Carlotta Perry

A Modern Minerva

‘Twas the height of the gay season, and I can not tell the reason,
But, at a dinner party given by Mrs. Mayor Thwing,
It became my pleasant duty to take out a famous Beauty–
The prettiest woman present-I was happy as a king.

Her dress beyond a question was an artist’s best creation;
A miracle of loveliness was she from crown to toe.
Her smile was sweet as could be, her voice just as it should be-
Not high, and sharp, and wiry, but musical and low.

Her hair was soft and flossy, golden, plentiful and glossy;
Her eyes so blue and sunny, shone with every inward grace.
I could see that every fellow in the room was really yellow
With jealousy, and wished himself that moment in my place.

As the turtle soup we tasted, like a gallant man I hasted
To pay some pretty tribute to the muslin, silk and gauze;
But she turned and softly asked me-and I own the question tasked me-
What were my fixed opinions on the present suffrage laws.

I admired a lovely blossom, resting on her gentle boson;
The remark I thought a safe one-I could hardly make a worse;
With a smile, like any Venus, she gave me its name and genus,
And opened very calmly a botanical discourse.
But I speedily recovered. As her taper fingers hovered
Like a tender benediction o’er a little bit of fish,
Further to impair digestion, she brought up the Eastern Question.
By that time I full echoed that other fellow’s wish.

And as sure as I’m a sinner, right through that endless dinner
Did she talk of moral science, of politics and law,
Of natural selection, of Free Trade and Protection,
Till I came to look upon her with a sort of solemn awe.

Just to hear that lovely woman, looking more divine than human,
Talk with such discrimination of Ingersoll and Cook,
With such a childish winning smile, quoting Huxley and Carlyle,
It was quite a revelation-it was better than a book.
Chemistry and mathematics, agriculture and chromatics,
Music, painting, sculpture-she knew all the tricks of speech-
Bas-relief and chiaroscuro, and at last the Indian Bureau
She discussed it quite serenely as she trifled with a peach.

I have seen some dreadful creatures, with vinegary features,
With their fearful store of learning setting me in sad eclipse;
But I am ready, quite to swear, if I have ever heard the Tariff
Or the Eastern Question settled by such a pair of lips.
Never saw I dainty maiden so remarkably o’erladen
From lip to tip of finger, with the lore of books and men;
Quite in confidence I say, and I trust you’ll not betray it,
But I pray to gracious heaven that I never may again.

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