The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and tirelessly transcribe.

“The Invitation” from The New-York Mirror 1837, 1841

I happened upon this pretty verse today while looking through literature and news of yonder-year in The New-York Mirror. You’ll find two versions of the same poem. I decided to include the second one as it shows improvement and proves to be quite different from the first. I can’t find any evidence of the author, although, as far as I’m able to see, the “W.” initial changes to a more indicative “M. W. M.”[?]. If you have ideas of who the author might be, please do comment, I’m very curious.

The Invitation
W.
October 14, 1837

Come to me ere the sad leaves fall,
And the shrill winds whistle by ;
Ere Autumn’s gorgeous coronal
Changes its ruby dye.

Ere the sunset glories waste away—
Of violet, gold, and pearl—
Ere the streamlet stills its murm’ring lay,
And sweet waves cease to curl.

Ere the song-birds wend their certain flight,
Far through the silent sky,
To where more genial climes requite
Their thrilling melody.

Come, oh, come, to my cottage-home !
Thou’ll find thy Ellen’s heart
Spell-binding as a spirit-gnome—
Nor shalt thou ere depart !

The Invitation
M. W. M.[?]
Dedicated to Mrs. Royal R. Porter, of Boston.
April 10, 1841

Come to me ere the sad leaves fall
And the shrill winds whistle by ;
Ere autumn’s gorgeous coronal
Changes its ruby dye.
Ere the sunset glories fade away
And but in mem’ry glow,
Or th’ streamlet stills its murm’ring lay
And free waves cease to flow !

Ere th’ song-birds wend their social flight
Far through the distant sky,
To where more genial climes invite
Their thrilling melody.
Come, then, through tinted groves we’ll roam,
Where the rainbow’s spirit dwell—
Presiding o’er my peaceful home,
Glad hills, and dreamy dells.

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“Spring-Time Is Coming” by Sarah Johnson Cogswell Whittlesey

Spring-Time Is Coming
From Graham’s Magazine, June, 1853
Sarah Johnson Cogswell Whittlesey

SPRING-TIME is coming, I hear its low humming,
Oft where the blue waters sweep;
Sandaled with gold, it breaks the brown mold,
Waking the blossoms asleep.

Down in the bed, where the little bud’s head’
Sunk when its mission was done,
A tiny green sprout, peeping sly out,
Opens its heart to the sun.

Low in the vale, where the winter’s loud wail
Frighted the summer’s soft breeze,
Maiden Spring weaves, of miniature leaves,
Robes for the bare old trees.

‘Neath the white snows, the sorrowing rose,
Through the chill moments hath lain;
Soon its bright face, from out its green case,
Will be uplifted again.

Thus in dark hours, the heart’s buds and flowers
Fade in the winter of sorrow;
Let us not sigh, the little shut eye
Will drink the warm sunshine to-morrow!

So shall it be when the spirit is free
From its close prison of clay;
Life’s withered bud must hide in the sod,
But oh! there is Spring-time away!

“Tasso to Leonora” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

Torquato Tasso was a Romantic Italian poet who, “Although…no more than a footnote today…was once wildly popular, quoted by philosophers, emulated by poets, and a source of inspiration to painters and composers,” according to Philip Kennicott in his article, “Torquato Tasso, a Poet Both Obscure and Ubiquitous.” Kennicott goes on to explain, “Even his sad and tormented life was an obsession for the romantics, inspiring a play by Goethe, a poem by Byron, a painting by Delacroix, and a symphonic study by Liszt.” I will not discuss Tasso’s life in this post (if ever), however I do want to precede Hoffman’s poem with a little context. It was a quickly spread belief in the 19th century that Tasso was romantically connected with Eleonora d’Este, a princess who took Tasso under her protection, alongside sister Lucrezia, during the later years of his life. According to John Devey in his article “Postscript to the Life of Tasso,” found in The Jerusalem Delivered, of Torquato Tasso, “That Tasso’s sonnets to Leonora were something more than the mere vers de societé, which the gallant chevaliers of that age were constantly laying at the feet of high-born dames, is, we believe, past a doubt. That Leonora encouraged his affection is also as readily admitted. The only question is how far the lovers passed the boundary of a discreet Platonism” (lxv). Thus, we find Hoffman’s poem, portraying a maddened Tasso imploring his love for Leonora. A romantic thought, indeed—do you think the two were romantically connected, however? I don’t believe there is enough evidence based on what little I’ve read to definitively lend to the case. Despite some apparently pretty verses written for Leonora, including a dedication in his poem, O figlie di Renata, there is not a lot of evidence to lend to a potential tryst. However, myth aside, Hoffman still retains his merit as an excellent poet, and this poem lends especial credence to his expertise.

