Epistle II. To Miss M. E.
by Thomas Moore
From Norfolk, in Virginia, Nov. 1803.
In days, my Kate, when life was new,
When, lull'd with innocence and you,
I heard, in home's beloved shade,
The din the world at distance made;
When every night my weary head
Sunk on its own unthorned bed,
And, mild as evening's matron hour
Looks on the faintly shutting flower,
A mother saw our eyelids close,
And bless'd them into pure repose!
Then, haply, if a week, a day,
I linger'd from your arms away,
How long the little absence seem'd!
How bright the look of welcome beam'd,
As mute you heard, with eager smile,
My tales of all that pass'd the while!
Yet now, my Kate, a gloomy sea
Rolls wide between that home and me;
The moon may thrice be born and die,
Ere e'en your seal can reach mine eye;
And oh! e'en then, that darling seal,
(Upon whose print, I us'd to feel
The breath of home, the cordial air
Of loved lips, still freshly there !)
Must come, alas! through every fate
Of time and distance, cold and late,
When the dear hand, whose touches fill'd
The leaf with sweetness, may be chill'd.
But hence, that gloomy thought! -- At bit,
Beloved Kate ! the waves are past:
I tread on earth securely now,
And the green cedar's living bough
Breathes more refreshment to my eyes
Than could a Claude's divinest dies!
At length I touch the happy sphere
To Liberty and Virtue dear,
Where man looks up, and proud to claim
His rank within the social frame,
Sees a grand system round him roll,
Himself its centre, sun, and soul!
Far from the shocks of Europe; far
From every wild elliptic star
That, shooting with a devious fire,
Kindled by heaven's avenging ire,
So oft hath into chaos hurl'd
The systems of the ancient world!
The warrior here, in arms no more,
Thinks of the toil, the conflict o'er,
And glorying in the rights they won
For hearth and altar, sire and son,
Smiles on the dusky webs that hide
His sleeping sword's remember'd pride!
While Peace, with sunny cheeks of toil,
Walks o'er the free, unlorded soil,
Effacing with her splendid share
The drops that war had sprinkled there.
Thrice happy land! where he who flies
From the dark ills of other skies,
From scorn, or want's unnerving woes
May shelter him in proud repose!
Hope sings along the yellow sand
His welcome to a patriot land;
The mighty wood, with pomp, receives
The stranger in its world of leaves,
Which soon their barren glory yield
To the warm shed and cultur'd field;
And he who came, of all bereft,
To whom malignant fate had left
Nor home nor friends nor country dear,
Finds borne and friends and country here!
Such is the picture, warmly such,
That long the spell of fancy's touch
Hath painted to my sanguine eye
Of man's new world of liberty!
Oh! ask me not if Truth will seal
The reveries of fancy's zeal --
If yet my charmed eyes behold
These features of an age of gold --
No -- yet, alas ! no gleaming trace!
Never did youth, who lov'd a face
From portrait's rosy flattering art
Recoil with more regret of heart,
To find an owlet eye of grey,
Where painting pour'd the sapphire's ray,
Than I have felt, indignant felt,
To think the glorious dreams should melt,
Which oft, in boyhood's witching time,
Have wrapt me to this wond'rous clime!
But, courage yet, my wavering heart!
Blame not the temple's meanest part,2
Till you have traced the fabric o'er: --
As yet, we have beheld no more
Than just the porch to freedom's fane;
And, though a sable drop may stain
The vestibule, 'tis impious sin
To doubt there's holiness within!
So here I pause -- and now, my Kate,
To you (whose simplest ringlet's fate
Can claim more interest in my soul
Than all the Powers from pole to pole)
One word at parting: in the tone
Most sweet to you, and most my own.
The simple notes I send you here,3
Though rude and wild, would still be dear,
If you but knew the trance of thought,
In which my mind their murmurs caught.
'Twas one of those enchanting dreams,
That lull me oft, when Music seems
To pour the soul in sound along,
And turn its every sigh to song!
I thought of home, the according lays
Respir'd the breath of happier days;
Warmly in every rising note
I felt some dear remembrance float
Till, led by music's fairy chain,
I wander'd back to home again!
Oh! love the song, and let it oft
Live on your lip, in warble soft!
Say that it tells you, simply well,
All I have bid its murmurs tell,
Of memory's glow, of dreams that shed
The tinge of joy when joy is fled,
And all the heart's illusive hoard
Of love renew'd and friends restor'd!
Now, Sweet, adieu -- this artless air,
And a few rhymes, in transcript fair,
Are all the gifts I yet can boast
To send you from Columbia's coast;
But when the sun, with warmer smile,
Shall light me to my destin'd Isle, 4
You shall have many a cowslip-bell
Where Ariel slept, and many a shell,
In which the gentle spirit drew
From honey flowers the morning dew!
Notes To The Poem
1 Such romantic works as "The American Farmer's letters," and the "Account of Kentucky by Imlay," would seduce us into a belief, that innocence, peace, and freedom had deserted the rest of the world for Martha's Vineyard and the banks of the Ohio. The French travellers too, aImost all from revolutionary motives, have contributed their share to the diffusion of this flattering misconception. A visit to the country is, however, quite sufficient to correct even the most enthusiastic prepossession.
2 Norfolk, it must be owned, is an unfavourable specimen of America. The characteristics of Virginia in general are not such as can delight either the politician or the moralist, and at Norfolk they are exhibited in their least attractive form. At the time when we arrived, the yellow fever had not yet disappeared, and every odour that assailed us in the streets very strongly accounted for its visitation.
3 A trifling attempt at musical composition accompanied this epistle.
Source:The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore.
Philadelphia: J. Crissy, No. 4, Minor Street, and Desilver, Thomas, And Co., No. 247, Market Street