American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

For a Commonplace Book 4

with one comment

Is a fine word to play on. Many a niche
It fills in letters, and in billet-doux, ―
Its adjective a graceful prefix makes
To a well-written signature. It gleams
A happy mirage in a sunny brain;
But as a principle, is oft, I fear,
Inoperative. Some satirist hath said
That gratitude is only a keen sense
Of future favors

As regards myself,
Tis my misfortune, and perhaps, my fault,
Yet I’m constrain’d to say, that where my gifts
And efforts have been greatest, the return
Has been in contrast, so that I have shrunk
To grant myself the pleasure of great love
Lest its reward might be indifference,
Or smooth deceit. Others no doubt have been
More fortunate. I trust ’tis often so:
But this is my experience, on the scale
Of three times twenty years, and somewhat more.

―Lydia Sigourney, The Man of Uz and Other Poems (1862)

A sad excerpt from Sigourney’s last long poem, “The Rural Life in New-England.”


Written by Ben Friedlander

June 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

One Response

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  1. “Its adjective a graceful prefix makes.” Memorable line.

    Susan M. Schultz

    June 18, 2009 at 7:48 pm

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