Marianna Alcoforado.

The Letters of a Portuguese Nun online

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Nay, did you judge aright, - -
The difference soon by you perceiv’d would be,
Betwixt abusing and obliging me;
Betwixt the Pleasures, which you might have prov’d,
Of loving much, and being much belov’d.

Such is the Force of my excessive woe,
I ’m quite insensible of what I do;
Ten Thousand different Thoughts distract my Mind,
My rigid Fate can’t be by words defin’d;
To Death I love, yet cannot wish that you
Should share the Miseries I undergo.
To loath, t’ have all things odious in your sight,
Receive no Ease by Day, no Rest by Night:
Your Soul o’erloaded with continual Cares,
Your Eyes still flowing with a flood of Tears;
Did you but suffer this my grief for you,
’Twou’d quickly finish what my own can’t do.

Why do I write? Shou’d I your Pity move,
What good wou’d Pity do without your Love?
I scorn it; and my self with equal Scorn
I loath, when I reflect on what I ’ve born:
My Friends I ’ve lost, and Reputation too,
Have ran the hazard of our Laws for you:
But what ’s much worse, now I all this have done,
False as you are, ev’n you ’re ingrateful grown.

Yet, oh! I cannot, cannot yet repent,
But rather am with all my Ills content:
I cannot grieve at what I’ve done for you,
But more for your dear sake wou’d undergo;
To you wou’d sacrifice my Life and Fame;
They ’re yours, which you (and only you) can claim.

In short, I ’m vex’d with every thing I do;
Nor can I think I ’m kindly us’d by you.
False as I am, why don’t I die with Shame,
And so convince you of my raging Flame?
If I had lov’d so well as oft I ’ve said,
Your Cruelty ere this had struck me dead.
No, all this while, ’tis you ’ve deluded been,
And have the greatest Reason to complain.
How could I see you go, and yet survive, }
out of Hopes of your Return and Live? }
I ’ve wrong’d you; but I hope you will forgive. }

Yet grant it not, treat me severely still,
Tell me, that I ’ve abus’d, and us’d you ill.
Be harder still to please, encrease my Care.
And end my Sufferings with a sure Despair.
A Fate that ’s Tragical would doubtless be
The Way t’ endear me to your Memory.
Perhaps too you ’d be touch’d with such a Death,
When you reflect how I ’ve resign’d my Breath.
To me I ’m sure, ’twou’d welcome be indeed,
And far to be preferr’d before the Life I lead. - -

Farewel, I wish your Eyes I ’d never seen,
But ah! my Heart, now contradicts my Pen.
I find I ’d rather live involv’d in Harms
Than once to wish I ne’er had known your Charms.
And since you think not fit to mend my State,
I ’ll cheerfully (tho’ hard) embrace my Fate.
Adieu, - but Promise me when I am dead,
Some pitying Tears you ’ll o’er my Ashes shed.
At least, let my too-sad Example prove
The means to hinder any other Love.
’Twill yield some Ease, since I must lose your Charms,
That you ’ll not revel in another’s Arms.
Neither can you be so inhumane sure
To make my Fate assist a new Amour.
I fear my Lines are troublesome to you;
But you ’ll forgive my foolery - adieu,
Ah me! methinks too often I repeat
The Story of my too unhappy Fate;
Yet let me pay the Thanks to you I owe
For all the Miseries I undergo.
I hate the State in which I liv’d before
The more my Cares encrease, I ’m pleas’d the more;
My Flame does greater every moment grow -
And I have still - Ten Thousand Thousand
Things to say to you. - -




LETTER IV

From a Nun to a Cavalier


Ye Gods! the Torments that from Love arise
When the dear Object’s absent from our Eyes!
I ’m told you ’ve been by raging Tempests toss’d,
And forc’d to seek some Hospitable Coast,
The Sea, that is the faithless Lover’s Foe,
I doubt will hardly e’er agree with you.
And oh! my Fears for th’ Dangers you may meet,
Make me my own Tormenting Pains forget.

