Great Poems by American Women

Great Poems by American Women by Susan L. Rattiner

Book: Great Poems by American Women by Susan L. Rattiner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan L. Rattiner
floating hair!
To gladly, gleefully do your best
To blow her against the young man’s breast,
Where he as gladly folded her in,
And kissed her mouth and her dimpled chin?
    Ah! Ellery Vane, you little thought,
An hour ago, when you besought
This country lass to walk with you,
After the sun had dried the dew,
What perilous danger you’d be in,
As she tied her bonnet under her chin!

    Born in Cermantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott was educated by her father, Bronson Alcott. She began to write for publication at the age of sixteen. Her first book, Flower Fables, was published when she was twenty-two. Her poems and short stories were often printed in the Atlantic Monthly. Much of Alcott’s work was autobiographical; her job as a volunteer nurse in the Union Hospital during the Civil War resulted in Hospital Sketches (1863). Alcott’s fame is centered on her novel Little Women (1868), which tells of her own family life. The book became tremendously popular, and started a series of sequels, among them Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Alcott supported both women’s suffrage and the temperance movement.
    Thoreau’s Flute
    We, sighing, said, “Our Pan is dead;
    His pipe hangs mute beside the river;
    Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
    But Music’s airy voice is fled.
    Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
    The bluebird chants a requiem;
    The willow-blossom waits for him;—
    The Genius of the wood is lost.”
    Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
    There came a low, harmonious breath:
    â€œFor such as he there is no death;
    His life the eternal life commands;
    Above man’s aims his nature rose:
    The wisdom of a just content
    Made one small spot a continent,
    And turned to poetry Life’s prose.
    â€œHaunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
    Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
    To him grew human or divine,—
    Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
    Such homage Nature ne’er forgets,
    And yearly on the coverlid
    â€™Neath which her darling lieth hid
    Will write his name in violets.
    â€œTo him no vain regrets belong,
    Whose soul, that finer instrument,
    Gave to the world no poor lament,
    But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
    O lonely friend! he still will be
    A potent presence, though unseen,—
    Steadfast, sagacious, and serene:
    Seek not for him,—he is with thee.”

    Using the pseudonym “Xariffa,” Mary Ashley Townsend contributed a series of essays entitled “Quillotypes” to the New Orleans Delta . She also published articles in the Crescent under the name “Mary Ashley” and sent in letters about her trip to Mexico. Her first book was a novel, and was followed by Xariffa’s Poems (1870). The Captain’s Story (1874), a dramatic verse about a white man who discovers his mother was biracial, was highly praised by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Down the Bayou and Other Poems (1881) contained “Creed,” her most well-known poem at the time. Married with three daughters, Townsend was chosen to write for the New Orleans Cotton Exposition, and was the first American woman to be a member of the Liceo Hidalgo, a literary club in Mexico.
    I believe if I should die,
And you should kiss my eyelids when I lie
Cold, dead, and dumb to all the world contains,
The folded orbs would open at thy breath,
And, from its exile in the isles of death,
Life would come gladly back along my veins.
    I believe if I were dead,
And you upon my lifeless heart should tread,
Not knowing what the poor clod chanced to be,
It would find sudden pulse beneath the touch
Of him it ever loved in life so much,
And throb again, warm, tender, true to thee.
    I believe if on my grave,
Hidden in woody deeps or by the wave,
Your eyes should drop some warm tears of regret,
From every salty seed of your dear grief,
Some fair, sweet blossom would

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