In my dark Cell, low prostrate on the Ground

First Line In my dark Cell, low prostrate on the Ground
Author Judith Cowper Madan
Date 1727

Epistle [Passions, Sentiments; Love; Death, afterlife]. 

Transcribed from Pattison, William, "Abelard to Eloisa." The poetical works of Mr. William Pattison, late of Sidney College Cambridge, 1727, pp. 67–77. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, GALE|CW0111537979.



In my dark Cell, low prostrate on the Ground,

Mourning my Crimes, thy Letter Entrance found;

Too soon my Soul the well known Name confest,

My beating Heart sprung fiercely in my Breast;

Thro' my whole Frame a guilty Transport glow'd,

And streaming Torrents from my Eyes fast flow'd.


O Eloisa! art thou still the same?

Dost thou still nourish this destructive Flame?

Have not the gentle Rules of Peace, and Heaven

From thy soft Soul this fatal Passion driven?

Alas! I thought you disengag'd, and free,

And can you still, still sigh, and weep for me?

What pow'rful Deity, what hallow'd Shrine,

Can save me from a Love, a Faith, like Thine?

Where shall I fly, when not this awful Cave,

Whose rugged Feet the surging Billows lave;

When not these gloomy Cloister's solemn Walls,

O'er whose rough Sides the languid Ivy crawls;

When my dread Vows, in vain, their Force oppose,

Opposed Love, alas! how vain are Vows!

In fruitless Penance here I wear away

Each tedious Night, each sad revolving Day:

I fast, I pray; and with deceitful Art

Veil thy dear Image from my tortur'd Heart.

My tortur'd Heart conflicting Passions move,

I hope, despair, repent, but still I love.

A thousand jarring Thoughts my Bosom tear,

For Thou, not God, my Eloisè art there.

To the false World's deluding Pleasures dead,

No longer by its wand'ring Fires misled;

In learn'd Disputes, harsh Precepts I infuse,

And give that Counsel, I want Pow'r to use.

The rigid Maxims of the Grave, and Wise,

Have quench'd each milder Sparkle in my Eyes;

Each lovely Feature of this well-known Face,

By Grief revers'd, assumes a sterner Grace:

O Eloisa! would the Fates once more

(Indulgent to thy Wish) this Form restore,

How wouldst thou from these Arms with Horror start,

To miss those Charms, familiar, to thy Heart!

Nought could thy quick, thy piercing Judgment see,

To speak thy Abelard, but Love of thee:

Lean Abstinence, pale Grief, and haggard Care,

The dire Attendants of forlorn Despair;

Have Abelard the gay, the young, remov'd, 

And in the Hermit, sunk the Man you lov'd.


Wrapt in the Gloom these holy Mansions shed,

The thorny Paths of Penitence I tread;

Lost to the World, from all its Interest free,

And torn from all my Soul held dear in thee;

Ambition, with its Train of Frailties, gone,

All Loves, all Forms forgot, but thine alone.


Amidst the Blaze of Day, and Dusk of Night,

My Eloisa rises to my Sight;

Veil'd, as in Paraclete's Sea-bath'd Tow'rs,

The wretched Mourner counts the lagging Hours;

I hear her Sigh, see the swift-falling Tears,

Weep all her Griefs, and pine with all her Cares.

O Vows! O Convents! your stern Force impart,

And frown the melting Phantom from my Heart;

Let other Sighs a worthier Sorrow show,

Let other Tears, for Sin, repentant flow;

Low to the Earth, my guilty Eyes I roll,

And humble to the Dust my contrite Soul.

Forgiving Pow'r! your gracious Call I meet,

Who first impower'd this rebel Heart to beat;

Who thro' this trembling, this offending Frame,

For nobler Ends diffus'd Life's active Flame:

O change the Temper of this throbbing Breast,

And form a-new each beating Pulse to rest!

Let springing Grace, fair Faith and Hope remove,

The fatal Traces of voluptuous Love;

Voluptuous Love from his soft Mansion tear,

And leave no Tracks of Eloisa there.


Are these the Wishes of thy inmost Soul?

Would I its softest tend'rest Peace controul?

Would I, thus touch'd, this gloomy Heart resign

To the cold Substance of the Marble Shrine?

Transform'd like these pale Saints that round me move,

O bless'd Insensibles! that knew not Love!

Ah! rather let me keep this hapless Flame,

Adieu, false Honour, unavailing Fame!

Not your harsh Rules, but tender Love, supplies

The Streams that gush from my despairing Eyes:

I feel the Traytor melt around my Heart,

And thro' my Veins with treach'rous Influence dart!


