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By Elizabeth Bentley

December 1789

When infant Reason first exerts her sway,

And new-formed thoughts their earliest charms display;

Then let the growing race employ your care

Then guard their opening minds from Folly’s snare;

Correct the rising passions of their youth,

Teach them each serious, each important truth;

Plant heavenly virtue in the tender breast,

Destroy each vice that might its growth molest;

Point out betimes the course they should pursue;

Then with redoubled pleasure shall you view

Their reason strengthen as their years increase,

Their virtue ripen and their follies cease;

Like corn sown early in the fertile soil,

The richest harvest shall repay your toil.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

  • Activities
  • Living

Poet Bio

Elizabeth Bentley
Poet Elizabeth Bentley was born in Norwich, England, and taught to read and write by her father, a journeyman shoemaker. Bentley worked as a teacher to support her mother. She began writing poetry two years later, and was one of a handful of working-class women to publish poetry in the Romantic era. Bentley’s poetry frequently conveys her views on the abolition of slavery and on animal welfare, and is often set in a rural landscape; she is also the author of several collections of children’s verse.

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