in fond affection's breast;
By one harsh word, one alter'd look, destroy
Her peace, and wither every op'ning joy;
Scarce can her tongue the captious wrong explain,
The slight offence which gives so deep a pain!
Th' affected ease that slights her starting tear,
The words whose coldness kills from lips so dear;
The hand she loves, alone can point the dart,
Whose hidden sting could wound no other heart -
These, of all pains the sharpest we endure,
The breast which now inflicts, would spring to cure. -
No more deserted genius then, would fly
To breathe in solitude his hopeless sigh;
No more would Fortune's partial smile debase
The spirit, rich in intellectual grace;
Who views unmov'd from scenes where pleasures bloom,
The flame of genius sunk in mis'ry's gloom;
The soul heav'n form'd to soar, by want deprest,
Nor heeds the wrongs that pierce a kindred breast. -
Thou righteous Law! whose clear and useful light
Sheds on the mind a ray divinely bright;
Condensing in one rule whate'er the sage
Has proudly taught, in many a labour'd page;
Bid every heart thy hallow'd voice revere,
To justice sacred, and to nature dear!










An Epistle to Dr. Moore, Author of a View of Society and Manners in
France, Switzerland, and Germany.

Part of an irregular Fragment, found in a Dark Passage of the Tower.


Sonnet to Mrs. Siddons.

Queen Mary's Complaint.

Euphelia, an Elegy.

Sonnet to Expression.


Whether dispensing hope, and ease
To the pale victim of disease,
Or in the social crowd you sit,
And charm the group with sense and wit,
Moore's partial ear will not disdain
Attention to my artless strain.




I mean no giddy heights to climb,
And vainly toil to be sublime;
While every line with labour wrought,
Is swell'd with tropes for want of thought:
Nor shall I call the Muse to shed
Castalian drops upon my head;
Or send me from Parnassian bowers
A chaplet wove of fancy's flowers.
At present all such aid I slight -
My heart instructs me how to write.

That softer glide my hours along,
That still my griefs are sooth'd by song,
That still my careless numbers flow
To your successful skill I owe;
You, who when sickness o'er me hung,
And languor had my lyre unstrung,
With treasures of the healing art,
With friendship's ardor at your heart,
From sickness snatch'd her early prey
And bade fair health - the goddess gay,
With sprightly air, and winning grace,
With laughing eye, and rosy face,
Accustom'd when you call to hear,
On her light pinion hasten near,
And swift restore with influence kind,
My weaken'd frame, my drooping mind.

With like benignity, and zeal,
The mental malady to heal,
To stop the fruitless, hopeless tear,
The life you lengthen'd, render dear,
To charm by fancy's powerful vein,
"The written troubles of the brain,"
From gayer scenes, compassion led
Your frequent footsteps to my shed:
And knowing that the Muses' art
Has power to ease an aching heart,
You sooth'd that heart with partial praise,
And I before too fond of lays,
While others pant for solid gain,
Grasp at a laurel sprig - in vain -
You could not chill with frown severe
The madness to my soul so dear;
For when Apollo came to store
Your mind with salutary lore,
The god I ween, was pleas'd to dart
A ray from Pindus on your heart;
Your willing bosom caught the fire,
And still is partial to the lyre.

But now from you at distance plac'd
Where _Epping_ spreads a woody waste;
Tho' unrestrain'd my fancy flies,
And views in air her fabrics rise,
And paints with brighter bloom the flowers,
Bids Dryads people all the bowers,
And Echoes speak from every hill,
And Naiads pour each little rill,
And bands of Sylphs with pride unfold
Their azure plumage mix'd with gold,
My heart remembers with a sigh
That you are now no longer nigh.
The magic scenes no more engage,
I quit them for your various page;
Where, with delight I traverse o'er
The foreign paths you trod before:
Ah not in vain those paths you trac'd,
With heart to feel, with powers to taste!

