As the author was discharging his Pistols in a Garden, Two Ladies passing near the spot were alarmed by the sound of a Bullet hissing near them, to one of whom the following stanzas were addressed the next morning. 2
Doubtless, sweet girl! the hissing lead,
Wafting destruction o'er thy charms i
And hurtling o'er 3 thy lovely head,
Has fill'd that breast with fond alarms.
Surely some envious Demon's force,
Vex'd to behold such beauty here,
Impell'd the bullet's viewless course,
Diverted from its first career.
Yes! in that nearly fatal hour,
The ball obey'd some hell-born guide;
But Heaven, with interposing power,
In pity turn'd the death aside.
Yet, as perchance one trembling tear
Upon that thrilling bosom fell;
Which 'I', th' unconscious cause of fear,
Extracted from its glistening cell; -
Say, what dire penance can atone
For such an outrage, done to thee?
Arraign'd before thy beauty's throne,
What punishment wilt thou decree?
Might I perform the Judge's part,
The sentence I should scarce deplore;
It only would restore a heart,
Which but belong'd to 'thee' before.
The least atonement I can make
Is to become no longer free;
Henceforth, I breathe but for thy sake,
Thou shalt be 'all in all' to me.
But thou, perhaps, may'st now reject
Such expiation of my guilt;
Come then - some other mode elect?
Let it be death - or what thou wilt.
Choose, then, relentless! and I swear
Nought shall thy dread decree prevent;
Yet hold - one little word forbear!
Let it be aught but banishment.
Footnote 1: This title first appeared in "Contents" to 'P. on V. Occasions'.
Footnote 2: The occurrence took place at Southwell, and the beautiful lady to whom the lines were addressed was Miss Houson, who is also commemorated in the verses "To a Vain Lady" and "To Anne." She was the daughter of the Rev. Henry Houson of Southwell, and married the Rev. Luke Jackson. She died on Christmas Day, 1821, and her monument may be seen in Hucknall Torkard Church.
Footnote 3: This word is used by Gray in his poem to the Fatal Sisters: -
"Iron-sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darken'd air."
Footnote i: 'near thy charms'.. 'P. on V. Occasions'.