Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Appendix II. Poems Printed in the ‘Life of Whittier’
Mrs. Choate’s House-Warming
          [“His washerwoman, Mrs. Choate, by industry and thrift had been enabled to build for her family a comfortable house. When it was ready for occupancy, there was a house-warming, attended by all the neighbors, who brought substantial tokens of their good-will, including all the furniture needed in her new parlor. Mr. Whittier’s hand was to be seen in the whole movement; he was present at the festivity, and made a little speech, congratulating Mrs. Choate upon her well-deserved success in life, and said he would read a piece of machine poetry which had been intrusted to him for the occasion. These are the lines, which were, of course, of his own composition.”—S. T. PICKARD, Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier.]

OF rights and of wrongs
Let the feminine tongues
  Talk on—none forbid it.
Our hostess best knew
What her hands found to do,        5
  Asked no questions, but DID IT.
Here the lesson of work,
Which so many folks shirk,
  Is so plain all may learn it;
Each brick in this dwelling,        10
Each timber is telling,
  If you want a home, EARN IT.
The question of labor
Is solved by our neighbor,
  The old riddle guessed out:        15
The wisdom sore needed,
The truth long unheeded,
  Her flat-iron ’s pressed out!
Thanks, then, to Kate Choate!
Let the idle take note        20
  What their fingers were made for;
She, cheerful and jolly,
Worked on late and early,
  And bought—what she paid for!
Never vainly repining,        25
Nor begging, nor whining;
  The morning-star twinkles
On no heart that ’s lighter
As she makes the world whiter
  And smoothes out its wrinkles.        30
So, long life to Kate!
May her heirs have to wait
  Till they ’re gray in attendance;
And her flat-iron press on,
Still teaching its lesson        35
  Of brave independence!

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