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Lydia Huntley Sigourney (Лидия Сигурни)


The Needle, Pen, and Sword


WHAT hast thou seen, with thy shining eye,
  Thou Needle, so subtle and keen?--
"I have been in Paradise, stainless and fair.
And fitted the apron of fig-leaves there,
  To the form of its fallen queen.

"The mantles and wimples, the hoods and veils,
  That the belles of Judah wore,
When their haughty mien and their glance of fire
Enkindled the eloquent prophet's ire,
  I help'd to fashion of yore.

"The beaded belt of the Indian maid
  I have deck'd with as true a zeal
As the gorgeous ruff of the knight of old,
Or the monarch's mantle of purple and gold,
  Or the satrap's broider'd heel.

"I have lent to Beauty new power to reign,
  At bridal and courtly hall,
Or wedded to Fashion, have help'd to bind
Those gossamer links, that the strongest mind
  Have sometimes held in thrall.

"I have drawn a blood-drop, round and red,
  From the finger small and white
Of the startled child, as she strove with care
Her doll to deck with some gewgaw rare,
  But wept at my puncture bright.

"I have gazed on the mother's patient brow,
  As my utmost speed she plied,
To shield from winter her children dear,
And the knell of midnight smote her ear,
  While they slumber'd at her side.

"I have heard in the hut of the pining poor
  The shivering inmate's sigh,
When faded the warmth of her last, faint brand,
As slow from her cold and clammy hand
  She let me drop,--to die!"

                  *   *   *

What hast thou known, thou gray goose-quill?--
  And methought, with a spasm of pride,
It sprang from the inkstand, and flutter'd in vain,
Its nib to free from the ebon stain,
  As it fervently replied:

"What do I know!--Let the lover tell
  When into his secret scroll
He poureth the breath of a magic lyre,
And traceth those mystical lines of fire
  That move the maiden's soul.

"What do I know!--The wife can say,
  As the leaden seasons move,
And over the ocean's wildest sway,
A blessed missive doth wend its way,
  Inspired by a husband's love.

"Do ye doubt my power? Of the statesman ask,
  Who buffets ambition's blast,--
Of the convict, who shrinks in his cell of care,
A flourish of mine hath sent him there,
  And lock'd his fetters fast;

"And a flourish of mine can his prison ope,
  From the gallows its victim save,
Break off the treaty that kings have bound,
Make the oath of a nation an empty sound,
  And to liberty lead the slave.

"Say, what were History, so wise and old,
  And Science that reads the sky?
Or how could Music its sweetness store,
Or Fancy and Fiction their treasures pour,
Or what were Poesy's heaven-taught lore,
  Should the pen its aid deny?

"Oh, doubt if ye will, that the rose is fair,
  That the planets pursue their way,
Go, question the fires of the noontide sun,
Or the countless streams that to ocean run,
But ask no more what the Pen hath done."
  And it scornfully turn'd away.

                  *   *   *

What are thy deeds, thou fearful thing
  By the lordly warrior's side?
And the Sword answer'd, stern and slow,
"The hearth-stone lone and the orphan know,
  And the pale and widow'd bride.

"The shriek and the shroud of the battle-cloud,
  And the field that doth reek below;
The wolf that laps where the gash is red,
And the vulture that tears ere life has fled,
And the prowling robber that strips the dead,
  And the foul hyena know.

"The rusted plough, and the seed unsown,
  And the grass that doth rankly grow
O'er the rotting limb, and the blood-pool dark,
Gaunt Famine that quenches life's lingering spark,
  And the black-wing'd Pestilence know.

"Death with the rush of his harpy-brood,
  Sad Earth in her pang and throe,
Demons that riot in slaughter and crime,
And the throng of the souls sent, before their time,
  To the bar of the judgment--know."

Then the terrible Sword to its sheath return'd,
  While the Needle sped on in peace,
But the Pen traced out from a Book sublime
The promise and pledge of that better time
  When the warfare of earth shall cease.



Lydia Huntley Sigourney's other poems:
  1. Indian Summer
  2. Flora's Party
  3. With Wild Flowers To a Sick Friend
  4. The Dying Philosopher
  5. Sudden Death


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