To Jane Austen

O thou who to romance's sleights Didst come as dawn to elves and sprites, Replacing spectre-haunted nights With daylight's genial reign; Shrewd exorcist--who couldst so well Romance's goblin bands expel, Yet keep thine own unrivalled spell, Incomparable Jane! How doth thy bodkin's slender steel Men's frailties and raults reveal! To theee Achilles is all heel, Thou lash of Folly's train! Thou scourgest tomboy, cynic, grig, The man whose diction is all wig, The snob, the autocrat, the prig, Inimitable Jane! Thou seekest truth, and when 'tis found Thou dost its sportive whims confound; The shafts, the stables, and the pound Shall now its pranks restrain; It dreads thy logic's bristling fence, Thy files of serried evidence, Thy panoplied, embattled sense, Irrefragable Jane! I know thy passion's cautious throes, Its timed and tactful overflows, Its firmly regulated glows, Its exemplary pain; Oh, if a tense could court a mood, Or axioms propositions wooed, Their raptures were not more subdued, Inestimable Jane! O little world so trim and flat, Where Fate must straighten his cravat, And Death himself must use the mat, Ere they could entrance gain! Thine earth a box of mignonette, A bird-cage in a window set, A shelved and shapely cabinet, Inviolable Jane! Was e'er a keen, satiric bent So quaintly, comically belent With smug and purring self-content, And homiletic strain? A Puck in cassock or a nun In motley--art thou both or one? O frolic lore, O surpliced fun, In explicable Jane! What pen could draw thee, line by line, With art ironic and benign, And truth unflawed; what pen but thine O woman sage and sane? I would this gladdened world might see Another Jane to laugh at thee, Rare target for rare archery, Irrevocable Jane! Lightly through time thy figure trips, Skirt lifted where the highway dips Thy brow now crinkled, now thy lips, As mirth rules or disdain: The barred and bolted centuries Thou frontest with unerring keys, The Park, the Abbey, Emma--these Shall swift admission gain: And if the porter claim a fee, Fling Pride or Sensibility: The flattered door shall ope for thee, Imperishable Jane! By w. O. Firkins Author of Jane Austen, 1920 This Poem Originally ran in the Atlantic Monthly Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at

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