Constantia Grierson: Irish Woman Poet

Constantia Grierson (1706-1733) was born in relative poverty in Co Kilkenny, her maiden name being Crawley. She was a primarily self-taught scholar of Greek, Latin, Hebrew and French. She moved to Dublin when she was 18 and probably married George Grierson, a printer and publisher and edited many of the books he published.

In Dublin she became friendly with Mary Barber and Jonathan Swift, amongst others. Her surviving poems are found in the 1775 collection Poems by the most eminent ladies of Great Britain and Ireland and in Robert Southey’s Specimens of the Later English Poets: With Preliminary Notices, Volume 1, from which the poem below is taken

The Speech of Cupid, upon seeing himself painted by the Honourable Miss Carteret, (now Countess of Dysert,) on a Fan.

In various forms have I been shown,
Though little yet to mortals known;
In antient Temples painted blind,
Nor less imperfect in my mind:
Abroad I threw my random darts.
And, spiteful, pierced ill-suited hearts:
The steady Patriot, wise and brave,
Is to some giddy jilt a slave;
The thoughtful Sage oft weds a shrew;
And vestals languish for a beau:
The fiery youth’s unguided rage;
The childish dotages of age;
These, and ten thousand follies more.
Ate placed to injured Cupid’s score.
As such, is Love by realms adored.
As such, his giddy aid implored:
Tho’ oft the thoughtless nymph, and swain.
That sued me thus, have sued in vain.
Yet, long insulted by mankind,
Who from false figures judged my mind;
And on me all the faults have thrown.
They were themselves ashamed to own;
I from this picture plainly see,
A mortal can be just to me;
That awful sweetness can display.
With which angelick minds I sway;
With which I rule the good on earth.
And give exalted passions birth:
The form of Love, so long unknown,
At last by bright Clarissa’s shown:
Her hand does every beauty trace
That can adorn a heavenly face;
And of my graces more unfold.
Than ever paint, or verse, of old.
Now hear the God, whom worlds revere.
What He decrees for her declare,
Thou, lovely nymph! shalt shortly prove
Those sweets, thou paint’st so well in love:
Thou soon that charming swain shalt see.
Whom Fate and I design for thee;
His head adorn’d with every art;
“With every grace his glowing heart.
That throbs with every fond desire.
Thy charms can raise, or Love inspire.
You from each other shall receive
The highest joys I know to give:
(Tho’ to thy parents, long before,
I thought I empty’d all my store)
While your exalted lives shall show
A sketch of heavenly bliss below;
The bliss of every godlike mind,
Beneficent to human kind;
And I to mortals shine confess’d
Both in your paint, and in your breast.

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