April 11, 2011

Pinkney: to one made up of loveliness alone

Born in England while his American father was then ambassador to England, Edward Coote Pinkney was ranked among the greatest American poets before his death on April 11, 1828. He was 25 years old. In his three years of writing while living in Maryland, one poem stood out above all others as his greatest. For a time in the 19th century, "A Health" was a standard toast at special occasions:

I fill this cup to one made up
Of loveliness alone,
A woman, of her gentle sex
The seeming paragon;
To whom the better elements
And kindly stars have given
A form so fair, that like the air,
'Tis less of earth than heaven.

Her every tone is music's own,
Like those of morning birds,
And something more than melody
Dwells ever in her words;
The coinage of her heart are they,
And from her lips each flows
As one may see the burden'd bee
Forth issue from the rose.

Affections are as thoughts to her,
The measures of her hours;
Her feelings have the fragrancy,
The freshness of young flowers;
And lovely passions, changing oft,
So fill her, she appears
The image of themselves by turns,—
The idol of past years!

Of her bright face one glance will trace
A picture on the brain,
And of her voice in echoing hearts
A sound must long remain;
But memory, such as mine of her,
So very much endears,
When death is nigh my latest sigh
Will not be life's, but hers.

I fill'd this cup to one made up
Of loveliness alone,
A woman, of her gentle sex
The seeming paragon—
Her health! and would on earth there stood,
Some more of such a frame,
That life might be all poetry,
And weariness a name.


  1. Hi Rob,
    I've been following your blog for about two years now (three, if you count the superb 2009 Poe calendar), but do not see it every day. Thus, have you had any posts about Jones Very (1813-1880)? I came across a lovely poem of his, "The Lost," the other day, and also seem to recall that he was one of Thoreau's teachers at Harvard. So if you have done something on him (Very), please guide me to that post. If not, you might consider doing so. Wasn't he sort of a religious ecstatic? Thanks. I enjoy the blog.

  2. Well, thanks for the dedication! Jones Very is one of my favorite characters in Transcendentalism but I've only dedicated one post specifically to him. Expect more as we continue along.

  3. Many thanks for the links to your May 8 posting and Very's own book. Much to explore here! I'll be on the watch if you reference him again. One wonders how he fits in among Emerson (of the faulty spelling), Thoreau, Alcott, and other Transcendentalists. Let us know.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.