Lines On The Portrait Of A Celebrated Publisher

A MOONY breadth of virgin face,
By thought unviolated;
A patient mouth, to take from scorn
The hook with bank-notes baited!
Its self-complacent sleekness shows
How thrift goes with the fawner;
An unctuous unconcern of all
Which nice folks call dishonor!
A pleasant print to peddle out
In lands of rice and cotton;
The model of that face in dough
Would make the artist's fortune.
For Fame to thee has come unsought,
While others vainly woo her,
In proof how mean a thing can make
A great man of its doer.
To whom shall men thyself compare,
Since common models fail 'em,
Save classic goose of ancient Rome,
Or sacred ass of Balaam?
The gabble of that wakeful goose
Saved Rome from sack of Brennus;
The braying of the prophet's ass
Betrayed the angel's menace!
So when Guy Fawkes, in petticoats,
And azure-tinted hose on,
Was twisting from thy love-lorn sheets
The slow-match of explosion
An earthquake blast that would have tossed
The Union as a feather,
Thy instinct saved a perilled land
And perilled purse together.
Just think of Carolina's sage
Sent whirling like a Dervis,
Of Quattlebum in middle air
Performing strange drill-service!
Doomed like Assyria's lord of old,
Who fell before the Jewess,
Or sad Abimelech, to sigh,
'Alas! a woman slew us!'
Thou saw'st beneath a fair disguise
The danger darkly lurking,
And maiden bodice dreaded more
Than warrior's steel-wrought jerkin.
How keen to scent the hidden plot!
How prompt wert thou to balk it,
With patriot zeal and pedler thrift,
For country and for pocket!
Thy likeness here is doubtless well,
But higher honor's due it;
On auction-block and negro-jail
Admiring eyes should view it.
Or, hung aloft, it well might grace
The nation's senate-chamber —
A greedy Northern bottle-fly
Preserved in Slavery's amber!

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John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

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"Lines On The Portrait Of A Celebrated Publisher" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/22964/lines-on-the-portrait-of-a-celebrated-publisher>.

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