Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Woman
By William Boyd (1777–1800)
 
  WHEN 1 time was young, and nature first began
To form this odd, fantastic being, man,
She rack’d her fancy to invent a joy
Unknown before, to please the smiling boy.
Her choicest viands from the field she brought,        5
Cherish’d each herb, and all their uses taught;
Press’d the cold earth, and bade the fountain pour
Its stream meandering to the distant shore.
To cheer the day and banish every pain,
She spread luxuriance o’er the festive plain,        10
Smiled on the scene, and call’d the choirist’s song
To sweeten pleasure, and the joy prolong.
  Though far around was pour’d the plenteous tide,
No charm forgotten, and no bliss denied;
Though rich profusion lavish’d all its store,        15
Man saw the tasteless sweets, and pined for more.
Still anxious care his feeling heart oppress’d,
And pensive languor rankled on his breast.
The plague ennui his dearest joys had stole,
And solitude’s cold pleasure chill’d his soul.        20
Parental care again the task renew’d,
Again each art, with fondest zeal pursued;
From opening roses cull’d the blushing dye,
And the mild lustre of the new-born sky;
From every sweet expanding to the view        25
The magic power a soft perfection drew;
Bestow’d each grace, that nicest skill could give,
And call’d the lovely composition, Eve.
  The winning fair, from nature’s wardrobe dress’d,
By heaven applauded, and by man caress’d,        30
Each melting charm with artless pride display’d,
In form an angel, and in heart a maid.
Now pleasure, chaste as virtue’s self could feign,
Refined the heart and warm’d the lingering vein;
Each joy complete; and man exulting wove        35
The silken fetters of connubial love.
  Had heaven’s behest in providence denied
Nature’s best gift, and man’s too charming pride,
No gentle tie the savage breast could bind,
And instinct only rule the vacant mind.        40
Enchanting woman bade an Eden smile,
Where the rough glebe defied the laborer’s toil;
On the bare rock a pleasing banquet spread,
And taught the flint to yield a downy bed.
  The happy peasant climbs the mountain’s brow,        45
Builds on the cliff, nor asks the plain below;
Content and peace beneath the tempest dwell,
And lovely woman cheers the humble cell.
  In softer climes, where beams a milder ray,
Where laughing fields enjoy eternal May,        50
Enlighten’d man, to female merit true,
Has paid the homage to perfection due.
The hardy veteran quits the fatal plain,
Where laurell’d honor strode amid the slain;
To gentler passions yields the willing heart,        55
Bows to the fair, and owns the pleasing smart.
  The sceptred despot, now no longer proud,
Deserts the throne, and leaves the fawning crowd,
Himself a suppliant, to the fair he flies,
Lives in her smile, and in her frown he dies.        60
  Empires and states in maddening discord rage,
Forget affection, and the combat wage
For some fair she, whom artful man beguiled,
And Troy expires, because a Helen smiled.
  Cornelia’s worth shall grace th’ historic page,        65
And all her virtues live to latest age;
A shining portrait e’er held up to life,
An ancient model for a modern wife.
The modest matron, far from public show,
Bent the young mind, and taught the heart to grow;        70
Deep in the nursery’s shade unenvied shone,
Nor wish’d the gewgaws of the world her own.
No diamond there its blazing lustre shed,
No toilet splendor to the eye was spread;
The infant’s prattle, and the winning play,        75
With dearer joys beguiled the tedious day,
Than tinsell’d show and fading wealth impart,
These charm the head, but those delight the heart.
  Far to the north, where Lapland deserts lie,
A waste unpitied by the inclement sky,        80
The savage boor, to sympathy unknown,
And mutual pleasures, which decrease his own,
Stretch’d at his ease, neglects the husband’s care,
While menial labors grind the hapless fair.
  From Afric sands, where Siroc’s poisonous breath        85
Blasts the young herb, and teems with wasting death,
To the mild clime where Ganges laves the plain,
Where smiling spring and whispering zephyrs reign,
Still lives this truth, by savage man confess’d,
Woman beloved, yet woman the oppress’d.        90
  The Turk, a tyrant to the captive maid,
Confines her beauties to the haram’s shade;
There, on its wall each dastard act engraved,
He counts his glories by the fair enslaved.
The jealous knave would tame a female’s hate        95
With splendid trifles and the charms of state;
With regal pride the lover’s warmth would give,
And in a prison bid affection live.
Preposterous thought! where slavery’s galling chain
Chills the young wish, and turns each joy to pain,        100
Love, free as air, from cursed oppression flies,
Pines at the fetter, and imprison’d dies.
  In milder Europe, when the infant ray
Of pure refinement beam’d uncertain day,
The hapless fair each humble labor plied,        105
And cold neglect attended at her side.
Now genial science, on the mind has shone,
Its rigor soften’d, and its passions won;
Now female worth shall honest praise assume,
Nor fade neglected in the cloister’s gloom.        110
  Columbia hail! along thy favor’d shore,
The fiend oppression shall be heard no more:
No tyrant lord, with jealous fear, shall bind
The soft affections of the female mind;
No groveling wretch with impious zeal shall dare,        115
Assault the rights of heaven-protected fair.
  Soon shall the world receive the generous fire,
Blush at its follies, and the fair admire;
Soon shall the time, by ancient bards foretold,
A joyful era to the heart unfold;        120
When female worth with purest beam shall shine,
Nor rival man with sordid envy pine;
When mutual pleasures undisturb’d shall roll,
And the rude Arab own a woman’s soul.
 
Note 1. Boyd was born in 1777. He was graduated at Harvard College in 1796, and had nearly completed a course of medical studies, when he was seized with a consumption, of which he died January 13th, 1800, in his 24th year. He published at the age of nineteen, a poem, entitled “Woman,” delivered by him at a public exhibition at college. [back]
 
 
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