Tasso to Leonora
Charles Fenno Hoffman

STILL, still I love thee; Hope no more,
‘Tis true, may light my dungeon’s gloom,
And youth as well as hope is o’er,
Both buried in a living tomb;
And even reason doth forsake me,
So oft that I begin to fear
If not the madman they would make me,
Its utter loss is ever near;
Yet fettered in this hideous cell,
And banned and barred from those sweet eyes,
Unknowing if one memory dwell
With thee of him who daily dies,—
Still, Leonora, still alone to thee
Beneath their shackles still untamably
Love’s pulses beat as if my limbs were free.

Go tell thy brother though the infectious breath
Of my rank prison may be steeped in death,
Though through my veins corrupting now may steal
The accursed taint which day by day I feel
Poisoning life’s tabernacle, regret
For having loved thee, Leonora, never yet,
In spite of all I’ve borne or yet may bear,
Hath wrung one craven tear from my despair.
And thou—thou who from him who’d do and dare,
And suffer all of anguish heart can feel
Thou who in beauty’s pride did shrink to hear
The love that lips could only half reveal;
Blushing, ashamed, because thou wert so dear
To one thy kinsman cared not to approve,—
Thou, Leonora, when I am no more,
Shalt feel the influence of a poet’s love;
In every land my story they’ll deplore,
Pilgrims from all shall make my grave their shrine,
And each who breathes my name shall murmur thine.

“Records” by Henry William Herbert; and, on the Life of His Wife, Sarah Herbert (Barker)

 

 

Untitled

Sarah Barker, wife of Henry William Herbert, from Poems of “Frank Forester” (Henry William Herbert)

The following is a raw and lovingly woven dedicatory piece written by nineteenth-century author and sportsman Henry William Herbert, in memory of his wife Sarah Barker. The tribute mourns the anniversary of her death, and is a moving commemoration of both Barker’s life and Herbert’s grief. Barker, from Bangor, Maine, was the daughter of the town’s mayor and ship captain, George Barker. Herbert, who had gone to Maine on a hunting trip with Barker’s former fiance, Joseph A. Scoville, attended to the home of Barker, where both Herbert and Barker fell in love. Barker called off her engagement with Scoville and she and Herbert married in 1839 (White, Henry William Herbert and the American Publishing Scene, 1831-1858). Herbert’s poem paints a portrait of a devoted wife and mother, one who eagerly anticipated the return of her husband after his long excursions; one who devoutly loved him, despite his turbulent nature; one who most likely filled Herbert’s household with warmth and light. The dream of a lifelong marriage spent alongside Sarah did not last, however, following her death on March 11, 1844. According to White, “After giving birth to a daughter in July 1843, Sarah Herbert developed tuberculosis. In desperation, her husband carried her from one health resort to another, but she grew steadily worse. She was twenty-two years old when she died in Philadelphia…” (40). The aforementioned daughter, Louisa, died shortly after Sarah, on August 19 of the same year. The couple also had a son, William George, who, after the death of his mother, was sent off to England to live with Herbert’s extended family.

