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Phoebe Cary (1824-1871)

Shakesperian Readings


          1.1Oh, but to fade, and live we know not where,
          1.2To be a cold obstruction and to groan!
          1.3This sensible, warm woman to become
          1.4A prudish clod; and the delighted spirit
          1.5To live and die alone, or to reside
          1.6With married sisters, and to have the care
          1.7Of half a dozen children, not your own;
          1.8And driven, for no one wants you,
          1.9Round the pendant world; or worse than worse
        1.10Of those that disappointment and pure spite
        1.11Have driven to madness: 'Tis too horrible!
        1.12The weariest and most troubled married life
        1.13That age, ache, penury, or jealousy
        1.14Can lay on nature, is a paradise
        1.15To being an old maid.



          2.1That very time I saw, (but thou couldst not,)
          2.2Walking between the garden and the barn,
          2.3Reuben, all armed; a certain aim he took
          2.4At a young chicken standing by a post,
          2.5And loosed his bullet smartly from his gun,
          2.6As he would kill a hundred thousand hens.
          2.7But I might see young Reuben's fiery shot
          2.8Lodged in the chaste board of the garden fence,
          2.9And the domesticated fowl passed on,
        2.10In henly meditation, bullet free.



          3.1My father had a daughter got a man,
          3.2As it might be, perhaps, were I good-looking,
          3.3I should, your lordship.
          3.4And what's her residence?
          3.5A hut my lord, she never owned a house,
          3.6But let her husband, like a graceless scamp,
          3.7Spend all her little means, -- she thought she ought, --
          3.8And in a wretched chamber, on an alley,
          3.9She worked like masons on a monument,
        3.10Earning their bread. Was not this love indeed?

Notes

1.1] Cf. Claudius in Measure for Measure, III.i.117-31 (on his immanent execution for fornication):

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clot; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and uncertain thought
Imagine howling -- 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, [penury], and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 600-01).

2.1] Cf. Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, II.i.155-64 (in an allusion to Elizabeth I):

That very time I saw (but thou couldst not),
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd. A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by [the] west,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 262).

3.1] Cf. the exchange of Viola and Orsino in Twelfth Night, II.iv.107-15:

[Viola] My father had a daughter lov'd a man
As it might be perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
[Orsino] And what's her history?
[Viola] A blank, my lord; she never told her love,
But let concealment like a worm i' th' bud
Feed on her damask cheek; she pin'd in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sate like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 454).


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: Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary with Notes (A. L. Burt, n.d.): 139-40. York University PS 1263 A25 B8
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/21

Rhyme: mainly unrhyming


Other poems by Phoebe Cary