helen of newark: two poems

Version 2
Image: Michael Lenson

On Helen of Newark

by “G. of New-Jersey”

                “The conquered thou dost conquer o’er again,
                Inflicting wound on wound!”

I did!–nor could I help it!–for her eye
        Fell on me, with love’s lightnings, and begot
A transport so unspeakable, that my
        Enraptured soul, of earthly things, knew not,
But felt as tho’ all nature had gone by,
        And it were fixt in a celestial spot,
Alone with some angelic being left,
And of all other thoughts than ecstasy, bereft!

O language! thou art beggarly and rude
        For such a strain as those bright eyes inspire!–
That hallow’d–nameless–wild beatitude
        Of all the soul can feel or can desire,
Which swallow’d up my being–and subdu’d
        All other faculties, needs words of fire!–
And I would give some years of painful care
To spend the rest of life with one so sweetly fair.

Frown if ye please, ye cold ones!–I aver
        From my heart’s knowledge, such delights have been;
And I care not how soon I may incur
        Your epithets–“extravagance and sin!”
But if there be one who can gaze on her
        And feel not the emotions start within
Which beauty’s loveliness and worth demand,
O may I ne’er esteem, nor take him by the hand!

Newark, Monday morning, June 5, 1820.



by “Village Minstrel”

I knew by her haughty contraction of brow,
        And the curl of her lip, that fair Helen was proud!–
And I said, though my heart must her beauties allow,
        ‘Tis pity a frown should such loveliness cloud.

‘Twas night–on her sofa she sweetly reclin’d;
        Its light o’er her features the chandelier threw;
All was still, save her ringlets that play’d in the wind,
        And her bright eye that roll’d in voluptuous blue!

O, heavens! I exclaim’d as enraptured I view’d–
        What angel of nature–of beauty is this?
If her mind be with equal enchantments endued,
        To call her my own, would be life’s richest bliss!

In the shade of retirement, how sweet to repose–
        To the world and its harrassing tumults unknown;
And to know that through life, undisturb’d to its close,
        Her heart–her affections–her charms were my own.

Yet I thought if these charms were but vainly display’d,
        To entrap the warm gaze with coquetish intent,
Their triumph was short–for they quickly would fade,
        And leave a reproach for their virtue misspent!

How fair–how exceedingly fair are some flowers,
        Which bloom but a day, and then wreck on the wind!
They return not again, though the night weep in showers,
        And they leave no memento–no fragrance behind!

But Heaven forbid that such fate should be thine,
        Thou loveliest one of life’s loveliest few!
O! fair as thy charms, may thy character shine–
        Thy smiles be sincere–thy affections be true!

Newark, Monday morning, August 20, 1821.

Written more than a year apart, these pieces were both published in the New-Jersey Eagle: the first on June 9, 1820, the second on August 24, 1821.

“G. of New-Jersey” was a sobriquet of Sylvester Graham, who would gain worldwide notoriety as the apostle of unbolted flour. The identity of “Village Minstrel” is unknown.

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