Monday, April 28, 2008

"Old and New Times"

from Atkinson's Casket, 1839:


When my good mother was a girl--
Say thirty years ago--
Young ladies then knew how to knit,
As well well as how to sew.

Young ladies then could spin and weave.
Could bake, and brew, and sweep;
Could sing and play, could dance and paint,
And could a secret keep.

Young ladies then were beautiful
As any beauties now—
Yet they could rake the new-mown hay,
Or milk the " brindle cow."

Young ladies then, wore bonnets, too.
And with them their own hair;
They made them from their own good straw.
And pretty, too, they were.

Young ladies then wore gowns with sleeves
Which would just hold their arms;
And did not have as many yards
As acres in their farms.

Young ladies then oft fell in love.
And married too, the men;
While men, with willing hearts and true,
Loved them all back again.

Young ladies now can knit and sew,
Or read a pretty book--
Can sing and paint, and joke and quiz.
But cannot bear to cook.

Young ladies now can blythely spin
Of "street yarn" many a spool;
And weave a web of scandal too,
And dye it in the wool.

Young ladies now can bake their hair
Can brew their own cologne:
In borrowed plumage often shine,
While they neglect their own.

And as to secrets who would think
Fidelity a pearl?
None but a modest little miss.
Perchance a country girl.

Young ladies now wear lovely curls,
What pity they should buy them;
And then their bonnets--heavens! they fright
The beau that ventures nigh them.

E'en love is changed from what it was.
Although true love is known;
'Tis wealth adds lustre to the cheek.
And melts the heart of stone.

Thus time works wonders—young and old
Confess his magic power;
Beauty will fade; but Virtue proves
Pure gold in man's last hour.

(From Blackwood's Magazine for December.)


Rachel said...

Doesn't it seem that young ladies were always better then? I do think bonnets should come back, though. I loves me a good bonnet.

Anonymous said...

Rachel has a point. Americans always seem nostalgic for the good old days, going back to Puritans lamenting the evil ways of the younger generation. But this poem also reminds me that the Industrial Revolution had changed women's roles in the household, at least in middle class households. They were less responsible for everyday production & more ornamental. Interesting.