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Short poem

Joseph Howe (1804-1873)

Once More I Put my Bonnet On

              1Once more I put my bonnet on,
              2    And tie the ribbons blue,
              3My showy poplin dress I don,
              4    That's just as good as new,
              5And smooth and stately as a swan
              6    Go sailing to my pew.

              7Once more, Ah! me, how oft, how oft,
              8    Shall I the scene repeat?
              9With graceful ease and manner soft
            10    I sink into my seat,
            11And round the congregation waft
            12    The sense of odors sweet.

            13A finer form, a fairer face
            14    Ne'er bent before the stole,
            15With more restraint, no spotless lace
            16    Did firmer orbs control,
            17I shine, the Beauty of the place,
            18    And yet I look all soul.

            19When to the sinful people round
            20    My pitying glances rove
            21The dewy tints of Heaven's profound
            22    Seem in my eyes to move,
            23Too sorrowful their hearts to wound,
            24    And hardly asking love.

            25And thus for four long years I've sat,
            26    My gloves without a crease,
            27For two of them I wore a hat,
            28    For one a blue pelisse,
            29When will the wicked know what's what,
            30    The weary heart have peace?

            31My head gear twenty times I've changed,
            32    Worn Paris flowers in Spring,
            33Wheat ears in Autumn, re-arranged,
            34    Tried birds of every wing,
            35Bade that from Paradise estranged
            36    Its lustre o'er me fling.

            37But yet, as "nether millstones" hard
            38    The hearts of men appear,
            39Smooth shaved, "or bearded like the pard"
            40    They're worse from year to year.
            41My "virtue is its own reward,"
            42    I'm sitting single here.

            43The Rector's eyes, a brilliant pair,
            44    Lit up with love divine,
            45Beaming with inspiration rare,
            46    And phrenzy very fine,
            47Like nestling birds from upper air,
            48    Would gently droop to mine.

            49What could I think, as day by day
            50    His gaze more earnest grew,
            51Till half the girls began to say
            52    He neither cared nor knew,
            53Though all the Church should go astray
            54    If he could save my pew.

            55I read divinity by reams,
            56    The Bible got by heart,
            57I studied all the Church's "Schemes,"
            58    Prepared to play my part
            59Of Rector's wife, as well beseems
            60    A lady of high Art.

            61But, let the truth at once be told,
            62    Religion's cause was nought,
            63For Twenty Thousand Pounds in gold
            64    The Rector's heart was bought,
            65And I was most completely sold,
            66    The Blackbird was not caught.

            67The Curate's hair was crisp and brown,
            68    His color very high;
            69His ample chest came sloping down,
            70    Antinous-like his thigh,
            71Sin shrank before his gathered frown,
            72    Peace whispered in his sigh.

            73So young! I hoped his steps to guide
            74    From error's devious way;
            75By bad example sorely tried,
            76    I feared the youth might stray;
            77To life's allurements opening wide
            78    Become an easy prey.

            79I did my best, I watched and prayed,
            80    His ardent soul to save,
            81But by the sinful flesh betrayed,
            82    What could I do but rave?
            83Ten stone of blonde, in lace arrayed
            84    Walked with him down the nave.

            85If Gospel truth must now be told
            86    I've selfish grown of late,
            87The Banker next though somewhat old,
            88    And limping in his gait,
            89And quite as yellow as his gold,
            90    I thought to animate.

            91I'm sure my Note he would have "done"
            92    With "two good names" upon it;
            93I do not think he ever run
            94    His eye glass o'er my sonnet,
            95Or counted, in the morning sun
            96    The feathers in my bonnet.

            97The widowed Judge I next essayed,
            98    His orphans kindly viewing,
            99Read Blackstone nearly through 'tis said,
          100    All gaudy dress eschewing;
          101But, am I doomed to die a maid?
          102    Not yet he comes a wooing.

          103Once more I'll put my bonnet on
          104    And tie the ribbons blue;
          105My showy poplin dress I'll don,
          106    That's just as good as new,
          107And smooth and stately as a swan
          108    Go sailing to my pew.

          109Merchants and Lawyers, half a score,
          110    Bow on their hats to pray,
          111Tho' scattered round, I'm very sure
          112    They always look my way.
          113I'll re-appear, encore! encore!
          114    Who shall I catch to-day?


3] poplin: plainly woven, sturdy cloth with crosswise ribs, not quite as attractive as it might appear from the context

28] pelisse: long fur-trimmed cloak

57] Church's "Schemes": ecclesiastical plans of action

70] Antinous-like: handsome youth, a friend of the Emperor Hadrian who drowned in the Nile

99] Blackstone: Sir William Blackstone (1723-80), first Vinerian professor of law at Oxford University, judge, and a well-known legal authority who authored Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Hon. Joseph Howe, Poems and Essays (Montreal: John Lovell, 1874): 177-81.
First publication date: 1874
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/7

Rhyme: ababab

Other poems by Joseph Howe