Frances Greville: Irish Woman Poet

Frances Greville (c. 1724 – 1789) was born Frances Macartney, daughter of the MP for Longford. She married Foulk Greville and is believed to have contributed to his Maxims Characters and Reflections. She was friendly with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who dedicated his play The Critic to her.

She published very little of her poetry, but Prayer for Indifference was extremely popular and widely reprinted both during her lifetime and since.

Prayer for Indifference

Oft I’ve implored the Gods in vain,
And prayed till I’ve been weary!
For once, I’ll seek my wish to gain
Of Oberon the Fairy!

Sweet airy Being, wanton Spright!
Who liv’st in woods unseen;
And oft, by Cynthia’s silver light,
Tripp’st gaily o’er the green:

If e’er thy pitying heart was moved,
As ancient stories tell,
And for th’ Athenian Maid who loved,
Thou sought’st a wondrous spell;

O, deign once more t’ exert thy power!
Haply, some herb, or tree,
Sovereign as juice from western flower,
Conceals a balm for me.

I ask no kind return in Love;
No tempting charm to please;
Far from the heart such gifts remove,
That sighs for peace and ease.

Nor ease, nor peace, that heart can know,
That, like the needle true,
Turns at the touch of joy or woe;
But, turning, trembles too.

Far as distress the soul can wound,
’Tis pain in each degree;
’Tis bliss but to a certain bound,
Beyond—is agony.

Then take this treacherous sense of mine,
Which dooms me still to smart;
Which pleasure can to pain refine,
To pain new pangs impart.

O, haste to shed the sovereign balm,
My shattered nerves new-string;
And for my guest, serenely calm,
The nymph Indifference bring.

At her approach see hope, see fear,
See expectation fly;
And disappointment in the rear,
That blasts the purposed joy.

The tears which pity taught to flow,
My eyes shall then discern;
The heart that throbbed at others’ woe,
Shall then scarce feel its own.

The wounds which now each moment bleed,
Each moment then shall close;
And tranquil days shall still succeed
To nights of sweet repose.

O, Fairy Elf! but grant me this;
This one kind comfort send;
And so may never-fading bliss,
Thy flowery paths attend.

So may the glow-worm’s glimmering light,
Thy tiny footsteps lead
To some new region of delight,
Unknown to mortal tread.

And be thy acorn goblet filled
With heaven’s ambrosial dew:
From sweetest, freshest flowers distilled,
That shed fresh sweets for you.

And what of life remains for me,
I’ll pass in sober ease;
Half-pleased, contented will I be—
Content, but half to please.


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