Although Herbert later found love in an Adela Budlong (a fleeting actress who may or may not have been swayed to marry Herbert because of his ties to royalty), their marriage crumbled due to its superficiality and Budlong’s unhappiness (as well as possibly Herbert’s uncontrollable temper). Despite the years of toil and grief that Henry endured after Sarah’s death—the financial hardship and the pains of his irreconcilable second marriage to Budlong—it seems the immortal image of Sarah never left his side, for, according to David Judd in the Life and Writings of Frank Forester (Henry William Herbert), “He suspended his dead wife’s portrait, an excellent oil painting, a veritable masterpiece by his friend Inman, in the most prominent position in his study, that his stray glances might constantly rest upon her features,” and, on the night of his death by suicide, “finally carried it with him to the chamber he destined to be that of his own death, that her countenance might catch his closing eyes as the dearest object upon the face of the earth” (85). This portrait by Inman is the one featured at the beginning of this post. For a vague comparison of her “live” presence with that of this painting, you can see her post-mortem photo here.

I feel I cannot properly attribute any further words to the loving union of Herbert and Barker; therefore, please allow Herbert’s own words in “Records” speak as testament to their love.

RECORDS.
Henry William Herbert
From Poems of “Frank Forester” (Henry William Herbert)
THIS was a happy day a year ago,
As now most wretched. This day I returned
From absence of one little month—one month
That seemed a year:—returned to feel her heart
Beat against mine, that ne’er shall beat with joy,
Or leap in ecstasy to those blue eyes
So bright and beautiful, or throb again
To mine responsive,
Oh! I see her now,
As she upstarted from her chair in haste
To greet me, with the eloquent warm blood
Flushing her fair white brow, the lips apart,
And radiant with that sunny smile that spoke
The joyous mirthfulness of her pure soul—
Most innocent and artless, and the eyes
That flashed affection out in dazzling beams
Electrical. I hear her soft, low voice
Say, “Dearest, dearest, have you come at last?
Long have I waited for you, and last night
Watched till nigh morning. Had you not come home
To-day, I should have sickened with the ‘hope Deferred.'”
But it is I that now am sick,
Past thought to be relieved; sick not with hope,—
For that disease hath still some saving touch
Of consolation in’t, that nerves the soul
To bear its tortures,—but for very lack
Of anything to hope on earth again.
For she is gone—aye, gone! and that rare form,
Which I see now as palpably as though
It stood there, glowing in the perfect grace
And glory of young womanhood;—a dream,
A trick of memory, lighter than a shade,
And by no sense of mind to be enjoyed
Or apprehended.
Yes, I see her now
As she upstarted, in her purple robe,
Graced by the fair proportions of her shape,
Not gracing them—her bosom of pure snow,
Translucent, with its thousand azure veins
Matchlessly beautiful; her glorious hair
Clustered in many ringlets of rich brown
Lit with a sunny lustre, down her neck
Falling profuse.
I feel her clasping arms
Wound close about my neck; her soft, thick curls
Fanning my cheek; and her sweet, lovely face,
Burning with blushes, hidden on my breast.
I hear her fond voice faltering in my ear
Glad tidings—that our little one—our boy,
Whom I left mute as yet, had found his tongue,
And learned to lisp her name.
It is but one year
Of the threescore and ten which sum the toil,
The lengthened weariness, and transient joy,
Of man’s allotted time, and all is changed—
Withered and cold forever, as my heart;
Which is alone, and desolate, and void,
And hopeless. She was all I had on earth;
The one rare treasure that enriched a life
Quite barren else; the only being that loved
And cherished, aye! and honored me, whose course
Has ever lain among the storms of the world,
The blight of evil tongues, and rancorous spite
Of who, not knowing, load with ill report
That which they comprehend not. She was all—
All that I had or wished. Love, happiness,
Ambition, hope—all, all in her
Were centred; and with her they are all gone,
Ne’er to come back to me.
I have nor home,
Nor country, nor companions; and the grave
Will be a resting-place, a distant end,
Not shunned, but longed for, as the pleasant bourn
Of suffering, and perchance the gate of joy;
Beyond the perishable, where immortal souls
May meet and love each other with a love
Transcending aught mortality has felt
Of best affections.
Oh that it were so!
Oh that I could believe, and in that trust
Be confident and strong, that even now
She looks upon me, and, in perfect bliss,
With something of affection still regards
The lost companion of her mortal joys,
The last attendant of her painful bed—
Him on whose breast her head was propped, on whom
Her glazing eyes were fixed, that yearned to see
When sight had left them; him whose hand yet thrills
At recollection of the entwined caress
Of those poor fingers, in their dying spasm,
Affectionate to the latest; him whose name—
Never, ’tis like, again to greet his ear
From any lips on earth—her lips strove hard
To syllable, but could not!
Life itself
Were not all weary, could I deem that she,
Marking my ways, might see each step more near
To heaven and her; and feel her very bliss
Something augmented by the unchanging love
Of him she loved so fondly; that one day
She might come forth to meet me, as of old,
But robed in beauty that will never fade,
And, radiant with eternal joy, again
Say, “Dearest, dearest, you have come at last;
Long have I waited you; and see your love
Constant and faithful, and fidelity
Hath its reward; and we are met again,
Never to sorrow more, or sin, or die:”
Oh! might I trust in this, I could go on,
In confident humility secure,
And fearless of the future.
But who knows,
Except the Father, and the Son who dwells
Forever in his glory? Who may dare
E’en to dream of that, which He hath left
Obscure, nor by a word of his illumed
The utter darkness that enshrouds the dead?
But thou art merciful, and knowest, Lord,
The weakness of the mortal: banish thou
The cruel thoughts which terrify my soul,
Whispering that she, whose early grave hath closed
Over the sweetest of thy daughters, lies
Forgetful of the life that lived for her,
Or, in her happiness, sees not the woe
That steeps in utter gloom the heart whose light
She was, and is no longer; the dark doubt,
Never to be enlightened till that day
When all shall be revealed—the dread, dark doubt
That we shall meet no more, when but to meet
Would make earth heave—as her sweet smile of old
And soothing voice could win a charm from pain,
Make poverty seem wealth, and sorrow bliss!
Gentlest and mirthfullest of living things,
And sweetest in thy purity of youth,
Thine artless innocence, thy charity
That thought no harm, thy love that knew not self—
To minister with the angels thou art gone,
And never shalt come back to me again,
As the light cometh with the morn, the leaves
With the glad spring-time.
Grant it, God, that I
May go to thee, and know thee, and be known,
There, where the wicked from their troubling cease,
The weary are at rest.
I ask but this:
Could I but think it, I could go my way
Rejoicing, and look forward to my goal
Happy, nor faint nor falter on the road.

