by Hannah Flagg Gould
How well I remember the hovel, that stood
Beyond the green mead, in the skirt of the wood,
For which, in my childhood, I turned from the road
To visit the hag that within it abode;
When, with ninepence, long treasured, so nobly I feed
The wrinkled-browed Sybil my fortune to read! --
And how, though I'd run, till my breath was nigh spent,
When I came near the hut, I began to relent!
For, nightshade and hemlock grew under the eaves,
And seemed to have
sorcery writ on their leaves.
When the feathery group gave their ominous shout,
I thought of the chicks Mother Carey sent out!
Then, there lay old Growler at length on the floor,
And looked like the wicked one keeping the door;
With eyes semi-closed, as inclining to sleep,
But ope'd now and then, for an impious peep;
And even the puss, as she dozed on the hearth,
I thought had a spice of the witch from her birth!
And, when the brown seer her wonderful cup,
With thick-settled tea-leaves, had whirled-- and turned up,
I deemed, as she looked so sagacious within it,
The end of my being was fixed from that minute;
That if the least specks on its sides were deranged,
'T was over -- my fortune for ever was changed!
With motion suspended, and speech wholly gone,
In wonder and awe, as I stood and looked on,
The few grizzled hairs, from her temples that strayed,
Seemed turning to serpents, that hissed as they played,
Defying the fillet to keep them in check,
Across the deep seams of my oracle's neck.
The thread of my life at that moment seemed hung,
In its many-hued twist, from the tip of her tongue.
And she opened her lips with such bright and fair things,
That, my head all on fire, and my fancy on wings,
I flew to my home, and retired to my bed,
To gild my gay dreamings with all she had said.
But years have since taught me how foolish and vain
refuge of lies, for a pitiful gain.
Of the hut or its inmate no vestige is seen
But the mound, where the prophetess sleeps on the green.
My fortune -- the path of my life has been made
O'er flowers and o'er brambles -- through sunshine and shade --
So changeful and chequered, I would not be told,
One hour, what the leaf of the next may unfold.
While fearless I trust to a finger divine
To point out my footsteps and mark every line,
May I look above earth for a light to my mind,
Till I leave superstition and error behind,
And drop this short lesson to childhood and youth --
Shun falsehood! -- love science, and seek only truth!
Source:Poems By Miss H. F. Gould. Volume 1.
Hilliard, Gray, & Co., Boston