“No respite can I gain”

Annis Boudinot Stockton was one of the best known and accomplished poets in eighteenth century America. The wife of Richard Stockton, a prominent lawyer, delegate to the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, she presided over their home called “Morven,” near Princeton. During the Revolution the British ransacked Stockton’s estate, destroyed his library, drove off his stock, and took him prisoner. The ill effects of captivity and the stress of financial impoverishment took their toll on Stockton’s health, and he succumbed to cancer in 1781. “Confined to the chamber of a dear and dying husband,” Annis gave voice to her grief in this poem:

Sleep, balmy sleep, has clos’d the eyes of all
But me! ah me! no respite can I gain;
Tho’ darkness reigns o’er the terrestrial ball,
Not one soft slumber cheats this vital pain.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
While through the silence of this gloomy night,
My aching heart reverb’rates every groan;
And watching by that glimmering taper’s light,
I make each sigh, each mortal pang my own.
But why should I implore sleep’s friendly aid?
O’er me her poppies shed no ease impart;
But dreams of dear departing joys invade,
And rack with fears my sad prophetick heart.
But vain is prophesy when death’s approach,
Thro’ years of pain, has sap’d a dearer life,
And makes me, coward like, myself reproach,
That e’er I knew the tender name of wife.
Oh! could I take the fate to him assign’d!
And leave the helpless family their head!
How pleas’d, how peaceful, to my lot resign’d,
I’d quit the nurse’s station for the bed.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 7, page 201. For information about Morven, click here.

posted February 2nd, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: British soldiers, Death, Looting, Marriage, Prisoners

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