But is your Friend then more concern’d to know
Than I, the Perils that you undergo?
If not, how comes it that you cou’d afford
To write to him, whilst I have not a Word? - -

Why do I talk? what cou’d I else expect?
But base Ingratitude, and cold Neglect?
From one who slighting all which once he swore
Now seeks new Beauties on a Foreign Shore. - -
Yet Heav’n avert its Wrath, nor may’st thou be
E’er punished for thy Treachery to me,
For faithless as you are, I ’m still inclin’d
Not to revenge, but rather to be kind. - -

Tis plain, I ’m now the least of all your Care,
Else you ’d have some regard to My Despair.
But I, tho’ wrack’d and torn with endless Pain,
To one relentless as the grave complain.
Yet I, fond I! regardless of my Fame,
Still Cherish, and Indulge this fatal Flame;
In vain my Reason offers to perswade, }
I scorn its Counsel, and contemn its Aid, }
And find a Pleasure in my being mad. }
Had you but with this Coldness been possest,
When first you rais’d those Tumults in my Breast:
How many plagues had it from me detain’d!
How calm! how easie had I now remain’d!

But where’s the Woman wou’d not have believ’d
Your Arts, and not have been (like me) deceiv’d?
Who cou’d your num’rous Oaths and Vows mistrust?
Who cou’d have thought that you shou’d prove unjust?
The frequent Protestations that you made
Wou’d have a Heart more firm than mine betray’d.
’Tis hard to think the Man whom once we love,
Shou’d false, shou’d cruel, and ingrateful prove.
Nay, I ’m so easie, I ’ve already made }
Excuses for you, and wou’d fain perswade }
My too too cred’lous Heart, that I am not betray’d. }
It was your Converse that at first refin’d
My Ignorance, and till then, unpolish’d Mind.

’Twas from your Passion that I caught this Flame
That is destructive to my Ease and Fame.
In vain ’gainst you I strove my Heart to arm,
For you in ev’ry Action had a Charm.
Your pleasing Humour, and the Oaths you swore,
Made me believe you ever wou’d adore.
But now (alas!) those grateful Thoughts are fled,
And all my Hopes are with my Pleasures dead:
I sigh and weep, a thousand Plagues possess
My Soul, and give me not a moment’s Ease.
Great were my past Delights, I must confess, }
Excessive were the Joys, and vast the Bliss, }
But then, oh, cruel Fate! my Miseries were not less. - - }
Had I with Artifice e’er drawn you on,
And what I most desir’d have seem’d to shun;
Had I the cunning Arts of Women us’d,
And with feign’d Scorn your gen’rous Love abus’d;
Had I my growing Flame with Care supprest
When first I felt it rising in my Breast;
Nay, when I found I lov’d, had I conceal’d
My Passion, nor to you my Soul reveal’d,
That for your Hate had been some small Pretence,
Which you might now have urg’d in your defence;
But - -
So far was I from using such Deceit,
My Heart was never conscious of a Cheat:
And I no sooner of your Passion knew,
But frankly I return’d the like to you. - -

Yet you, tho’ I was fondly blind, cou’d see,
Not ign’rant what the Consequence wou’d be.
Why with such Wiles then did you draw me on,
To leave me wretched, hopeless, and undone?
You knew you shou’d not long continue here,
And so did make me love but to despair.
Why was I singl’d out alone to be
Th’ unhappy Object of your Cruelty? - -
Sure in this Country you might those have met
Who were for your cross Purposes more fit;
Such, who by frequent Use had got the Pow’r
To give their Hearts but for the present Hour;
Who of your Falshood never wou’d complain,
Nor give themselves for you a moment’s Pain.
Is ’t like a Lover then to use me so,
Me, who ’d give up all I have for you?
Is it not rather like a Tyrant done,
To ruine and destroy what is your own?

Had you but lov’d so truly as you said,
You never from me in such haste had fled.
But you! how easie did you go away!
Nay, e’en seem’d pleas’d you cou’d no longer stay
The few Excuses that you made to go,
How slight they were! but any thing wou’d do,
To fly from one already nauseous grown,
That lov’d you but too well, and trusted you too soon. - -

‘My Friends (you cry) and Honour call me hence,
‘And I must now be gone, to serve my Prince,’
Why was not that nice Honour thought on then,
When you deluded me to give up mine?
This was all Fiction, which you did devise
To seem less guilty, and to blind my Eyes.
But, ah! should I have too much Bliss enjoy’d,
Might I with you have liv’d, with you have dy’d. - -
My only Comfort is, I ’ve been to you,
Spite of this Absence, constant, just, and true;
And can you then, who all my Thoughts controul,
And know the earnest Secrets of my Soul,
Can you be so regardless of my Pray’r,
T’ abandon me for ever to Despair?
You see I ’m mad, but yet I ’ll not complain, }
For I ’m so us’d to suffer your Disdain, }
That now I find a Pleasure in my Pain. - - }

