Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO THE LADY IN THE CHIMSETTE WITH BLACK BUTTONS, by NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS



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TO THE LADY IN THE CHIMSETTE WITH BLACK BUTTONS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I know not who thou art, oh lovely one!
Last Line: My love shall hover round thee!
Subject(s): New York City - 19th Century; Women


I KNOW not who thou art, oh lovely one!
Thine eyes were droop'd, thy lips half sorrowful --
Yet thou didst eloquently smile on me
While handing up thy sixpence through the hole
Of that o'er-freighted omnibus! Ah me!
The world is full of meetings such as this --
A thrill, a voiceless challenge and reply --
And sudden partings after! We may pass,
And know not of each other's nearness now --
Thou in the Knickerbocker Line, and I,
Lone, in the Waverley! Oh, life of pain!
And even should I pass where thou dost dwell --
Nay -- see thee in the basement taking tea --
So cold is this inexorable world,
I must glide on! I dare not feast mine eye!
I dare not make articulate my love,
Nor o'er the iron rails that hem thee in
Venture to fling to thee my innocent card --
Not knowing thy papa!

Hast thou papa?
Is thy progenitor alive, fair girl?
And what doth he for lucre? Lo again!
A shadow o'er the face of this fair dream!
For thou mayst be as beautiful as Love
Can make thee, and the ministering hands
Of milliners, incapable of more,
Be lifted at thy shapeliness and air,
And still 'twixt me and thee, invisibly,
May rise a wall of adamant. My breath
Upon my pale lip freezes as I name
Manhattan's orient verge, and eke the west
In its far down extremity. Thy sire
May be the signer of a temperance pledge,
And clad all decently may walk the earth --
Nay -- may be number'd with that blessed few
Who never ask for discount -- yet, alas!
If, homeward wending from his daily cares,
He go by Murphy's Line, thence eastward tending --
Or westward from the Line of Kipp & Brown, --
My vision is departed! Harshly falls
The doom upon the ear, "She's not genteel!"
And pitiless is woman who doth keep
Of "good society" the golden key!
And gentlemen are bound, as are the stars,
To stoop not after rising!

But farewell,
And I shall look for thee in streets where dwell
The passengers by Broadway Lines alone!
And if my dreams be true, and thou, indeed,
Art only not more lovely than genteel --
Then, lady of the snow-white chemisette,
The heart which vent'rously cross'd o'er to thee
Upon that bridge of sixpence, may remain --
And, with up-town devotedness and truth,
My love shall hover round thee!





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