A Celebration of Women Writers

"Careless Matilda." by Adelaide O'Keeffe (1776-1855)
Publication: Taylor, Jane & Taylor, Ann. Little Ann and Other Poems. London, New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1883. pp. 14-16.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

CARELESS MATILDA.

"AGAIN, Matilda, is your work undone!
Your scissors, where are they? your thimble, gone?
Your needles, pins, and thread and tapes all lost;
Your housewife here, and there your workbag toss'd.

[Page 15]

"Fie, fie, my child! indeed this will not do,
Your hair uncomb'd, your frock in tatters, too;
I'm now resolved no more delays to grant,
To learn of her, I'll send you to your aunt. "
In vain Matilda wept, entreated, pray'd,
In vain a promise of amendment made.

  Arrived at Austere Hall, Matilda sigh'd,
By Lady Rigid when severely eyed:
"You read and write, and work well, as I'm told,
Are gentle, kind, good-natured, and not bold;
But very careless, negligent, and wild–
You'll leave me, as I hope, a different child. "

The little girl next morn a favour asks;
"I wish to take a walk."–"Go, learn your tasks,"
Replies her aunt, "nor fruitlessly repine:
Your room you'll leave not till you're call'd to dine. "
As there Matilda sat, o'erwhelm'd with shame,
A dame appear'd, Disorder was her name:
Her hair and dress neglected–soil'd her face,
Her mien unseemly, and devoid of grace.

"Here, child, " said she, "my mistress sends you this,
A bag of silks–a flower, not work'd amiss–
A polyanthus bright, and wondrous gay,
You'll copy it by noon, she bade me say. "
Disorder grinn'd, and shuffling walk'd away.

Entangled were the silks of every hue,
Confused and mix'd were shades of pink, green, blue;
She took a thread, compared it with the flower:
"To finish this is not within my power.
Well-sorted silks had Lady Rigid sent,
I might have work'd, if such was her intent. "
She sigh'd, and melted into sobs and tears:
She hears a step, and at the door appears
A pretty maiden, clean, well-dress'd, and neat,
Her voice was soft, her looks sedate, yet sweet.
"My name is Order: do not cry, my love;
Attend to me, and thus you may improve. "
She took the silks, and drew out shade by shade,
In separate skeins, and each with care she laid;
Then smiling kindly, left the little maid.
  Matilda now resumes her sweet employ,
And sees the flower complete–how great her joy!

[Page 16]

She leaves the room–"I've done my task," she cries;
The lady look'd, and scarce believed her eyes;
Yet soon her harshness changed to glad surprise:
"Why, this is well, a very pretty flower,
Work'd so exact, and done within the hour!
And now amuse yourself, and walk, or play."
Thus pass'd Matilda this much dreaded day.
At all her tasks, Disorder would attend;
At all her tasks, still Order stood her friend.
With tears and sighs her studies oft began,
These into smiles were changed by Order's plan.
No longer Lady Rigid seem'd severe:
The negligent alone her eye need fear.

And now the day, the wish'd-for day, is come,
When young Matilda may revisit home.
"You quit me, child, but oft to mind recall
The time you spent with me at Austere Hall.
And now, my dear, I'll give you one of these
To be your maid–take with you which you please.
What! from Disorder do you frighten'd start? "
Matilda clasp'd sweet Order to her heart,
And said, "From thee, best friend, I'll never part. "

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom