Ann Yearsley, "Addressed to Sensibility"

from Poems on Various Subjects (1787)

OH! SENSIBILITY! Thou busy nurse 
Of Inj'ries once received, why wilt thou feed 
Those serpents in the soul? their stings more fell 
Than those which writh'd round Priam's priestly son; 
I feel them here! They rend my panting breast,  
But I will tear them thence: ah! effort vain! 
Disturb'd they grow rapacious, while their fangs 
Strike at poor Memory; wounded she deplores 
Her ravish'd joys and murmurs o'er the past. 
	Why shrinks my soul within these prison walls 		
Where wretches shake their chains? III-fated youth, 
Why does thine eye run wildly o'er my form, 
Pointed with fond enquiry? 'Tis not Me, 
Thy restless thought would find; the silent tear 
Steals gently down his cheek: ah! could my arms 
Afford thee refuge, I would bear thee hence 
To a more peaceful dwelling. Vain the wish! 
Thy pow'rs are all unhing'd, and thou wouldst sit 
Insensible to sympathy: farewell. 
Lamented being! ever lost to hope, 					
I leave thee, yea despair myself of cure. 
	For, oh, my bosom bleeds, while griefs like thine 
Increase the recent pang. Pensive I rove, 
More wounded than the hart, whose side yet holds 
The deadly arrow: Friendship, boast no more 
Thy hoard of joys, o'er which my soul oft hung; 
Like the too anxious miser o'er his gold. 
My treasures are all wreck'd; I quit the scene 
Where haughty Insult cut the sacred ties 
Which long had held us: Cruel Julius! take 				
My last adieu. The wound thou gav'st is death, 
Nor can'st e'en thou recall my frighted sense 
With Friendship's pleasing sound; yet while I clasp 
Thy valued image to my aching mind, 
And viewing that, forgive thee; will deplore 
The blow that sever'd two congenial souls! 
	Officious Sensibility! 'tis thine 
To give the finest anguish, to dissolve 
The dross of spirit, till all essence, she 
Refines on real woe; from thence extracts 				 
Sad unexisting phantoms, never seen. 
	Yet, dear ideal mourner, be thou near 
When on Lysander's tears I silent gaze; 
Then, with thy viewless pencil, form his sigh, 
His deepest groan, his sorrow-tinged thought, 
With immature, impatience, cold despair		
With all the tort'ring images that play, 
In sable hue, within his wasted mind. 
	And when this dreary group shall meet my thought, 		
Oh! throw my pow'rs upon a fertile space, 
Where mingles ev'ry varied soft relief. 
Without thee, I could offer but the dregs 
Of vulgar consolation; from her cup 
He turns the eye, nor dare it soil his lip! 
Raise thou my friendly hand; mix thou the draught 
More pure than ether, as ambrosia clear, 
Fit only for the soul; thy chalice fill 
With drops of sympathy, which swiftly fall 
From my afflicted heart: yet--yet beware, 				
Nor stoop to seize from Passion's warmer clime 
A pois'nous sweet.--Bright cherub, safely rove 
Thro' all the deep recesses of the soul! 
Float on her raptures, deeper tinge her woes, 
Strengthen emotion, higher waft her sigh,  
Sit in the tearful orb, and ardent gaze 
On joy or sorrow. But thy empire ends 
Within the line of SPIRIT. My rough soul, 
O Sensibility! defenseless hails, 
Thy feelings most acute. Yet, ye who boast 				
Of bliss I ne'er must reach, ye, who can fix 
A rule for sentiment, if rules there are, 
(For much I doubt, my friends, if rule e'er held 
Capacious sentiment) ye sure can point 
My mind to joys that never touch'd the heart. 
What is this joy? Where does its essence rest? 
Ah! self-confounding sophists, will ye dare 
Pronounce that Joy which never touch'd the heart? 
Does Education give the transport keen, 
Or swell your vaunted grief? No, Nature feels 				
Most poignant, undefended, hails with me 
The Pow'rs of Sensibility untaught.