Anne Lynch Botta

Five Poems by Anne Lynch Botta


Go forth in life, oh friend! not seeking love;
A mendicant, that with imploring eye
And outreached hand asks of the passers by
The alms his strong necessities may move.
For such poor love to pity near allied,
Thy generous spirit may not stoop and wait,
A suppliant, whose prayer may be denied,
Like a spurned beggar’s at a palace gate:
But thy heart’s affluence lavish uncontrolled;
The largess of thy love give full and free,
As monarchs in their progress scatter gold;
And by thy heart like the exhaustless sea,
That must its wealth of cloud and dew bestow,
Though tributary streams or ebb or flow.


To an Astronomer

Upon the Professor we’ll waste not a glance,
Since he has no eyes for us poor terrestrials,
With his heart can we have any possible chance,
When he gives us for rivals a host of celestials?
What cares he for eyes, whether hazel or blue,
Or for any slight charms such as we share between us,—
When, his glass in his hand, he can sit the night through,
And ogle at leisure Diana and Venus.



To a Poet, Painter and Musician

Three Muses one day
Had a serious fray,
Concerning a youth who had wandered astray,
And fast up Parnassus was taking his way.
They each urged a claim
Each gave him her name,
And each vowed to crown him with chaplets of fame.
Frown followed retort,
Till to cut it all short,
They decided to carry the case up to court.
Apollo averred,
That from all he had heard,
The claim of exclusiveness seemed quite absurd;
And he gave his decree
That this soul should be free
For the “joint occupancy” of the whole three.



The Dying Sycamores

A beauty like young womanhood’s
Upon the green earth lies,
And June’s sweet smile hath waked again
All summer’s harmonies.

The insects hum their dreamy song,
The trees their honors wear,
And languid with its perfume spoils
Sighs the voluptuous air.

A gorgeous wealth of leaf and bloom
Enchants the dazzled sight;
And over earth and sky there smiles
A Presence of delight.

From yon sad dying Sycamores,
Alone a shadow falls,—
As from the ghastly form of Death,
In Egypt’s banquet-halls.

Against the soft blue sky they stand,
Their naked limbs outspread,
And to the throbbing life around,
They murmur of the dead.

Spring, with her soft and odorous breath,
Hath sighed o’er them in vain,
Nor sun, nor dew, nor summer shower,
Awakes their bloom again.

Oh stately monarchs of the wood,
What blight hath o’er ye passed?
What canker wastes your noble hearts?
What spell is on ye cast?

I watch ye where a thousand forms
With life and beauty glow,
Till half I deem that on ye lies
Some weight of human woe.

Sad emblems are ye of those hearts
In this fair world of ours,
Who live unloving and unloved,
Oh dying Sycamores.


In the Library

Speak low, tread softly through these halls;
Here genius lives enshrined,
Here reign, in silent majesty,
The monarchs of the mind.

A mighty spirit-host they come
From every age and clime;
Above the buried wrecks of years
They breast the tide of Time.

And In their presence-chamber here
They hold their regal state,
And round them throng a noble train,
The gifted and the great.


Anne Lynch Botta (1815 -1891) lived in DC from 1850 to 1853, while serving as personal secretary to Henry Clay. She is the author of Poems (1849) and A Handbook of Universal Literature (1860, a widely used textbook), and editor of an anthology, The Rhode Island Book. Born in 1815, Botta was educated at the Albany Female Academy, and taught briefly in Albany and Providence, RI. After her sojourn in DC, she settled in New York, teaching at the Brooklyn Girls' Academy, writing freelance articles for magazines, and hosting a renowned salon in her home, frequented by some of the most famous writers of the time, including William Cullen Bryant, Edgar Allen Poe, Helen Hunt Jackson, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, and Fanny Kemble. In middle age, she married a Dante Scholar who taught at New York University. After her death in 1891, her husband compiled her unpublished poems, along with letters and tributes, and published the posthumous Memoirs of Anne C. L. Botta: Written By Her Friends (1893). To read more by this author: Mapping the City, DC Places, Part II