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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

To Mrs. Siddons

By Joanna Baillie (1762–1851)

GIFTED of heaven! who hast, in days gone by,

Moved every heart, delighted every eye;

While age and youth, of high and low degree,

In sympathy were joined, beholding thee,

As in the Drama’s ever-changing scene

Thou heldst thy splendid state, our tragic queen!

No barriers there thy fair domains confined,

Thy sovereign sway was o’er the human mind;

And in the triumph of that witching hour,

Thy lofty bearing well became thy power.

The impassioned changes of thy beauteous face,

Thy stately form, and high imperial grace;

Thine arms impetuous tossed, thy robe’s wide flow,

And the dark tempest gathered on thy brow;

What time thy flashing eye and lip of scorn

Down to the dust thy mimic foes have borne;

Remorseful musings, sunk to deep dejection,

The fixed and yearning looks of strong affection;

The active turmoil a wrought bosom rending,

When pity, love, and honor, are contending;—

They who beheld all this, right well, I ween,

A lovely, grand, and wondrous sight have seen.

Thy varied accents, rapid, fitful, slow,

Loud rage, and fear’s snatched whisper, quick and low;

The burst of stifled love, the wail of grief,

And tones of high command, full, solemn, brief;

The change of voice, and emphasis that threw

Light on obscurity, and brought to view

Distinctions nice, when grave or comic mood,

Or mingled humors, terse and new, elude

Common perception, as earth’s smallest things

To size and form the vesting hoar-frost brings,

That seemed as if some secret voice, to clear

The raveled meaning, whispered in thine ear,

And thou hadst e’en with him communion kept,

Who hath so long in Stratford’s chancel slept;

Whose lines, where nature’s brightest traces shine,

Alone were worthy deemed of powers like thine;—

They who have heard all this, have proved full well

Of soul-exciting sound the mightiest spell.

But though time’s lengthened shadows o’er thee glide,

And pomp of regal state is cast aside,

Think not the glory of thy course is spent,

There’s moonlight radiance to thy evening lent,

That to the mental world can never fade,

Till all who saw thee, in the grave are laid.

Thy graceful form still moves in nightly dreams,

And what thou wast, to the lulled sleeper seems;

While feverish fancy oft doth fondly trace

Within her curtained couch thy wondrous face.

Yea; and to many a wight, bereft and lone,

In musing hours, though all to thee unknown,

Soothing his earthly course of good and ill,

With all thy potent charm, thou actest still.

And now in crowded room or rich saloon,

Thy stately presence recognized, how soon

On thee the glance of many an eye is cast,

In grateful memory of pleasures past!

Pleased to behold thee, with becoming grace,

Take, as befits thee well, an honored place;

Where blest by many a heart, long mayst thou stand,

Among the virtuous matrons of our land!