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Her robe was the finest of silken sheen,
And it clung to her figure's swell
Her dainty waist as well.
Standing beside the spring,
And fear on the heart to bring.
She spoke, and her silver voice was clear,
And low, and sad, though sweet;
E'er the storm begins to beat.
'On woman's love oh! ne'er believe:
More stable the wave in its flow;
Naught falser on earth below!
(And her bosom began to swell,)
I'll love thee long and well.'
And as she ceased, the opening Spring
Received her in its breast,
Such as might greet the blessed.
Ho followed not: bis steadfast love
The faëry's charm defied.
To her, his promised bride.
The faery font is choked and dry,
Its mistress never seen,
Toward its foliage green.
In constancy to man?
Let him answer the quest who can.
The American Young Lady is sui generis. There is nothing like her. In all civilized nations, young ladies are most carefully secluded, watched over, and deprived in a measure of personal liberty. The Spanish duenna is a character known in history, the seclusion of an English school girl is proverbial, while the French demoiselle is as carefully watched as her sister beyond the Pyrenees. Still less, finding no prototype to our young lady in civilization, can we compare her to a Hottentot, or a savage of any kind ; therefore we return to our original starting-point, and pronounce her sui generis.
She is like necessity, and ·knows no law. She is generally dutiful, and obeys her parents, as far as they require, but they do not require very stringent obedience.
On her return home from school, she has her own ideas on the subject of dress, whether she will go into society,' or whether she will be quiet and studious at home. Mamma suits herself to either humor. Sometimes mamma keeps about, and has an eye out to windward, but not always. She feels a great respect for Jane's own sagacity and good sense, perfect confidence in her prudence, and if somewhat out of society ways, as American mammas are apt to be, she allows her precious treasure to go to Saratoga with a friend ; hears complacently of her flirtations with young Rapid ; asks her, when she gets home, if she is engaged ;' and listens very quietly to the good sense and prudence which characterize the young lady's own opinions of young Rapid's fortune and expectations.
This, of course, is not a fair description of every mamma, or of every young lady, but we all know hundreds of such cases among our most respectable families, and we all know that in no country save our own could the thing happen.
In the Northern States, particularly New-England, the young lady has the mantle of many Puritan grandmothers hanging about her; her face wears over all its innate coquetry a soft veil of reserve; she is a little prudish and distant; her manners are slightly wanting in grace, that sweetest grace of all, affability; she is highly intellectual,' reads Goethe ; and has, as Hawthorne expresses it, an instinct to attend lectures. Above all, she has a high sense of duty, so long and so rigidly inculcated by her Puritan surroundings that it has almost extinguished (one would think) her natural instincts, did not Nature occasionally assert herself, and prove that
Evex in Athens there may be
If the Eastern young lady have a fault, it is in being too good, too lezrned, and too faultless. She is very pretty, beautiful, when very young. There are no complexions which compare with the delicate blooms of the sea-coast, or the healthful and brighter cheeks which we find in our Eastern mountain towns. Perhaps a shadow more — what shall we say — a trifle more fullness of figure would be an improvement, a little relaxing of the muscles, a less stern view of life, would improve the Eastern young lady. When she gets a little advanced in life, she is in terrible danger of growing strong-minded ; but we approach the shadowy limits of our subject. We were speaking of young ladies.
But as we always want to get out when we have affixed a limit to our meditations, we are irresistibly impelled to contemplate the Eastern young lady when she ceases to be a young lady, and barters her incomparable independence · for a name and for a ring. As a wife, she is perfect. No visions of the 'femme incomprise' rise to trouble the pure serenity of her mind. To her, her husband is the rose and the expectancy of the fair state ;' and if she live in New-England, she likes to have him write some initial of honor before or after his name. LL.D. and D.D. fill her with complacency. All her ambition is for him. She is quite content to grow pale and thin under her many domestic cares, thinking always of duty, and of her home and its treasures. If his fortunes lead him to that Western land whose high road is said to be marked with the bones of those who have fallen, 'moving farther on,' she goes heroically, carrying the light heart and ready wit of Mary Clavers' along with her. Remembering her NewEngland thrift, she makes the wilderness to blossom as the rose; bears untold hardships without a murmur; preserves her strong and faithful piety through long years, during which she hears not the music of Sabbath bells, save in her dreams; brings up her boys to be sturdy lords of fifty thousand acres of land, and future members of Congress; and her girls to be educated for any position in this country or Europe. We forgive the Eastern young lady such virtues as these, such constancy, and sublime self-denial ; such apostles of good as these well-educated and well-principled young women have been in all our great Western land, make their rigidity of muscle, their tendency for lectures, to fade out of the picture, and we see them in all their admirable tints.
If we have chosen to speak of the shadows in the fair portrait, we have also neglected to point out the high lights. Not satisfied with doing those things which we ought not to have done, we leave undone those things which we ought to have done. Let us repair the latter error.
Our Eastern young lady reads very good books : she knows Shakespeare well, and his glorious company. As Charles Lamb delightfully says of his sister, ‘she has browsed at will upon the fair and wholesome pasturage of old English reading.'
