Joseph Howe poems

Joseph Howe(13 December 1804 - 1 June 1873 / Nova Scotia)
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Once More I Put my Bonnet On

- by Joseph Howe 16

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.
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 one 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,
Bade that from Paradise estranged
Its lustre 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.

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,
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?

Sable Island

- by Joseph Howe 16

Dark Isle of Mourning--aptly art thou named,
For thou hast been the cause of many a tear;
For deeds of treacherous strife too justly famed,
The Atlantic's charnel--desolate and drear;
A thing none love--though wand'ring thousands fear--
If for a moment rests the Muse's wing
Where through the waves thy sandy wastes appear,
'Tis that she may one strain of horror sing,
Wild as the dashing waves that tempests o'er thee fling.

The winds have been thy minstrels--the rent shrouds
Of hapless barks, twanging at dead of night,
Thy fav'rite harp strings--the shriek of crowds
Clinging around them feebly in their fright,
The song in which thou long hast had delight,
Dark child of ocean, at thy feasts of blood;
When mangled forms, shown by Heaven's lurid light,
Rose to thy lip upon the swelling flood,
While Death, with horrid front, beside thee gloating stood.

As lurks the hungry tiger for his prey,
Low crouch'd to earth with well dissembled mien,
Peace in his eye--the savage wish to slay
Rankling around his heart--so thou art seen
Stretch'd harmlessly on ocean's breast of green,
When winds are hush'd, and sleeps the placid wave
Beneath the evening ray--whose glittering sheen
Gilds the soft swells thy arid folds that lave,
Unconscious that they cling around a yawning grave.

The fascination of the Siren's song,
The shadow of the fatal Upas tree;
The Serpent's eye that lures the bird along
To certain doom--less deadly are than thee
Even in thy hours of calm serenity,
When on thy sands the lazy seals repose,
And steeds, unbridled, sporting carelessly,
Crop the rank grass that on thy bosom grows,
While round the timid hare his glance of caution throws.

But when thy aspect changes--when the storm
Sweeps o'er the wide Atlantic's heaving breast;
When, hurrying on in many a giant form,
The broken waters by the winds are prest--
Roaring like fiends of hell which know no rest,
And guided by the lightning's fitful flash;
Who dares look on thee then--in terror drest,
As on thy length'ning beach the billows dash,
Shaking the heavens themselves with one long deaf'ning crash.

The winds are but thy blood-hounds, that do force
The prey into thy toils; th' insidious stream
That steadily pursues its noiseless course,
Warmed by the glow of many a tropic beam,
To seas where northern blasts more rudely scream
Is thy perpetual Almoner, and brings
All that to man doth rich and lovely seem,
Earth's glorious gifts,--its fair and holy things,
And round thy dreary shores its spoils profusely flings.

The stateliest stems the Northern forest yields,
The richest produce of each Southern shore,
The gathered harvests of a thousand fields,
Earn'd by man's sweat--or paid for by his gore.
The splendid robes the cavern'd Monsters wore,
The gold that sparkled in Potosi's mine,
The perfumed spice the Eastern islands bore,
The gems whose rays like morning's sunbeams shine,
All--all--insatiate Isle--these treasures all are thine.

But what are these, compared with the rich spoils
Of human hearts, with fond affections stored:
Of manly forms, o'ertaken by thy toils--
Of glorious spirits, 'mid thy sands outpoured.
Thousands who've braved War's desolating sword,
Who've walk'd through earth's worst perils undismayed,
Now swell the treasures of thy ample hoard;
Deep in thy vaults their whitening bones are laid,
While many a burning tear is to their mem'ries paid.

And oft--as though you sought to mock man's eye--
Thy shifting sands their treasured spoils disclose:
There may we some long-missing wreck descry,
Some broken mast, that once so proudly rose
Above the peopled deck; some toy, that shows
The fate of her upon whose breast it hung,
But who now sleeps in undisturbed repose,
Where by the waves her beauteous form was flung,
May peace be with her manes--the lovely and the young.

Why does the Father, at the dawn of day,
Fly from his feverish couch and horrid dreams,
And up the mountain side pursue his way,
And turn to gaze upon the sea, which seems
Blent with the heavens--until the gorgeous beams
Of the bright sun each cloud and wave reveal?
Whence comes the tear that o'er that pale cheek streams--
As, tired with gazing, on the earth he kneels,
And pours in prayer to God the anguish that he feels?

Why does the matron heave that constant sigh?
Why does she start at every distant sound?
Her cheerful fire is blazing 'neath her eye,
Her fair and happy children sporting round,
Appealing to her heart at every bound,
While on her lap one rose-lipped babe reclines,
And looks into her face with joy profound.
But yet the mother secretly repines,
And through a tearful eye her spirit dimly shines.

Why does the maiden shun the giddy throng,
And find no pleasure in the festive hour?
Strange that the mazy dance, and choral song,
O'er one so young should hold no spell of power.
Why droops her head, as in her fairy bower
Her lute is only tuned to sorrow's strain?
Is there no magic in the perfumed flower,
To lure her thoughts from off the bounding main?
Oh! when shall joy return to that pure breast again?

Canst thou not read this riddle, gloomy isle?
Say--when shall that old man behold his boy?
When shall a son's glad voice--a son's bright smile
Wake in that mother's heart the throb of joy?
When shall glad thoughts that maiden's hours employ?
When shall her lover spring to her embrace?
Ask of the winds accustomed to destroy--
Ask of the waves which know their resting-place--
And they in thy deep caves their early graves may trace.

Farewell! dark Isle--the Muse must spread her wing,
To seek for brighter themes in scenes more fair,
Too happy if the strain she strove to sing,
Shall warn the sailor of thy deadly snare;
Oh! would the gods but hear her fervent prayer,
The fate of famed Atlantis should be thine--
No longer crouching in thy dangerous lair,
But sunk far down beneath the 'whelming brine,
Known but to History's page--or in the poet's line.

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