Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

“Address’d to a Canary Bird”

Since April is poetry month, it is only right that a poem or two appear on this blog. Hannah Lawrence (1758-1838) was the high-spirited, independent-minded daughter of John Lawrence, a New York City Quaker and merchant. In spite of the fact that her sympathies were with the Americans during the Revolution, she married Jacob Shieffelin, a Philadelphia-born loyalist serving in the British army during the occupation of New York City. Against her father’s wishes and the members of the Quaker meeting, it should be said. (See another post about Hannah Lawrence Schieffelin here). Hannah was a poet. Under the name of Mathilda, she wrote in 1774:

Address’d to a Canary Bird.

Pensive warbler cease thy fear
Charmer there’s no danger near
Rest contented, quite secure
From the Ills thy race endure.
If you wing the open air
Ah! what woes await you there!
All the agonizing pains
That the Parents heart sustains
When some Cruel Bird of prey
Bears your new-fledged young away.
Though the skies are now serene
Soon a cloud may change the scene,
Sudden furious winds arise,
Vapours sadden all the Skies
Fiery pointed lights display
Through the gloom a dismal day.
Tremendous thunders roar aloud
From the dark and threatning cloud:
Where, dear trembler, wouldst thou fly
From the inclement raging Sky?
With the object of thy love
Wouldst thou seek the shady grove,
If it, haply kind, will grant
The needful shelter that you want.
Lovly warbler, rest content,
All those cruel Ills prevent.

The poem is from Notebook of Poems by Matilda New York 1774, number I, in the Schieffelin Papers, Box 7, New York Public Library, Manuscripts.

posted April 2nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Poetry,Schieffelin, Hannah Lawrence

“I have spent this morning in reading . . . “

Fragments of the Journal of a Young Lady of Virginia, written by Lucinda Lee Orr to her friend Polly on visits to relatives and friends in Lower Virginia in 1782, show that reading novels had become a pastime of young women and a subject of their correspondence.
From “The Wilderness”, residence of John Grymes, Esq.(one of this family was Gen. Robert Lee’s grandmother) Orr writes to “my dearest Polly” on September 20.

I have spent this morning in reading Lady Julia Mandeville, and was much affected. Indeed, I think I never cried more in my life reading a Novel: the stile is beautiful, but the tale is horrid. I reckon you have read it. Some one just comes to tell us A Mr. Masenbird and Mr. Spotswood is come. We must go down, but I am affraid both Sister’s and my eyes will betray us.

Orr writing from “Belleview”, residence of Thomas Ludwell Lee to Polly

Sept. 25
The Company is all gone, and I have seated myself to converse with my Polly. Mrs. A. Washington has lent me a new Novel, called Victoria. I can’t say I admire the Tale, though I think it prettyly told. There is a verse in it I wish you much to read. I believe, if I a’n’t too Lazy, I will copy it off for you: the verse is not very butifull, but the sense is, I assure you.

Lucinda writing from Chantilly, the residence of Richard H. Lee.

October 6
I have been very agreeably entertained this evening, reading a Novel called Malvern Dale. It is something like Evelina, though not so pretty.

I have a piece of advice to give you, which I have before urged—that is, to read something improving. Books of instruction will be a thousand times more pleasing [after a little while] than all the novels in the World. I own myself, I am too fond of Novel-reading; but, by accustoming myself to reading other Books, I have become less so, and I wish my Polly to do the same.

Writing from Lee Hall, the residence of Richard Lee.

To-day is rainy and disagreeable, which will prevent their comeing from Bushfield. I have entertained myself all day reading Telemachus. It is really delightful, and very improveing. Just as I have seated myself they are come to tell me tea is ready. Farewell.

Nov. 5
I have, for the first time in my life, just read Pope’s Eloiza. Just now I saw it laying in the Window. I had heard my Polly extol it frequently, and curiosity lead me to read it. I will give you my opinion of it: the poetry I think beautiful, but do not like some of the sentiments. Some of Eloiza’s is too Ammorous for a female, I think.

Nov. 12
We are going to seat ourselves and hear Mr. Pinkard read a Novel.

