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The Poetess

Maria Smith Abdy

[ The Forget Me Not (London, UK: R. Ackerman, 1834), pp. 269-27: ]

The Poetess 1 By Mrs. Abdy .


Not idly did the Muses' choir select
The barren laurel for their ornament:
Cold, destitute of odour as of fruit,
It weights upon the brow to which it promised
Full compensation for each sacrifice.
Grillparzer's Sappho.

                I saw her in her youth's bright dawn; her eye
               Smiled like the sunshine of a summer sky;
               Her cheek of rose, and lip of deeper glow,
               Seemed yet unsullied by one tear of woe:
5               She loved to cull the spring's first flowers, and wear
               The blossoms in her curls of ebon hair;
               Or range the ocean cliffs, and search their cells,
               For vivid sea-weed, and for glittering shells;
               And strangers might have deemed her simple pleasures
10               Were sought alone in Nature's boundless treasures:
               But hers was not a common soul or mind:
               Remote from crowds, sequestered from mankind,
               In her lone walks, she early learned to chuse
               A loved companion in the silent Muse;
15               With her would soar on Fancy's eagle wings,
               Till lost in bright and vast imaginings!

               A few short years elapsed -- I saw her then,
               A lovely meteor in the paths of men;


               She smiled amid the sound of mirth and song,
20               The idol of a gay and glittering throng;
               Yet, though with eager gaze her form I viewed,
               Rich in the ripened bloom of womanhood,
               Methought the votive crowd's assiduous duty
               Surpassed the homage paid alone to Beauty:
25               I learned the cause -- her high and gifted lays
               Had won the public ear, the public praise;
               Cold critics even on her brow had set
               The trophy of Fame's golden violet;
               And princes hung delighted on her strains;
30               And statesmen there forgot their toils and pains;
               And beauties left for them the halls of gladness;
               And warriors wept o'er their delicious sadness.
               Yet, though triumphant joy was in her face,
               It had not lost its sweet and bashful grace;
35               And when the crowd who rapture felt or feigned
               Spoke of the unfading laurels she had gained,
               She brightly blushed, and trembling turned aside,
               And woman's shame prevailed o'er woman's pride.
               I saw her ere another year had past --
40               But oh! how altered since I met her last!
               Her tale was short -- she loved in evil hour --
               Loved with that wild, intense, absorbing power,
               Felt by the soul of minstrel fire alone,
               And to all others foreign and unknown.
45               Her love was fixed on one of common mould,
               Graceful and gay, but selfish, vain, and cold;


                He could not prize that passion, raised, refined,
               Nay, with dull envy he beheld the mind,
               Whose ardent energy, and high wrought tone,
50               Seemed to reproach the weakness of his own.
               He scorned her heart. -- Around her early tomb,
               And sorrowing youths, with laurels, bright and green,
               And wailing numbers, sought the woful scene,
               And wept the pride and darling of the age,
55               The lovelier Sappho of a purer page;
               But he, the frozen one, for whom she died,
               Turned from her grave, and wooed a heartless bride.

               Daughter of Mind! -- how oft is this thy fate
               To dwell in lonely brightness desolate;
60               To win the homage of a servile train,
               Yet lose the only heart thou sigh'st to gain!
               Man through the paths of minstrelsy may stray,
               Nor heed the perils of the thorny way:
               But Woman, whose devoted, tender feelings,
65               Acquire new force from Fancy's wild revealings,
               Will steep in tears her laurels of renown,
               Unless Love blends with them his myrtle crown;
               And Love beholds her on dizzy height
               Robed in resplendent rays of dazzling light,
70               And seeks some humbler maid in lowly bower,
               To soothe and solace with his smiling power.
               Hear this, ye cold of heart, and envy not
               The barren splendour of her cheerless lot,


               Nor covet the bright wreaths her song secures,
75               And murmur that such glories are not yours!
               Oh! think, while owning all that most you prize,
               Dear social intercourse, domestic ties,
               How hard her lot, from all such joys confined,
               The sovereign of a desert wast of mind:
80               When her gay strains the voice of praise are waking,
               Know that the heart which breathes them may be breaking;
               And when her lyre a lay of sorrow pours,
               And the cold world admires, applauds, adores,
               Think that around that lyre the cypress clings,
85               And, like the swan, her own sad dirge she sings!

1. The epigraph to this poem comes from Franz Grillparzer, Sappho (1818), which was translated into English by John Bramsen in 1820. BACK

Date: 1834 (Coding Revisions: 12/28/2005). Author: Maria Smith Abdy (Coding Revisions: Laura Mandell).
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