Further Articles Regarding Henry Herbert and the Great Brawl of 1836

As promised, here are two more articles regarding the great “fracas,” which occurred at the Washington Hotel in New York City in 1836.

From the Public Ledger, May 14, 1836
The Traveller says: “The parties in the fracas last week at the Washington Hotel, New York, are of the first respectability. Mr. Tompkins is a son of the late Vice President. He was a member of the N. Y. Assembly last year, and very generally esteemed as an honorable young man. Mr. Neile is a son-in-law of the late Gov. Yates. Mr. Herbert is one of the editors of the American Monthly Magazine.” The Traveller, we presume, forgot to tell its readers that the “respectability” of the parties is only an aggravation of the offence. We dislike to see paragraphs go out unfinished.—Boston Times.
So do we dislike to see paragraphs go unfinished, and we will finish our own by saying that respectability consists in true dignity of character; in respect for the laws, and for the rights and feelings of others. According to this definition, the parties concerned in this disgraceful affair are persons of the least respectability, for we have seldom heard of a more scandalous outrage against law, social order, and the feelings of considerate and honorable men. “Mr. Tompkins is the son of the late Vice President.” “What then’ [sic] Such behavior shows that he is far less of a gentleman than his father was.—”Mr. Neale is a son-in-law of the late Governor Yates.” Indeed! Does this palliate conduct that ought to be punished by a visit to the State prison, and would be so punished in a ruffian without ruffles? “Mr. Herbert is one of the editors of the American Monthly Magazine,” and the N. York Herald says he is a bit of English nobility, with a line of ancestors from the Plantagenets downward.
“What of your noble or ignoble blood
Has crept thro’ scoundrels ever since the flood?”
Go and pretend your [family?] is young
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long!”
For fools they must have been from the beginning, to produce such a compound of vulgar folly and brutal ferocity as that exhibited by this editor of the American Monthly Magazine. The literary department of New York is in precious hands! First respectability forsooth! First blackguardism.

