Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Amy Wentworth
By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
HER fingers shame the ivory keys
  They dance so light along;
The bloom upon her parted lips
  Is sweeter than the song.
 
O perfumed suitor, spare thy smiles!        5
  Her thoughts are not of thee:
She better loves the salted wind,
  The voices of the sea.
 
Her heart is like an outbound ship
  That at its anchor swings;        10
The murmur of the stranded shell
  Is in the song she sings.
 
She sings, and, smiling, hears her praise,
  But dreams the while of one
Who watches from his sea-blown deck        15
  The icebergs in the sun.
 
She questions all the winds that blow,
  And every fog-wreath dim,
And bids the sea-birds flying north
  Bear messages to him.        20
 
She speeds them with the thanks of men
  He perilled life to save,
And grateful prayers like holy oil
  To smooth for him the wave.
 
Brown Viking of the fishing-smack!        25
  Fair toast of all the town!—
The skipper’s jerkin ill beseems
  The lady’s silken gown!
 
But ne’er shall Amy Wentworth wear
  For him the blush of shame        30
Who dares to set his manly gifts
  Against her ancient name.
 
The stream is brightest at its spring,
  And blood is not like wine;
Nor honored less than he who heirs        35
  Is he who founds a line.
 
Full lightly shall the prize be won,
  If love be Fortune’s spur;
And never maiden stoops to him
  Who lifts himself to her.        40
 
Her home is brave in Jaffrey Street,
  With stately stairways worn
By feet of old Colonial knights
  And ladies gentle-born.
 
Still green about its ample porch        45
  The English ivy twines,
Trained back to show in English oak
  The herald’s carven signs.
 
And on her, from the wainscot old,
  Ancestral faces frown,—        50
And this has worn the soldier’s sword,
  And that the judge’s gown.
 
But, strong of will and proud as they,
  She walks the gallery-floor
As if she trod her sailor’s deck        55
  By stormy Labrador!
 
The sweet-brier blooms on Kittery-side,
  And green are Elliot’s bowers;
Her garden is the pebbled beach,
  The mosses are her flowers.        60
 
She looks across the harbor-bar
  To see the white gulls fly;
His greeting from the Northern sea
  Is in their clanging cry.
 
She hums a song, and dreams that he,        65
  As in its romance old,
Shall homeward ride with silken sails
  And masts of beaten gold!
 
O, rank is good, and gold is fair,
  And high and low mate ill;        70
But love has never known a law
  Beyond its own sweet will!
 
 
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