Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820
Lines Written while Rocking a Cradle
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This poem appeared in the November 6, 1802 edition of the Boston Weekly Magazine under the name "Honora Martesia." Judith is probably reminiscing about her daughter’s infancy. Her daughter, Julia Maria Murray, was born in 1791.


We rifle PARNASSUS of every sweet,
A fanciful garland to make;
Oh slight not the off’ring we lay at your feet
Ye fair: It was made for your sake.

Lines Written while Rocking a Cradle.

My Maria—careful joy,
All my moments you employ;
Time advanceth not for me,
‘Tis devoted all to thee;
Circled in my fond embrace,
As thy features I retrace,
Fancying charms before unknown,
Quite enthusiastic grown,
Beauteous as Helen, I exclaim,
Though most unlike the Grecian dame—
Virtue shall be my Julia’s guide,
Prudence watching by her side.
Through every ordeal she shall pass,
Confess’d the fair, accomplish’d lass:
And though a Paris may assail,
Never shall his arts prevail,
With Virgin pride her breast shall glow,
Serene as truth her passions flow.

Thus while I snatch the ardent kiss,
Repeating oft the fragrant bliss,
Or while I yield the honied stream,
Of golden scenes I fondly dream,
With roses strewing every hour,
Which rears to life my pretty flower.
Gaily futurity expands,
And tip-toe Hope with chaplet strands,
Its perfum’d sweets diffusing round,
And closing every former wound.

“Tis thus the cherub in my arms,
My pleas’d imagination warms,
Arresting every rising thought,
With busy plans and wishes fraught.
Each day successive as it moves,
My labour unremitted proves,
Just as I said—her opening worth,
Only of three short months the growth,
My every moment hath purloin’d,
Morn, noon, and night to her resign’d!
For though the little charmer sleeps,
And silence its soft vigils keeps,
Some shirt or vest my work supplies,
And see that cap unfinish’d lies:
Something remains which must be done,
This rebe completed, that begun;
So that it is exceeding plain,
I can no leisure hour obtain.

Well, be it so, content am I—
My moments pass serenely by,
No Flowerist, with half my glee,
Expects his opening buds to see,
Or builds, though high he mounts in air,
His castles more than half so fair.

And as he looks—when to his eyes,
The blooming scene shall gaily rise,
While all the charms which Iris wears,
His bower of blending hues prepares;
Or as of shaded evening walks,
And clustering sweets he often talks,
Luxuriant tints which fancy spreads,
And all her richest odours sheds.

So I—or more presuming still,
Expect that time my grasp will fill,
With more substantial good than blooms,
Than Nature’s painted growth assumes;
More than exterior beauty knows,
Sweets which perfume the damask rose,
Or which the white rob’d lily wears,
When its majestic head it rears.

Anticipating, I behold,
Encreasing, lowliness unfold,
Until a prop for lingering years,
The angel in my arms appears.

Life’s evening she will duteous shade,
Exerting every youthful aid;
My downhill path will gently slope,
Giving to age its fairest hope:
With tenderness these eyes will close,
When they shall seek a long repose,
When Nature heaves its parting sighs,
When vital heat no more supplies
Its genial glow to this fond heart,
In which she bears so dear a part.

And, forward borne, to yonder skies,
Where spirits disembody’d rise,
My flower, transplated, shall inhale
Celestial airs—that bright’ning gale,
Which immortality bequeaths,
And which the richest fragrance breaths.

There we shall live—and there receive,
Enjoyments such as God can give.
Together live—beyond the death of time,
Sublime our pleasures—and our hopes sublime.

HONORA MARTESIA

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2009 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.