These lines were in answer to an invitation to hear a lecture of Mary Grew, of Philadelphia, before the Boston Radical Club. The reference in the last stanza is to an essay on Sappho by T. W. Higginson, read at the club the preceding month.
With wisdom far beyond her years,
And graver than her wondering peers,
So strong, so mild, combining still
The tender heart and queenly will,
To conscience and to duty true,
So, up from childhood, Mary Grew!
Then in her gracious womanhood
She gave her days to doing good.
She dared the scornful laugh of men,
The hounding mob, the slanderer’s pen.
She did the work she found to do,–
A Christian heroine, Mary Grew!
The freed slave thanks her; blessing comes
To her from women’s weary homes;
The wronged and erring find in her
Their censor mild and comforter.
The world were safe if but a few
Could grow in grace as Mary Grew!
So, New Year’s Eve, I sit and say,
By this low wood-fire, ashen gray;
Just wishing, as the night shuts down,
That I could hear in Boston town,
In pleasant Chestnut Avenue,
From her own lips, how Mary Grew!
And hear her graceful hostess tell
The silver-voiced oracle
Who lately through her parlors spoke
As through Dodona’s sacred oak,
A wiser truth than any told
By Sappho’s lips of ruddy gold,–
The way to make the world anew,
Is just to grow–as Mary Grew