Epistle to a Lady

Miss Porden

Written on the 4th of June 1810

 Forgive the limping lines I wrote
In answer to your charming note
(Where with appropriate beauties vie
Both fluent prose and poetry)
And let dear maid my hurried Muse
The roughness of my verse excuse
For stupid full, and prest for time
The goddess scarce vouchsafed a rhyme
And if at last I gained the prize
Poor grammar was the sacrifice.

 Indulgent then let fancy’s eye
Sweet maid each absent grace supply
As smooth my rugged numbers make
As in a calm, lone Katrine’s lake
Give to each stupid senseless line
An energy to equal thine
And make (indeed what can she not)
My verses seem to rival Scott

 And oh dear maid, may we to day
Pursue that bard’s enchanting lay
In scenes of death and danger view
Th’ undaunted chieftain Roderick Dhu
This time may no domestic claims
Force thee to quit the bold Fitz James
From Malcolm or from Douglas bear
Or thee from either Ellen tear

 And Mary may they Norman ne’er
 See on your cheek “the starting tear
 Speak woe he may not stop to cheer”

Forced by the fiery cross, to leave
His virgin bride alone to grieve
No sorrows may my Mary know
But those which from the story flow
When mild compassion drops the tear
O’er Blanche’s woes, or Duncan’s bier

 May we admire, disguised unknown
The valiant Lord of Scotland’s throne
At last in him with wonder view
The conqueror of stout Roderick Dhu
The friend of Ellen, whom he rowed
Erewhile to her obscure abode
The stranger knight who gave the ring
The pledge of favour from the king

 Mayst thou with admiration know
How Roderick entertained his foe
In generous unsuspecting mood
Gave him to share his couch, his food
And led him safe “thro’ watch, and ward
Beyond Clan Alpine’s outmost guard”
Where by his Monarch’s happier steel
The fierce high-minded warrior fell.

 And mayst thou in his turn admire
The lovely Ellen’s exil’d sire
Who nobly scorn’d by civil strife
To purchase liberty and life
Nor wish though righteous was the cause
His friends should violate the laws

 At length behold o’er every head
Her shade the peaceful Olive spread
The Douglas safe from future harms
And Malcolm blest in Ellen’s charms
Thus on our sovereign’s natal day
The hours shall swiftly pass away
While great R.A.’s together dine
And drink his health in floods of wine
And lords and knights, and squires resort
With swords and bags to George’s court
And maids and matrons gaily drest
In monstrous hoop and narrow vest
Their head with pendant lappets graced
With gorgeous stomachers their waist
The ancient Gothic rich costume
Of gala days in regal room
While there in loyal pomp the throng
Unheeding hear the laureats song
Delighted we’ll remain at home
Or seek my sister’s neighbouring dome
And fancy from our lowly bower
Shall waft our mind to Stirling’s tower
For us shall deck the regal hall
For us shall frame the midnight ball
While we around in wonder gaze
As Ellen threads the dance’s maze
While all the brave, the good, the wise
Of ancient days before us rise
And eve like this, dear maid will seem
A sweet enchanting fairy dream
One that full oft with pleasure new
Delighted memory shall review.