But what ’s my greatest Curse, those things no more
Can please me now, which I have lik’d before.
My Friends, Relations, and my Convent too, }
Are odious all, and all detested grow, }
Nay, ev’ry thing that not relates to you. }
The flitting Hours of each succeeding Day,
If not on you bestow’d, I think they ’re thrown away. - -

So great ’s my Love, and with such pow’r does rule,
It takes up the whole Business of my Soul.
Why then t’ expel this Passion shou’d I strive? }
For ’tis impossible I shou’d survive }
This restless state, and with Indiff’rence live. }

So much I now am chang’d from what I was,
That all observe and wonder what ’s the Cause:
My Mother chides, and urges me to tell
What ’tis creates my Grief, and what I ail,
I hardly know what Answers I have made,
But I believe that I have all betray’d.
The most severe and hardest Hearts relent,
And are with Pity touch’d at my Complaint.
To cruel Thee alone I sigh in vain,
For all the World beside compassionates my Pain.

’Tis seldom that you write, and when you do,
Your Lukewarmness each Line does plainly shew.
’Tis all but Repetition and Constraint,
Dull is each Word, and each Expression faint. - -

My kind Companion took me t’ other day
To the Balcon’ that looks tow’rds Mertola;
The Sight so struck my Heart that, while I stood,
Strait from my Eyes a briny Deluge flow’d.
I then return’d, and strove to ease my Care,
For all my Thoughts brought nothing but Despair.
What others do to help me in my Grief,
Adds only to my Pains, and brings me no Relief. - -

From that Balcon’ I often took delight
To see you pass, and languish’d for the Sight.
’Twas there that fatal Day I chanc’d to be
When first my Heart resign’d its Liberty:
’Twas there I drew the Poison from your Eyes,
’Twas there this raging Passion had its rise.
Methought on me alone you seem’d to gaze,
And careless look’d on every other Face;
And when you stopt, I fondly thought to me
’Twas meant that I your lovely Shape might see.

I call to mind what Trembling seiz’d my Breast,
Caus’d by a Leap given by your prancing Beast.
I near concern’d in all your Actions was,
Flatter’d my self I was of some the cause.
What follow’d, to relate I ’ll now forbear,
Lest you appear more cruel than you are;
And ’twill perhaps your Vanity encrease
To find my Labours have no more Success.
Fool as I am! to think to move you more
By Threats than all my Love cou’d do before!
Too well (alas!) I know my Fate to come,
And you ’re too too unjust to make me doubt my Doom.

Since I am not allow’d your Love to share,
All ills in Nature I have cause to fear.
I shou’d be pleas’d did all our Sex admire
Your Charms, if you did not return the Fire;
But there ’s no fear, I by Experience know
None ever long will be ador’d by you.
You ’ll easily enough forget my Charms
Without the taking others to your Arms.
By Heav’ns, I love, I doat to that degree,
That since I find you ’re ever lost to me,
I wish you ’ad some Excuse to hide your Crime,
That to the World you might less guilty seem.
’Tis true, ’twould make my Case but so much worse,
But then ’twould advantageous be to yours. - -

While you are free, in France, perhaps the fear
Of not returning Love for Love may keep you there.
But mind not that, if you I sometimes see, }
I shall contented with my Fortune be, }
To know one country holds my Love and me. }

Why with vain Hopes do I my Reason blind?
To one less doting you may prove more kind.
Pride in another may a Conquest gain
Greater than mine, with all the endless Pain
Of constant Love, which I ’ve endur’d for you:
But, oh! from me take Warning what you do;
Retract your Heart ere yet (it) is too late,
And think upon my too too wretched Fate,
Reflect upon my endless Miseries,
Despairs, Distractions, and my Jealousies;
Think on the Trust that I ’ve repos’d in you,
Th’ Extravagance which all my Letters shew.

I well remember you in Earnest said,
For one in France you once a Passion had.
If she ’s the Reason why you don’t return,
Be free, and let me thus no longer mourn;
For if my Hopes and Wishes are but vain,
Tell me the Truth - -
And end at once my wretched Life and Pain. - -
To me her Picture and her Letters send,
They ’ll make me worse, or else my Fate amend;
Such is the State of miserable me,
That any change would advantageous be
Your Brother’s and your Sister’s send me too,
All will be dear to me that ’s so to you. - -
Methinks I cou’d submit to wait upon
The happy Woman that your Heart has won,
So humble am I made by all your Scorn,
And the ill Usage that from you I ’ve born;
Scarce dare I say, I may myself allow
To Jealous be, without displeasing you,
Fain wou’d I think that I mistaken am,
And fain perswaded be, that you are not to blame.

