Madam,-

Though rude the draughts, though artless seem the lines,
From one unskill'd in verse, or in designs;
Oft has good-nature been the fool's defence,
And honest meaning gilded want of sense.
Fear not, though flowers and beauty grace my lay,
To praise one fair, another shall decay.
No lily, bright with painted foliage, here,
Shall only languish, when Selinda's near:
A fate reversed no smiling rose shall know,
Nor with reflected lustre doubly glow.
Praises which languish when applied to you,
Where flattering schemes seem obviously true.
Yet sure your sex is near to flowers allied,
Alike in softness, and alike in pride:
Foes to retreat, and ever fond to shine,
Both rush to danger, and the shades decline;
Exposed, the short-lived pageants of a day,
To painted flies or glittering fops a prey:
Changed with each wind, nor one short day the same,
Each clouded sky affects their tender frame.
In glaring Chloe's man-like taste and mien,
Are the gross splendours of the tulip seen:
Distant they strike, inelegantly gay,
To the near view no pleasing charms display.
To form the nymph, a vulgar wit must join,
As coarser soils will most the flower refine.
Ophelia's beauties let the jasmine paint,
Too faintly soft, too nicely elegant.
Around with seeming sanctity endued,
The passion-flower may best express the prude.
Like the gay rose, too rigid Silvia shines,
While, like its guardian thorn, her virtue joins.
Happy the nymph from all their failures free!
Happy the nymph in whom their charms agree!
Faint these productions, till you bid disclose,
The pink new splendours, and fresh tints the rose:
And yet condemn not trivial draughts like these,
Form'd to improve, and make even trifles please.
A power like yours minuter beauties warms,
And yet can blast the most aspiring charms:
Thus, at the rays whence other objects shine,
The taper sickens, and its flames decline.
When by your art the purple violet lives,
And the pale lily sprightlier charms receives;
Garters to me shall glow inferior far,
And with less pleasing lustre shine the star.
Let serious triflers, fond of wealth or fame,
On toils like these bestow too soft a name;
Each gentler art with wise indifference view,
And scorn one trifle, millions to pursue:
More artful I their specious schemes deride
Fond to please you, by you in these employed;
A nobler task, or more sublime desire,
Ambition ne'er could form, nor pride inspire.
The sweets of tranquil life and rural ease
Amuse securely, nor less justly please.
Where gentle pleasure shows her milder power,
Or blooms in fruit, or sparkles in the flower;
Smiles in the groves, the raptured poet's theme;
Flows in the brook, his Naiad of the stream;
Dawns, with each happier stroke the pencil gives,
And, in each livelier image, smiling lives;
Is heard, when Silvia strikes the warbling strings,
Selinda speaks, or Philomela sings:
Breathes with the morn; attends, propitious maid,
The evening ramble, and the noon-day glade
Some visionary fair she cheats our view,
Then only vigorous when she seems like you.
Yet Nature some for sprightlier joys design'd,
For brighter scenes, with nicer care, refined.
When the gay jewel radiant streams supplies,
And vivid brilliants meet your brighter eyes;
When dress and pomp around the fancy play,
By fortune's dazzling beauties borne away;
When theatres for you the scenes forego,
And the box bows obsequiously low:
How dull the plan which indolence has drawn,
The mossy grotto, or the flowery lawn!
Though roseate scents in every wind exhale,
And sylvan warblers charm in every pale.
Of these be hers the choice whom all approve;
And whom but those who envy, all must love:
By nature modell'd, by experience taught,
To know and pity every female fault:
Pleased even to hear her sex's virtues shown,
And blind to none's perfections but her own:
Whilst, humble fair! of these too few she knows,
Yet owns too many for the world's repose;
From wit's wild petulance serenely free,
Yet blest in all that nature can decree.
Not like a fire, which, whilst it burns, alarms;
A modest flame, that gently shines and warms:
Whose mind, in every light, can charms display,
With wisdom serious, and with humour gay;
Just as her eyes in each bright posture warm,
And fiercely strike, or languishingly charm:
Such are your honours-mention'd to your cost,
Those least can hear them, who deserve them most:
Yet ah! forgive-the less inventive muse,
If e'er she sing, a copious theme must choose.

More verses by William Shenstone

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