Great Poems by American Women: An Anthology

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Overview


From the colonial-era poets to such 20th-century writers as Marianne Moore and Sylvia Plath, this inspiring anthology offers a retrospective of more than three centuries of poems by American women. Over 200 selections embrace a wide range of themes and motifs: meditations on the meaning of existence, celebrations of life's joys, appreciations of the natural world, and many more.
"To My Dear and Loving Husband" and "Before the Birth of One of Her Children," written by America's ...
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Overview


From the colonial-era poets to such 20th-century writers as Marianne Moore and Sylvia Plath, this inspiring anthology offers a retrospective of more than three centuries of poems by American women. Over 200 selections embrace a wide range of themes and motifs: meditations on the meaning of existence, celebrations of life's joys, appreciations of the natural world, and many more.
"To My Dear and Loving Husband" and "Before the Birth of One of Her Children," written by America's first poet of note, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), appear here, along with "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and "On Imagination," by Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), America's first great black woman poet. Selections also include more than a dozen beloved works by Emily Dickinson-"There's a certain slant of light," "I heard a fly buzz when I died," and "My life closed twice before its close," among others-as well as masterly verses by Hilda Doolittle, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Emma Lazarus, and numerous lesser-known authors.
A superb introduction to America's women poets, this engaging collection offers an inexpensive and rewarding resource for students, teachers, and all lovers of fine poetry. Includes 4 selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative: "A Bird Came Down the Walls," "The New Colossus," "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," and "On Being Brought from Africa to America."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486401645
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 1/21/1998
  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions Series
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 299,271
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.27 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Great Poems by American Women

An Anthology


By SUSAN L. RATTINER

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1998 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11265-7



CHAPTER 1

ANNE BRADSTREET (1612?-1672)


The first colonial woman poet, Anne Bradstreet came to Massachusetts Bay in 1630. Her poetry was first published in London in 1650 under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America and later in a posthumous edition. Both her father and her husband became governors of the colony. Much of her poetry reflects themes in her personal life-her relationship with her husband and her eight children. Bradstreet's poems also contain her religious outlook and perceptions.

    The Prologue

    To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
    Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,
    For my mean pen are too superiour things,
    Or how they all or each their dates have run:
    Let Poets and Historians set these forth;
    My obscure Lines shall not so dim their worth.

    But when my wondring eyes and envious heart
    Great Bartas sugar'd lines do but read o're,
    Fool, I do grudg the Muses did not part
    'Twixt him and me that overfluent store;
    A Bartas can do what a Bartas will,
    But simple I according to my skill.

    From school-boyes tongue no rhet'rick we expect,
    Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings,
    Nor perfect beauty where's a main defect:
    My foolish, broken, blemish'd Muse so sings;
    And this to mend, alas, no Art is able,
    'Cause nature made it so irreparable.

    Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongu'd Greek
    Who lisp'd at first, in future times speak plain;
    By Art he gladly found what he did seek,
    A full requital of his striving pain:
    Art can do much; but this maxime's most sure,
    A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.

    I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
    Who says my hand a needle better fits;
    A Poets pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
    For such despite they cast on Female wits:
    If what I do prove well it won't advance;
    They'l say it's stoln, or else it was by chance.

    But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
    Else of our Sexe why feigned they those Nine,
    And poesy made Calliope's own Child?
    So 'mongst the rest they placed the Arts Divine.
    But this weak knot they will full soon untie:
    The Greeks did nought but play the fools & lye.

    Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are,
    Men have precedency and still excell:
    It is but vain unjustly to wage warre;
    Men can do best, and women know it well:
    Preheminence in all and each is yours;
    Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

    And oh ye high flown quills that soar the Skies,
    And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
    If e're you daigne these lowly lines your eyes,
    Give Thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no bayes:
    This mean and unrefined ure of mine,
    Will make your glistring gold but more to shine.


