Archive for September, 2011

In School Days

September 6, 2011

In School Days

Still is the school house by the road,
A ragged beggar sunning;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
And blackberry vines are running.

Within, the master’s desk is seen,
Deep scarred by raps official;
The warping floor, the battered seats,
The Jackknife’s carved initial.

The charcoal frescoes on its walls;
Its door’s worn sill betraying
The feet, that creeping slow to school,
Went storming out to playing!

Long years ago a winter’s sun
Shone over it at setting;
Lit up its western window panes
And low eaves’ icy fretting.

It touched the tangled, golden curls,
And brown eyes full of grieving,
Of one who still her steps delayed
When all the school were leaving.

For near her stood the little boy
Her childish favor singled,
His cap pulled low upon a face
Where pride and shame were mingled.

Pushing with restless feet the snow
To right and left, he lingered,
As restlessly her tiny hands
The blue-checked apron fingered.

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
The soft hand’s light caressing,
And heard the trembling of her voice
As if a fault confessing;

“I am sorry that I spelt the word;
I hate to go above you,
Because” — the brown eyes lower fell —
“Because, you see, I love you!”

Still memory to a gray-haired man
That sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
Have forty years been growing!

He lives to learn in life’s hard school,
How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss,
Like her — because they love him.

Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Oct 20, 1870

A Poet’s Birthday.

Our boys and girls will see in their column this week the portrait of a very good and famous man, John Greenleaf Whittier. He was born Dec. 19, 1807, so that this month he is 78 years old. He is called the Quaker poet, because he belongs to the Society of Friends. His father and mother were Friends, too.

He wears the plain dress and uses the pleasant old “thee” and “thou” speech of his Quaker ancestors.

When a boy Whittier worked on a farm. Then he learned the shoemaker’s trade. The man who makes the sweetest, strongest verses of any American poet made shoes in his boyhood. No doubt they were good shoes, too, for geniuses do their best at everything.

Image from the Migration Heritage Center website

But a little bird began to sing in the boy’s soul. It sang more and more loudly till at last young Whittier dropped last and awl, and began to write. From his Quaker mother and father he inherited a passionate love of liberty. It was in the days of slavery and he began to work in his way for breaking the bondman’s chains. He wrote lyrics of freedom that will live forever. During the war one of his strongest Union poems was “Barbara Frietchie,” which so many of you know by heart. In the last fifty years he has written many poems. They are full of strength and fire and music. The names of some of his books are: “Voices of Freedom,” “Home Ballads,” “Snow Bound,” “Maud Muller,” and “Ballads of New England.” There are many others.Mr. Whittier is a fine example for all boys and girls to imitate. He has proved that people can rise from the poorest station to be honored and famous. He is not a rich man, but he is something far better. His poems have given peace to the troubled and hope to the despairing. They have been recited and sung around the world. Boys and girls commit them to memory, and it does them good all their lives. This is better, far better, than to be rich. In schools all over America Whittier’s birthday is celebrated every year by bright-eyed children. In some schools the pupils have had real letters from the grand old poet, which are treasured and shown to visitors year after year.

Mr. Whittier, old as he is, still writes and gives the world from time to time beautiful poems.

He lives very quietly at Amesbury, Mass. He is a modest man and shy of meeting strangers.

The poet is a bachelor. Many of you have, no doubt, read his poem, “In School Days.” It is about a little girl that spelled a word that a boy missed, and went above him in the class. The boy and girl were particular friends, and the girl was sorry that she had gone above him. In the poem, she creeps softly up to him after school and says:

“I’m sorry that I spelt the word,
I hate to go above you,
Because — the brown eyes lower fell —
Because, you see, I love you.”

They say this little girl was a real one, and that the boy was Whittier himself. They were dear friends and child playmates. But the sweet little girl died, and the poet has remembered her and mourned for her all his life. The poem says:

“Still memory to a gray-haired man
That sweet child-face is showing;
Dear girl! The grasses on her grave
Have forty years been growing.

“He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss
Like her — because they love him!”

