AND Sonnets.

by Cornwall Bayley


On the SYSTEM of EDUCATION prevalent in NEW YORK.

    It is most earnestly requested, that malicious motives, and ill-natured Satire will not be attributed to the author of the following lines.

NOW were Columbia’s struggling triumphs done,
And fix’d her power in Gun-boat number one;
And now her offspring freed from toils of war
Cherish’d refinement, and bless’d Segar!

First where New-York her various tribute pours,
She rais’d on high her Academic towr’s;
There bid the child assume the manly gown,*
Hail’d him “Collegian” thro’ the wondring town,
And e’re a razor o’er his cheeks had ran,
Told him ’twas finish’d—and proclaim’d him man!
Next lest her sons, should share that rust of mind
Which Cam’s dull race, and Oxford’s pedants find;
Columbia taught her boys with dextrous care
To braid the ringlets of their flowing hair;
Taught them in Fashion’s elegance to move,
Then bade them dance, and learn the laws of love;
Hence flows the dying verse from stripling swains
Hence am’rous ditties and poetic strains;
Hence books and nymphs by turns prepar’d to charm,
Claim the boy’s looks, and rivals, share his arm;
Whilst Cupid’s shafts by wondrous change beguil’d,
Forget their aim and pierce a brother—child!

Next too another task required her toil,
To plant ideas in a female soil;
For this she culls the fairest flowers of France,
To teach them language and to rule the Dance;
For this she shews them how to claim applause
From Mantua’s skill in tinsel and in gauze;
Whence Mother Eve, like them could never bless
The fig-leaf elegance of muslin dress;
Whence thro’ the veil too delicately—fine
Exulting beauty marks the waving line;
Whence too tis prov’d how much they smile at Death,
How lightly hold the value of their breath;
How midst the piercing blast they ne’er complain,
Tho’ sure of fevers and consumptive pain. [Page 35]

Nay further—as Columbia’s ruling choice;
Is Independence and the People’s voice;
As once she urg’d her Citizens should speak
In pure dissent from England, Ancient Greek;
So too ’tis her’s on learning’s stablish’d throne,
To raise a feudal system of her own!
Chilton, (she cries) O! thou whose pow’rs divine
“Can trace the stars and count them as they shine,
“Thou by whom seeming inconsistencies,
“Are nicely solv’d by A’s and B’s;
“Lo here thy charge,—be thine this band of youth,
“Bind on their hearts each philosophic truth;
“Shew them the paths thy toiling footsteps trod,
“And teach them nature’s laws and nature’s God!”

Columbia spake—and lo! the task was done,*
Chilton was ready—and his school begun;
In vain the youths who deem’d their rights infring’d,
And all their doors of lawful art unhing’d;
Cry for revenge—dip their rude pens in gall,
And on the flock with doggrel weapons fall;
In vain afar the hue and cry they raise,
In vain attempt to make the Hudson blaze;
Nay tho’ each press with daily labor teems,
In serious prose, or loose poetic themes;
Yet—all his dangers—all his combats pass’d;
Still Chilton triumphs—and his school shall last!

Now mark th’ event,—mark from Columbia’s laws,
What vast refinement Education draws!
The boy by practice taught to ape the man,
To roll a snowball as to hand a fan;
Strolls in the careless negligence of ease
(Since ’tis himself he pleases—sure to please)
Bows to each girl, gallants her thro’ the town
Looks back to claim the passenger’s renown;
Till thus the morning glides in haste away,
And dinner warns him of the closing day:
Then rich in self-conceit he talks of fun,
Tells us his feats—recounts what nymph’s were won, [Page 36]
Toast’s to their health—and o’er the flowing bowl,
Maddens his brain, to shew his pow’rs of soul!
At evening too the sacred shrine he haunts,
Where Harper rattles and where Cooper rants;*
There talks aloud—applauds—opposes—nods
Or joins the thunder of the Gallery Gods;
Flies where adorers bend at beauty’s shrine,
And youth’s (like Satellites) round planets shine;
Or thro’ the lobby strolls with vacant air,
Surveys the fruit that tempt the palate there;
Whips up a jelley and destroy’s the glass,
To save the bore of taking change in brass!*