From the Public Ledger, May 19, 1836
The Washington Hotel Fracas.—On Friday last the Grand Jury presented bills of Indictment against Messrs. McLeod, Herbert and Staples, for being engaged in the fracas in the Washington Hotel.—Immediately thereafter, bench warrants were issued to take the several individuals therein named into custody to be tried for a disturbance of the peace, with intent to kill, at the next term of the General Sessions. Brink and Welch, the two officers who caught Robinson, have these warrants.
Yesterday at ten minutes past eleven they proceeded to the City Hotel, and enquired “Is Mr. McLeod in?” “He is not,” said Mr. Cruttenden. “Where is he?” “I don’t know.” “Can we look in his room?” “You may, but he is not there.”
The officers proceeded, not to the lodgings of Mr. Herbert. He was not to be found—but we understand the greater portion of a new novel, intended to be published by the Harpers, was safe and sound.
It is highly probable that neither of these young men will be found. McLeod, we understand has gone to Philadelphia—Herbert to Boston, and the others nowhere. The officers intend to start in pursuit to-morrow. They wont[sic] catch them.
All this “hide and go seek,” is wrong. Let the fracas gentlemen one and all, deliver themselves up. They can be convicted of nothing—they are not half so guilty as Webb, who like a mad dog runs at large.—N. Y. Herald.

“Mid-Winter Day” by Mary Brotherton

Mid-Winter Day
Mary Brotherton
From Graham’s Magazine, March, 1854

Ah! dim this day, beloved, and dim thine eyes,
But perched in yon black fir
Bold redbreast blithely chirrups as he flies,
“Spring, Spring’s astir!”

Spring is astir—not in my sight, but thought,
This sunless twenty-first,
Because Despair its cry from Hope hath caught,
This is the worst!”

For every step adown the Alpine peak,
Leads to the laughing vale;
The snow itself yields flowers—beloved, thy cheek
Is but as pale.

Further Details Surrounding the Infamous Henry William Herbert Brawl of 1836

In my brief absence, I found a few more followup articles on the Henry Herbert/McLeod and Neale/Tompkins skirmish at the Washington Hotel during May of 1836. I will post the four new articles in two separate posts. If this is your first time seeing this series, feel free to catch up with it by checking out the first and second entries.

From the Spectator, May 9, 1836

THE WASHINGTON HOTEL AFFRAY.—The Courier & Enquirer of this morning publishes not only the particulars of the scene on Monday night, and the names of the parties, but also a brief history of the intended duel between Messrs. Neale and Tompkins, out of which it grew, and the certificates furnished to Mr. Neale by his second on Montreal, Mr. Campbell Sweeny, and a British officer whose experience in the duello was invoked by the latter gentleman. The whole affair is silly, childish, and any thing but creditable to all the parties engaged in it.
Apropos to this last remark, we hold it proper to state that the Mr. Staples who was concerned in the affair at the Washington Hotel is a merchant; partner in the firm of Staples & Clark, and in no way related to the family of Seth P Staples, Esq., the eminent counsellor of this city.