Davenport Daily Gazette (Davenport, Iowa) Dec 19, 1885

Image from Find-A-Grave

Whittier’s School Friend Is Honored

HAVERHILL (Mass.), Oct. 28. — (INS) — Undying tribute of John Greenleaf Whittier to Lydia A. Ayer, his childhood sweetheart, a six foot stone memorial bearing an inscription depicting the schoolhouse they both attended, stood in Walnut Cemetery today.

The memorial was erected as a result of several months’ research by Fred L. Noyes of the Haverhill Whittier Associates, who learned Miss Ayres was buried in the cemetery.

In his poem, School Days, Whittier quoted her as saying after she had spelled him down in a spelling bee:

“I’m sorry that I spelt the word;
“I hate to go above you,
“Because” — The brown eyes lower fell —
“Because, you see I love you.”

Fresno Bee Republican (Fresno, California) Oct 28, 1937

Labor and the Laboring Man

September 5, 2011



Ho, ye who at the anvil toil,
And strike the sounding blow,
Where from the burning iron’s breast,
The sparks fly to and fro,
While answering to the hammer’s ring,
And fire’s intenser glow–
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And sweat the long day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who till the stubborn soil,
Whose hard hands guide the plough,
Who bend beneath the summer sun,
With burning cheek and brow–
Ye deem the curse still clings to earth
From olden time till now;
But, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor all day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who plow the sea’s blue field —
Who ride the restless wave,
Beneath whose gallant vessel’s keel
There lies a yawning grave,
Around whose bark the wintry wind,
Like fiends of fury rave —
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor long hours through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye upon whose fevered cheeks
The hectic glow is bright,
Whose mental toil wears out the day
And half the weary night,
Who labor for the souls of men,
Champions of truth and right —
Although ye feel your toil is hard,
Even with this glorious view,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, all who labor –all who strive,
Ye wield a lofty power;
Do with your might, do with your strength,
Fill every golden hour;
The glorious privilege TO DO
Is man’s most noble power.
Oh, to your birthright and yourselves,
To your own souls be true!
A weary, wretched life is theirs,
Who have no work to do.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Oct 4, 1845

Image from the North Dakota State University Library website

From the New-York Evening Post.


I walked beyond the city’s bounds,
Along an unfrequented way —
The small, uncultivated grounds
Of poverty, before me lay,
A fence of turf the spot surrounds,
The poor lone cabin was of clay.

‘Twas sunset, and its parting light,
With golden lustre, bathed the west,
But seemed to linger in its flight,
To cheer the summer day to rest;
To gladden labor’s weary sight,
Like hope within a darkened breast.

It melted till the twilight crept
With gentle step to kiss the scene,
And the soft breath of evening swept
Its incense thro’ the foliage green.
The bird had ceased its note, and slept,
And all was silent and serene.

A form within the cabin door,
In  poor and simple garb arrayed,
With face of care, deep furrowed o’er,
Look’d out upon the gath’ring shade,
“He never lingered thus before,”
She sighed, and bitter grief displayed.

A moment more, that face o’ercast,
Grew radiant with joy’s brighter ray,
The cloud had gathered — burst — and passed,
For he, her only hope and stay,
Came hurrying to his house at last,
Far down the solitary way.

He came, the man of toil and care,
With brow o’ershadowed by distress —
And met, with sad, dejected air,
The wife’s affectionate caress!
His heart seemed full! What storm was there
To cause him so much wretchedness?

A word sufficed to tell the tale;
A ship, from foreign lands away,
Had yielded to the swelling sail,
And now was anchored in the bay.
The eye was moist, the cheek was pale
That listened to the laborer’s lay.

“Oh! I am broken-hearted, and my tongue
Refuses utterance of what I know;
My brain is maddened, and, my spirit wrung,
While sinks my form beneath this dreadful blow.
Bear with me, faithful one, while I impart
The heavy sorrows of my troubled heart.

“On that far isle, where our young days were passed,
A bolt has fallen from God’s mighty hand!
Upon the forms of men disease is cast,
And blight and desolation sear the land;
On every side the waitings of despair
Rise from the lips of those who loved us there.

