Ann Yearsley’s “Addressed to Ignorance”

Below is the complete text of Ann Yearsley poem  “Addressed to Ignorance, Occasioned by a Gentleman’s Desiring the Author Never to Assume a Knowledge of the Ancients”. You can read more on Yearsley here.

Lend me thy dark Veil. — Science darts her strong ray;
In the orb of bright Learning she sits:
Haste! haste! Cloth’d by thee, I can yet keep my way,
Still secure from her Critics, or Wits.

All slight thee; no Beauty e’er boasts of thy pow’r;
No Beau on thy Influence depends;
No Statesman shall own thee; no Poet implore,
But Lactilla and thou must be friends.

Then come, gentle Goddess, sit full in my looks;
Let my accents be sounded by thee:
While Crito in pomp, bears his burden of books,
On the plains of wild Nature I’m free.

When Ign’rance forbids me in ambush to move,
Or to feed on the scraps of the Sage,
I am blind to the Ancients — yet Fancy would prove,
That Pythagoras lives thro’ each age.

She shews me blind Homer, who ne’er must be still,
To motion perpetual decreed;
Forgetful of Ilium, he now turns a mill,
While old Nestor, quite dumb, roves the mead.

In a Tyger, Achilles bounds o’er the wide plain;
As a Fox, sly Ulysses is seen;
Doubly horn’d, Menelaus now scorns to complain,
But more blest, in a Buck skips the green.

Fond Paris, three changes with sighs has gone through,
First a Goat, then a Monkey compleat;
Enrag’d, to the river Salmacis he flew,
Wash’d his face — and forgot his fair mate.

But Zeno, Tibullus, and Socrates grave,
In the bodies of wan Garreteers,
All tatter’d, cold, hungry, by turns sigh and rave
At their Publisher’s bill of arrears.

Diogenes lives in an ambling old Beau;
Plato’s spirit is damp’d in yon fool;
While the soul of Lycurgus to Tyburn must go,
In yon Thief that’s hang’d by his rule.

Longinus now breathes in a Huntsman, and swears
” That each Critic rides over his brother;
” That Muses are jilts, and that poor Garreteers
” Should in Helicon, drown one another. ”

There’s Virgil, the Courtier, with hose out at heel,
And Hesiod, quite shoeless his foot;
Poor Ovid walks shiv’ring, behind a cart-wheel,
While Horace cries, ” sweep for your soot. ”

Fair Julia sees Ovid, but passes him near,
An old broom o’er her shoulder is thrown;
Penelope lends to five lovers an ear,
Walking on with one sleeve to her gown.

But Helen, the Spartan, stands near Charing-Cross,
Long laces and pins doom’d to cry;
Democritus, Solon, bear baskets of moss,
While Pliny sells woodcocks hard by.

In Billingsgate Nell, Clytemnestra moves slow,
All her fishes die quick in the air;
Agamemnon peeps stern, thro’ the eye of old Joe,
At Egysthus, who, grinning, stands there.

Stout Ajax, the form of a butcher now takes,
But the last he past thro’ was a calf;
Yet no revolution his spirit awakes,
For no Troy is remember’d by Ralph.

More modern Voltaire joyless sits on yon bench,
Thin and meagre, bewailing the day
When he gave up his Maker, to humour a wench,
And then left her in doubt and dismay.

Wat Tyler, in Nicholson, dares a King’s life,
At St. James’s the blow was design’d;
But Jove lean’d from heaven, and wrested the knife,
Then in haste lash’d the wings of the wind.

Here’s Trojan, Athenian, Greek, Frenchman and I,
Heav’n knows what I was long ago;
No matter, thus shielded, this age I defy,
And the next cannot wound me, I know.

One Response to Ann Yearsley’s “Addressed to Ignorance”

  1. Pingback: Ann Yearsley – Poet, Mother, Abolitionist, Classicist | Milo and the Calf

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