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Anna Jane Vardill

On a Lady’s Kaleidoscope

The mighty tube that shares its fame
With good old Galileo’s name,
Compar’d with this, was but a whim
For cloister’d schools and sages grim.
The seer of Florence only car’d
To certify a comet’s beard:
But Art devises this to shew man
The mind of Fashionable Woman.
Has it a gilt exterior?—Well,
It closer makes the parallel:
At safe and modest distance seen,
It seems an exquisite machine,
For science or for genius fit,
To draw things near, like truth and wit;
But look within!—What motley heaps
Of brittle things the covert keeps!
Odd bead, mock jewels, shreds of lace,
All find a temporary place.
What seems a diamond, if you look
Is but a pin’s head or a hook;
A meteor or a star examin’d
Is some poor bauble women cram in’t.
See, thro’ how many thousand changes
Their love or their ambition ranges!
Now in a lover’s knot ’tis set,
Now ’tis a ducal coronet:
Now ribbons of all hues are streaming,
And now a knightly star is gleaming:
Next, the shawl pattern of a Hindu,
And then—a church’s painted window!
Yet seen by love’s light, and afar,
This motley mass seems regular—
Sages to buy the toy desire,
And tho’ they laugh, they still admire.
 But, Ladies! can no other thing
A parallel with Brewster bring?
Yes, one thing more—our little life
Changes as fleetly as a wife,
When first the gay optician Hope
Presents us her Kaleidoscope,
How swift before our dazzled eyes
The ever-moving pageants rise!
As in this toy’s refracted glass,
Chang’d ere they fix, the colours pass:
Modes, pleasures, friendships, schemes, and cares
Fine forms, fine systems, and fine airs,
All in the gaudy wheel revolve,
Shine, mingle, waver, and dissolve.—
Thus Time and Fortune’s turns confuse
All Heraldry’s unnumbered hues,
All the gay baubles mortals prize,
Crowns, garlands, stars, and radiant eyes,
Scarce gaz’d on ere they fade and fall—
A breath, a step reverses all.—
Brief scene, yet beautiful and gay
Why snatch the secret spell away?
Ah! rather worship the illusion
Which dignifies the rich confusion!
Let Mem’ry the bright circle fill,
And turn the lovely prism still.
 Fair mistress of a gayer pow’r,
To wing away the frolic hour,
Transform, by virtue of a trope,
The world to a Kaleidoscope,
Where ever changing Fancy shews
Here rarest shapes and richest hues—
But thy own soul’s bright eye shall be
The best Kaleidoscope for thee.


The European Magazine, Vol. 73, June 1818, pp. 526-527