“Dost thou remember where the silver stream
Leaps in its wild career the vale along,
Where oft we’ve lingered in our summer dream,
And filled the air with hope’s expectant song.
In every cottage on the old hill’s side
Some of our well-beloved friends have died.

“Oh! I can see the pale and haggard face
Of her whose last farewell is ne’er forgot.
Who when she held me in her last embrace
Invoked a blessing on the laborer’s lot.
How little dreamed she when those tear drops fell,
That she would starve, and I ‘midst plenty dwell.

“To-day these dreadful tidings met mine ears.
And quick I turned my weekly earning o’er;
Tis gone, midst choking prayers and burning tears:
And Oh! I would to God it had been more.
Tis gone — and in the thought I find relief;
It checks the swelling torrents of my grief.”

The laborer ceased; his tale was o’er,
His heart unburdened of its care,
And passing in his humble door,
He bent his weary form in prayer.
The anguish that his features wore
Was passed, and hope sat smiling there.

God bless the laboring man ; –” thy bread
Is on the far-off waters cast,”
And He who came to save hath said,
“It shall return to thee at last.”
The rich shall find no softer bed,
Or happier memory in the past.

The future, it is full of flowers
To Christian hearts, so pure as thine —
And may the knowledge of these hours
Shed such a blessing upon mine,
That I may seek those joyous bowers.
Where spirits like to thee incline.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Aug 7, 1847

The Daily Record (Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania) Aug 30, 1954

The Plowman

September 4, 2011

Image from Life Magazine


God speed the plowshare! Tell me not
Disgrace attends the toil
Of those who plow the dark green sod,
Or till the fruitful soil.
Why should the honest plowman shrink
From mingling with the van
Of learning and of wisdom, since
‘Tis mind that makes the man?

God speed the plowshare and the hands
That till the fruitful earth,
For there is in this world so wide
No gem like honest worth;
And though his hands are dark with toil,
And flushed the manly brow,
It matters not, for God will bless
The labors of the plow.

Daily Democrat (Sedalia, Missouri) Nov 29, 1873

Song of the Forge

September 4, 2011

Image from The Victorian Web: A Victorian Blacksmith’s Shop


We give below the “Song of the Forge,” a spirited and powerful poem. Even compared with Schuler‘s famous “Song of the Bell,” it remains unsurpassed. Many years ago it went the rounds of the papers, starting, we believe, from Blackwood’s Magazine. It then took a Rip Van Winkle’s nap, preserved, however, in the admiring memories of the discriminating, till, after circumnavigating the globe, it lately appeared in the “Calcutta Magazine,” whence it was copied as original by some American journals of more taste than reading. We reprint it, to preserve it in our pages, “for the long day,” as we hope. Observe — and admire too — the masterly variations of the tone in the gentle and genial description of the future course of the food-giving plough, in the dream of the mysterious wanderings of the anchor’s chain, and in the soul-stirring anticipations of the flashings of the sword.
— New Mirror.

Clang, clang! the massive anvils ring —
Clang, clang! a hundred hammers swing,
Like the thunder-rattle of a tropic sky
Clang, clang!
Say, brothers of the dusky brow,
What are your strong arms forging now?

Clang, clang — we forge the coulter now —
The coulter of the kindly plough;
Sweet Mary mother, bless our toil;
May its broad furrow still unbind
To genial rains, to sun and wind,
The most benignant soil.

Clang, clang — our coulter’s course shall be
On many a sweet and sheltered lea,
By many a streamlet’s silver tide,
Amidst the song of morning birds,
Amidst the low of sauntering herds,
Amidst soft breezes which do stray
Through woodbine hedges and sweet May,
Along the green hill’s side.

When regal autumn’s bounteous hand,
With wide-spread glory clothes the land;
When to the valleys, from the brow
Of each resplendent slope, is rolled
A ruddy sea of living gold,
We bless — we bless the PLOUGH.

Clang, clang — again, my mates, what glows
Beneath the hammer’s potent blows?
Clink, clank — we forge the giant’s chain,
Which bears the gallant vessel’s strain,
‘Midst stormy winds and adverse tides;
Secured by this, the good ship braves
The rocky roadstead, and the waves
Which thunder on her sides.

