Saturday, October 22, 2011

All Thy Greatness and Thy Coldness Too

A Hymn to the Moon
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Written in July, in an arbour

Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,
The Lover's guardian, and the Muse's aid!
By thy pale beams I solitary rove,
To thee my tender grief confide;
Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,
My friend, my goddess, and my guide.
E'en thee, fair queen, from thy amazing height,
The charms of young Endymion drew;
Veil'd with the mantle of concealing night;
With all thy greatness and thy coldness too.

Lady Mary was best known in her lifetime as the author of the Turkish Embassy Letters, which she wrote from Istanbul when her husband was stationed there as Britain's ambassador. By satirizing Alexander Pope in one of these, she incurred Pope's enmity; he attacks her in several works. At a later date she somehow managed to get Horace Walpole angry at her, as well. She is perhaps best known now for being the primary introducer and enthusiastic promoter of the variolation method of smallpox vaccination -- originally a Turkish practice -- in the West.

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