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the silent harp
Allen was born in Craftsbury, Vermont to parents who were among the first settles of the town. "We were denied all literary privilege," Allen writes, "three months at a district school, taught in our house, being all the advantages I ever enjoyed. [But] Providence had endowed me with a propensity which disadvantage and crosses could not suppress. I became passionately fond of reading, and grasped at everything that came within my reach. In writing I had no instruction [...] I had no writing materials, and [...] my paper was the blank side of an old letter." When Allen was sixteen years old, a fever permanently deprived her of hearing. For the rest of her life, she communicated in writing and through a sign language of her own invention. After the publication of her poetry collection
The Silent Harp
in 1832, she traveled to Rochester, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Detroit, and the Mormon Temple.
On Seeing a Young Lady Who Was Deaf and Dumb
Ah! who art thou, — smiling so gay,
As if thou a grief ne'er had'st known? —
Was misfortune thy parent? — oh say,
And under her hand hast thou grown?
O! maiden, how kind was that fate,
That marked thee a path so secure —
Tho' lonely — no dangers await,
Nor ought thy young heart to allure.
Nor friendship, nor music, have charmed
Thy ear which so dormantly grew;
Nor anger, nor pride, have alarmed
Thy heart whose digressions are few.
Deception thou never hast feared,
Nor felt in thy bosom its pain;
The songs of the vale, hast not heard
And sighed for the music again.
Then why should that heart ever mourn,
Which has nothing on earth to regret;
And how it can sigh for return,
Of pleasures its fancy ne'er met.
No — free as thy heart is from care —
So free is it also from guile;
And maiden — thou ever wilt share
High heaven's beneficent smile.
The following was written in answer to Mrs. [Lydia] Sigourney's very pathetic lines "On seeing the
girl, of the American Asylum in Hartford, at a festival." The authoress begs leave to differ in opinion, from many others, firmly believing that those who come into the world destitute of the sense of hearing, and are consequently dumb, in general, are far more tranquil and happy than those who have once enjoyed this blessing and suffered bereavement.
Methinks before, I've heard that note,
Sigourney — 't is
Afar the symphony shall float,
Then sweetly echo back again.
But she, to whom thy feeling heart
Hath paid the tributary lay,
May never, by instinct or art,
Know the sweet solace they convey.
She sits in calm asylum's shade,
Nor knows, nor fears the ills of life —
Nor heeds what slanderous tongues have said,
So free from noise, from care and strife.
Her guileless heart has never sighed,
Nor throbbed with rising passions' glow,
Nor felt the sting of wounded pride,
Nor disappointment's heavy blow.
But calm and peaceful is her breast —
A little world that's all her own —
Disturbed by no intrusive guest,
And ruled by nature's laws alone.
And think you, lady, this's the fate
Which most demands thy sympathy?
And is the most unfortunate
Of all that dwell below the sky?
Ah! no — in northern wild there's one
Who long hath sighed with vain regret,
While mem'ry brings again the tone,
A tuneful soul to her was given,
And in the vocal choir she joined,
To raise devotion's note to heaven,
While tranquil peace beamed o'er her mind.
And friendship's and affection's voice,
With thrilling accents, moved her soul;
Each seemed a scene, deep fraught with joys,
Where smiling pleasures held control.
But, ah! one sad, one fatal hour,
While hopes and smiles were beaming gay,
Misfortune, with unfeeling power,
Swept every joyful sound away.
No more can mellifluous note
Of sacred song fall on her ear;
No more can she with joy devote
A social hour to friend most dear.
With flowing tear and heaving sigh
She roams thro' Autumn fields alone,
And oft she lists with wishful eye
To hear the gay fledged songster's tone.
But cheerless silence is her lot,
And anxious care and wasting woe,
As left to meditative thought,
She says, "My God! why was it so?"
And, lady! thou for her hast sung —
For Hartford's poor and hapless child: —
Again, then, let thy harp be strung
To sing of E—— in northern wild.
The Silent Harp; or, Fugitive Poems.
E. Smith, 1832.
— — —.
Sketches of Green Mountain Life.
Lowell: Nathaniel L. Dayton, 1846.
Hemenway, Abby Maria.
Poets and Poetry of Vermont.
Butland: George A. Tuttle & Co., 1858.
— — —, ed.
The Vermont Historical Gazetteer.
Vol. 3. 175-176.
Craftsbury: a Brief Social History.
Lincoln: Writers Club Press, 2001.
The Monthly Traveler, or, Spirit of the Periodical Press.
Vol. 4. Boston, 1833. 5-6.
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