The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and tirelessly transcribe.

Category: poetry

“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!

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“January 1, 1829” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

January 1, 1829
Nathaniel Parker Willis

WINTER is come again. The sweet south-west
Is a forgotten wind, and the strong earth
Has laid aside its mantle to be bound
By the frost fetter. There is not a sound,
Save of the skater’s heel, and there is laid
An icy finger on the lip of streams,
And the clear icicle hangs cold and still,
And the snow-fall is noiseless as a thought.
Spring has a rushing sound, and Summer sends
Many sweet voices with its odors out,
And Autumn rustleth its decaying robe
With a complaining whisper. Winter’s dumb!
God made his ministry a silent one,
And he has given him a foot of steel
And an unlovely aspect, and a breath
Sharp to the senses—and we know that He
Tempereth well, and hath a meaning hid
Under the shadow of his hand. Look up;
And it shall be interpreted—Your home
Hath a temptation now! There is no voice
Of waters with beguiling for your ear,
And the cool forest and the meadows green
Witch not your feet away; and in the dells
There are no violets, and upon the hills
There are no sunny places to lie down.
You must go in, and by your cheerful fire
Wait for the offices of love, and hear
Accents of human tenderness, and feast
Your eye upon the beauty of the young.
It is a season for the quiet thought,
And the still reckoning with thyself. The year
Gives back the spirits of its dead, and time
Whispers the history of its vanish’d hours;
And the heart, calling its affections up,
Counteth its wasted ingots. Life stands still
And settles like a fountain, and the eye
Sees clearly through its depths, and noteth all
That stirr’d its troubled waters. It is well
That Winter with the dying year should come!

“January 1, 1828” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

January 1, 1828
Nathaniel Parker Willis

FLEETLY hath passed the year. The seasons came
Duly as they are wont—the gentle Spring,
And the delicious Summer, and the cool,
Rich Autumn, with the nodding of the grain,
And Winter, like an old and hoary man,
Frosty and stiff—and are so chronicled.
We have read gladness in the new green leaf,
And in the first-blown violets; we have drunk
Cool water from the rock, and in the shade
Sunk to the noontide slumber;—we have pluck’d
The mellow fruitage of the bending tree,
And girded to our pleasant wanderings
When the cool wind came freshly from the hills;
And when the tinting of the Autumn leaves
Had faded from its glory, we have sat
By the good fires of Winter, and rejoiced
Over the fulness of the gathered sheaf.
“God hath been very good!” ‘Tis He whose hand
Moulded the sunny hills, and hollow’d out
The shelter of the valleys, and doth keep
The fountains in their secret places cool;
And it is he who leadeth up the sun,
And ordereth the starry influences,
And tempereth the keenness of the frost—
And therefore, in the plenty of the feast,
And in the lifting of the cup, let HIM
Have praises for the well-completed year.

“Sparkling and Bright” by Charles Fenno Hoffman—Happy New Year!

I do not speak about my personal life on this blog, nor will I make a point to in the future; however, what I will say, upon reflection, is that it has been a year of both devastation and joy. Loved ones were lost, unspeakable grief was felt, yet in the darkness was a constant light, which never extinguished. I welcome 2018.

To celebrate, please enjoy what is considered to be a song “full of lyric feeling,” according to Edgar Allan Poe, which, during its time, was “unsurpassed by any similar production in the English language,” according to the National Repository. Hoffman’s song is catchy, witty, charming and timeless. It was so popular during its time that it saw numerous rewrites, including several sobered parodies. Such a version, with the original tune, can be heard here. I have the original sheet music stored somewhere, which I cannot for the life of me find, so here’s a “sobered” lyrical version of the sheet music, which also carries the same original tune.

As I bid everyone a Happy New Year’s Eve, I will leave this post with another Hoffman story, which may be of interest, and which is appropriate for the holiday, “New Year’s Visiting in Hades” (originally published in the New-York Mirror, December 30, 1837).

Sparkling and Bright
Charles Fenno Hoffman

SPARKLING and bright in liquid light,
Does the wine our goblets gleam in,
With hue as red as the rosy bed
Which a bee would choose to dream in.
Then fill to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

Oh! if Mirth might arrest the flight
Of Time through Life’s dominions,
We here a while would now beguile
The gray-beard of his pinions,
To drink to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting. 

