Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Amy Wentworth

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Portsmouth, N. H.

Amy Wentworth

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)


HER fingers shame the ivory keys

They dance so light along;

The bloom upon her parted lips

Is sweeter than the song.

O perfumed suitor, spare thy smiles!

Her thoughts are not of thee;

She better loves the salted wind,

The voices of the sea.

Her heart is like an outbound ship

That at its anchor swings;

The murmur of the stranded shell

Is in the song she sings.

She sings, and, smiling, hears her praise,

But dreams the while of one

Who watches from his sea-blown deck

The icebergs in the sun.

She questions all the winds that blow,

And every fog-wreath dim,

And bids the sea-birds flying north

Bear messages to him.

She speeds them with the thanks of men

He perilled life to save,

And grateful prayers like holy oil

To smooth for him the wave.

Brown Viking of the fishing-smack!

Fair toast of all the town!—

The skipper’s jerkin ill beseems

The lady’s silken gown!

But ne’er shall Amy Wentworth wear

For him the blush of shame

Who dares to set his manly gifts

Against her ancient name.

The stream is brightest at its spring,

And blood is not like wine;

Nor honored less than he who heirs

Is he who founds a line.

Full lightly shall the prize be won,

If love be Fortune’s spur;

And never maiden stoops to him

Who lifts himself to her.

Her home is brave in Jaffrey Street,

With stately stairways worn

By feet of old Colonial knights

And ladies gentle-born.

Still green about its ample porch

The English ivy twines,

Trained back to show in English oak

The herald’s carven signs.

And on her, from the wainscot old,

Ancestral faces frown,—

And this has worn the soldier’s sword,

And that the judge’s gown.

But, strong of will and proud as they,

She walks the gallery floor

As if she trod her sailor’s deck

By stormy Labrador!

The sweetbrier blooms on Kittery-side,

And green are Elliot’s bowers;

Her garden is the pebbled beach,

The mosses are her flowers.

She looks across the harbor-bar

To see the white gulls fly;

His greeting from the Northern sea

Is in their clanging cry.

She hums a song, and dreams that he,

As in its romance old,

Shall homeward ride with silken sails

And masts of beaten gold!

Oh, rank is good, and gold is fair,

And high and low mate ill;

But love has never known a law

Beyond its own sweet will!