Archive for January 4th, 2012

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Verses Inviting Stella to Tea on the Public Fast-Day [During the American War], February, MDCCLXXXI by Anna Seward

Dear Stella, midst the pious sorrow
Our Monarch bids us feel tomorrow,
The ah’s! and oh’s! supremely trist,
The abstinence from beef and whist,
Wisely ordained to please the Lord,
And force him whet our edgeless sword,
Till, skipping o’er th’ Atlantic rill,
We cut provincial throats at will;
Midst all the penitence we feel
For merry sins―midst all the zeal
For vengeance on the saucy foe,
Who lays our boasted legions low,
I wish, when sullen evening comes,
To gild for me its falling glooms,
You would, without cold pause, agree
Beneath these walls to sip your tea.
From the chaste, fragrant Indian weed
Our sins no pampering juices feed;
And though the Hours, with contrite faces,
May banish the ungodly aces,
And take of food a sparing bit,
They’ll gluttonise on Stella’s wit.

  ‘Tea,’ cries a Patriot, ‘on that day!
‘Twere good you flung the drug away!
Remembering ‘twas the cruel source
Of sad distrust, and long divorce,
‘Twixt nations which, combined, had hurled
Their conquering javelin round the world.

  ‘O Indian shrub! Thy fragrant flowers
To England’s weal had deadly powers,
When Tyranny, with impious hand,
To venom turned its essence bland;
To venom subtle, fierce and fell,
As drenched the dart of Isdabel.

  ‘Have we forgot that cursed libation,
That cost the lives of half the nation?
When Boston, with indignant thought,
Saw poison in the perfumed draught,
And caused her troubled Bay to be
But one vast bowl of bitter tea;
While Até, chiefly-bidden guest,
Came sternly to the fatal feast,
And mingled with th’ envenomed flood
Brothers’, parents’ children’s blood:
Dire as the banquet Atreus served,
When his own sons Thyestes carved,
And Phoebus, shrinking from the sight,
Drew o’er his orb the pall of night.

  ‘Tomorrow then, at least, refrain,
Nor quaff thy gasping country’s bane!
For, O! reflect, poetic daughter,
‘Twas vanquished Britain’s laurel-water!’

From: Lonsdale, Roger (Ed), Eighteenth Century Women Poets, 1990,OxfordUniversityPress:Oxford, pp. 314-315.(

Date: 1781

By: Anna Seward (1742-1809)