    The Author to Her Book

    Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
    Who after birth didst by my side remain,
    Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
    Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
    Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
    Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
    At thy return my blushing was not small,
    My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
    I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
    Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
    Yet being mine own, at length affection would
    Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
    I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
    And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
    I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
    Yet still thou run's more hobbling than is meet;
    In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
    But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
    In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
    In critic's hands beware thou dost not come,
    And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
    And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
    Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.


    To My Dear and Loving Husband

    If ever two were one, then surely we.
    If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
    I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
    My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
    Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
    Thy love is such I can no way repay,
    The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
    Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
    That when we live no more, we may live ever.


    Before the Birth of One of Her Children

    All things within this fading world hath end,
    Adversity doth still our joys attend;
    No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
    But with death's parting blow is sure to meet.
    The sentence past is most irrevocable,
    A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
    How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,
    How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend,
    We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
    These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
    That when that knot's untied that made us one,
    I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
    And if I see not half my days that's due,
    What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
    The many faults that well you know I have
    Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
    If any worth or virtue were in me,
    Let that live freshly in thy memory
    And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harms,
    Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms.
    And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
    Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
    And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me,
    These O protect from step-dame's injury.
    And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
    With some sad sighs honour my absent hearse;
    And kiss this paper for thy love's dear sake,
    Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.


MERCY OTIS WARREN (1728-1814)

Historian and poet Mercy Otis Warren, born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, had no formal schooling. Her brother, James Otis, who opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, and her husband, political leader James Warren, kept her in the forefront of politics. She wrote several plays, including the satires The Adulateur (1773) and The Group (1775). One of the earliest American feminists, Warren corresponded with Abigail Adams, arguing that women were not given the same educational opportunities as men. Warren published Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous (1790) and the three-volume A History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805). She also corresponded with important political figures of the time such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Elbridge Gerry.

    To an Amiable Friend Mourning the Death of an Excellent Father

    Let deep dejection hide her pallid face,
    And from thy breast each painful image rase;
    Forbid thy lip to utter one complaint,
    But view the glories of the rising saint,
    Ripe for a crown, and waiting the reward
    Of watching long the vineyard of the Lord.

    The generous purpose of his zealous heart,
    Truth to enforce, and knowledge to impart,
    Insures his welcome on the unknown shore,
    Where choirs of saints, and angel forms adore.
    A seraph met him on the trackless way,
    And strung his harp to join the heavenly lay.

    Complain no more of Death's extensive power,
    Whose sceptre wafts us to some blissful shore;
    Where the rough billows that roll o'er the head,
    That shake the frame, and fill the mind with dread,
    Are hush'd in silence, and the soul serene
    Looks back delighted on the closing scene.

    Happy, thrice happy, that exalted mind,
    Who, leaving earth and all its cares behind,
    Has not a wish to ruffle or control
    The equal temper of his tranquil soul,
    Who, on a retrospect, is safe within;
    No private passion, nor a darling sin,
    Can check his hope, when death's insatiate pow'r,
    Stands hovering on the last decisive hour.

    Then weep no more, my friend, but all resigned,
    Submit thy will to the Eternal Mind,
    Who watches o'er the movements of the just,
    And will again reanimate the dust!
    Thy sire commands, suppress the rising sigh,
    He wipes the tear from thy too filial eye,
    And bids thee contemplate a soul set free,
    Just safe escaped from life's tempestuous sea.


ANN ELIZA BLEECKER (1752-1783)

Ann Eliza Bleecker of New York City was born into one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in the colony. Her poems, including some about the Revolutionary War, were collected and published posthumously in 1793. Bleecker also wrote a novel in letter form, The History of Maria Kittle, which was the story of an American woman captured by Indians during the French and Indian War. Bleecker married at seventeen and settled in Tomhanick, New York, a village where her husband owned property. When Bleecker moved to Albany in 1777, she lost her youngest child to illness, and her husband was taken prisoner for several days in 1781. In 1783, and with failing health, Bleecker and her husband returned to Tomhanick, where she died at the age of thirty-one.