She reads history, and has no shabby amount of science. She knows Latin better than French, although she has read the classics of the latter tongue. Accomplishments (of the lightest character) are not as much cultivated at the North as at the South. She prefers hearing one of Mr. Emerson's lectures read aloud, to the music of the most bewildering waltz - not that she does n't like a dance now and then, but all her profound emotions and sympathies are of the æsthetic. In music, she worships and cultivates the Beethoven and Mendelssohn school. She likes whatever is obscure and dreamy; is profoundly
metaphysical in mind, while remarkably straightforward in practice. She is the flower of a Northern tree, which, though torn up and planted anew, has not changed its growth, but perhaps modified its development.
The Southern young lady springs from a very different source. Her great-grandfather was a cavalier. With his disdain of his inferiors, his showy person and accomplishments, he was not likely to leave as an inheritance to his children the stern virtues or intolerance of the Puritan. His fair descendant has been born graceful and handsome ; has learned those accomplishments which tell best in society. She is far more amiable in her manners than the Eastern young lady; and if her knowledge of history is not as good, she has a French epigram at her tongue's end, which is more amusing, and is spoken with infinite grace. She has fine eyes and hair, and a superb person. If she has not the delicate loveliness of the dame of the East, she has more presence; she is more showy, and admired at first sight.
Her manners are perfection ; the sunniest smile, the most flattering attention to the speaker, be he ever so dull; the readiest courtesy in the world beams from these daughters of the South. They are great politicians, and their goal is the White House. If they fail of reaching that, a foreign appointment is the next best. One Southern lady of great beauty and great influence, said she had done every thing to gain a foreign post for her husband but to kiss the President, (and if he did not relent then, he certainly was harder than his face, which was a very cast-iron one ;) she did not even have to proceed to this disagreeable extent, but got the appointment without.
They are generally fine musicians and good linguists. In short, they are preeminently our women of society. They are said to be somewhat inconstant in love, and to consider themselves doing only a small business when engaged to three men at once. However that may be, the fortunate man who carries off the prize, finds generally that his accomplished bride settles down into an excellent wife and mother, discharging with great propriety the onerous duties of plantation-life.
Let us imagine the horror of an English, a French, and a Spanish mamma, if it should be proposed to them that Lady Geraldine, the fair Matilde, and the dark-eyed Inez, should go travelling about the country alone! take young men to parties, dance with whom they please, conduct their own matrimonial arrangements, and enjoy nearly the liberty which falls to the lot of the elderly and married. The English mamma would quietly retire to her inmost closet, and thank HEAVEN that she is not as this American. The French mamma would shrug her shoulders very significantly; and the Spanish lady would doublelock her daughter's room, and substitute an uglier and more severe duenna than ever.
But should we like to exchange standards of morality with the Spanish or French ? No. So far as the results can speak for any system of education, we point with pride to the results of freedom of action. No women command the universal respect, none, we believe, deserve it more than our own.
One course of education, however, they might copy with advantage. We refer to the English system of a prolonged youth. While our girls are figuring at parties, imperfectly educated, to say the least, the English girl is carefully secluded in the school-room, allowed merely to exercise under the protecting shade of the tall ancestral oaks, far from excitement, and glitter, and distraction. She is building a splendid edifice of health and beauty ; she is ripening slowly and well.
At thirty-five, our women do not show well beside English women. Is there not something in our course of life which is wrong?
Is not our great desire to make our young women enjoy themselves, after all, a weak indulgence to ourselves ? Would it not promote the real happiness of these young people if they led a more secluded and thoughtful life, and did not preface the sterner duties of life with so long a holiday?
Let us contemplate for a moment that agreeable hybrid, the NewYork young lady. She is the embodiment of style ; she shows what can be done for the raw material by cultivation. We doubt if a Spanish woman walks better, if a French woman dresses better, if an English woman can show more accomplishments than the best-trained and most successful specimens of the New-York young lady. Every nation contributes to her many-sided education. Germany comes over to teach her the piano ; Italy tries to make her sing ; France succeeds in making her dance and speak French. The world is drained to furnish her wardrobe. No Cleopatra dissolves her pearls more recklessly ; no more luxurious creature treads the earth than she. But does she think much? We are far from condemning luxuries and amusements ; they come from the same wise HAND which dispenses sorrows and deprivations, but it sometimes seems to us that they divert the mind from its true ends and aims. Our young ladies are hurried on by that vast organization called society, and never have time to stop and think.
Does it ever occur to them that they have read of a class of women (not alone those whom Sidney Smith describes in this phrase : . There lived in France a class of women who violated all the decencies of life, and gave very pleasant little suppers,') who were beautiful, and fashionable, and intellectual also ? — women who knew how to talk well, write well ; who were the chosen companions of men of thought and culture.
When we read of Lady Holland and her coterie of thinkers, authors, statesmen, and artists, and find this remark: That she knew so much of every man's speciality, that she could make him talk better than he ever did before ; that she threw the grace of her feminine intellect over science, poetry, and politics,' does it not make the sphere in which our young ladies are content to move, a narrow one ?
The American women are peculiarly the help-mates of the men ; they receive a prouder homage in the universal respect which awaits them, than is given to any queen on her throne ; therefore, there is a strong additional reason why they should heighten every excellence, and exalt the character to its greatest perfection; a great nation requires it of them. There is in the heart of man a voice which calls loudly for perfection in woman. Did no aspiration within herself teach it, this should lead her upward and onward. But a still, small voice within