Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




Once more I put my bonnet on,
    And tie the ribbons blue,
My showy poplin dress I don,
    That’s just as good as new,
And smooth and stately as a swan
    Go sailing to my pew. [Page 177]

Once more, Ah! me, how oft, how oft,
    Shall I the scene repeat?
With graceful ease and manner soft
    I sink into my seat,
And round the congregation waft
    The sense of odors sweet.

A finer form, a fairer face
    Ne’er bent before the stole,
With more restraint, no spotless lace
    Did firmer orbs control,
I shine, the Beauty of the place,
    And yet I look all soul.

When to the sinful people round
    My pitying glances rove
The dewy tints of Heaven’s profound
    Seem in my eyes to move,
Too sorrowful their hearts to wound,
    And hardly asking love.

And thus for four long years I’ve sat,
    My gloves without a crease,
For two of them I wore a hat,
    For once a blue pelisse,
When will the wicked know what’s what,
    The weary heart have peace?

My head gear twenty times I’ve changed,
    Worn Paris flowers in Spring,
Wheat ears in Autumn, re-arranged,
    Tried birds of every wing, [Page 178]
Bade that from Paradise estranged
    Its luster o’er me fling.

But yet, as “nether millstones” hard
    The hearts of men appear,
Smooth shaved, “or bearded like the pard”
    They’re worse from year to year.
My “virtue is its own reward,”
    I’m sitting single here.

The Rector’s eyes, a brilliant pair,
    Lit up with love divine,
Beaming with inspiration rare,
    And phrenzy very fine,
Like nestling birds from upper air,
    Would gently droop to mine.

What could I think, as day by day
    His gaze more earnest grew,
Till half the girls began to say
    He neither cared nor knew,
Though all the Church should go astray
    If he could save my pew.

I read divinity by reams,
    The Bible got by heart,
I studied all the Church’s “Schemes,”
    Prepared to play my part
Of Rector’s wife, as well beseems
    A lady of high Art. [Page 179]

But, let the truth at once be told,
    Religion’s cause was nought,
For Twenty Thousand Pounds in gold
    The Rector’s heart was bought,
And I was most completely sold,
    The Blackbird was not caught.

The Curate’s hair was crisp and brown,
    His color very high;
His ample chest came sloping down,
    Antinous-like his thigh,
Sin shrank before his gathered frown,
    Peace whispered in his sigh.

So young! I hoped his steps to guide
    From error’s devious way;
By bad example sorely tried,
    I feared the youth might stray;
To life’s allurements opening wide
    Become an easy prey.

I did my best, I watched and prayed,
    His ardent soul to save,
But by the sinful flesh betrayed,
    What could I do but rave?
Ten stone of blonde, in lace arrayed
    Walked with him down the nave.

If Gospel truth must now be told
    I’ve selfish grown of late,
The Banker next though somewhat old, [Page 180]
    And limping in his gait,
And quite as yellow as his gold,
    I thought to animate.

I’m sure my Note he would have “done”
    With “two good names” upon it;
I do not think he ever run
    His eye glass o’er my sonnet,
Or counted, in the morning sun
    The feathers in my bonnet.

The widowed Judge I next essayed,
    His orphans kindly viewing,
Read Blackstone nearly through ’tis said,
    All gaudy dress eschewing;
But, am I doomed to die a maid?
    Not yet he comes a wooing.

Once more I’ll put my bonnet on
    And tie the ribbons blue;
My showy poplin dress I’ll don,
    That’s just as good as new,
And smooth and stately as a swan
    Go sailing to my pew.

Merchants and Lawyers, half a score,
    Bow on their hats to pray,
Tho’ scattered round, I’m very sure
    They always look my way.
I’ll re-appear, encore! encore!
    Who shall I catch to-day? [Page 181]