From the Albany Argus, May 10, 1836

[From the New York Times.]
An affray occurred on Monday evening at the Washington Hotel, which from the nature of the events and the character of the parties excited very deep and general interest. It would be well if the affair could be buried in oblivion, but that is impossible; one newspaper has already published it, and will doubtless be followed by others who, unable to obtain accurate information, may give garbled or incorrect statements. It is but just therefore to all concerned that those who have the means should lay the facts truly before the community, however reluctant one might otherwise be to publish such an affair[.] The following is prepared from the accounts given almost unanimously shortly afterwards by the very large number of gentlemen who were present, and from other accurate sources of information.
For reasons sufficiently obvious, the narration can’t include events previous to those of Saturday last. The parties had been in controversy some time, and on that day, Mr. T. accompanied by Mr. S. called to demand of Mr. M. if he were responsible for a certain circular just put forth. Mr. M. declined to answer; Mr. T. said that he should then hold him to be the person, and therefore pronounced him a scoundrel. Mr. M. refused to notice any insult from Mr. T., alleging that Mr. T. was a disgraced man[.] During the afternoon he informed Mr. S. that he would notice any thing from him, if he (Mr. S.) chose to take Mr. T.’s place. Mr. S. replied that after the occurrences of that morning he could hold no communication with Mr. M., and so ended the campaign of the day.
On Sunday evening, Mr. H. a friend of Mr. M. referring to this reply, pronounced, in the public room of the Washington Hotel, Mr. S. to be a coward, and requested that Mr. T. might be told that he had done so.
On Monday evening, Mr. S. accompanied by Mr. T., and both unarmed, except that Mr. S. carried his usual walking stick which had a light sword within it, went to the Washington Hotel. Mr. H. coming in soon after, Mr. S. demanded whether it was true that he had pronounced him a coward. Mr. H. replied that he had; whereupon, Mr. S. waved his glove across the face of Mr. H., and pronounced him a liar.
Mr. H. drew out a pistol, but before he could fire it, his hand was arrested by Mr. T., who remonstrated against using such a weapon, and assured him he should have satisfaction. Mr. H. shook him off and retreated, presenting the pistol, and T. following to [?] it. They moved from the centre of the bar room across the hall into the reading room, H. threatening to shoot T. if he advanced, and T. defying him, and declaring he dare not fire. T. then dashed the pistol aside and struck H., when both were seized—T. by Capt. B. and H. by some young gentlemen. H. was directly released, however, and while T. was struggling with Capt. B. who held him against the door, and was nearly between the combatants, both barrels of the pistol were fired, the balls lodging in the door, above T. and the Captain.
The parties were separated, and for a few minutes the affray seemed to have ended. Mr. M. then ascended a chair in the front room, and proclaimed that Mr. S. and Mr. T. were both cowards and scoundrels; Mr. T. rushed upon him, and beat him severely before the by-standers could interfere—Those who seized Mr. T. forced him back across the room, he struggling to get free, when Mr. M. followed and struck him in the side with a dirk or knife. Upon that Mr. S drew the sword from his cane, and stabbed Mr. H. The effective hostilities were here arrested by the exertions of the gentlemen present, a second pistol being taken from Mr. H., and the parties soon separated, and retired for surgical aid.
Neither of the wounds are understood to be serious, or at all dangerous, and the parties have withdrawn from town.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe!

“A Dream of Summer” by John Greenleaf Whittier

Although I might normally agree that Whittier’s delightful poem also has me looking forward to the splendid days of summer, I, alas, cannot. Upon moving to the South, I’ve found the Autumn and Winter seasons to be a delight, and the summers to consequently be miserable. Perhaps my dear readers will find greater solace in Whittier’s words—goodness knows he may have needed them himself. Because Whittier was born in Massachusetts, it is without a doubt he endured the bitter, biting, bleak, and blustery New England winters, as is also suggested in this poem—to which I say sit Deus custodiat te and manere calidum, dear Whittier!

