To the Right Hon. Lady Anne Coventry

by William Somervile

William Somervile

Upon viewing her fine Chimney piece of Shell-work.

The greedy merchant ploughs the sea for gain,
And rides exulting o'er the watery plain,
While howling tempests, from their rocky bed,
Indignant break around his careful head.
The royal fleet the liquid waste explores,
And speaks in thunder to the trembling shores;
The voice of wrath awak'd the nations hear,
The vanquish'd hope, and the proud victors fear;
Those quit their chain, and these resign their palm,
While Britain's awful flag commands a calm.
The curious sage nor gain nor fame pursues,
With other eyes the boiling deep he views,
Hangs o'er the cliff, inquisitive to know
The secret causes of its ebb and flow,
Whence breathe the winds that ruffle its smooth face;
Or ranks in classes all the fishy race,
From those enormous monsters of the main,
Who in their world like other tyrants reign,
To the poor cockle tribe, that humble band,
Who cleave to rocks, or loiter on the strand.
Yet ev'n their shells the forming hand divine
Has, with distinguish'd lustre, taught to shine.
What bright enamel! and what various dyes!
What lively tints delight our wondering eyes!
The' Almighty painter glows in every line.
How mean, alas! is Raphael's bold design,
And Titian's colouring, if compar'd to thine!
Justly Supreme! let us thy pow'r revere;
Thou fill'st all space; all-beauteous every where.
Thy rising sun with blushes paints the morn,
Thy shining lamps the face of night adorn;
Thy flowers the meads, thy nodding trees the hills,
The vales thy pastures green, and bubbling rills,
Thy coral groves, thy rocks, that amber weep,
Deck all the gloomy mansions of the deep;
The yellow sands distinct with golden ore,
And these, thy variegated shells, the shore.
To all thy works such grandeur hast thou lent,
And such extravagance of ornament,
For the false traitor man? This pomp and show,
A scene so gay! for us poor worms below?
No — for thy glory all these beauties rise,
Yet may improve the good, instruct the wise.
You, Madam, sprung from Beaufort's royal line,
Who, lost to courts, can in your closet shine,
Best know to use each blessing he bestows,
Best know to praise the Pow'r from whence it flows.
Shells in your hand the Parian rock defy,
Or agate or Egyptian porphyry —
More glossy they, their veins of brighter dye.
See! where your rising pyramids aspire,
Your guests, surpris'd, the shining pile admire!
In future times, if some great Phidias rise,
Whose chisel with his mistress Nature vies,
Who, with superior skill can lightly trace
In the hard marble block the softest face;
To crown this piece, so elegantly neat,
Your well-wrought busto shall the whole complete;
O'er your own work from age to age preside,
Its author once, and then its greatest pride.

Last updated October 28, 2017