A New Epistle

Miss Vardill

From Sappho to Phaon

Not yet I die — Compassion’s bland control
Back to its mansion calls my suff’ring soul!
Not yet I die! a thought for ever dear
Clings to my wounded breast and draws thee near:
My Phaon! Friendship’s tender hand shall bear
My love’s last relic to thy grateful care.
O that blest thought my fleeting breath detains,
Lifts my crush’d heart and sanctifies its pains!
Thou still shalt live — on Glory’s sparkling tide
Safe to its envied port I see thee glide!
Relenting Fortune’s softest gales shall breate
And the proud laurel hides the willow-wreath:
Yet, tho’ bright honours deck thy blooming hours,
Rich as the hues which paint Brazilian bow’rs,
Think where forlorn thy widow’d Sappho sighs,
For thee deserted lives, unpitied dies!
To meagre Wants’ devouring vultures left,
Of hope, or peace — of pens and ink bereft
But firm Affection smiles at coward Hate,
And in despite of foes, I write on slate.

My Mother! Why, if grateful love is guilt,
Was its frail fabric in thy presence built?
Why when we droop’d in Cambria’s silent shade
Did sullen Grandeur welcome Friendship’s aid?
Why summon Phaon from the scarlet throng
To weave the dance and tune the choral song?
While Tintern shone in Cynthia’s yellow beam,
And the rich strawb’rry crimson’d frozen cream!

What! can a cornet of hussars disgrace
The long-priz’d glories of our ancient race?
Need worth the pageant pomp of greatness claim?
Can gracious Virtue find a nobler name?
I ask’d not Fate for Brighton’s summer-gales,
Its crowded Steyne and scandal-swelling tales;
Hope spread Hesperia’s velvet verdure here,
And summer ever smil’d — if one hussar was near!

Alas! how swiftly fled that summer-day!
Fate and Duke Arthur call’d the troop away
(Pride of the Park and beacon of the wars,
Till Pow’r and Quentin sham’d the tenth hussars!)
In distant climes their glitt’ring flag to wave
While a stern parent smil’d upon my grave!
In Youth’s fresh dawn, in Beauty’s blighted bloom
I hasten, friendless, to the shelt’ring tomb —
Mother! if yet that holy name belongs
To her who banquets on a daughter’s wrongs,
Behold and triumph! from my widow’d heart
Urg’d by thy scorn, the springs of life depart —
Yet spare my fame — my souls’ existence spare,
Dig deep my grave, but leave my honour there!
On this bruis’d bosom all thy rage renew,
Still bid me die — but let me think him true.
My Phaon false! O no, it cannot be
That ever heart so pure was false to me!
To me who chose him ere his coat was lac’d,
When scarce an epaulette his shoulder grac’d!
Could he forsake me for a widow’s tears,
And, worse than vile, to wed a Brigadier’s?
Was it for this when in one gorgeous car
Rode Europe’s chiefs, the Regent and the Czar,
Firm in my faith, I turn’d my head away
Lest Alexander should beseech my stay!
Even when the Serpentine became a sea
Sublime with fleets, I still remember’d thee
And in thy absence saw no Jubilee!
Tho’ earth sent up a globe to brave the skies
While heaven rain’d stars to vie with ladies’ eyes!
Then thro’ the Park what floods of beauty roll’d!
What eyes of diamonds and what crests of gold!
When Concord’s Temple blaz’d with polish’d tin
And twice ten cannons bade the world come in!
Yet tho’ twelve Princes grac’d the Regent’s dome
Even then, to muse on thee, I stay’d at home;
Tho’ gracious Blucher thrice my window eyed
And the stern Cossack wav’d his pipe and sigh’d.

O Phaon! was’t to be forsake thus,
My best machine electrified thee plus?
Was it for this I beautified my face
With Davy’s oxygen and Devon’s lace?
For this learnt all that Bryan’s lectures teach
And brav’d the Forum’s crowd to make a speech?
A speech which bright Corinna’s self might boast —
The Muses prais’d it, and the Morning Post.
Was it for this I worshipp’d Roman dust,
Explor’d the catacombs and — bought a bust?
Etrurian dales! ye know how oft and long
I climb’d your rocks and lurk’d your shades among,
And watch’d the pebble by my Phaon thrown
Form in you classic pond a silver zone,
Then hop’d, alas! that happiness would be
As bright a circle to encompass me —
But plung’d by Phaon like that hapless stone
In dark Oblivion’s gulf I sink unknown!

Widow! more false than syrens of the deep!
Whose tears have won what dimples could not keep,
May never Bowman’s art to thee avail,
And even Ross’s “Grand Emporium” fail!
May no Parisian cream thy blush renew!
May thy pearl-white by candle-light turn blue!
May thy best supper never bribe a Bard,
And not one Duchess e’er return thy card!
But thou, deceiver! thou whose heart was feed
To fly from Sappho by a jointure-deed,
May that fell deed by void in love and law,
And the next heir annull it for a flaw!
My vengeful spectre still shall haunt thy side
Stalk round thy pillow and thy war-horse guide;
Debt’s ruthless scorpions round thy bride shall twine,
And when thou hear’st her tongue — Remember mine.

Rodelinda Delphine Stormont

Positive House

(Prize Essay)