Caroline Bowles Southey

1786-1854

 

To Little Mary

by Caroline Bowles Southey

I'm bidden, little Mary,
To write verses unto thee,
I'd fain obey the bidding,
If it rested but with me,
But the mistresses I'm bound to,
(Nine ladies hard to please,)
Of all their stores poetic
So closely keep the keys,
Tis only now and then,
By good luck, as we may say,
A couplet or a rhyme or two
Falls fairly in my way.

Fruit forced is never half so sweet
As that comes quite in season;
But some folks must be satisfied
With rhyme, in spite of reason,
So, muses, all befriend me, --
Albeit of help so chary, --
To string the pearls of poesy
For loveliest little Mary.

And yet, ye pagan damsels,
Not over-fond am I
To invoke your haughty favors --
Your fount of Castaly;
I've sipped a purer fountain;
I've decked a holier shrine;
I own a mightier mistress;
O Nature, thou art mine.

And only to that well-head,
Sweet Mary, I'll resort,
For just an artless verse or two, --
A simple strain, and short, --
Befitting well a pilgrim
Way-worn with care and strife, --
To offer thee, young traveller,
In the morning track of life.

There's many a one will tell thee --
'Tis all with roses gay;
There's many a one will tell thee --
'Tis thorny all the way.
Deceivers are they, every one,
Dear child, who thus pretend:
God's ways are not unequal;
Make him thy trusted Friend,
And many a path of pleasantness
He'll clear away for thee,
However dark and intricate
The labyrinth may be.

I need not wish thee beauty,
I need not wish thee grace;
Already both are budding
In that infant form and face
I will not wish thee grandeur,
I will not wish thee wealth;
But only a contented heart,
Peace, competence, and health;
Fond friends to love thee dearly,
And honest friends to chide,
And faithful ones to cleave to thee,
Whatever may betide.

And now, my little Mary,
If better things remain
Unheeded in my blindness,
Unnoticed in my strain, --
I'll sum them up succinctly
In English undefiled, --
My mother-tongue's best benison, --
God bless thee, precious child!

Source:

The Floral Wreath Of Autumn Flowers
Copyright 1850
Detroit: Kerr, Doughty and Lapham
 
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