Sunday, March 22, 2020

Women's History Month: "A Petition To April" by Susanna Blamire (1747-1794)

[image: A portrait of Susanna Blamire by Giacomo Cambruzzi, 18th century]

Susanna Blamire (1747-1794) was an English poet whose prolific and well-regarded poetry earned her the nickname the "Muse of Cumberland." Most of her poetry was publsihed after her death, but she did submit some of her works to public view. In addition to poetry, Blamire worte songs, including a song ("The Siller Croun") which was referenced in Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. In 1947, Scottish literary figure Hugh MacDiarmid said that Blamire's songs "can be set beside the best that have ever been produced by Scotsmen writing in their own tongue."

Blamire was frequently ill due to recurrent rheumatic heart disease. A few of her poems were marked as being written during periods of illness, including the below work which--fittingly, for Blamire and many of us in the world today--hopes for a renewed future in the coming spring.

A Petition to April, Written During Sickness, 1793

Sweet April! month of all the year
That loves to shed the dewy tear,
And with a soft but chilly hand
The silken leaves of flowers expand;
Thy tear--set eye shall I ne'er see
Weep o'er a sickly plant like me?
Thou art the nurse of infant flowers,
The parent of relenting showers;
Thy tears and smiles when newly born
Hang on the cheek of weeping Morn,
While Evening sighs in seeming grief
O'er frost--nipp'd bud or bursting leaf.
Once Pity held thee in her arms,
And, breathing all her gentle charms,
Bade thy meek smile o'ertake the tear,
And Hope break loose from trembling Fear;
Bade clouds that load the breast of Day
On melting Twilight weep away;
She bade thee, when the breezy Morn
Kiss'd the sweet gem that deck'd the thorn,
O'er the pale primrose softly pour
The nectar of a balmy shower;
And is the primrose dear to thee?
And wilt thou not give health to me?
See how I droop! my strength decays,
And life wears out a thousand ways;
Supporting friends their cordials give,
And wish, and hope, and bid me live;
With this short breath it may not be,
Unless thou lend'st a sigh to me.
O! fan me with a gentler breeze;
Invite me forth with busy bees;
And bid me trip the dewy lawn
Adorn'd with wild flowers newly blown;
O! do not sternly bid me try
The influence of a milder sky;
I know that May can weave her bower,
And spot, and paint, a richer flower;
Nor is her cheek so wan as thine;
Nor is her hand so cold as mine;
Nor bears she thy unconstant mind,
But ah! to me she ne'er was kind.
To thee I'll rear a mossy throne,
And bring the violet yet unblown;
Then teach it just to ope its eye,
And on thy bosom fondly die;
Embalm it in thy tears, and see
If thou hast one more left for me.
In thy pale noon no roses blow,
Nor lilies spread their summer snow;
Nor would I wish this time--worn cheek
In all the blush of health to break;
No; give me ease and cheerful hours,
And take away thy fairer flowers;
So may the rude gales cease to blow,
And every breeze yet milder grow,
Till I in slumber softly sleep,
Or wake but to grow calm and weep;
And o'er thy flowers in pity bend,
Like the soft sorrows of a friend. 



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