Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Woman
By James Bowdoin (1727–1790)
 
NATURE, 1 fair creature! when she form’d thy mind,
Form’d thee a fit companion for mankind:
Not merely to excite love’s genial fire;
And with a flood of joy to quench desire:
Nor wantonly to sport the hours away;        5
Nor, like a slave, man’s lawless will obey;
But to assist him in life’s num’rous toils;
To cheer him in misfortune with your smiles;
To soothe his breast when troubles overbear;
And with your love to recompense his care:        10
To raise his drooping spirits in distress;
And with your own promote his happiness.
But who is she whom every grace surrounds;
Whom every grace with all that’s lovely crowns;
By nature form’d to touch a gen’rous breast;        15
By nature form’d to make man amply blest?
Yonder she walks along in virgin bloom:
And where she walks the rose’s sweets perfume.
See from her presence fly ill-boding fear;
And every gloom before her disappear!        20
See innocence with cheerfulness combine,
Sit on her brow, and in her actions shine!
See modesty adorn her lovely cheek,
And in her language and behaviour speak!
See temp’rance in due bounds restrain desire;        25
And give a check to passion’s lawless fire!
Humility and meekness, round her head,
Are as a crown of circling glory spread:
Discretion ripens with her growing years,
And on her brow in sceptred state appears:        30
When scandal tarnishes a rising name,
And throws from tongue to tongue her neighbor’s fame,
Her soul disdains to spread the scandal round;
And, far from wid’ning, strives to heal the wound.
Unrival’d goodness warms her gen’rous breast;        35
And there—its native home—takes up its rest:
O’er her it bears so uncontroll’d a sway,
She thinks all nature does its laws obey:
She harbors no suspicion in her mind;
But judges by herself of all mankind.        40
These virtues, with a graceful freedom crown’d,
Spread far and wide her character around.
Among her virtues prudence bears the sway,
And shines abroad with a distinguish’d ray.
In all she does, it uniformly guides;        45
And o’er her conduct constantly presides.
Softness and love with a majestic mien,
Speak in her eye, and in her looks are seen.
Her tongue harmonious music warbles round;
And on her lips is honey’s sweetness found.        50
Sacred to truth, and by its laws confined,
Her lips impart the language of her mind.
With a becoming grace her words appear;
And, like her honest heart, are all sincere.
By custom and example undecoy’d,        55
With cheerful mind she keeps herself employ’d:
Each day’s revolving sun her task renews;
Nor does her hand the welcome task refuse:
To that—her mind so uniformly bends;
To that, with so much constancy attends;        60
That morning visits (destined to amuse;
To talk of dress, laced waistcoats, and the news;
To spread the scandal of the night before;
And, that once done, prepare the way for more)
Ne’er interrupt the business of the day;        65
Nor by their levity her mind betray:
Much less shall rabbles, which the sex debase,
Or routs, or drums her character disgrace.
By wisdom sway’d, she thus her hours employs;
And thus employ’d, a tranquil mind enjoys:        70
A tranquil mind—that very far outweighs
The applause of crowds; and even her own just praise.
Thus fame from such a course of action springs;
And bears her high upon its rapid wings;
Thus fame, thus inward peace—so heaven ordains—        75
Flows from one source, and lasting strength obtains.
 
Note 1. Bowdoin was born in Boston in 1727. He received his education at Harvard College, and at an early period of life was appointed to many public offices of importance. In 1775 he became President of the Council of Massachusetts, and remained in that station till the adoption of the State Constitution in 1780. He was President of the Convention which formed the constitution of Massachusetts, and in 1785 and 1786, was Governor of the State. He died in 1790. He was a man of extensive literary attainments, and was honored with a Doctor’s degree from several European universities, and created a member of the Royal Societies of London and Dublin. He wrote much on philosophical subjects, and was a principal agent in forming the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at Boston. He was the first President of this institution, and bequeathed it a valuable legacy.
  Among his various pursuits he also cultivated poetry. He contributed to the Pietas et Gratulatio, but his principal work of this kind is an enlarged paraphrase of The Economy of Human Life, published at Boston in 1759. He had a respectable talent as a versifier, though his poetry displays little inventive faculty. [back]
 
 
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