Deceit infect not, near contagion soil,
Indulgence weaken, nor example spoil,
Nor mastered science tempt her to look down
On humbler talents with a pitying frown,
Nor genius swell, nor beauty render vain,
Nor envy ruffle to retaliate pain,
Nor fortune change, pride raise, nor passion bow,
Nor virtue teach austerity, till now.
Serenely purest of her sex that live;
But wanting one sweet weakness,—to forgive;
Too shocked at faults her soul can never know,
She deems that all could be like her below:
Foe to all vice, yet hardly Virtue’s friend;
For Virtue pardons those she would amend.
But to the theme, now laid aside
The baleful burthen of this honest song.
Though all her former functions are no more,
She rules the circle which she served before.
If mothers—none know why—before her quake;
If daughters dread her for the mothers’ sake;
If early habits—those false links, which bind
At times the loftiest to the meanest mind—
Have given her power too deeply to instil
The angry essence of her deadly will;
If like a snake she steal within your walls
Till the black slime betray her as she crawls;
If like a viper to the heart she wind,
And leave the venom there she did not find,
What marvel that this hag of hatred works
Eternal evil latent as she lurks,
To make a Pandemonium where she dwells,
And reign the Hecate of domestic hells?
Skilled by a touch to deepen scandal’s tints
With all the kind mendacity of hints,
While mingling truth with falsehood, sneers with smiles,
A thread of candour with a web of wiles;
A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming,
To hide her bloodless heart’s soul-hardened scheming;
A lip of lies; a face formed to conceal,
And, without feeling, mock at all who feel;
With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown;
A cheek of parchment, and an eye of stone.
Mark how the channels of her yellow blood
Ooze to her skin, and stagnate there to mud!
Cased like the centipede in saffron mail,
Or darker greenness of the scorpion’s scale,
(For drawn from reptiles only may we trace
Congenial colours in that soul or face,)—
Look on her features! and behold her mind
As in a mirror of itself defined.
Look on the picture! deem it not o’ercharged;
There is no trait which might not be enlarged:
Yet true to ‘Nature’s journeymen,’ who made
This monster when their mistress left off trade,
This female dog-star of her little sky,
Where all beneath her influence droop or die.