Songs from the Mountains

Black Lizzie

Henry Kendall

THE GLOVED and jewelled bards who sing
    Of Pippa, Maud, and Dorothea,
Have hardly done the handsome thing
    For you, my inky Cytherea.

Flower of a land whose sunny skies
    Are like the dome of Dante’s clime,
They might have praised your lips, your eyes,
    And, eke, your ankles in their rhyme!

But let them pass! To right your wrong,
    Aspasia of the ardent South,
Your poet means to sing a song
    With some prolixity of mouth.

I’ll even sketch you as you are
    In Herrick’s style of carelessness,
Not overstocked with things that bar
    An ample view—to wit, with dress.

You have your blanket, it is true;
    But then, if I am right at all,
What best would suit a dame like you
    Was worn by Eve before the Fall.

Indeed, the “fashion” is a thing
    That never cramped your cornless toes:
Your single jewel is a ring
    Slung in your penetrated nose.

I can’t detect the flowing lines
    Of Grecian features in your face,
Nor are there patent any signs
    That link you with the Roman race.

In short, I do not think your mould
    Resembles, with its knobs of bone,
The fair Hellenic shapes of old
    Whose perfect forms survive in stone.

Still, if the charm called Beauty lies
    In ampleness of ear and lip,
And nostrils of exceeding size,
    You are a gem, my ladyship!

Here, squatting by the doubtful flame
    Of three poor sticks, without a roof
Above your head, impassive dame
    You live on—somewhat hunger-proof.

The current scandals of the day
    Don’t trouble you—you seem to take
Things in the coolest sort of way—
    And wisest—for you have no ache.

You smoke a pipe—of course, you do!
    About an inch in length or less,
Which, from a sexual point of view,
    Mars somehow your attractiveness.

But, rather than resign the weed,
    You’d shock us, whites, by chewing it;
For etiquette is not indeed
    A thing that bothers you a bit.

Your people—take them as a whole—
    Are careless on the score of grace;
And hence you needn’t comb your poll
    Or decorate your unctuous face.

Still, seeing that a little soap
    Would soften an excess of tint,
You’ll pardon my advance, I hope,
    In giving you a gentle hint.

You have your lovers—dusky beaux
    Not made of the poetic stuff
That sports an Apollonian nose,
    And wears a sleek Byronic cuff.

But rather of a rougher clay
    Unmixed with overmuch romance,
Far better at the wildwood fray
    Than spinning in a ballroom dance.

These scarcely are the sonneteers
    That sing their loves in faultless clothes:
Your friends have more decided ears
    And more capaciousness of nose.

No doubt they suit you best—although
    They woo you roughly it is said:
Their way of courtship is a blow
    Struck with a nullah on the head.

It doesn’t hurt you much—the thing
    Is hardly novel to your life;
And, sans the feast and marriage ring,
    You make a good impromptu wife.

This hasty sort of wedding might,
    In other cases, bring distress;
But then, your draper’s bills are light—
    You’re frugal in regard to dress.

You have no passion for the play,
    Or park, or other showy scenes;
And, hence, you have no scores to pay,
    And live within your husband’s means.

Of course, his income isn’t large,—
    And not too certain—still you thrive
By steering well inside the marge,
    And keep your little ones alive.

In short, in some respects you set
    A fine example; and a few
Of those white matrons I have met
    Would show some sense by copying you.

Here let us part! I will not say,
    O lady free from scents and starch,
That you are like, in any way,
    The authoress of “Middlemarch”.

One cannot match her perfect phrase
    With commonplaces from your lip;
And yet there are some sexual traits
    That show your dim relationship.

Indeed, in spite of all the mists
    That grow from social codes, I see
The liberal likeness which exists
    Throughout our whole humanity.

And though I’ve laughed at your expense,
    O Dryad of the dusky race,
No man who has a heart and sense
    Would bring displeasure to your face.

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