by: Washington Allston (1779-1843)

      H, censure not the Poet's art,
      Nor think it chills the feeling heart
      To love the gentle Muses.
      Can that which in a stone or flower,
      As if by transmigrating power,
      His gen'rous soul infuses;

      Can that for social joys impair
      The heart that like the lib'ral air
      All Nature's self embraces;
      That in the cold Norwegian main,
      Or mid the tropic hurricane
      Her varied beauty traces;

      That in her meanest work can find
      A fitness and a grace combin'd
      In blest harmonious union,
      That even with the cricket holds,
      As if by sympathy of souls,
      Mysterious communion;

      Can that with sordid selfishness
      His wide-expanded heart impress,
      Whose consciousness is loving;
      Who, giving life to all he spies,
      His joyous being multiplies,
      In youthfulness improving?

      Oh, Lady, then, fair queen of Earth,
      Thou loveliest of mortal birth,
      Spurn not thy truest lover;
      Nor censure him whose keener sense
      Can feel thy magic influence
      Where nought the world discover;

      Whose eye on that bewitching face
      Can every source unnumber'd trace
      Of germinating blisses;
      See Sylphids o'er thy forehead weave
      The lily-fibred film, and leave
      It fix'd with honied kisses;

      While some within thy liquid eyes,
      Like minnows of a thousand dies
      Through lucid waters glancing,
      In busy motion to and fro,
      The gems of diamond-beetles sow,
      Their lustre thus enhancing;

      Here some, their little vases fill'd
      With blushes for thy cheek distill'd
      From roses newly blowing,
      Each tiny thirsting pore supply;
      And some in quick succession by
      The down of peaches strewing;

      There others who from hanging bell
      Of cowslip caught the dew that fell
      While yet the day was breaking,
      And o'er thy pouting lips diffuse
      The tincture--still its glowing hues
      Of purple morn partaking:

      Here some, that in the petals prest
      Of humid honeysuckles, rest
      From nightly fog defended,
      Flutter their fragrant wings between,
      Like humming-birds that scarce are seen,
      They seem with air so blended!

      While some, in equal clusters knit.
      On either side in circles flit,
      Like bees in April swarming,
      Their tiny weight each other lend,
      And force the yielding cheek to bend,
      Thy laughing dimples forming.

      Nor, Lady, think the Poet's eye
      Can only outward charms espy,
      Thy form alone adoring--
      Ah, Lady, no: though fair they be.
      Yet he a fairer sight may see,
      Thy lovely soul exploring:

      And while from part to part it flies
      The gentle Spirit he descries,
      Through every line pursuing;
      And feels upon his nature shower
      That pure, that humanizing power,
      Which raises by subduing.
"To a Lady Who Spoke Slightingly of Poets" is reprinted from The Sylphs of the Season with Other Poems. Washington Allston. Boston: Cummings and Hillard, 1813.




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