    Return to Tomhanick

    Hail, happy shades! though clad with heavy snows,
    At sight of you with joy my bosom glows;
    Ye arching pines, that bow with every breeze,
    Ye poplars, elms, all hail! my well-known trees!
    And now my peaceful mansion strikes my eye,
    And now the tinkling rivulet I spy;
    My little garden, Flora, hast thou kept,
    And watch'd my pinks and lilies, while I wept?
    Or has the grubbing swine, by furies led,
    The enclosure broke, and on my flowrets fed?
    Ah me! that spot with blooms so lately grac'd,
    With storms and driving snows, is now defaced;
    Sharp icicles from every bush depend,
    And frosts all dazzling o'er the beds extend:
    Yet soon fair spring shall give another scene,
    And yellow cowslips gild the level green;
    My little orchard sprouting at each bough,
    Fragrant with clustering blossoms deep shall glow:
    Ah! then 't is sweet the tufted grass to tread,
    But sweeter slumbering is the balmy shade;
    The rapid humming-bird, with ruby breast,
    Seeks the parterre with early blue-bells drest,
    Drinks deep the honeysuckle dew, or drives
    The labouring bee to her domestic hives:
    Then shines the lupine bright with morning gems,
    And sleepy poppies nod upon their stems,
    The humble violet, and the dulcet rose,
    The stately lily then, and tulip blows.

    Farewell, my Plutarch! farewell, pen and muse!
    Nature exults—shall I her call refuse?
    Apollo fervid glitters in my face,
    And threatens with his beam each feeble grace:
    Yet still around the lovely plants I toil,
    And draw obnoxious herbage from the soil;
    Or with the lime-twigs little birds surprise;
    Or angle for the trout of many dyes.

    But when the vernal breezes pass away,
    And loftier Phoebus darts a fiercer ray,
    The spiky corn then rattles all around,
    And dashing cascades give a pleasing sound;
    Shrill sings the locust with prolonged note,
    The cricket chirps familiar in each cot.
    The village children, rambling o'er yon hill,
    With berries all their painted baskets fill.
    They rob the squirrel's little walnut store,
    And climb the half-exhausted tree for more;
    Or else to fields of maze nocturnal hie,
    Where hid, the elusive water-melons lie;
    Sportive, they make incisions in the rind,
    The riper from the immature to find;
    Then load their tender shoulders with the prey,
    And laughing, bear the bulky fruit away.


    An Evening Prospect

    Come, my Susan, quit your chamber,
    Greet the opening bloom of May,
    Let us up yon hillock clamber,
    And around the scene survey.
    See the sun is now descending,

    And projects his shadows far,
    And the bee her course is bending
    Homeward through the humid air.
    Mark the lizard just before us,
    Singing her unvaried strain,
    While the frog abrupt in chorus

    Deepens through the marshy plain.
    From yon grove the woodcock rises,
    Mark her progress by her notes,
    High in air her wing she poises,
    Then like lightning down she shoots.

    Now the whip-poor-will beginning,
    Clamorous on a pointed rail,
    Drowns the more melodious singing
    Of the catbird, thrush, and quail.

    Pensive Echo from the mountain
    Still repeats the sylvan sounds;
    And the crocus-bordered fountain
    With the splendid fly abounds.

    There the honey-suckle blooming,
    Reddens the capricious wave;
    Richer sweets, the air perfuming,
    Spicy Ceylon never gave.

    Cast your eyes beyond this meadow,
    Painted by a hand divine,
    And observe the ample shadow
    Of that solemn ridge of pine.

    Here a trickling rill depending,
    Glitters through the artless bower
    And the silver dew descending,
    Doubly radiates every flower.

    While I speak, the sun is vanish'd,
    All the gilded clouds are fled;
    Music from the groves is banish'd,
    Noxious vapours round us spread.

    Rural toil is now suspended,
    Sleep invades the peasant's eyes;
    Each diurnal task is ended,
    While soft Luna climbs the skies

    Queen of rest and meditation!
    Through thy medium, I adore
    Him—the Author of creation,
    Infinite and boundless power!

    He now fills thy urn with glory,
    Transcript of immortal light;
    Lord! my spirit bows before thee,
    Lost in wonder and delight.


