Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




There is a flower whose never-fading bloom
Cheers man’s rough path from childhood to the tomb;
In simple loveliness its fragrance throws
Alike o’er India’s sands, and Zembla’s snows;
In every valley of Earth’s varied breast,
On ev’ry mountain high, and rocky crest,
Fragrant, in spotless purity it springs,
And o’er the heart its softening influence flings.
That flower is Woman—first in Eden’s bowers
She lent her smile to cheer Man’s lonely hours;
And when Transgression forced him to the wild,
He still forgot his woes when Women smiled,
And wiped away the unavailing tear
When her soft accents broke upon his ear.
And still she cheers and charms—her soothing voice
Still breathes delight to bid our souls rejoice;
And cares and griefs, like morning vapors, fly
Before the magic of her radiant eye. [Page 136]
Touched by her plastic hand, Life’s sharpest stings
Are turned to harmless, if not holy, things.
And where could Man his fevered temples rest,
Or seek repose, if banished from her breast?

          How many lingering recollections play
Around the heart, of Childhood’s early day,
Like music wafted from a distant shore
Where we once trod, but ne’er can visit more.
How oft in thought we meet that wakeful eye
Which watch’d our slumbers!—hear the heavy sigh
That told an anxious Mother’s hopes and fears,
Or feel our cheeks still moisten’d by her tears!
Who that around a Mother’s neck has clung
Can e’er forget the thrilling airs she sung,
While on her lap, in sportive mirth reclined,
Her matron locks about his finger twined,
She fondly clasped her dear delighted boy,
Her full heart bounding with a holy joy,
And her raised eye, so eloquently mild,
Asked of her God a blessing for her child?

          And oh! how long a Sister’s silvery tone
Hangs round the heart with music all its own.
Years may sweep on, her rosy cheek may fade,
In the cold earth her youthful form be laid,
The heart which throbbed against our boyish breast
Be seared and broken—still, like something blest,
Her image, conjur’d up by Memory’s spell,
Comes from the tomb, of happier hours to tell,
Of scenes of innocent and early joy,
Unstained by aught of passion’s base alloy, [Page 137]
Of looks of love, and words of fondness spoken
Long, long, before that tender heart was broken.
          Oh! lovely Woman, ’tis to thee we owe
Each charm that robs the world of half its woe;
Thine is the smile that gilds our early days,
Thy accents form our Manhood’s noblest praise;
Thy gentle hand, when Age has stolen our bloom,
Can strew with peace the borders of the tomb.
Who deem thee false, have never felt the power
Of Woman’s faith, in Sorrow’s darkest hour—
Have never known how steadfastly she clings
E’en round the basest and the worst of things;
Nor flies, though all beside the world have fled;
Nor shrinks, though death hangs o’er her by a thread. [Page 138]