But since delight can’t tempt the wight,
Nor fond regret delay him,
Nor Love himself can hold the elf,
Nor sober Friendship stay him,
We’ll drink to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

See you all in the New Year! -Ann

“New Year’s Eve, 1844” by James Russell Lowell

New Year’s Eve, 1844
James Russell Lowell

The night is calm and beautiful; the snow
Sparkles beneath the clear and frosty moon
And the cold stars, as if it took delight
In its own silent whiteness; the hushed earth
Sleeps in the soft arms of the embracing blue,
Secure as if angelic squadrons yet
Encamped about her, and each watching star
Gained double brightness from the flashing arms
Of winged and unsleeping sentinels.
Upward the calm of infinite silence deepens,
The sea that flows between high heaven and earth,
Musing by whose smooth brink we sometimes find
A stray leaf floated from those happier shores,
And hope, perchance not vainly, that some flower,
Which we had watered with our holiest tears,
Pale blooms, and yet our scanty garden’s best,
O’er the same ocean piloted by love,
May find a haven at the feet of God,
And be not wholly worthless in his sight.

O, high dependence on a higher Power,
Sole stay for all these restless faculties
That wander, Ishmael-like, the desert bare
Wherein our human knowledge hath its home,
Shifting their light-framed tents from day to day,
With each new-found oasis, wearied soon,
And only certain of uncertainty!
O, mighty humbleness that feels with awe,
Yet with a vast exulting feels, no less,
That this huge Minster of the Universe,
Whose smallest oratories are glorious worlds,
With painted oriels of dawn and sunset;
Whose carved ornaments are systems grand,
Orion kneeling in his starry niche,
The Lyre whose strings give music audible
To holy ears, and countless splendors more,
Crowned by the blazing Cross high-hung o’er all;
Whose organ music is the solemn stops
Of endless Change breathed through by endless Good;
Whose choristers are all the morning stars;
Whose altar is the sacred human heart
Whereon Love’s candles burn unquenchably,
Trimmed day and night by gentle-handed Peace;
With all its arches and its pinnacles
That stretch forever and forever up,
Is founded on the silent heart of God,
Silent, yet pulsing forth exhaustless life
Through the least veins of all created things.

Fit musings these for the departing year;
And God be thanked for such a crystal night
As fills the spirit with good store of thoughts,
That, like a cheering fire of walnut, crackle
Upon the hearthstone of the heart, and cast
A mild home-glow o’er all Humanity!
Yes, though the poisoned shafts of evil doubts
Assail the skyey panoply of Faith,
Though the great hopes which we have had for man,
Foes in disguise, because they based belief
On man’s endeavor, not on God’s decree–
Though these proud-visaged hopes, once turned to fly,
Hurl backward many a deadly Parthian dart
That rankles in the soul and makes it sick
With vain regret, nigh verging on despair–
Yet, in such calm and earnest hours as this,
We well can feel how every living heart
That sleeps to-night in palace or in cot,
Or unroofed hovel, or which need hath known
Of other homestead than the arching sky,
Is circled watchfully with seraph fires;
How our own erring will it is that hangs
The flaming sword o’er Eden’s unclosed gate,
Which gives free entrance to the pure in heart,
And with its guarding walls doth fence the meek.

Sleep then, O Earth, in thy blue-vaulted cradle,
Bent over always by thy mother Heaven!
We all are tall enough to reach God’s hand,
And angels are no taller: looking back
Upon the smooth wake of a year o’erpast,
We see the black clouds furling, one by one,
From the advancing majesty of Truth,
And something won for Freedom, whose least gain
Is as a firm and rock-built citadel
Wherefrom to launch fresh battle on her foes;
Or, leaning from the time’s extremest prow,
If we gaze forward through the blinding spray,
And dimly see how much of ill remains,
How many fetters to be sawn asunder
By the slow toil of individual zeal,
Or haply rusted by salt tears in twain,
We feel, with something of a sadder heart,
Yet bracing up our bruised mail the while,
And fronting the old foe with fresher spirit,
How great it is to breathe with human breath,
To be but poor foot-soldiers in the ranks
Of our old exiled king, Humanity;
Encamping after every hard-won field
Nearer and nearer Heaven’s happy plains.