The Person that ’s to bear these Lines to you,
Wants to be gone, and does impatient grow.
I thought in this not to have giv’n Offence,
But yet I ’m fall’n into Extravagance.
And now methinks ’tis time that I had done,
But I ’ve no Pow’r to end these Lines so soon,
Nor force the pleasing Vision from my Sight;
My lovely Charmer’s present while I write.
Twelve solitary Months are almost past }
Since in your trembling Arms you held me last, }
And fondly, to my Ruin, me embrac’d. }
Fierce, and true as mine, I thought your Flame,
And, oh! believ’d ’twould always be the same.
Ne’er cou’d I think, that when you had enjoy’d
My Favours, with them you ’d so soon be cloy’d:
Or that the Dangers of the Sea you ’d run, }
Scorn Rocks and Pirates too, that you might shun }
A Maid that lov’d like me, and is by you undone. }
Reflect, thou faithless Man! and call to mind }
What I ’ve endur’d for you, yet not repin’d, }
And tell me, can this Treatment then be kind? }

The Officer now presses me to ’ve done
My Letter, or (he says) he must be gone;
He ’s as impatient, as if he, like you,
Were running from another Mistress too,
Farewel - from me you parted with more ease
(Perhaps for ever too) than I can do with these.

My Mind a thousand pleasing Notions frames,
And I cou’d call you many tender Names;
More dear than is my Life to me, are you;
And dearer far than I imagine too;
Sure never any yet so cruel prov’d,
To be so barb’rous when so well belov’d.

’Tis hard to end, - See I begin anew,
And th’ Officer won’t stay; oh! let him go:
I write to entertain my self, not you;
And ’tis so long, you ’ll never read it thro’,
Gods! how have I deserv’d such Plagues as these?
And why was you pick’d out to spoil my Peace?
Oh! why was I not born where I might pass
In Innocence and Happiness my Days?
’Tis too too much to bear, no Tongue can tell
What I endure - Farewel - false Man! - Farewel,
See! see! how miserable I ’m made by you,
When I dare not so much as ask your Love - adieu.




LETTER V

From a Nun to a Cavalier


I hope, by th’ different Ayre of this, you ’ll find
That as I ’ve chang’d my Stile, I ’ve chang’d my Mind.
The Substance of these Lines will let you know
That you ’re to take them for my last Adieu:
For since your Love is past redemption gone,
I ’ve no Pretence to justifie my own.
All that I have of yours shall be convey’d
To you, without so much as mention made
Of your loath’d Name; the Pacquet shall not bear
Those Letters which I now detest to hear.

In Donna Brites I can well confide,
And whom, you know, I ’ve other ways imploy’d;
Your Picture she ’ll (and all that ’s yours) remove,
Those once-endearing Pledges of your Love:
A thousand Times I ’ve had a strong Desire
To tear and throw them in the flaming Fire;
But I ’m a Fool too easie in my Pain,
And such a generous Rage can’t entertain.

Wou’d but the Story of my Cares create
The like to you, methinks ’twou’d mine abate.
Your Trifles, I must own, went near my Heart,
With them I found it difficult to part.
To what was yours I bore such mortal Love,
Tho’ you yourself did quite indiff’rent prove,
They ’ve cost me many a Sigh, and many a Tear,
And more Distraction than you e’er shall hear.
My Friend, I say, now keeps them in her Pow’r,
And I am never to behold ’em more;
She them will secretly to you convey,
Without my Knowledge hasten them away:
Tho’ for a sight I on my Knees shou’d lie,
The more I pray, she must the more deny.

Ne’er had I known the Fury of my Flame
Had I not try’d my Passion to reclaim;
Nay, to attempt a Cure I ’d ne’er begun,
Cou’d I ’ve foreseen the Hazards I must run:
For sure I am, I cou’d with greater Ease
Support your Scorn, as rig’rous as it is,
Rather than to retain the dreadful Thought,
That Absence must for ever be my Lot.

I shou’d be happy if I cou’d be Proud,
And with the Nature of our Sex endow’d:
Cou’d I despise you, and your Actions scorn,
And be reveng’d for all the Ills I ’ve born.