A Dream of Summer
John Greenleaf Whittier

4th 1st month, 1847.
BLAND as the morning breath of June
The south-west breezes play;
And, through its haze, the winter noon
Seems warm as summer’s day.
The snow-plumed Angel of the North
Has dropped his icy spear;
Again the mossy earth looks forth,
Again the streams gush clear.

The fox his hillside cell forsakes,
The muskrat leaves his nook,
The bluebird in the meadow brakes
Is singing with the brook.
“Bear up, oh mother Nature!” cry
Bird, breeze, and streamlet free;
“Our winter voices prophesy
Of summer days to thee!”

So, in those winters of the soul,
By bitter blasts and drear
O’erswept from Memory’s frozen pole,
Will sunny days appear.
Reviving Hope and Faith, they show
The soul its living powers,
And how beneath the winter’s snow
Lie germs of summer flowers!

The Night is mother of the Day,
The Winter of the Spring,
And ever upon old Decay
The greenest mosses cling.
Behind the cloud the starlight lurks,
Through showers the sunbeams fall;
For God, who loveth all His works,
Has left His Hope with all!

“LIFE AND THE GRAVE” from the New-York Mirror

I found this curious article within the pages of the December 29, 1827 issue of The New-York Mirror, and Ladies’ Literary Gazette. Certain sections in this are humbling, while others are, understandably, morose. As we enter this New Year, may we all reevaluate our goals, whether short term or long term, and continue striving to do good works, not only for our own benefit, but more importantly for the benefit of others, our planet, and the future generations to come. Time and life are precious, and we needn’t spend our lives perpetually indulging in frivolous pleasure, when we should be lending our talents and resources to better ourselves and those around us while we are still able to. Pseudo-contemplative remarks aside, I hope you enjoy this article. It comes from a series of articles by the same author under “The Essayist” section of The New-York Mirror, and only ran between 1827-1828. To my knowledge and research, the articles cannot be traced to any other source other than the Mirror. Finally, on a side note, I was unable to track down the author of this article, only relying on the author’s initials, “C. M. A.” I am only lead back to one writer and scholar, Charles Anthon (where does the mysterious “M” fit in that name? I’m not positive—), although I doubt he wrote these articles. If you agree, disagree, or have a better lead, please feel free to comment and let me know. Also, if you’d be interested in reading the other articles in his series, I’d be happy to post them.

FOR THE NEW-YORK MIRROR.
LIFE AND THE GRAVE.
“How sad a sight is human happiness,
“To those whose thought can pierce beyond an hour?”