Anxious no more, the merchant sees
The mist drive dark before the breeze,
The storm cloud on the hill;
Calmly he rests though far away
In boisterous climes his vessel lay,
Reliant on our skill.

Say, on what sands these links shall sleep,
Fathoms beneath the solemn deep?
By Afric’s pestilential shore —
By many an iceberg, lone and hoar —
By many a palmy, western isle,
Basking in spring’s perpetual smile —
By stormy Labrador?

Say, shall they feel the vessel reel,
When to the battery’s deadly peal
The crashing broadside makes reply?
Or else, as at the glorious Nile,
Held grappling ships that strive the while,
To death or victory?

Hurrah! clang, clang — once more what glows
Dark brothers of the forge, beneath
The iron tempest of your blows
The furnace’s red breath?

Clang, clang — a burning torrent clear
And brilliant, of bright sparks, is poured
Around and up in the dusky air,
As our hammers forge the SWORD.

The sword! — a name of dread; yet when
Upon the freeman’s thigh ’tis bound,
While for his altar and his hearth,
While for the land that gave him birth,
The war-drums roll, the trumpets sound,
How sacred is it then!

Whenever for the truth and right
It flashes in the van of fight,
Whether in some wild mountain pass,
As that where fell Leonidas;
Or on some sterile plain and stern,
A Marston or a Bannockburn;
Or mid fierce crags and bursting rills,
The Switzer’s Alps, gray Tyrol’s hills;
Or, as when sunk the Armada’s pride,
It gleams above the stormy tide;
Still, still, whene’er the battle word
Is Liberty, when men do stand
For justice and their native land,
Then Heaven bless the SWORD!

South Port American (South Port, Wisconsin) Aug 3, 1843

Some definitions and explanations of words mentioned in the poem:



Title: The Fifth Reader: for the use of public and private schools
Author: George Stillman Hillard
Publisher: Brewer and Tileston, 1863
Pages 111-113

Lost on the Ill-fated Erie: A Tribute

September 3, 2011

Image from the GenDisasters website, which also has transcribed  newspaper articles about the Erie disaster.

For the Southport American.

The following Tribute to the Memory of Mrs. Smith and her Infant daughter, lost on board of the Erie, will no doubt be acceptable to her friends.

Mrs. Smith was the daughter of Mrs. Storms of Rochester, N.Y. She left Schenectady on her way th this place, with her mother and sister who accompanied her as far as Rochester. Arriving in Buffalo she took passage on board the ill-fated Erie, and amid the sufferers of that awful occasion she with her infant were lost.

Mrs. Smith was a sincere and devout member of the Methodist Church, and as such, we doubt not, felt even in the anguish of that trying hour, the support and consolation of those heavenward hopes, which it is the privilege of the Gospel alone to inspire. The public have sympathised with her afflicted partner, and although he feels like one from whose heart the tenderest vine has been torn, and is called to look upon the young object of his hopes as some

“Sweet flower no sooner blown than blasted.”

Like some

“Pale primrose fading timelessly,”

he is supported and sustained by the assurance that, although removed from the earth, they are transplanted to the Paradise above, to bloom and flourish in memorial vigor — that freed from the pains and fra???s of humanity, they have entered

“Upon that state
Of pure imperishable blessedness,
Which Reason promises, and Holy Writ
Ensures to all Believers.”

To her partner, as an offering of respect, the following lines are inscribed:

This is the hour of gloom and mortal sadness,
To thy troubled breast;
— The hours, when in joy and gladness,
Thou thought’st to have pressed,
Anew, once more, to thy lone heart,
Thy wife and her blest counterpart; —
Those lovely forms, so oft by thee caressed.

Thou stands like one deserted and forsaken,
And all thy hopes are fled —
For they, thy sole delight, are taken,
And thou art numbered
With those who all too early mourn
Life’s dearest objects quickly torn
From their embrace, and numbered with the dead.

