Inscription for an Icehouse

March 24, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

Inscription for an Icehouse

Ann Laetitia Barbauld

Stranger, approach! Within this iron door

Thrice locked and bolted, this rude arch beneath

That vaults with ponderous stone the cell; confined

By man, the great magician, who controuls

Fire, earth and air, and genii of the storm,

To do him service and perform his will,—

A giant sits; stern Winter; here he piles,

While summer glows around, and southern gales

Dissolve the fainting world, his treasured snows

Within the rugged cave. —Stranger, approach!

He will not cramp thy limbs with sudden age,

Nor wither with his touch the coyest flower

That decks thy scented hair. Indignant here,

Like fettered Sampson when his might was spent

In puny feats to glad the festive halls

Of Gaza’s wealthy sons; or he who sat

Midst laughing girls submiss, and paitent twirled

The slender spindle in his sinewy grasp;

The rugged power, fair Pleasure’s minister,

Exerts his art to deck the genial board;

Congeals the melting peach, the nectarine smooth,

Burnishing and glowing from the sunny wall:

Darts sudden frost into the crimson veins

Of the mosit berry; moulds the surgared hail;

Cools with his icy breath our flowing cups;

Or gives to the fresh dairy’s nectared bowls

A quicker zest. Sullen, he plies his task,

And on his shaking fingers counts the wees

Of lingering Summer, midful of this hour

To rush in whirlwinds forth, and rule the year.

(c. 1793, The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1825))


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