PHILLIS WHEATLEY (1753?-1784)

Born in Africa, Phillis Wheatley was brought to America on a slave ship in 1761. Servant for a wealthy Boston tailor and his wife, Wheatley was the first black American woman poet. Educated with the Wheatley's other children, she learned English quickly and mastered Greek and Latin as well. She began writing poetry when she was thirteen, and published her first book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. After the death of her mistress, Wheatley was freed, and married a free black, John Peters, in 1778. Abolitionists often used Wheatley's poems to promote education for people of all races. Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley (1834) and Letters of Phillis Wheatley, the Negro Slave-Poet of Boston (1864) were published posthumously.


    On Being Brought from Africa to America

    'Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there's a God, that there's a Savior too:
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
    Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
    "Their color is a diabolic dye."
    Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
    May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Great Poems by American Women by SUSAN L. RATTINER. Copyright © 1998 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Anne Bradstreet
  The Prologue
  The Author to Her Book
  To My Dear and Loving Husband
  Before the Birth of One of Her Children
Mercy Otis Warren
  To an Amiable Friend Mourning the Death of an Excellent Father
Ann Eliza Bleecker
  Return to Tomhanick
  An Evening Prospect
Phillis Wheatley
  On Being Brought from Africa to America
  "To S. M., a Young African Painter, on Seeing His Works"
  On Imagination
  On the Death of the Rev. Mr George Whitefield-1770
  An Hymn to the Evening
Sarah Wentworth Morton
  The African Chief
Susanna Haswell Rowson
  "America, Commerce, and Freedom"
  To Time
  Song
Emma Hart Willard
  Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep
Sarah Josepha Hale
  The Watcher
Lydia Huntley Sigourney
  Indian Names
  To the First Slave Ship
  The Indidan's Welcome to the Pilgrim Fathers
  Lines
  The Bell of the Wreck
Maria Gowen Brooks
  Stanzas
  Song
Lydia Maria Child
  The World I am Passing Through
  The New-England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day
Sarah Helen Whitman
  To Edgar Allan Poe
  To -
  Sonnet V
  The Morning-Glory
Emma C. Embury
  The Widow's Wooer
  Love Unsought
  A Portrait
Elizabeth Oakes-Smith
  Ode to Sappho
  The Drowned Mariner
Lucretia Davidson
  On the Birth of Her Sister Margaret
  America
Margaret Fuller
  Flaxman
  Instrumental Music
Elizabeth Clementine Kinney
  A Dream
Frances Sargent Osgood
  Ellen Learning to Walk
  A Dancing Girl
  Ah! Woman Still
Harriet Beecher Stowe
  The Other World
Mary E. Hewitt
  Imitation of Sappho
  Harold the Valiant
Julia Ward Howe
  Battle Hymn of the Republic
  My Last Dance
  Woman
  The Burial of Schlesinger
Alice Cary
  The Sea-Side Cave
  To Solitude
Fanny Crosby
  Voice of the Flowers
  The Dead Child
Phoebe Cary
  Nearer Home
  Advice Gratis to Certain Women
Lucy Larcom
  Plant a Tree
  A Strip of Blue
Frances E. W. Harper
  Learning to Read
  The Slave Mother
  The Slave Auction
  A Double Standard
  She's Free!
Ethel Lynn Beers
  "All quiet along the Potomac"
Rose Terry Cooke
  Bluebeard's Closet
  Segovia and Madrid
Helen Hunt Jackson
  My Lighthouses
  Poppies on the Wheat
Emily Dickinson
  "Success is counted sweetest"
  "Wild nights! Wild nights!"
  "A wounded deer leaps highest"
