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Thirty-Eight

Charlotte Smith 1749 (London) – 1806 (Tilford, Surrey)



IN early youth's unclouded scene,
The brilliant morning of eighteen,
With health and sprightly joy elate
We gazed on life's enchanting spring ,
Nor thought how quickly time would bring
The mournful period--Thirty-eight.
Then the starch maid, or matron sage,
Already at the sober age,
We view'd with mingled scorn and hate;
In whose sharp words, or sharper face,
With thoughtless mirth we loved to trace
The sad effects of--Thirty-eight.
Till saddening, sickening at the view
We learn'd to dread what Time might do;
And then preferr'd a prayer to Fate
To end our days ere that arrived;
When (power and pleasure long survived)
We met neglect and--Thirty-eight.
But time, in spite of wishes, flies
And Fate our simple prayer denies,
And bids us death's own hour await:
The auburn locks are mix'd with grey,
The transient roses fade away,
But reason comes at--Thirty-eight.

Her voice the anguish contradicts
That dying vanity inflicts;
Her hand new pleasures can create,
For us she opens to the view
Prospects less bright--but far more true,
And bids us smile at--Thirty-eight.
No more shall scandal's breath destroy
The social converse we enjoy
With bard or critic tete a tete;--
O'er youth's bright blooms her blights shall pour,
But spare the improving friendly hour
That science gives to --Thirty-eight.
Stripp'd of their gaudy hues by Truth,
We view the glitt'ring toys of youth,
And blush to think how poor the bait
For which to public scenes we ran
And scorn'd of sober sense the plan
Which gives content at--Thirty-eight.
Though Time's inexorable sway
Has torn the myrtle bands away,
For other wreaths 'tis not too late,
The amaranth's purple glow survives,
And still Minerva's olive lives
On the calm brow of--Thirty-eight.
With eye more steady we engage
To contemplate approaching age,
And life more justly estimate;
With firmer souls, and stronger powers,
With reason, faith, and friendship ours,
We'll not regret the stealing hours
That lead from Thirty--even to Forty-eight.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Turner Smith was an English Romantic poet and novelist. She initiated a revival of the English sonnet, helped establish the conventions of Gothic fiction, and wrote political novels of sensibility. A successful writer, she published ten novels, three books of poetry, four children's books, and other assorted works over the course of her career. She saw herself as a poet first and foremost, poetry at that period being considered the most exalted form of literature. Scholars now credit her with transforming the sonnet into an expression of woeful sentiment. more…

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