Fool as I am, to let my hopes rely
On one who strives t’ encrease my Misery!
You talk of Truth and Sincerity;
They both are what you never shew’d to me.
To tell you what I ’ve born ’tis now too late,
(For th’ most obliged, and yet the most ingrate)
Let it suffice I all your Falsehood know;
And all I ask for what I ’ve done for you,
Is, Write no more, but some Invention find
To tear your Image from my Tortur’d Mind.

I too must now forbear to write to you, }
Lest a Relapse shou’d by that means ensue; }
And the Event of this I ’ve no Desire to know. }
Methinks you shou’d enough contented be
With th’ Ills you have already brought on me:
Sure now you need no more molest my Ease,
Or shake the Structure of my future Peace.
Do you but leave me in Uncertainty,
I hope in time I shall at quiet be:
’Tis not impossible but I may find
A Love as true as you have been unkind.
But what will Love that any Man shall shew
Afford to me, without I love him too?
Why shou’d his Am’rous Passion more incline
To move my Heart, than yours was mov’d by mine?
And I perceive by what I now endure,
That the first Wounds of Love admits no Cure;
All sorts of Remedies then prove in vain,
W’ are ne’er recover’d to our selves again;
So fixt, and so immutable is Fate,
We ’re doomed to Love, though w’ are repaid with Hate.

I ’m sure I cou’d not so hard-hearted be,
To treat another as you ’ve treated me:
Provided you was to another chang’d,
Of you I cou’d not that way take revenge.
I ’d fain perswade my self a Nun shou’d ne’er
Confine the Passions of a Cavalier;
But if a man wou’d by his Reason move,
A Mistress in a Convent is most fit for Love;
Those in the World do all their Thoughts employ
On Balls, on Visits, and their Finery,
Encrease their Husbands’ Jealousies and Cares,
Whilst those who favour us have no such Fears.
Alas! we ’ve nothing here to change Desire,
But by Reflection daily fan the Fire.

I wou’d not have you think that I maintain
These Arguments, in hopes I may regain
Your Love; too well I know my Destiny;
I always was, and still must wretched be.
When you was here I did no Rest enjoy: }
Present, for fear of infidelity; }
When distant, Absence did my ease destroy. }
I always trembled while you was with me,
Lest you shou’d be found, and come to Injury:
While in the Field, both Lives in Danger were;
Fear of my parents did encrease my Care.
So that ’tis plain, ev’n at the best, my Mind
Was as disturb’d as I at present find:
Since you left me, had you but once seem’d kind,
I shou’d have follow’d, and not been confin’d.
Alas! what wou’d have then become of me,
T’ have brought a Scandal on my Family;
T’ have lost my Parents and my Honour too,
And, after all, to be despis’d by you?
What Thoughts soever you of me retain,
I reconjure you ne’er to write again:
Methinks you shou’d sometimes reflect upon
The base ungen’rous Injuries you ’ve done.

No woman sure did e’er so easy prove;
What did you ever do to gain my Love?
You was the first that to the Army went;
To stay the longest there, the best content.
Did you more careful of your Person grow,
Altho’ upon my knees I begg’d you wou’d do so?
Did you e’er strive to fix in Portugal,
A Place where you was well belov’d of all?
Your Brother’s Letter hurry’d you away,
On the receipt of it you ’d not a moment stay;
And I ’m inform’d you ne’er was pleased more
Than when on board a making from our Shore.
You can’t deny but you deserve my Hate,
And I may thank my self for all my Fate;
I was too free, and gave my Heart too soon,
And brought upon my self the Ills I ’ve undergone.
Alas! from Love alone Love ne’er will rise,
It must be rais’d by Skill and Artifice.
Your first Design was to ensnare my Love,
And nothing wou’d have spar’d that might successful prove:
Nay, I believe, if it had needful been,
Rather than failed, you wou’d have lov’d again;
But you found easier ways to work upon,
And thought it best to let the Love alone. - -

Perfidious Man! which way can you atone
For th’ base and treach’rous Affronts you ’ve done?
The blinding Passion now is vanquished quite,
That kept the foulness of them from my sight:
Must my tormented Soul never have Ease?
When shall I be, thou cruel Man, at Peace?

Within a while you yet perhaps may hear,
Or have a Letter, from your injur’d Fair,
To let you know that she is at repose,
Freed of the Torments that from you arose.


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Online LibraryMarianna AlcoforadoThe Letters of a Portuguese Nun → online text (page 7 of 8)