I LOVE to indulge in that kind of pleasure termed melancholy—to look on the dark side of the picture of human life—to meditate on the many ills to which we are subject here—and to become inured, through reflection on the difficulties we meet with, to the various hardships, and troubles, and trails of life. There is a pleasing sadness in this strain of feeling, a melancholy pleasure, which often invites my attention, and which claims the merit of not being elsewhere found. It renders the feelings that were once soft, tender, and fearful of the rude blasts of adversity, cold and callous to their howlings; and imparts to the mind a thoughtful, determined preparation to endure whatever troubles may be imposed upon it.
How gloomy and forbidding is that view which reality and experience unfold to us of the state of human life! How dark the picture presented for our inspection! How few streaks of light and cheerfulness are interspersed throughout that vast extent of gloomy canvass! How few scenes of bliss and happiness are mixed with those numerous objects of misery and wretchedness that appear on its surface! How many and various are the blemishes of crime, rapine, and fraud, that stain and pollute to its appearance! There is, indeed, but little happiness here–but little to hope for—but little that is worth having, which we can desire with a probability of our request being granted.
If we take a retrospective glance, and look back on times and scenes gone by, we find but little in the recollection that can add to our present comfort. A few pleasures we may have experienced, but they were few indeed, and, like angels’ visits, “far between.” The man of fourscore can claim but a small portion of even his past life as being one of pure and unalloyed happiness. If he but estimates his age according to the pleasure he may have enjoyed, deducting from his years every portion of time spent in sorrow or anxiety, he will find himself but an infant in age, a mere babe in life. If we cast a glance beyond time past and present, and look inquiringly into the unborn future, what is there that will calm and cheer our spirits, now so drooping?—what that will make us more peaceful, more happy, more contented?—what that will act as a charm on our senses, rendering them insensible to pain, and lively to emotions of pleasure?—what that will be different from present experience of the vanity, coldness, and dreariness of life? It will be but a repetition of former scenes and former sorrows—a change of time, indeed, not of circumstances;—
——————”Endless is the list of human ills,”
“And sighs might sooner fail than cause to sigh.”
There is another theme of contemplation which I love—that inspired by a walk among the monuments of the dead—among those stones which bear the names and descriptions of those beneath them buried. Can it be that these inmates of the grave, whose forgotten names, and still more forgotten bodies, were once as I am now—as full of life and vigour—more full of its hopes and expectations—as fond of life’s enjoyments—and as pleased with the routine of fashionable pleasures—as those now in being? When they left the world, how did they leave it?—Did they die willing victims to the grave? Did they leave earth’s toys behind them as do those who know their emptiness, and give a welcome to death as a to messenger of peace that would convey them to an abode beyond the reach of life’s adversities?—or did they, in their last agonies, still cling to life—still hang to that brittle thread which bound them to earth’s domain, and wish that it might strengthen and wax stronger, that it could draw them back again to the scenes of gayety, and folly, and fashions, which once occupied their attention, and usurped the greater part of their life?
A walk in the grave-yard, when we are deeply impressed with the sensations of awe and dread inspired by the place and occasion, will be of benefit to the mind, as it is there that we can discuss dispassionately, if any where, the merits and demerits of life’s enjoyments. We feel a kind of sacred seclusion from the world, and that which usually troubles us—we imagine ourselves cut off from all sensual connexion with it, and evince but few, if any, desires to become again possessed of the charms it once maintained;—we wonder in what consisted the attractions which before bound us to life—what there was so great and glorious in the world, of a nature sufficient to cause our labours and cares to be so much and so often called into exercise—why we were once so unwilling to yield and give up those pleasures which now possess no value in our estimation—and why we declined regarding the duties enjoined on us by the will of heaven, when the faithful performance of them we now esteem to be of the greatest consequence. We contemplate also the labours of man, and endeavor to recollect for what ends his exertions are called into motion. We find the gratification of ambition to be the aim of one—the acquisition of wealth to be the desire of another—the indulgence of sensual pleasure to be the wish of a third. Various as are all of these, they alike have their end in the grave. It is, indeed, the end of man. Why then be so anxious to acquire the possession of those things whose stay must be so short, when acquired?
“Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
“What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame?
“Earth’s highest station ends in ‘here he lies’—
“And ‘dust to dust’ concludes her noblest song.”
What a picture of contemplation and reflection does the grave-yard present! The old and the young are there, and the poor and the rich are there. The child of five years lies beside of the man of eighty. They alike rest in peace—unnoticed by friends, undisturbed by foes. Nought remains of what was once flesh, and life, and vigour, but a few crumbling bones, and they turning to their original dust, as fast as the revolutions of times and seasons can make them.
It is but a few years at most that can divide the grave from the now living. A short space of time will intervene, and then shall all be brought victims to its ravages, and be swallowed up in the multitude of its openings. However much we may wish this time protracted, “to this condition we must come at last”—and it is doubtful whether it will then be welcomed more cheerfully than it would be at the present moment.
Taking this view of life and the grave, would it not be wisdom to follow the advice of the poet, so beautifully given in the following lines?
“Lean not on earth—’twill pierce thee to the heart;
“A broken reed, at best; but oft, a spear;
“On its sharp point peace bleeds, and hope expires.”
C. M. A.

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