The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Category: Thomas Dunn English

“Morning” by Thomas Dunn English

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A Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove) by Sanford Robinson Gifford

Morning.
By Thomas Dunn English
From The Casket Vol. 16, 1840, pg. 151

Morn on the placid landscape. Nature woke,
And from her long night’s slumber proudly broke.
Gazed, smiling gazed on mountain, and on dale,
And tossed unto the skies her misty veil.
The sun was there to glad the morning’s birth,
And empty living fire upon the earth.
The deer stole slily from his hiding-place.
Basked in the beams, nor panted for the chase.
The squirrel leaped from rock to rock in pride;
The rabbit pattered up the mountain side;
While mingled with the wild-bee’s hum was heard
The whirring of the gaudy humming-bird;—
That painted insect of the feathered tribe,
Whom all can wonder at, but none describe,—
The red-head woodpecker with steady stroke,
Commenced his labor on the hollow oak;
The feathered choir with rapture-swelling throats,
Began in concert their melodious notes;
While from the low-growth, where it deep lay hid,
Came the shrill clarion of the katy did.
In deep delight creation seemed to swim,
And pour thanksgiving in their matin hymn.

“Two Days” by Thomas Dunn English

TWO DAYS.
By Thomas Dunn English.
From the Southern Literary Messenger, July, 1857, pg. 21.

I. YESTERDAY.

Her skin is white as cold moonlight,
The lids her blue eyes cover;
And beats her heart with throb and start,
With a tremulous thrill as a maiden’s will,
Before her own true lover.
She cannot speak, but on her cheek
The tear-drop downward starting,
Too well reveals how much she feels,
In that sad hour of parting.

Her skin is white as cold moonlight,
The lids her blue eyes cover;
Her arms are wound his neck around,
With languid sighs she reads his eyes,
The fond eyes of her lover.
Look thou elsewhere. This mournful pair,
Who show for love such fitness,
Should have no spies with soulless eyes,
But heaven alone for witness.

——

II. TO-MORROW.

Her skin is white as cold moonlight,
The lids her blue eyes cover;
No more her heart will throb and start
With a natural start devoid of art,
When meeting her true lover.
She cannot speak, nor on her cheek
Henceforth will tear-drops glisten;
Nor ever again, to wooing strain
Her willing spirit listen.

Shade skin so white, hide hair so bright,
Those blue eyes gently cover—
Shield her ever from earth’s alarms;
Enshroud her charms and cross her arms,
Then sprinkle blossoms over,
Nail down the lid—the guests are bid
To see these nuptials sombre;
And gently take, lest she awake,
My darling to her slumber.

“Two Sonnets” by Thomas Dunn English

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Cabinet Card of Thomas Dunn English. Year: unknown.

Although often recognized as the brass knuckled*, mustachioed, sometimes friend, sometimes enemy of Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas D. English was a celebrated politician, author, and songwriter during his day.* Here for your consideration are two sonnets by English, from The Ladies’ Companion, May, 1841 (14).

Two Sonnets.
Thomas Dunn English, M. D.

I.
PLEASURE! what’s that?—the heat to reason’s ice;
A specious term in use, to banish vice.
Men seek this beldame, and she seems to them
Attired in purple, decked with many a gem,
And fair as day-dawn when the bright sun sips
The dewy nectar from each blossom’s lips.
Fools! strip her of her mask—her face is old;
Tinsel is that your eyes mistook for gold;
Her velvet, serge, and false her colored gaws—
Pursue her not, or, if pursuing, pause.
Virtue may seem austere, but dim your eye,
If less than bliss within her face you spy.
Or, if you deem aught false within her train,
Weak, your perception, and your judgment vain.
II.
Well have I learned by bitter deeds, to deem
Not always men are candid when they seem.
Cowards oft courage, as a mantle, don;
Liars talk loud their matchless truth upon;
Those born ignobly, bear of birth no taint,
And sinners hide them in the name of saint.
Not so with holy nature, who is still,
As she has ever been, and ever will.
Governed by laws, by fixed, unchanging rules,
That mock the wise man’s fathoming, and fool’s.
She still the same external visage wears,
Or filled with sunny smiles, or dewy tears.
Her every beauty to thy touch is free,
Mistress, as well as mother, she to thee.

*Note: English did not actually don brass knuckles. The story goes, rather, that, spurred by Poe’s indignant, demanding behavior over borrowing one of his guns for a duel, English proceeded to get in a scuffle with Poe, accidentally cutting Poe’s face with his ring.
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**Consider “Ben Bolt,” arguably English’s best known lyric. Visit this link for the poem. Visit this link for a musical recording.