Helen Maria Williams

"To Sensibility" (pub. 1786)

In Sensibility's lov'd praise 
	I tune my trembling reed; 
 And seek to deck her shrine with bays, 
	On which my heart must bleed! 
No cold exemption from her pain 
	I ever wish'd to know; 
 Cheer'd with her transport I sustain 
	Without complaint her woe. 
Above whate'er content can give, 
	Above the charm of ease, 		10
The restless hopes and fears, that live 
	With her, have power to please. 
Where, but for her, were Friendship 
	To heal the wounded heart, 
To shorten sorrow's ling'ring hour, 
	And bid its gloom depart? 
'Tis she that lights the melting eye 
	With looks to anguish dear;  
She knows the price of ev'ry sigh, 
	The value of a tear.				20
She prompts the tender marks of love, 
	Which words can scarce express;  
The heart alone their force can prove, 
	And feel how much they bless. 
Of every finer bliss the source! 
	'Tis she on love bestows  
The softer grace, the boundless force 
	Confiding passion knows; 
When to another, the fond breast 
	Each thought for ever gives;			30 
When on another, leans for rest, 
	And in another lives! 
Quick, as the trembling metal flies, 
	When heat or cold impels,  
Her anxious heart to joy can rise, 
	Or sink where anguish dwells! 
Yet tho' her soul must griefs sustain 
	Which she alone can know;  
And feel the keener sense of pain 
	Which sharpens every woe;			40
Tho' she, the mourners' grief to calm  
	Still shares each pang they feel,  
And, like the tree distilling balm, 
	Bleeds, others wounds to heal; 
While she, whose bosom fondly true, 
	Has never wish'd to range;  
One alter'd look will trembling view,  
	And scarce can bear the change; 
Tho' she, if death the bonds should tear 
	She vainly thought secure;			50
Thro' life must languish in despair  
	That never hopes a cure; 
Tho' wounded by some vulgar mind,  
	Unconscious of the deed,  
Who never seeks those wounds to bind,  
	But wonders why they bleed;-- 
She oft will heave a secret sigh,  
	Will shed a lonely tear,  
O'er feelings nature wrought so high,  
	And gave on terms so dear. 		60
Yet who would hard INDIFFERENCE choose  
	Whose breast no tears can steep?  
Who, for her apathy, would lose  
	The sacred power to weep? 
Tho' in a thousand objects, pain  
	And pleasure tremble nigh,  
Those objects strive to reach, in vain  
	The circle of her eye. 
Cold, as the fabled god appears  
	To the poor suppliant's grief,  	70
Who bathes the marble form in tears,  
	And vainly hopes relief. 
Ah Greville! why the gifts refuse  
	To souls like thine allied?  
No more thy nature seem to lose,   
	No more thy softness hide. 
No more invoke the playful sprite  
	To chill, with magic spell,  
The tender feelings of delight,  
	And anguish sung so well; 		80
That envied ease thy heart would prove  
	Were sure too dearly bought  
With friendship, sympathy, and love,  
	And every finer thought.