Amid the ever-jocund train
Who sport upon the banks of Seine,
In your light Frenchman pleas'd I see
His nation's gay epitome;
Whose careless hours glide smooth along,
Who charms MISFORTUNE with a song.
She comes not as on Albion's plain,
With death, and madness in her train;
For here, her keenest sharpest dart
May raze, but cannot pierce the heart.
Yet he whose spirit light as air
Calls life a jest, and laughs at care,
Feels the strong force of pity's voice,
And bids afflicted love rejoice;
Love, such as fills the poet's page
Love, such as form'd the golden age -
FANCHON, thy grateful look I see -
I share thy joys - I weep with thee -
What eye has read without a tear
A tale to nature's heart so dear!

There, dress'd in each sublimer grace
Geneva's happy scene I trace;
Her lake, from whose broad bosom thrown
Rushes the loud impetuous Rhone,
And bears his waves with mazy sweep
In rapid torrents to the deep -
Oh for a Muse less weak of wing,
High on yon Alpine steeps to spring,
And tell in verse what they disclose
As well as you have told in prose;
How wrapt in snows and icy showers,
Eternal winter, horrid lowers
Upon the mountain's awful brow,
While purple summer blooms below;
How icy structures rear their forms
Pale products of ten thousand storms;
Where the full sun-beam powerless falls
On crystal arches, columns, walls,
Yet paints the proud fantastic height
With all the various hues of light.
Why is no poet call'd to birth
In such a favour'd spot of earth?
How high his vent'rous Muse might rise,
And proudly scorn to ask supplies
From the Parnassian hill, the fire
Of verse, _Mont Blanc_ might well inspire.
O SWITZERLAND! how oft these eyes
Desire to view thy mountains rise;
How fancy loves thy steeps to climb,
So wild, so solemn, so sublime;
And o'er thy happy vales to roam,
Where freedom rears her humble home.
Ah, how unlike each social grace
Which binds in love thy manly race,
The HOLLANDERS phlegmatic ease
Too cold to love, too dull to please;
Who feel no sympathetic woe,
Nor sympathetic joy bestow,
But fancy words are only made
To serve the purposes of trade,
And when they neither buy, nor sell,
Think silence answers quite as well.

Now in his happiest light is seen
VOLTAIRE, when evening chas'd his spleen,
And plac'd at supper with his friends,
The playful flash of wit descends -
Of names renown'd you clearly shew
The finer traits we wish to know -
To Prussia's martial clime I stray
And see how FREDERIC spends the day;
Behold him rise at dawning light
To form his troops for future fight;
Thro' the firm ranks his glances pierce,
Where discipline, with aspect fierce,
And unrelenting breast, is seen
Degrading man to a machine;
My female heart delights to turn
Where GREATNESS seems not quite so stern:
Mild on th' IMPERIAL BROW she glows,
And lives to soften human woes.

But lo! on ocean's stormy breast
I see majestic VENICE rest;
While round her spires the billows rave,
Inverted splendours gild the wave.
Fair liberty has rear'd with toil,
Her fabric on this marshy soil.
She fled those banks with scornful pride,
Where classic Po devolves her tide:
Yet here her unrelenting laws
Are deaf to nature's, freedom's cause.
Unjust! they seal'd FOSCARI'S doom,
An exile in his early bloom.
And he, who bore the rack unmov'd,
Divided far from those he lov'd,
From all the social hour can give,
From all that make it bliss to live,
These worst of ills refus'd to bear,
And died, the victim of despair.

An eye of wonder let me raise,
While on imperial ROME I gaze.
But oh! no more in glory bright
She fills with awe th' astonish'd sight:
Her mould'ring fanes in ruin trac'd,
Lie scatter'd on _Campania's_ waste.
Nor only these - alas! we find
The wreck involves the human mind:
The lords of earth now drag a chain
Beneath a pontiff's feeble reign;
The soil that gave a _Cato_ birth
No longer yields heroic worth,
Whose image lives but on the bust,
Or consecrates the medal's rust:
Yet if no heart of modern frame
Glows with the antient hero's flame,
The dire _Arena's_ horrid stage
Is banish'd from this milder age;
Those savage virtues too are fled
At which the human feelings bled.

While now at _Virgil's_ tomb you bend,
O let me on your steps attend!
Kneel on the turf that blossoms round,
And kiss, with lips devout, the ground.
I feel how oft his magic powers
Shed pleasure on my lonely hours.
Tho' hid from me the classic tongue,
In which his heav'nly strain was sung,
In _Dryden's_ tuneful lines, I pierce
The shaded beauties of his verse.

