To Aspasia by Susanna Highmore Duncombe

Wisdom, Aspasia, by thy gentle Muse,
Warns me to shun the dangerous paths of Love,
And rather those of sober Friendship chuse,
With cheerful Liberty, in Dian’s grove.

Yet, led by Fancy through deceitful ground,
Oft have I Friendship sought, but sought in vain;
Unfaithful friends with myrtle wreaths I crown’d,
Unpleasing subjects of my plaintive strain.

In youthful innocence, a school-day friend
First gain’d my sister- vows; unhappy maid!
How did I wipe thy tears, thy griefs attend!
And how was all my tenderness repaid!

No sooner Grandeur, Love, and Fortune smil’d,
Than base Ingratitude thy heart betrays,
That friend forgot, who all thy woes beguil’d,
Lost in the sunshine of thy prosp’rous days.

Save me, kind Heaven, from smiling Fortune’s power!
And may my wishes never meet success,
If e’er I can forget, one single hour,
The friend who gave me comfort in distress!

Yet Friendship’s influence I again implored,
To heal the wounds by Disappointment made;
Friendship my soul to balmy Peace restor’d,
And sent a gentle virgin to my aid.

Soft, modest, pensive, melancholy Fair,
She seem’d to love and pining Grief a prey;
I saw her fading cheek, and feared Despair
Fed on her heart and stole her life away.

But ah! how chang’d my friend! how vain my fears!
Not Death, but Hymen, stole her from my heart;
Another love dispell’d her sighs and tears,
And fame was left the secret to impart.

Not twice the changing moon her course had run
Since first the pleasing youth was seen and lov’d,
The fair in secret haste he woo’d and won,
No friend consulted, for no friend approv’d.

Suspense not long my anxious bosom pain’d,
My friend arriv’d— I clasp’d her to my breast,
I wept, I smil’d, alternate passions reign’d,
Till she the sad unwelcome tale confess’d.

Lost to her brother, country, and to me,
A stranger wafts her to a foreign shore,
She travels mountains, and defies the sea,
Nor thinks of Albion or of Stella more.

Sure Nature in her weakest, softest mould,
Form’d my unhappy heart, False Friendship’s Prey!
Another story yet remains untold,
Which fond Compassion bids me not display:

The lovely sister of a faithless friend
Weeping entreats me space the recent tale;
Her sighs I hear, her wishes I attend,
And o’er her sister’s failings draw the veil.

This my success in search of Friendship’s grove,
Where Liberty and Peace I hop’d to find,
And soften’d thus with Grief, deceitful Love,
In Friendship’s borrow’d garb attacked my mind.

No passion raging like the roaring main,
But calm and gentle as a summer sea,
Meek Modesty and Virtue in his train,
What Friendship ought, true Love appear’d to be.

But soon was chang’d, alas! the pleasing scene,
Soon threat’ning storms my timid heart alarm’d;
And Love no more appeared with brow serene,
But cloath’d in terrors, and with dangers arm’d.

From these enchanted bowers my steps I turn,
And seek from Prudence safety and repose;
Her rigid lessons I resolve to learn,
And gain that bliss which self-approof bestows.

Thus, dear Aspasia, my unhappy fate,
My heart’s first darling schemes all blasted, see;
Yet now my bosom glows, with hope elate,
Fair Friendship’s blessings still to find with thee.

By thee conducted to the realms of Peace,
No more in plaintive strains the Muse shall sing,
Henceforth with hymns of praise, and grateful bliss,
The groves shall echo, and the valleys ring.

From: Chapone, Hester, Miscellanies, in Prose and Verse. Including A Letter to a Newly-Married Lady, 1807, John Murray: London, pp. 160-164.
(https://archive.org/stream/worksmrschapone02chapgoog#page/n177/mode/2up)

Date: c1751

By: Susanna Highmore Duncombe (1725-1812)

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