Inspire me Heav'n! assist me, Grace divine!

Aid me ye Saints! unknown, to Crimes like mine!

You, while on Earth, all Pangs severe could prove,

All but the tort'ring Pangs of hopeless Love.

An holier Rage in your pure Bosoms dwelt,

Nor can you pity what you never felt: 

A sympathizing Grief alone can cure,

The Hand that heals, must feel, what I endure.

Thou Eloisè! alone, canst give me Ease,

And bid my strugling[sic] Soul subside in Peace;

Restore me to my long lost Heav'n of Rest,

And take thy self from my reluctant Breast:

If Crimes, like mine, could an Allay receive,

That bless'd Allay, thy wond'rous Charms must give.

Thy Form, which first my Heart to Love inclin'd,

Still wanders in my lost, my guilty Mind: 

I saw thee as the new-blown Blossoms fair,

Sprightly as Light, and soft as Summer-Air;

Wit, Youth, and Beauty, in each Feature shone,

Bless'd by my Fate, I gaz'd, and was undone!

There dy'd the gen'rous Fire, whose vig'rous Flame,

Enlarg'd my Soul, and urg'd me on to Fame;

Nor Fame, nor Wealth, my soften'd Heart could move,

My Heart, insensible to all but Love!

Snatch'd from myself, my Learning tasteless grew,

And vain, Philosophy, oppos'd to you.


A Train of Woes we mourn; nor should we mourn,

The Hours that cannot, ought not, to return;

As once to Love, I sway'd thy yielding Mind,

Too fond, alas! too fatally inclin'd!

To Virtue now let me thy Breast inspire,

And fan, with Zeal divine, the holy Fire;

Teach you to injur'd Heav'n, all chang'd to turn,

And bid thy Soul with sacred Raptures burn.

O that my own Example could impart

This noble Warmth to thy soft trembling Heart!

That mine, with pious undissembled Care,

Might aid the latent Virtue strugling[sic] there!

Alas, I rave! nor Grace, nor Zeal divine,

Burns in a Breast o'erwhelm'd with Crimes like mine:

Too sure I find (whilst I the Fortune prove

Of feeble Piety, conflicting Love)

On black Despair, my forc'd Devotion built,

Absence, to me, has greater Pangs than Guilt.


Ah! yet, my Eloisè, thy Charms I view,

Yet my Sighs break, and my Tears flow for you;

Each weak Resistance stronger knits my Chain,

I sigh, weep, love, despair, repent in vain!

Haste Eloisa, haste, thy Lover free,

Amidst thy warmer Pray'rs, O think of me!

Wing with Thy rising Zeal my grov'ling Mind,

And let me Mine, from thy Repentance find:

Ah! labour, strive, thy Love, thy self controul,

The Change will sure affect my kindred Soul:

In blest Concert our purer Sighs shall grieve,

And, Heav'n assisting, shall our Crimes forgive.

But if unhappy, wretched, lost in vain,

Faintly th'unequal Combat you sustain:

If not to Heaven you feel your Bosom rise,

Nor Tears, refin'd, fall contrite from your Eyes:

If still thy Heart thy wonted Passions move,

And thy Tongue prompts thy tender Soul to Love;

Deaf to the weak Essays of living Breath,

Attend the stronger Eloquence of Death.


When that kind Pow'r this captive Soul shall free,

(Which, only then, can cease to doat on thee)

When gently sunk to my eternal Sleep,

The Paraclete my peaceful Urn shall keep;

Then Eloisa, then, thy Lover view,

See, these quench'd Eyes, no longer fix'd on you,

From their dead Orbs that tender Uttrance flown,

Which first on Yours my Heart's soft Tales made known.

This Breath no more; at length, to Ease consign'd,

Pant, like light Aspines quiv'ring with the Wind;

See, all my wild tumultuous Passions o'er,

And thou, amazing Scene! belov'd no more: 

Behold the destin'd End of human Love,

But let the Sight thy Zeal alone improve;

Let not thy conscious Soul, with Sorrow mov'd,

Recal how much, how tenderly you lov'd!

With pious Care thy fruitless Grief restrain,

Nor let a Tear thy sacred Veil prophane;

Nor e'en a Sigh on my cold Urn bestow,

But let thy Breath with sacred Rapture glow;

Let Love divine, frail mortal Love, dethrone,

And to thy Mind immortal Joys make known;

Let Heav'n, relenting, strike thy ravish'd View,

And still the bright, the blest Pursuit, renew:

So, with thy Crimes, shall thy Misfortunes cease,

And thy wreck'd Soul be calmly hush'd to Peace.