19th Century Women's Poetry

Zitella Cocke (1831?-1929)

Born in Alabama, Cocke was of English and Huguenot ancestry. She grew up on a large southern plantation, but moved to Boston as an adult. She was a literary translator from French and German, and she published A Doric Reed in 1895 and Poems three years later.

Miss Nancy's Gown
In days when George the Third was King
And ruled the Old Dominion,
And Law and Fashion owned the sway
Of Parliament's opinion,
A good ship brought across the sea
A treasure fair and fine,--
Miss Nancy's gown from London town,
The latest Court design!
The plaited waist from neck to belt
Scarce measured half a span;
The sleeves, balloon-like, at the top
Could hold her feather fan;
The narrow skirt with bias gore
Revealed an ankle neat,
When'er she put her dainty foot
From carriage stop to street!

By skilful hands this wondrous gown
Of costliest stuff was made
Cocoons of France on Antwerp looms
Wrought to embossed brocade,
Where roses red and violets
In blooming beauty grew,
As if young May were there always,
And June and April too!

And from this bower of delight
Miss Nancy reigned a Queen,
Nor one disloyal heart rebelled
In all her wide demesne:
The noble House of Burgesses
Forgot its fierce debate
O'er rights of Crown, when Nancy's gown
Appeared in Halls of State!

Through jocund reel, or measure tread
Of stately minuet,
Like fairy vision shone the bloom
Of rose and violet,
As, hand in hand with Washington,
The hero of the day,
The smiling face and nymph-like grace
Of Nancy led the way!

A century, since that gay time
There merry dance was trod,
Has passed, and Nancy long has slept
Beneath the churchyard sod;
Yet on the brocade velvet gown
The rose and violet
Are blooming bright as on the night
She danced the minuet!