Saturday, January 4, 2020

Addressed to a Student of Divinity: A Poem by Annis Boudinot Stockton

One of the first published female poets in America was Annis Boudinot Stockton, daughter of Elias Boudinot IV, wife of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Her correspondence with and poetic tribute to George Washington is noteworthy, but she wrote poems on many subjects. Today’s post will highlight a poem she is thought to have sent to Princeton student and fellow poet Benjamin Young Prime (1733-1791) around 1757. It may be found, along with all of her known compositions, in Carla Mulford, ed., Only for the Eye of a Friend: The Poems of Annis Boudinot Stockton.

Addressed to a Student of Divinity

How blest the youth whom Genius deigns to guide, 
Thro paths of Science to fair wisdom's Seat — 
Where virtue and philosophy preside — 
And trample error underneath their feet.
Whose Steady mind can from the crowd retire — 
In Search of truth to turn the historic page — 
The rise and fall of empire to admire — 
And mark the effect of vice on ev’ry age. — 
Whose taste and fancy urge him to the groves — 
O’er craggy rocks or mountain steep to climb 
Or thro the secret haunts of nature roves — 
And deeply meditates on themes sublime. 
There taught by reason to controul the will — 
And hush the Jarring passions into peace — 
Their vast extent and influence to feel — 
And how Combin’d with human happiness. 
But happies he whom piety Controuls — 
To shun a flattering world's deceitful way — 
To break the bread of life to hungry souls — 
And prompt the path of bliss to those that stray.

Genius and Science polish and refine — 
Philosophy and virtue lend their aid — 
While truth and wisdom mark the true divine — 
Be this the path and this the pattern too — 
Then follow on with all your noblest powers — 
Nor let your Secret foes your mind subdue — 
But to your Saviour dedicate your hours. —