Lucinda Lee Orr’s Journal had been printed and published For the benefit of the Lee Memorial Association of Richmond ( Baltimore: John Murphy and Company, 1871). The Journal can be found online HERE.The History of Lady Julia Mandeville by Frances Brooke is written as a series of letters by the widow Lady Anne Wlmot and Harry Mandeville. It was published in 1763. The book can be read HERE. You can read hear it read HERE. The illustration is on the cover of a recent edition.

posted July 21st, 2014 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Poetry

“the first martyr for the common good”

Black poet Phillis Wheatley wrote a poem about the four men killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre—a fifth died the next day— (see previous post). These men are considered to be the first martyrs to the American cause. But Wheatley wrote another poem about about a boy whom she called “the first martyr for the common good”. In “On the Death of Mr. Snider Murder’d by Richardson,” she gives an account of a boy named Christopher Snider (or Seider), killed two weeks before the Massacre.

Ebenezer Richardson was an informer for the British who passed along the names of Americans who were smuggling goods into the country without paying duties. On February 22, 1770, surrounded by an angry mob and fearing for his life, Richardson fired into the crowd killing Christopher Snider, a boy of eleven or twelve, the son of a German immigrant. Here is what Wheatley wrote.

In heavens eternal court it was decreed
Thou the first martyr for the common good
Long hid before, a vile infernal here
Prevents Achilles in his mid career
Where’er this fury darts his Pois’nous breath
All are endanger’d to the shafts of death
The generous Sires beheld the fatal wound
Saw their young champion gasping on the ground
They rais’d him up but to each present ear
What martial glories did his tongue declare
The wretch appal’d no longer can despise
But from the Striking victim turns his eyes—
When this young martial genius did appear
The Tory chief no longer could forbear.
Ripe for destruction, see the wretches doom
He waits the curses of the age to come
In vain he flies, by Justice Swiftly chaced
With unexpected infamy disgraced
By Richardson for ever banish’d here
The grand Usurpers bravely vaunted Heir.
We bring the body from the watry bower
To lodge it where it shall remove no more
Snider behold with what Majestic Love
The Illustrious retinue begins to move
With Secret rage fair freedom’s foes beneath
See in thy corse ev’n Majesty in Death.

Wheatley’s poem can be found HERE.

“Dear to your Country shall your Fame extend”

Phillis Wheatley, considered the first black poet in America (see posts concerning her here, here, here, and here), was an enslaved servant who at the age of seventeen was living in Boston with her owners, the Wheatleys, on the corner of King Street and Mackeral Lane not far from where the Boston Massacre took place on March 5, 1770. A poem attributed to her, “On the Affray in King Street, on the Evening of the 5th of March 1770” was published in the Boston Evening-Post on March 12. Her sympathies clearly lie with the Patriot cause. A transcription follows the image.

With Fire enwrapt, surcharged with sudden Death,
Lo, the pois’d Tube convolves it’s fatal Breath!
The flying Ball with heav’n-directed Force.
Rids the free Spirit of it’s fallen Corse.
Well fated Shades! let no unmanly Tear
From Pity’s Eye, distain your honour’d Bier:
Lost to their View, surviving Friends may mourn,
Yet o’er thy Pile shall Flames celestial burn;
Long as in Freedom’s Cause the Wise contend.
Dear to your Country shall your Fame extend;
While to the World, the letter’d Stone shall tell,
How Caldwell, Attucks, Grey and Mav’rick fell.

James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks (a mulatto), Samuel Grey, and Samuel Maverick, referred to in the poem, died immediately. A fifth, Patrick Carr, died the next day.

The image is from the Boston Evening-Post, 12 March 1770.

“the most reviled poem in African-American literature”

April is National Poetry Month which means that I can post another verse by Phillis Wheatley. In 1761, a girl of about seven was kidnapped in Africa and put aboard a slave ship bound for Boston. There merchant John Wheatley purchased her as a companion for his wife. Phillis was the name of the ship that brought her to that city; her surname was that of her master. (See other posts about Wheatley here, here, and here.) Phillis’s interest in and aptitude for learning was soon recognized and encouraged. Her first poem was published in a Newport newspaper when she was about thirteen. She continued to write poems, and an English benefactor agreed to underwrite the publication of a book, Poems on Various Subjects, in London in 1773. Wheatley’s poems are full of classical references as was typical at the time. Religion also figures prominently: Phillis became a devoted Christian. The following verse by Wheatley has been described by the African-American historian Henry Louis Gates as “the most reviled poem in African-American literature” because it justifies slavery if it is the means whereby slaves become Christian.

Information about Wheatley including the quoted verse can be found HERE.

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