19th Century Women's Poetry

Sophie Jewett (1861-?)

Jewett was born in Moravia, NY, but lived most of her life in Buffalo. In 1889 she was hired as a professor of English literature at Wellesley College. Using the pen-name "Ellen Burroughs," she published The Pilgrim, and Other Poems in 1896.

Thus Far
Because my life has lain so close to thine,
Because our hearts have kept a common beat,
Because thine eyes turned towards me frank and sweet
Reveal sometimes thine untold thoughts to mine,
Think not that I, by curious design,
Or over-step of too impetuous feet,
Could desecrate thy soul's supreme retreat,
Could disregard its quivering barrier-line.
Only a simple Levite, I, who stand
On the world's side of the most holy place,
Till, as the new day glorifies the east,
One come to lift the veil with reverent hand
And enter with thy soul's soul face to face,--
He whom thy God shall call to be high priest.

"If Spirits Walk"
If spirits walk, love, when the night climbs slow
The slant footpath where we were wont to go,
Be sure that I shall take the selfsame way
To the hill-crest, and shoreward, down the gray,
Sheer, gravelled slope, where vetches straglling grow.
Look for me not when gusts of winter blow,
When at thy pane beat hands of sleet and snow;
I would not come thy dear eyes to affray,
If spirits walk.

But when, in June, the pines are whispering low,
And when their breath plays with thy bright hair so
As some one's fingers once were used to play--
That hour when birds leave song, and children pray,
Keep the old tryst, sweetheart, and thou shalt know
If spirits walk.

[AA; 1899]

A Smiling Demon of Notre Dame
Quiet as are the quiet skies
He watches where the city lies
Floating in vision clear or dim
Through sun or rain beneath his eyes;
Her songs, her laughter, and her cries
Hour after hour drift up to him.
Her days of glory or disgrace
He watches with unchanging face;
He knows what midnight crimes are done,
What horrors under summer sun;
And souls that pass in holy death
Sweep by him on the morning's breath.

Alike to holiness and sin
He feels nor alien nor akin;
Five hundred creeping mortal years
He smiles on human joy and tears,
Man-made, immortal, scorning man;
Serene, grotesque Olympian.

[AA; 1896]