What Recollection is – Oh! Wouldst thou know?
’Tis the soul’s highest privilege below:
A kind indulgence, by our Maker given –
The mind’s perfection, and the stamp of Heaven;
In this, alone, the strength of reason lies –
It makes us happy, and it makes us wise.
What does not man to Recollection owe?
What various joys from calm reflection flow?
What but this power – this faculty divine.
Can Time recall, and make it once more thine? –
By this unaided, mortals could no more
Review the past, explore the future hour.
What dominant pangs would rend the feeling heart,
Doomed with the lover and the friend to part –
If with the object, Memory, too, should fail –
And dark oblivion draw her sable veil
O’er every pleasing scene of former love,
Our present bliss, our future hopes above?
Who could survive a friend’s departed breath,
If all were blank before, and after death?
What smoothes the bed of pain, and brow of care,
If happy Recollection dwell not there?
’Tis this alone bids virtuous hopes arise,
And makes the awakening penitent grow wise.
When joys tumultuous rush upon the soul,
Or grief or rage its faculties controul,
’Tis this bids tyrannizing passion cool –
Calms and resigns the mind to reason’s rule;
When false delusive flattery would invade –
This guards the heart ’gainst treachery and surprise,
And teaches to bestow on worth the prize.
The pleasing retrospect of blameless youth –
Boundless benevolence – unblemish’d truth –
Are joys whose full extent Eliza knows,
When sweet Recollection in her bosom glows.
Hark! Recollection whispers while I write –
Condemns the rash attempt, the adventurous flight,
To paint those beauties – or that Power define
Which loudly speaks our origin divine;
To explain what baffles all descriptive arts –
The Deity implanted in our hearts;
Struck and convinced, I drop the onequal task,
Nor further dare though my Eliza ask.
By: Deborah How Cottnam (1725-1806)