July 2, 2013

Hentz: where the joyous throng

Though born in Massachusetts and later a resident of North Carolina and Ohio, Caroline Lee Hentz would become best associated with Alabama as a novelist. She lived in Florence for about eight years with her family before moving to Tuscaloosa in 1843. They later moved to Georgia and, later still, to Florida. Her time in Florence was relatively quiet and out of the public eye; as one earlier biographer of her noted, this period only saw a few "fugitive poems, hurriedly written as occasion called for or suggested them." One such work was her poem "O, Come With Me," which Hentz noted was written in Florence on July 2, 1837. It was published in the February 1838 issue of the Lady's Book:

Oh! come with me to the stately halls,
Where fashion her airy votaries calls—
Thine eye would scorn such rural bowers,
Couldst thou gaze on luxury's glittering towers,
And thy hand would scatter the flowers we wear
To gather the gems that are glowing there.

Away, if thou wilt, but not for me,
Those heartless scenes—I had rather be
The humblest of the maids who dwell
On the sun-bright slope, or the shady dell,
Than one who has made her cold, bright home
In marble hall, or ancestral dome.
Oh! follow me, where the joyous throng,

To music's strains, are gliding along—
Let us there our useless garlands spread,
They will not fade 'neath so light a tread—
Time never will leave a print of care
On hearts so light, or brows so fair.

I may not go. The serpent leaves
Its track o'er the blossom that luxury weaves—
And thorns are rankling beneath the lig
That gilds like a glory, the brow of night—
The lamps are dim where those gay forms flit,
To yon lamp that nature's God has lit.

And is it so? Does the secret thorn
Lurk 'mid the scenes that such gems adorn?
Does the heart immersed in the joys of earth,
Though covered with smiles, feel an aching dearth?
Does the soul, that immortal cravings fill,
Still I sigh when the notes of the banquet thrill!

'Tis-Nature speaks through those saddening tones—
Thy inmost spirit her triumph owns.
Then come to her altar—with incense come—
Bring the soul's pure vows, and the heart's young bloom.
They are God's own temples—the fields and bowers—
Their curtains, the skies—their garlands, the flowers.

Adieu to the pomp and the splendour of Art—
Thou hast touched the living springs of the heart,
The rock is broken—the waters gleam,
The rays of truth on its pure waves beam,
The flower returns to its native wild—
Receive oh! Nature, thy erring child. 

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