Many great souls have gone to rest, and sleep
Under this armor, free and full of peace:
If these have left the earth, yet Truth remains,
Endurance, too, the crowning faculty
Of noble minds, and Love, invincible
By any weapons; and these hem us round
With silence such that all the groaning clank
Of this mad engine men have made of earth
Dulls not some ears for catching purer tones,
That wander from the dim surrounding vast,
Or far more clear melodious prophecies,
The natural music of the heart of man,
Which by kind Sorrow’s ministry hath learned
That the true sceptre of all power is love
And humbleness the palace-gate of truth.
What man with soul so blind as sees not here
The first faint tremble of Hope’s morning-star,
Foretelling how the God-forged shafts of dawn,
Fitted already on their golden string,
Shall soon leap earthward with exulting flight
To thrid the dark heart of that evil faith
Whose trust is in the clumsy arms of Force,
The ozier hauberk of a ruder age?
Freedom! thou other name for happy Truth,
Thou warrior-maid, whose steel-clad feet were never
Out of the stirrup, nor thy lance uncouched,
Nor thy fierce eye enticed from its watch,
Thou hast learned now, by hero-blood in vain
Poured to enrich the soil which tyrants reap;
By wasted lives of prophets, and of those
Who, by the promise in their souls upheld,
Into the red arms of a fiery death
Went blithely as the golden-girdled bee
Sinks in the sleepy poppy’s cup of flame;
By the long woes of nations set at war,
That so the swollen torrent of their wrath
May find a vent, else sweeping off like straws
The thousand cobweb threads, grown cable-huge
By time’s long-gathered dust, but cobwebs still,
Which bind the Many that the Few may gain
Leisure to wither by the drought of ease
What heavenly germs in their own souls were sown;–
By all these searching lessons thou hast learned
To throw aside thy blood-stained helm and spear
And with thy bare brow daunt the enemy’s front,
Knowing that God will make the lily stalk,
In the soft grasp of naked Gentleness,
Stronger than iron spear to shatter through
The sevenfold toughness of Wrong’s idle shield.

In the case that I don’t transcribe a work, I source my borrowings. This transcription is borrowed from the following incredible source, and credit goes to their transcribers.

“December” by Edmund Ollier

December
Edmund Ollier
From The Living Age, Vol. 40.

THE unseen Presence with the noiseless wing—
Time—has swept bare the bounteous earth at last,
And Summer’s green and crimson shows have past
From out men’s sight, like cloud-shapes when winds sing.

The seeds, which from the year’s great ripening
Were shaken, and within the warm earth cast,
Live but in future life, and slumbering fast,
Lie waiting for the vital breath of Spring.

And all is thoughtful, vacant, dusk and still;
A Sabbath pause, a resting everywhere,
A sleep and a thanksgiving, which now fill
The world, and make its bareness seem less bare.
The winds are laid, no sound is in the rill,
And not a murmur ripples the smooth air.

[An Excerpt from] “Winter” by James Thomson

[An excerpt from] Winter [from The Seasons]
James Thomson
From Graham’s Magazine, February, 1854.

THROUGH the hushed air the whitening shower descends,
At first thin-wavering, till at last the flakes
Fall broad, and wide, and fast, dimming the day
With a continual flow. The cherished fields
Put on their winter robe of purest white:
‘Tis brightness all, save where the new snow melts
Along the mazy current. Low the woods
Bow their hoard head; and ere the languid sun,
Faint from the west, emits his evening ray,
Earth’s universal face, deep hid, and chill,
Is one wide dazzling waste, that buries wide
The works of man. Drooping, the laborer-ox
Stands covered o’er with snow, and then demands
The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of heaven,
Tamed by the cruel season, crowd around
The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
Which Providence assigns them. One alone,
The red-breast, sacred to the household gods,
Wisely regardful of the embroiling sky,
In joyless fields and thorny thickets, leaves
His shivering mates, and pays to trusted man
His annual visit. Half-afraid, he first
Against the window beats; then, brisk, alights
On the warm hearth; then hopping o’er the floor,
Eyes all the smiling family askance,
And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is
Till, more familiar grown, the table crumbs
Attract his slender feet.

