mary’s valentines

by Frederick H. Pilch

Image: ephemera society.org

When the short wintry day was o’er,
A comely maiden sat before
A table, where lay spread
Three valentines, of style and hue
Quite dainty,—forth the first she drew,
And laughingly she read:
“Oh! Lady, I would be a flower,
To die in fragrance on your breast;
Or a chaste star, at midnight hour
To kiss your eyelids while you rest;
Or a soft breeze, at mid-day fair
To lift the ringlets of your hair
And whisper tender wishes there.”

‘Twas signed with a romantic name;
She knew who sent it just the same,
And fixed it in her mirror’s frame,
In future to amuse;
Then smiling sweetly, took apart
A second “herald of the heart,”
And found amid that work of art
These verses to peruse:
“Fair Damsel, would that you might need
A champion bold, or warrior true,
By brave emprize to win the meed
Of laurel wreaths, and smiles from you;
Against all comers I would stand,
Your doughty knight with sword in hand,
To do, or die, at your command.”

This was subscribed by “Roderick Dhu,”
Full well the clerkly hand she knew,
And that “a cloth-yard shaft” he drew
That ne’er was dipped in gore;—
She put this one away with care,
Then with an interested air
Took up the last epistle there,
And these lines pondered o’er:
“Dear Mary, I have loved you long,
And I will love you evermore,
My heart is stout, my arm is strong,
I am not versed in lover’s lore.
Nor flowing phrases can I bring,
But if my suit is no vain thing
I pray you wear this little ring.”

She kissed the name below,—twas “John,”
And hid it where her brooch went on,—
Or somewhere thereabout,—
The circlet fitted very well,
And in a reverie she fell,
Until the light went out.

A Newark attorney, Pilch included this poem in his volume Homespun verses, published in 1882.

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