poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld


For man's support I came at first from earth,
But man perverts the purpose of my birth;
Beneath his plastic hand new forms I take,
And either sex my services partake;
The flowing lawn in stricter folds I hold,
And bind in chains unseen each swelling fold;
The band beneath the double chin I grace,
And formal plaits that edge the Quaker's face:
By me great Bess, who used her maids to cuff,
Shone in the dignity of full-quilled ruff.—
Such is my whole;—but, parted and disjoined,
New wonders in my varying form you'll find.
What makes the cit look big with conscious worth;
What bursts from pale surprise or boisterous mirth;
The sweep Rialto forms, or your fair brow—
The fault to youthful valour we allow;
A word by which possession we denote,
A letter high in place and first in note;
What guards the beauty from the scorching ray;
What little master first is taught to say;
Great Nature's rival, handmaid, sometimes foe;
The most pathetic counterpart of “Oh!”
The whiskered pilferer and her foe demure;
The lamps unbought which light the houseless poor;
What bore famed heroes through the ranks of war;
What's heard when falls from high the ponderous jar;
What holy Paul did at Gamaliel's feet—
What Bavius writes, what schoolboys love to eat;
Of eager gamesters what decides the fate;
The homely rough support of Britain's state;
What, joined to “been,” is fatal to a toast;
What guards the sailor from the shelving coast;
The stage whence villains make their last harangue;
What in your head and bones gives many a pang;
What introduces long-tailed similes;
A preposition that to place agrees;
A stately animal in forests bred,
A tree that lifts on high its lofty head;
What best unbinds the weary student's mind
A beauteous fish in northern lakes we find;
A grateful blemish on a soldier's breast:—
All these are in my single name exprest.

Poem Submitted: Monday, September 6, 2010

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