A Celebration of Women Writers

"To the Muse of Poetry. " by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)
From: Robinson, Mrs. M. Poems. London: J. Bell, 1791. pp. 108-112.

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[Page 108]

"But ah, beware how thou shalt fling
"Thy hot pulse o'er the quiv'ring string,
"How thou another's name shalt raise,
"How gild another with thy praise! "

ARMIDA TO RINALDO.

ORACLE, Jan. 5th,
    1791.

TO

THE MUSE OF POETRY.

EXULT MY MUSE ! exult to see
Each envious, waspish, jealous thing,
Around its harmless venom fling,
And dart its powerless fangs at THEE !
Ne'er shalt THOU bend thy radiant wing,
To sweep the dark revengeful string;
Or meanly stoop, to steal a ray,
E'en from RINALDO'S glorious lay,
Tho' his transcendent Verse should twine
About thy heart, each bliss divine.

  O MUSE ADOR'D, I woo thee now
From yon bright Heaven, to hear my vow;
From thy blest wing a plume I'll steal,
  And with its burning point record
  Each firm indissoluble word,
And with my lips the proud oath seal!

[Page 109]

I SWEAR;–OH, YE, whose souls like mine
Beam with poetic rays divine,
Attend my voice;–whate'er my FATE
In this precarious wild'ring state,
Whether the FIENDS with rancorous ire
Strike at my heart's unsullied fire:
While busy ENVY'S recreant guile
Calls from my cheek THE PITYING SMILE;
Or jealous SLANDER mean and vain,
Essays my mind's BEST BOAST to stain;
Should all combine to check my lays,
And tear me from thy fost'ring gaze,
Ne'er will I quit thy burning eye,
'Till my last, eager, gasping sigh,
Shall, from its earthly mansion flown,
Embrace THEE on thy STARRY THRONE.

  Sweet soother of the pensive breast,
Come in thy softest splendours dress'd;
Bring with thee, REASON, chastely mild;
And CLASSIC TASTE–her loveliest child;
And radiant FANCY'S offspring bright,
Then bid them all their charms unite,
My mind's wild rapture to inspire,
With thy own SACRED, GENUINE FIRE.

  I ask no fierce terrific strain,
That rends the breast with tort'ring pain,
No frantic flight, no labour'd art,
To wring the fibres of the heart!
No frenzy'd GUIDE, that madd'ning flies
O'er cloud-wrapp'd hills–thro' burning skies;

[Page 110]

That sails upon the midnight blast,
Or on the howling wild wave cast,
Plucks from their dark and rocky bed
  The yelling DEMONS of the deep,
Who soaring o'er the COMET'S head,
  The bosom of the WELKIN sweep!
Ne'er shall MY hand, at Night's full noon,
Snatch from the tresses of the moon
A sparkling crown of silv'ry hue,
Besprent with studs of frozen dew,
To deck my brow with borrow'd rays,
That feebly imitate the SUN'S RICH BLAZE.

  AH lead ME not, dear gentle Maid,
To poison'd bow'r or haunted glade;
Where beck'ning spectres shrieking, glare
Along the black infected air;
While bold "fantastic thunders " leap
Indignant, midst the clam'rous deep,
As envious of its louder tone,
While lightnings shoot, and mountains groan
With close pent fires, that from their base
Hurl them amidst the whelming space;
Where OCEAN'S yawning throat resounds,
  And gorg'd with draughts of foamy ire,
Madly o'er-leaps its crystal bounds,
  And soars to quench the SUN'S proud fire.
While NATURE'S self shall start aghast,
Amid the desolating blast,
That grasps the sturdy OAK'S firm breast,
And tearing off its shatter'd vest,

[Page 111]

Presents its gnarled bosom, bare,
To the hot light'ning's with'ring glare!

  TRANSCENDENT MUSE ! assert thy right,
Chase from thy pure PARNASSIAN height
Each bold usurper of thy LYRE,
Each phantom of phosphoric fire,
That dares, with wild fantastic flight
The timid child of GENIUS fright;
That dares with pilfer'd glories shine
Along the dazzling frenzy'd line,
Where tinsel splendours cheat the mind,
While REASON, trembling far behind,
Drops from her blushing front thy BAYS,
And scorns to share the wreath of praise.

  But when DIVINE RINALDO flings
Soft rapture o'er the bounding strings;
When the bright flame that fills HIS soul,
Bursts thro' the bonds of calm controul,
And on enthusiastic wings
To Heaven's Eternal Mansion springs,
Or darting thro' the yielding skies,
O'er earth's disastrous valley flies;
Forbear his glorious flight to bind;
YET o'er his TRUE POETIC Mind
Expand thy chaste celestial ray,
  Nor let fantastic fires diffuse
  Deluding lustre round HIS MUSE,
To lead HER glorious steps astray !
AH ! let his matchless HARP prolong
The thrilling Tone, the classic song,

[Page 112]

STILL bind his Brow with deathless Bays,
STILL GRANT HIS VERSE–A NATION'S PRAISE.

But, if by false persuasion led,
His varying FANCY e'er should tread
The paths of vitiated Taste,
Where folly spreads a "weedy waste;"
OH ! may HE feel no more the genuine fire,
That warms HIS TUNEFUL SOUL, and prompts THY SACRED LYRE.

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