But this is low-liv’d pleasure!—Hudson’s youth,
Despise a mirror where they see the truth;*
Be theirs the joys that midst the dance abound,
The brisk cotillion or the waltze’s round.
There they display their independent state,
There frisk in boots conspicuously great;*
There shew the girls how much their aid they spurn,
And ’midst themselves with nobler grace can turn;

Thus always pleas’d—from every wish remov’d,
To rise superior or be more belov’d,
Their souls possess that calm contented rest,
Which gives mankind the sunshine of the breast;
Whilst Europe’s offspring in their countries cause
Rise to defend their liberties and laws;
Whilst thro’ the earth the emulating youth,
Burn to excel in Science and in truth;
Columbia’s sons alone are freed from cares,
And all that anxious sorrow genius shares!
Untaught, indeed, that other climes are known,
They hail their empire as the world alone;
Unconscious all of transatlantic shores,
For them the scenes of nature bloom in doors;
They wish to know no manners but their own,
And keep no statutes, but from Fashions throne; [Page 37]
Taught all that injuries freedom to disdain,
Ev’n independent in belief they reign;
Now Scripture moralists—now Atheist beaux
Christians or not—just as the fashion goes!

Such was Lothario (well the youth I knew)
Who all his morals from this system drew!
Had but Lothario in another soil
Flourish’d by care and Education’s toil,
His genius form’d for greatness and for fame,
Had scatter’d wide his virtues as his name;
But ah! What labors must his mind have shar’d,
What devious paths, what steep ascents have dar’d;
Year after year he might have dragg’d in vain,
A life of credit by a life of pain!
But ’twas Lothario’s lot, contented here,
No toils to enter, and no pangs to fear;
His rising years in careless pleasures flew,
His days nor envy nor ambition knew;
And soon as first he felt his rising breast,
Swell with some trifle that disturb’d his rest;
Too calm to live—to shrink from death too brave,
He plung’d his sorrows in an early grave!

How nobler this than living to have borne,
Lifes future ills and envious mortal’s scorn;
How better far when boys are cross’d with spleen,
And manhood’s quarrels meet them at fifteen;
To point the pistol at each other’s breast,
And send the ball that guarantees them rest;
(“When they themselves can their quietus make”)
Than all the rubs Fortune’s wheel to take!

But should the youth at length to age encrease,
And fix his life in matrimonial peace;
Some nymph too old and wearied to coquet,
Who wears and mourns her maiden honors yet,
Warms his cold bosom and adorns his side,
And reigns his queen, his glory, and his bride;
His offspring soon the same career commence,
Heirs of their fathers virtues as his sense;
Save him the anxious trouble to direct
Their infant footsteps, and their faults correct;
For e’re his precepts o’er their mind distil,
They doubt his wisdom, and dispute his will!

Lo! now a fairer prospect claims our view,
To see what charms to female minds accrue; [Page 38]
To trace the wisdom Chilton’s models give,
And mark the women’s manners as they live.

Now morning grows apace—and (lectures done)
Th’ united fair to crowded levies run;
Relate the wonders Chilton’s wit can trace,
And try the wash he talk’d of for the face;
Then turn to scandal—prate of youthful quizzes,
Their dancing—verses—chit-chat—persons—phizzes;
And as each fair one drops in turn away,
She quick becomes the subject of the day,
Till thus the morn has furnish’d half the nation,
With “walking journals of communication!”

Yet there are girls—(and some of Chilton’s school)
A few exceptions wait on every rule;
Who draw such small advantage from their task
As nev’r to wear the stiff pedantic mask;
Who only learn from philosophic art
To know themselves—and regulate the heart;
Whose dull enjoyments far from Fashion’s laws,
Are those alone whence conscience claims applause;
Whose morning lounge is ’midst those vulgar roofs
Where sorrow mourns at Poverty’s reproofs;
Yes there are girls whose grov’ling souls display.
That coward thought which looks beyond to day!

