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To Myrtilis - The New Year's Offering

Samuel Johnson 1709 (Lichfield) – 1784 (London)

Madam,
Long have I look'd my tablets o'er,
And find I've much to thank you for;
Outstanding debts beyond account,
And new - who knows to what amount?
Though small my wealth, not small my soul:
Come, then, at once I'll pay the whole.
Ye powers! I'm rich and will command
The host of slaves that round me stand;
Come, Indian, quick disclose thy store,
And hither bring Peruvian ore:
Let yonder Negro pierce the main,
The choicest, largest pearl to gain:
Let all my slaves their art combine
To make the blushing ruby mine,
From eastern thrones the diamonds bear
To sparkle at her breast and ear.
Swift Scythian, point the unerring dart,
That strikes the ermine's little heart,
And search for choicest furs the globe,
To make my Myrtilis a robe.
Ah, no! yon Indian will not go,
No Scythian designs to bed his bow,
No sullen Negro shoots the flood:
All, all my empty power disown,
I turn and find myself alone;
'Tis Fancy's vain illusion all,
No Moor nor Scythian waits my call.
Can I command, can I consign?
Alas! what earthly thing is mine?
Come, then, my Muse, companion dear,
Of poverty, and soul sincere;
Come, dictate to my grateful mind
A gift that may acceptance find;
Come, gentle Muse, and with thee bear
An offering worthy thee and her;
And though thy presents be but poor,
My Myrtilis will ask no more.
A Heart that scorns a shameful thing,
With love and verse is all I bring;
Of love and verse the gift receive,
'Tis all thy servant has to give.
If all whate'er my verse has told,
Golconda's gems, and Afric's gold;
If all were mine from pole to pole,
How large her share who shares my soul!
But more than these may Heaven impart;
Be thine the treasures of the heart;
Be calm and glad thy future days
With virtue's peace and virtue's praise;
Let jealous pride, and sleepless care,
And wasting grief, and black despair,
And languor chill, and anguish fell,
For ever shun thy grove and cell;
There only may the happy train
Of love, and joy, and peace remain:
May plenty, with exhaustless store,
Employ thy hand to feed the poor,
And ever on thy honour'd head
The prayer of gratitude be shed!
A happy mother, may'st thou see
Thy smiling, virtuous progeny,
Whose sportful tricks, and airy play,
Fraternal love, and prattle gay,
Or wondrous tale, or joyful song,
May lure the lingering hours along;
Till death arrive, unfelt, unseen,
With gentle pace and placid mien,
And waft thee to that happy shore
Where wishes can have place no more.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:17 min read
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Samuel Johnson

The Reverend Doctor Samuel Johnson was a clergyman, educator, and philosopher in colonial British North America. more…

All Samuel Johnson poems | Samuel Johnson Books

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