I start, I shudder at his tuneful voice,
When it, in soothing whispers, meets my ear;
That sound, which oft has made my heart rejoice,
I now all-trembling and affrighted hear.
Was it thy fault, dear, much-lamented youth
If lovely Emma did thy suit prefer?
She saw thee form’d of tenderness and truth,
And kings might glory to be lov’d by her.
Thy native sweetness won her artless heart;
And well our different characters she knew;
Whilst thy mild looks did happiness impart,
She saw the murderer in each glance I threw.
Yet for this, meanly, did I thee upbraid,
And basely urg’d an elder brother’s right;
Then, calling impious passion to my aid,
Forc’d thee, unwilling, to the fatal fight.
Oh! ne’er shall I forget the dreadful hour,
I sheath’d my weapon in thy noble breast;
Thy dying hand clasp’d mine, with feeble pow’r,
And to thy mangled bosom fondly prest.
Whilst o’er thee, I, in speechless anguish hung,
Thou saw’st the wild distraction of my eye;
And, though the chills of death restrain’d thy tongue
Thy bosom heav’d a sympathetic sigh.
With cruel tenderness my friends contriv’d,
To bear me from the drear, polluted shore;
Of every joy, of peace itself depriv’d,
Which this despairing breast shall know no more.
Since this what frenzy has inspir’d my mind!
My tortur’d mem’ry cannot it retrace;
No relique now of former days I find,
But horrors, which e’en madness can’t efface.
My dearest brother, and my tenderest friend,
O come, and save me from this dark abyss!
Draw hence the darts which my rack’d bosom rend!
And bear me with you to the realms of bliss!
Ah! whence that pang which smote my shuddering heart?
Where now, for refuge, can lost Anselm fly?
’Tis Death! I know him by his crimson dart!
And, am I fit? Oh heav’ns! I cannot die!
My spirit is not form’d for rapid flight;
It cannot cut the vast expanse of air,
No, never can it reach the realms of light,
For sin, a weight immoveable, lies there!’
Thus wretched Anselm rav’d: unhappy youth!
Though passion hurried thee so far astray,
Thy infant soul ador’d the God of Truth,
And virtue usher’d in thy vernal day.
Oh! had he learn’d his passions to restrain,
And let cool reason in his breast preside,
His op’ning wisdom had not bloom’d in vain,
Nor had he, ere the prime of manhood, died.
Yet, if remorse could expiate his guilt,
If the worst sufferings could the crime erase,
If tears could wash away the blood he spilt,
Then Anselm’s penitence obtain’d him grace.
AUGUST 20, 1794.
In A letter to A.R.C. On her wishing to be called Anna.