But few are these, for whom Columbia’s name,
Need shed the tear or breathe the curse of shame;
Her happy nymphs with nobler views inspir’d,
With conscious innocence and courage fir’d;
Dare to encounter al our sexes wiles,
Their am’rous force as their all conqu’ring smiles;
Dare undefended and alone to rove,
The public streets or thro’ the secret grove;
Or (if protected) to the world they shew,
No Mother’s care is equal to a beau!

Oft have I seen when ev’ning parties blaze,
The tender parent (bless’d) in triumph gaze;
Whilst on her girl some stripling swain has hung,
And lisp’d forth College phrases from his tongue;
Oft heard the nymph declare impassion’d vows,
Whilst the next day she cuts her youth with bows;
Whilst both affect in equal love to rise
And both “MAKE BABIES” in each other’s eyes!
Hence, free from all that sympathy of love,
Those real ties which fond affection move, [Page 39]
’Midst them no Hero for Leander raves,
No dear Leander scorns opposing waves;
No dying Arria draws the reeking steel,
And cries—“for Poetus, not myself I feel!”
No ’tis alone on bless’d Columbia’s plain,
That Cupid aims at female hearts in vain;
Who if they love—’tis but to shew their power;
Or for the pastime of a leisure hour!

Thus, like her sons, Columbia’s daughters too,
In calm content their rising years pursue;
’Tis idle folly for their minds to know
What climes once florish’d—or what florish now;
Since in themselves their only world began,
And since a Caesar is no longer man!
For them no memoir of rewarded truth
Excites the pang of emulating youth;
No tale of sorrow wakes the heaving sigh,
Or dims the sparkling lustre of the eye;
No trite examples cloud their anxious breast,
With plans to make a child or husband bless’d;
But calm they rest—themselves their only rule,
Conceit their tutor, and the streets their school!

Nay more whilst Englands dames advanc’d in age,
Despair a boy’s attention to engage;
The nymphs on Hudson’s brighter regions born,
Treat fears of dotage with contemptuous scorn.
Tho’ three-score years have whiten’d o’er their pate,
And wrinkles frown, where roses bloom’d of late;
Still they assume the wink—the maiden glance,
Flutter like Sylphs and rule the fairy dance;
Still they retain the tinsil of their teens,
And deck’d in feathers blaze like Indian queens!

From these examples ’midst Columbia’s ton,
From this new system which she claims her own:
Her lower ranks have learn’d to imitate,
With proper zeal, the manners of the great!
The simple shop-boy, late a country clown,
One winter past, begins to know the town;
Smokes his Segar, en passant, thro’ the street,
That bless’d Segar which makes him Man complete;
And to the haunts of dissipation steers
A Man in folly, tho’ a child in years! [Page 40]
On Sunday too, with more than Cockney grace,
He curls his hair and ornaments his face;
Frequents the Church to see and to be seen,
With comrade coxcombs loiters o’er the green;
Or nobler still (high mounted) whisks away,
The country seeks and drinks the live-long day!

How bless’d the land with such refinement grac’d
Where ev’n th’ apprentice sets the laws of taste;
Soon (should but Heaven favor) we may find,
Columbia’s method follow’d by mankind!
Soon may her ploughboys ape the woman’s man,
And handle now a pitchfork—now a fan,
And as they leave the lesser world behind,
Reign independent, happy, and refin’d! [Page 41]

* The toga virilis was assumed in Rome at 17. In England at 15! In New York at 10!!! [back]

* A philosopher of the name of Chilton, established a female school which was attended by all the fashionable ladies of New York in 1805.—The boys at College opposed it—and formed themselves into a society for the purposes of filling the Newspapers with their effusions—swearing “they never would desist till the Hudson blazed.” [back]

* Cooper and Harper two favourite performers at the New-York Theatre. [back]

* From the life. [back]

* “To hold the Mirror up to Nature.” It is the motto to the New York Theatre. [back]

* etc. A bull dance was in vogue in New-York in the winter of 1804-5: which eight youths (to the neglect of the ladies) accomplished with much self-satisfaction—arrayed in boots and great coats! [back]