While from thee affection’s tendrils thus are torn,
And thou art called to be
Like one most wretched, most forlorn;
Lift up thine eyes and see
The source of that sustaining Power,
Which, in affliction’s sternest hour,
Cheers the frail spirit of humanity.

Think of those lost ones with a chastened love,
And, though thy heart be riven
With more than human sorrow; look above,
From whence alone is given
To feel how blest their present state,
With all the good, the wise, the great,
Amid the life, the light, and joy of Heaven.

Soul of our souls! Source and sustaining Power!
Look on the bow’d one,
And in this his sorrowing hour,
Cause that for him may run
Streams in the desert: — that he may,
Even in affliction wisely say,
Father! thy will, as ever, now be done.


South Port American (South Port, Wisconsin) Sep 30, 1841

The Lost of the Erie

September 2, 2011

Image from the Who is John Maynard? website, where there are several newspapers transcriptions related to the burning of the Erie in 1841.

From the Chicago American


Beneath the cold blue wave they sleep,
Their winding sheet the surge,
The winds that o’er the waters sweep,
Sigh mournfully their dirge

The billows roll above each breast,
And rise beneath each head,
And non may seek their place of rest,
Affection’s tears to shed.

And every murmur from the wave,
When by the tempest tost,
Speaks to our hearts, as from the grave,
Of the lamented lost.

August, 1841.


Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) Sep 11, 1841

A Brave Woman on the Ship

September 1, 2011

Image posted by H20man on the Cruisers Forum

Fearful Sufferings of Sailors In a Storm
Helped Man the Pumps and Steered to Give the Helmsman Relief — She and the Captain Kept Up the Hopes of the Despairing Seamen.

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 14. — A most thrilling tale of sailors’ hardships from shipwreck and starvation is told by Captain Joseph J. James of the Philadelphia schooner Kate E. Rich, whose vessel foundered near Fire Island. After six days’ drifting around at the mercy of wind and sea, shorn of all sails, decks burst open, topmasts gone and lower masts sprung, Captain James and his crew and one passenger, Mrs. Maggie Crossman, were rescued by the New York pilot boat E.F. Williams and landed at Staten island, whence Captain James took passage for this city. Captain James says that words fail him in attempting to describe their experiences. They were all battered and bruised and their limbs were swollen to twice their normal size through exposure to the salt water, which constantly swept over the vessel fore and aft.

Mrs. Crossman, the mate’s wife, worked with the sailors, helping to man the pumps and even steered while the helmsman got relief. Terrific snowstorms, rain and hail added to the horrors and the sailors became so completely exhausted from the battle with the elements that they prayed that death might come as a relief. Their every hope had vanished. All this time but one vessel was seen. She was a large steamship, apparently one of the National line. She came almost within hailing distance, but paid no attention to the distress signals and held her course. With her disappearance faded out the last ray of hope of the unfortunates, but through the courage of Captain James and Mrs. Crossman they were persuaded not to abandon their efforts.

Captain James, when he arrived in this city, was a pitiable sight. He is badly crippled and his face and hands are severely frost bitten. For nearly 20 years he has followed the sea and this is the second experience of shipwreck through which he has gone.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Nov 15, 1894

Image from Terry Elkins Posters and Original Artwork



7b the Governor and Legislature of the State of New York:

The Board of Commissioners of Pilots respectfully report that daring the year just ended they have continued to administer the pilotage laws of this port, as also the several laws for the preservation of the harbor of New York.

The pilotage service is in excellent condition, both as to the pilots themselves and the boats needed to prosecute the business.

There are 22 boats (schooners) in service, two new ones, the “Herman Oelrichs,” No. 1 and “Joseph Pulitzer,” No. 20, having been admitted during the year…

…On the 10th of November, pilot boat No. 14 fell in with the schooner “Kate E. Rich” off Fire Island. The crew were worn out with their exertions to keep her afloat, and she was then in a sinking condition.

Although the risk was great, the pilots succeeded in rescuing all hands, and the schooner goon after went down. Suitable recognition of this praiseworthy act was made by the Board.


Title: Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 12
Author: New York (State). Legislature. Assembly
Published: 1895
Page 5