from Fanny

By Fitz-Greene Halleck 1790–1867 Fitz-Greene Halleck
Fanny was younger once than she is now,   
   And prettier of course: I do not mean   
To say that there are wrinkles on her brow;   
   Yet, to be candid, she is past eighteen—   
Perhaps past twenty—but the girl is shy   
About her age, and Heaven forbid that I   

Should get myself in trouble by revealing   
   A secret of this sort; I have too long   
Loved pretty women with a poet’s feeling,   
   And when a boy, in day dream and in song,   
Have knelt me down and worshipp’d them: alas!   
They never thank’d me for’t—but let that pass.   

Her father kept, some fifteen years ago,   
   A retail dry-good shop in Chatham-street,   
And nursed his little earnings, sure though slow,   
   Till, having muster’d wherewithal to meet   
The gaze of the great world, he breathed the air   
Of Pearl-street—and "set up" in Hanover-square.   

Money is power, ’tis said—I never tried;   
   I’m but a poet—and bank-notes to me   
Are curiosities, as closely eyed,   
   Whene’er I get them, as a stone would be,   
Toss’d from the moon on Doctor Mitchill’s table,   
Or classic brickbat from the tower of Babel.   

But he I sing of well has known and felt   
   That money hath a power and a dominion;   
For when in Chatham-street the good man dwelt,   
   No one would give a sous for his opinion.   
And though his neighbours were extremely civil,   
Yet, on the whole, they thought him—a poor devil,   

A decent kind of person; one whose head   
   Was not of brains particularly full;   
It was not known that he had ever said   
   Any thing worth repeating—’twas a dull,   
Good, honest man—what Paulding’s muse would call   
A “cabbage head”—but he excelled them all   

In that most noble of the sciences,   
   The art of making money; and he found   
The zeal for quizzing him grew less and less,   
   As he grew richer; till upon the ground   
Of Pearl-street, treading proudly in the might   
And majesty of wealth, a sudden light   

Flash’d like the midnight lightning on the eyes   
   Of all who knew him; brilliant traits of mind,   
And genius, clear and countless as the dies   
   Upon the peacock’s plumage; taste refined,   
Wisdom and wit, were his—perhaps much more.   
’Twas strange they had not found it out before.   


Dear to the exile is his native land,   
   In memory’s twilight beauty seen afar:   
Dear to the broker is a note of hand,   
   Collaterally secured—the polar star   
Is dear at midnight to the sailor’s eyes,   
And dear are Bristed’s volumes at “half price;”

But dearer far to me each fairy minute   
   Spent in that fond forgetfulness of grief;   
There is an airy web of magic in it,   
   As in Othello’s pocket-handkerchief,   
Veiling the wrinkles on the brow of sorrow,   
The gathering gloom to-day, the thunder cloud to-morrow.   

Since that wise pedant, Johnson, was in fashion,   
   Manners have changed as well as moons; and he   
Would fret himself once more into a passion,   
   Should he return (which heaven forbid!), and see,   
How strangely from his standard dictionary,   
The meaning of some words is made to vary.   

For instance, an undress at present means   
   The wearing a pelisse, a shawl, or so;   
Or any thing you please, in short, that screens   
   The face, and hides the form from top to toe;   
Of power to brave a quizzing-glass, or storm—
’Tis worn in summer, when the weather’s warm.   

But a full dress is for a winter’s night.   
   The most genteel is made of "woven air;"   
That kind of classic cobweb, soft and light,   
   Which Lady Morgan’s Ida used to wear.   
And ladies, this aërial manner dress'd in,   
Look Eve-like, angel-like, and interesting.   

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Poet Fitz-Greene Halleck 1790–1867

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

 Fitz-Greene  Halleck


Born and raised in Guilford, Connecticut, early-19th-century poet, essayist, and Byron scholar Fitz-Greene Halleck was a descendant of Pilgrims. He moved to New York City at the age of 21, where he worked as a personal secretary for philanthropist John Jacob Astor; the Astor Library, for which Halleck was an original trustee, would later serve as the foundation for the New York Public Library.
A member of New York City’s . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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