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  The Fair Quakeress  

 

She was a fair young girl, yet on her brow
No pale pearl shone, a blemish on the pure
And snowy lustre of its living light,
No radiant gem shone beautifully through
The shadowing of her tresses, as a star
Through the dark sky of midnight; and no wreath
Of coral circled on her queenly neck,
In mockery of the glowing cheek and lip,
Whose hue the fairy guardian of the flowers
Might never rival when her delicate touch
Tinges the rose of springtime.

Unadorned,
Save by her youthful charms, and with a garb
Simple as Nature's self, why turn to her
The proud and gifted, and the versed in all
The pageantry of fashion?

She hath not
Moved down the dance to music, when the hall
Is lighted up like sunshine, and the thrill
Of the light viol and the mellow flute,
And the deep tones of manhood, softened down
To very music melt upon the ear-
She has not mingled with the hollow world
Nor tampered with its mockeries, until all
The delicate perceptions of the heart,
The innate modesty, the watchful sense
Of maiden dignity, are lost within
The maze of fashion and the din of crowds.

Yet Beauty hath its homage. Kings have bowed
From the tall majesty of ancient thrones
With a prostrated knee, yea, east aside
the awfulness of time-created power
For the regardful glances of a child.
Yea, the high ones and powerful of Earth,
the helmed sons of victory, the grave
And schooled philosophers, the giant men
Of overmastering intellect, have turned
Each from the separate idol of his high
And vehement ambition for the low
Idolatry of human loveliness:
And bartered the sublimity of mind,
The godlike and commanding intellect
Which nations knelt to, for a woman's tear,
A soft-toned answer, or a wanton's smile.

And in the chastened beauty of that eye,
And in the beautiful play of that red lip,
And in the quiet smile, and in the voice
Sweet as the tuneful greeting of a bird
To the first flowers of springtime, there is more
Than the perfection of the painter's skill
Or statuary's moulding. Mind is there.

The pure and holy attributes of soul,
The seal of virtue, the exceeding grace
Of meekness blended with a maiden pride;
Nor deem ye that beneath the gentle smile,
And the calm temper of a chastened mind
No warmth of passion kindles, and no tide
Of quick and earnest feeling courses on
From the warm heart's pulsations. There are springs
Of deep and pure affection, hidden now,
Within that quiet bosom, which but wait
the thrilling of some kindly touch, to flow
Like waters from the desert-rock old.

       - John Greenleaf Whittier


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