Fitz-Greene Halleck

(1790-1867 / the United States)

A Poet’s Daughter - Poem by Fitz-Greene Halleck

'A lady asks the Minstrel's rhyme.'
A lady asks? There was a time
When, musical as play-bell's chime
To wearied boy,
That sound would summon dreams sublime
Of pride and joy.

But now the spell hath lost its sway,
Life's first-born fancies first decay,
Gone are the plumes and pennon's gay
Of young Romance;
There linger but her ruins gray,
And broken lance.

'Tis a new world—no more to maid,
Warrior or bard, is homage paid;
The bay-tree's, laurel's, myrtle's shade,
Men's thoughts resign;—
Heaven placed us here to vote and trade,
Twin tasks divine!

'Tis youth, 'tis beauty asks,—the green
'And growing leaves of seventeen
'Are round her; and, half hid, half seen,
'A violet flower,
'Nursed by the virtues she hath been
'From childhood's hour.'

Blind passion's Picture,—yet for this
We woo the life-long bridal kiss,
And blend our every hope of bliss
With her's we love;
Unmindful of the serpent's hiss
In Eden's grove.

Beauty—the fading rainbow's pride,
Youth—'twas the charm of her who died
At dawn, and by her coffin's side
A grandsire stands,
Age-strengthened, like the oak storm-tried
Of mountain lands.

Youth's coffin—hush the tale it tells,
Be silent, memory's funeral bells!
Lone in one heart, her home, it dwells
Untold till death,
And where the grave-mound greenly swells
O'er buried faith.

'But what if her's are rank and power,
'Armies her train, a throne her bower,
'A kingdom's gold her marriage dower,
'Broad seas and lands?
'What if from bannered hall and tower
'A queen commands?'

A queen? Earth's regal moons have set.
Where perished Marie Antoinette?
Where's Bordeaux's mother? Where the jet-
Black Haytian dame?
And Lusitania's coronet?
And Angoulème?

Empires to-day are upside down,
The castle kneels before the town,
The monarch fears a printer's frown,
A brickbat's range;
Give me, in preference to a crown,
Five shillings change.

'But her who asks, though first among
'The good, the beautiful, the young,
'the birthright of a spell more strong
'Than these have brought her;
'She is your kinswoman in song,
'A Poet's daughter.'

A Poet's daughter? Could I claim
The consanguinity of fame,
Veins of my intellectual frame!
Your blood would glow
Proudly to sing that gentlest name
Of aught below.

A Poet's daughter—dearer word
Lip hath not spoke nor listener heard,
Fit theme for song of bee and bird
From morn till even,
And wind-harp by the breathing stirred
Of star-lit heaven.

My spirit's wings are weak, the fire
Poetic comes but to expire,
Her name needs not my humble lyre
To bid it live;
She hath already from her sire
All bard can give.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010



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