[Note: Graham’s Magazine, to my great annoyance, did not indicate any proper source or author for this poem, listing the author simply as “Thomson.” However, I sourced it back to this poem. You can read more about the author here.]

“The Christmas of 1888” by John Greenleaf Whittier

The Christmas of 1888
John Greenleaf Whittier

Low in the east, against a white, cold dawn,
The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn,
And on a wintry waste
Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown,
Through thin cloud-films a pallid ghost looked down,
The waning moon half-faced.

In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth,
What sign was there of the immortal birth?
What herald of the One?
Lo! swift as thought the heavenly radiance came,
A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame,
Up rolled the round, bright sun!

And all was changed. From a transfigured world
The moon’s ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled
Up to the still air unblown.
In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn
O’er Nain and Nazereth, when the Christ was born,
Break fairer than our own?

The morning’s promise noon and eve fulfilled
In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-filled
And sunset fair as they;
A sweet reminder of His holiest time,
A summer-miracle in our winter clime,
God gave a perfect day.

The near was blended with the old and far,
And Bethlehem’s hillside and the Magi’s star
Seemed here, as there and then, —
Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm,
Our heart’s desire the angels’ midnight psalm,
Peace, and good-will to men!

In the case that I don’t transcribe a work, I source my borrowings. This transcription is borrowed from the following source, and credit goes to their transcribers.

“Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This exceptional poem, written by Fireside Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863, has helped me through personal adversity this year. As I listen to it this clear Christmas morning, it recalls my experiences of woe—it also moves me so to reflect upon the blessings I have received. With great trials comes great joy, for we learn to become stronger by our transgressions and misfortune.

When Longfellow wrote this iconic poem, he, too, was in despair. 1863 means he was surrounded by the tragedy of the Civil War. However, what truly called him to write this poem was a stirring turn of events, when his son Charley, a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, was struck by a bullet while fighting, sending him ultimately back home with his father and brother, Earnest Longfellow. According to Robert Girard Carroon in his article “The Christmas Carol Soldier,” “They reached Cambridge on December 8 and Charles Appleton Longfellow began the slow process of recovering. As he sat nursing his son and giving thanks for his survival, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the following poem:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!” (Source.)

This is also an excellent article, which provides further context of what may also have lead to the penning of Longfellow’s poem, which I feel to be viable in its own right.

Just as Longfellow experienced great loss, yet displayed fortitude when, “…in despair [he] bowed [his] head, / [for] ‘There [was] no peace on earth,” he held true to his faith and reassures both himself and the reader that “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!” Never have I heard such truer words.

I wish you all a very Merry Holiday, whatever you may celebrate. Remember to reach out to your loved ones, whether they be friend or family; and, remember to forgive those who have wronged you, or those whom you have wronged. Today is a day of peace and renewal, and I pray that each and every one of you has a blessed day—or, in the words of Tiny Tim from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, every one!”

(On a side note, these are two gorgeous versions of the carol adaptation of Longfellow’s poem. I recommend giving these both a listen if you have the chance, they’re different from each other stylistically and bring something refreshing to the poem. 1) “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”-Casting Crowns, 2) “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”-Jane Monheit.

“A Christmas Carmen” by John Greenleaf Whittier

A Christmas Carmen
John Greenleaf Whittier

I.
Sound over all waters, reach out from all lands,
The chorus of voices, the clasping of hands;
Sing hymns that were sung by the stars of the morn,
Sing songs of the angels when Jesus was born!
With glad jubilations
Bring hope to the nations!
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun:
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!

II.
Sing the bridal of nations! with chorals of love
Sing out the war-vulture and sing in the dove,
Till the hearts of the peoples keep time in accord,
And the voice of the world is the voice of the Lord!
Clasp hands of the nations
In strong gratulations:
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun;
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!

III.
Blow, bugles of battle, the marches of peace;
East, west, north, and south let the long quarrel cease
Sing the song of great joy that the angels began,
Sing of glory to God and of good-will to man!
Hark! joining in chorus
The heavens bend o’er us!
The dark night is ending and dawn has begun;
Rise, hope of the ages, arise like the sun,
All speech flow to music, all hearts beat as one!

In the case that I don’t transcribe a work, I source my borrowings. This transcription is borrowed from the following source, and credit goes to their transcribers.

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