  "Hope is the thing with feathers"
  "There's a certain slant of light"
  "I felt a funeral in my brain"
  "I'm nobody! Who are you?"
  "He fumbles at your spirit"
  "A bird came down the walk"
  "This is my letter to the world"
  "I heard a fly buzz when I died"
  "Because I could not stop for Death"
  "If I can stop one heart from breaking"
  "A narrow fellow in the grass"
  "I never saw a moor"
  "There is no frigate like a book"
  "My life closed twice before its close"
Nora Perry
  The Love-Knot
Louisa May Alcott
  Thoreau's Flute
Mary Ashley Townsend
  Creed
  Virtuosa
  Her Horoscope
  A Georgia Volunteer
Elizabeth Akers Allen
  Rock Me to Sleep
Celia Thaxter
  Seaward
  The Sandpiper
Louise Chandler Moulton
  To-Night
  Louisa May Alcott
  A Painted Fan
Augusta Cooper Bristol
  Night
  The Crime of the Ages
Sarah Morgan Piatt
  Giving Back the Flower
  My Babes in the Wood
  Transfigured
Charlotte L. Forten Grimké
  Poem
  A Parting Hymn
Mary Mapes Dodge
  The Minuet
  Now the Noisy Winds Are Still
  Emerson
Margaret E. Sangster
  A Song for Our Flag
Constance Fenimore Woolson
  Love Unexpressed
  Yellow Jessamine
Ina Donna Coolbrith
  When the Grass Shall Cover Me
  Helen Hunt Jackson
  Fruitionless
Emma Lazarus
  The New Colossus
  1492
  Echoes
  The South
  Gifts
  The New Ezekiel
Sarah Orne Jewett
  A Caged Bird
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  Solitude
  Individuality
  Friendship After Love
  Delilah
Rose Hartwick Thorpe
  Curfew Must Not Ring To-Night
Rose Hawthorne Lathrop
  A Song Before Grief
Kate Nichols Trask
  Sorrow
  Aidenn
Edith M. Thomas
  The Mother Who Died Too
  Winter Sleep
Lizette Woodworth Reese
  One Night
  Tears
  Spicewood
Katharine Lee Bates
  America the Beautiful
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  A Common Inference
  The Beds of Fleur-de-lys
  A Conservative
Harriet Monroe
  To W. S. M.
  A Farewell
  Love Song
  Washington
  Lincoln
  Democracy
Louise Imogen Guiney
  The Wild Ride
  At a Symphony
Grace Ellery Channing-Stetson
  Any Woman to a Soldier
Edith Wharton
  The Last Giustiniani
  Life
  With the Tide
Willa Cather
  "Grandmither, think not I forget"
  A Likeness
Jospehine Preston Peabody
  Prelude
  Rubric
  The Nightingale Unheard
Amy Lowell
  The Letter
  Venus Transiens
  The Garden by Moonlight
  The Taxi
  Patterns
  A Winter Ride
  Opal
Alice Dunbar-Nelson
  Sonnet
  I Sit and Sew
Anna Hempstead Branch
  "Grieve Not, Ladies"
  Songs for My Mother
Sara Teasdale
  Barter
  The Look
  The Kiss
  I Shall Not Care
  The Wind
  The Answer
  Appraisal
  The Solitary
  Sappho
Elinor Wylie
  Beauty
  The Eagle and the Mole
  Velvet Shoes
  Let No Charitable Hope
  Pretty Words
Hazel Hall
  White Branches
  Instruction
Hilda Doolittle
  Oread
  Sea Poppies
  Sheltered Garden
  Heat
  Helen
Georgia Douglas Johnson
  The Heart of a Woman
Marianne Moore
  Poetry
  Sojourn in the Whale
  Roses Only
  To a Steam Roller
Edna St. Vincent Millay
  First Fig
  Renascence
  God's World
  Wild Swans
  Pity Me Not
  "Into the golden vessel of great song"
  "I, being born a woman and distressed"
  "Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare"
  "What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why"
Dorothy Parker
  One Perfect Rose
  Unfortunate Coincidence
Genevieve Taggard
  For Eager Lovers
Louise Bogan
  Medusa
  Women
Gwendolyn Brooks
  Jessie Mitchell's Mother
Sylvia Plath
  Daddy
  Lady Lazarus
Alphabetical List of Poets
Alphabetical List of Titles and First Lines
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