earlyamericanwomenpoets



1773-1812

Sarah Anderson, born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, married Enoch Hastings, a widower forty-five years her senior, when she was fifteen years old. She bore three children before separating from her husband. After the separation, the children stayed with their mother until 1800, when she traveled to Washington County (250 miles west of Lancaster) with her sister’s family. Five years later, Hastings returned to Lancaster and was reunited with her children. She brought them with her to Washington County in 1808 (incidentally, the same year that her poems and travel notebook were published). Hastings died four years later, in 1812. Her poems, for the most part religious and pastoral, demonstrate an impressive erudition and a mastery of neo-classical form and style.



On a Bible

These are the Courts where wisdom loves to reign,
With all the shining virtues in her train;
Here grace, and peace, and joy celestial shine,
And life immortal breathes in ev’ry line.
Here let our musing meditations rise,
And all our roving passions harmonize:
Let lofty science here submissive bend,
And all the tow’ring flights of fancy ‘tend.
Here let each Muse new-plume her soaring wing,
And ev’ry grace her grateful tribute bring:
Let genius here her glowing flame acquire,
And chaste devotion light her purer fire;
Let contemplation spread her pinions broad,
And faith, in ev’ry line, discern a God;
Let the wrapt soul exert her ev’ry pow’r,
And each expanding faculty adore.


from To Lucinda

Accept these few imperfect lines I send,
My honor’d patron, and my charming friend:
This humble essay bribes the vote of Fame,
Inscrib’d with her most lovely fav’rite’s Name.

Say, wilt thou then my rural muse permit
To lay her simple garland at thy feet?
This slender wreath, to merit only due,
Affection twines, and justice claims, for you;
And, while thy virtues grace th’aspiring line,
Envy shall own the richest theme is mine.
Oft shining talents do offend her sight,
As Owls and Bats abhor the morning light:
This pale-faced Vixen bathes her pointed dart
In the deep ranc’rous poison of her heart,
Takes skilful aim; then, wing’d with blasting breath,
More swift than lightning, flies the barbed death.

But baleful Envy shall not me inspire!
I feel thy claims, thy merits I admire,
Esteem thy worth; thy conduct I approve,
Thy virtues imitate, thy person love.

When placed Virtue, arm'd with brow severe,
Appears with every grave majestic air,
The daz'ling object, unobscur'd and bright,
Repels our gaze, and dims our feeble sight;
Esteem, within our breasts, and rev'rence, move,
To ven'rate and admire; but not to love!
While virtue, by each gentle grace refin'd,
Leads captive ev'ry movement of the mind.
Thus, when bright Sol sheds down the flaming day,
We faint and languish in the daz'ling ray;
But, when mild Cynthia lights the kindling skeis,
Our souls expand and trace her as she flies:
So virtue, with each soft attraction blooms,
When thy lov'd form, LUCINDA, she allumes.

But thy lov'd form, alas! to dust will turn,
And, mould'ring, sink forgotten in an urn!
The world, impoverish'd, shall thy fate bemoan,
And grieve not for thy loss, but for its own;
Shall mourn thee dead, whilst thou shalt soar on high,
And angels hail thee welcome to the sky;
Thy joyful spirit takes its wond'rous flight,
Thro' all the glitt'ring palaces of light;
Revolving worlds, with rapt'rous eyes pursue,
Then feast those eyes with worlds and raptures new;
Thro' the vast planetary system rove;
Yet these the suburbs of creation prove!
Feast thy capacious soul with knowledge bright,
And bathe in all the rivers of delight;
There mingle with the bright cherubic throng,
And swell the flaming seraphs' rapt'rous song!

Each friend, belov'd, whose loss you now deplore,
You there shall meet — shall meet, to part no more:
Tho' doom'd in solitude awhile to sigh,
You soon shall join the triumph of the sky;
A few more years to pain and sorrow giv'n —
Hard is the conflict — the reward is heav'n.

Celestial Muse, inspire my feeble verse,
While I the beauties of her mind rehearse;
Assist me to reverse great Nature's doom,
And snatch, at least, her mem'ry from the tomb;
O lend thy aid to paint her well-known worth,
And draw, with skill, each latent virtue forth.

She is not Beauty deck’d in Fancy’s guise;
No God conceals his lightning in her eyes;
No heav’nly archers ambush in her smiles,
No captive deity adorns her toils;
No sportive graces do her train compose,
Nor doth her blush outlive the morning rose:
Yet, in the modest lustre of her eye,
Her soul, as in a mirror, we espy;
Each lambent beam and kindling glance declare,
The mild majestic charms of goodness there.
Her matchless figure, by the nicest rule,
Is form'd in fair proportion's artful school;
Her ev'ry movement, all her graceful mein,
Reveal a conscious dignity within;
Her manners easy, natural, and free
From frigid coldness, or loose levity;
Her conversation, cheerful, pure, and kind,
By sense is season'd, and by wit refin'd:
Gentle she is, tho' not the listless ape —
She's gentleness, adorn'd in female shape!
She's no insipid and unfeeling soul,
Whom passion can't excite, or reason rule;
For, in her conduct, ev'ry virtue shines,
And ev'ry soft attractive grace combines.

She sooths the aching heart, with grief oppresst,
And draws the arrow from the wounded breast;
Hope she inspires, the needed aid supplies,
And, when she can't relieve, doth sympathize.
The Orphan's wrongs, her tender bosom moves;
Her kind regard, the lonely Suff'rer proves.
Domestic joys, she studies to increase,
And each domestic sorrow to redress.
No gaudy, tinsel'd frip'ry doth she wear,
To gain respect, or bribe a passing stare!
Yet, in her dress, conforms to modish rules —
For singularity's the pride of Fools.
She hath great MILTON's female charms combin'd,
With still more glowing charms, a cultur'd mind:
She makes her household goods her pleasing care,
And builds, of happiness, the temple there.

Relentless Death, who human bliss derides,
And souls, tho' twin'd in heav'n, on earth divides,
The silver cords of life asunder parts,
And more endearing ties, of wedded hearts;
With frowning aspect, clad in fullen gloom,
Drag'd her lov'd Partner to an early tomb!!!
Her hopes, her joys, with him lie buried deep:
There do her fond affections sweetly sleep —
If she has faults or foibles, they'r unknown;
Or seen by the omniscient eye alone:
O'er all, Religion casts her lustre clear;
An humble Christian, faithful and sincere.



Sources

Harpster, John W. Crossroads: Descriptions of Western Pennsylvania 1720-1829.
Hastings, George Everett. Sally Hastings (1773-1812): Poet and Pioneer. American Historical Company, 1942.
Hastings, Sarah Anderson. Poems on Different Subjects. Lancaster: W. Dickson, 1808.
Hensel, William Uhler. Sally Hastings: A Literary Grass Widow. Lancaster County Historical Society, 1905.

Knestrick, Ray E. “Old Names and Places Recalled: Sally Hastings, the Poetess.” Observer-Reporter June 1, 1968.