Ellen Taylor: Irish Woman Poet

Little is known of Ellen Taylor‘s life beyond the facts that she was born in poverty, possibly in Limerick, worked as a servant and was then running a school in Dublin in 1792 when her one book, Poems, by Ellen Taylor, the Irish cottager was printed without her knowledge to try to raise money for her. Of the forty two subscribers, thirty were women.


Thy banks, oh Barrow, sure must be
The Muses’ choicest haunt,
Else why so pleasing thus to me,
Else why my soul enchant?

To view thy dimpled surface here,
Fond fancy bids me stay;
But Servitude, with brow austere,
Commands me straight away.

Were Lethe’s virtues in thy stream,
How freely would I drink,
That not so much as in the name
Of books I e’er might think.

I can but from them learn to know
What misery’s complete,
And feel more sensibly each blow
Dealt by relentless fate.

In them I oft have pleasure found,
But now it’s all quite fled.
With fluttering heart I lay me down,
And rise with aching head.

Or such a turn ill suits the sphere
Of life in which I move,
And rather does a load of care
Than any comfort prove.

Thrice happy she, condemned to move
Beneath the servile weight,
Whose thoughts ne’er soar one inch above
The standard of her fate.

But far more happy is the soul,
Who feels the pleasing sense;
And can indulge without control
Each thought that flows from thence.

Since naught of these my portion is,
But the reverse of each,
That I shall taste but little bliss,
Experience doth me teach.

Could cold insensibility
Through my whole frame take place,
Sure then from grief I might be free:
Yes then I’d hope for peace.


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