Bright be the rip'ning beam, that shines
Fair FLORENCE, on thy purple vines!
And ever pure the fanning gale
That pants in Arno's myrtle vale!
Here, when the barb'rous northern race,
Dire foes to every muse, and grace,
Had doom'd the banish'd arts to roam
The lovely wand'rers found a home;
And shed round _Leo's_ triple crown
Unfading rays of bright renown.
Who e'er has felt his bosom glow
With knowledge, or the wish to know;
Has e'er from books with transport caught
The rich accession of a thought;
Perceiv'd with conscious pride, he feels
The sentiment which taste reveals;
Let all who joys like these possess,
Thy vale, enchanting FLORENCE bless -
O had the arts benignant light
No more reviv'd from Gothic night,
Earth had been one vast scene of strife,
Or one drear void had sadden'd life;
Lost had been all the sage has taught,
The painter's sketch, the poet's thought,
The force of sense, the charm of wit,
Nor ever had your page been writ;
That soothing page, which care beguiles,
And dresses truth in fancy's smiles:
For not with hostile step you prest
Each foreign soil, a thankless guest!
While travellers who want the skill
To mark the shapes of good and ill,
With vacant stare thro' Europe range,
And deem all bad, because 'tis strange;
Thro' varying modes of life, you trace
The finer trait, the latent grace,
And where thro' every vain disguise
You view the human follies rise,
The stroke of irony you dart
With force to mend, not wound the heart.
While intellectual objects share
Your mind's extensive view, you bear,
Quite free from spleen's incumb'ring load,
The little evils on the road -
So, while the path of life I tread,
A path to me with briers spread;
Let me its tangled mazes spy
Like you, with gay, good-humour'd eye;
Nor at those thorny tracts repine,
The treasure of your friendship, mine.

Grange Hill, Essex.

IRREGULAR [Transcriber's note: Original "IRREGULAL"] FRAGMENT,


The following Poem is formed on a very singular and sublime idea. A
young gentleman, possessed of an uncommon genius for drawing, on
visiting the Tower of London, passing one door of a singular
construction, asked what apartment it led to, and expressed a desire to
have it opened. The person who shewed the place shook his head, and
answered, "Heaven knows what is within that door - it has been shut for
ages." - This answer made small impression on the other hearers; but a
very deep one on the imagination of this youth. Gracious Heaven! an
apartment shut up for ages - and in the Tower!

"Ye Towers of Julius! London's lasting shame,
By many a foul and midnight murder fed."

Genius builds on a slight foundation, and rears beautiful structures on
"the baseless fabric of a vision." The above transient hint dwelt on the
young man's fancy, and conjured into his memory all the murders which
history records to have been committed in the Tower; Henry the Sixth,
the Duke of Clarence, the two young princes, sons of Edward the Fourth,
Sir Thomas Overbury, &c. He supposes all their ghosts assembled in this
unexplored apartment, and to these his fertile imagination has added
several others. One of the spectres raises an immense pall of black
velvet, and discovers the remains of a murdered royal family, whose
story is lost in the lapse of time. - The gloomy wildness of these
images struck my imagination so forcibly, that endeavouring to catch the
fire of the youth's pencil, this Fragment was produced.



Rise, winds of night! relentless tempests rise!
Rush from the troubled clouds, and o'er me roll;
In this chill pause a deeper horror lies,
A wilder fear appals my shudd'ring soul. -
'Twas on this day[A], this hour accurst,
That Nature starting from repose
Heard the dire shrieks of murder burst -
From infant innocence they rose,
And shook these solemn towers! -
I shudd'ring pass that fatal room
For ages wrapt in central gloom; -
I shudd'ring pass that iron door
Which Fate perchance unlocks no more;
Death, smear'd with blood, o'er the dark portal lowers.

[A] The anniversary of the murder of Edward the Fifth, and his brother
Richard, Duke of York.


How fearfully my step resounds
Along these lonely bounds: -
Spare, savage blast! the taper's quiv'ring fires,
Deep in these gath'ring shades its flame expires.

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