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A Portrait.

Nathaniel Parker Willis 1806 (Portland) – 1867

She's beautiful! Her raven curls
Have broken hearts in envious girls -
And then they sleep in contrast so,
Like raven feathers upon snow,
And bathe her neck - and shade the bright
Dark eye from which they catch the light,
As if their graceful loops were made
To keep that glorious eye in shade,
And holier make its tranquil spell,
Like waters in a shaded well.

I cannot rhyme about that eye -
I've match'd it with a midnight sky -
I've said 'twas deep, and dark, and wild,
Expressive, liquid, witching, mild -
But the jewell'd star, and the living air
Have nothing in them half so fair.

She's noble - noble - one to keep
Embalm'd for dreams of fever'd sleep -
An eye for nature - taste refin'd,
Perception swift, and ballanc'd mind, -
And more than all, a gift of thought
To such a spirit-fineness wrought,
That on my ear her language fell,
As if each word dissolv'd a spell.

Yet I half hate her. She has all
That would ensure an angel's fall -
But there's a cool collected look,
As if her pulses beat by book -
A measure'd tone, a cold reply,
A management of voice and eye,
A calm, possess'd, authentic air,
That leaves a doubt of softness there,
'Till - look and worship as I may -
My fever'd thoughts will pass away.

And when she lifts her fringing lashes,
And her dark eye like star-light flashes -
And when she plays her quiet wile
Of that calm look, and measur'd smile,
I go away like one who's heard
In some fine scene the prompter's word,
And make a vow to break her chain,
And keep it - till we meet again.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

1:34 min read

Nathaniel Parker Willis

Nathaniel Parker Willis, also known as N. P. Willis, was an American author, poet and editor who worked with several notable American writers including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He became the highest-paid magazine writer of his day. For a time, he was the employer of former slave and future writer Harriet Jacobs. His brother was the composer Richard Storrs Willis and his sister wrote under the name Fanny Fern. Born in Portland, Maine, Willis came from a family of publishers. His grandfather Nathaniel Willis owned newspapers in Massachusetts and Virginia, and his father Nathaniel Willis was the founder of Youth's Companion, the first newspaper specifically for children. Willis developed an interest in literature while attending Yale College and began publishing poetry. After graduation, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the New York Mirror. He eventually moved to New York and began to build his literary reputation. Working with multiple publications, he was earning about $100 per article and between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. In 1846, he started his own publication, the Home Journal, which was eventually renamed Town & Country. Shortly after, Willis moved to a home on the Hudson River where he lived a semi-retired life until his death in 1867. more…

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    "A Portrait." Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 8 Dec. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/56255/a-portrait.>.

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