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.