The Native Poets of Maine
S. Herbert Lancey, editor.
Published in Bangor, Maine, by David Bugbee and Company in 1854. 324 pages.
The above anthology from so long ago is a sizable representation of poets born in our Pine Tree State and some of their works; the most well-known is Portland’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), but Albion’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837), even though not that famous as a poet, did the ultimate sacrifice in Alton, Illinois, at the hands of an angry mob because of his fearless stand against slavery.
The other names, now mere footnotes in history, include Biddeford’s Grenville Mellen, North Yarmouth’s William Cutler, Exeter’s David Barker, Strong’s Florence Percy, Belfast’s William G. Crosby and Sidney’s Harriet Atwell and so forth and their poems do evoke something of Maine, even if just a couple of lines — the four seasons, joys, sorrows, daily routines.
Most of them in quality are between commonplace and slightly higher. Despite these lackings , this book is fascinating historical documentation of what some people in my native state were thinking and feeling 170 years ago.
I offer one exceptionally vivid poem from Buckfield’s Seba Smith:
The Snow Storm
The cold winds swept the mountain’s height,
And pathless was the dreary wild,
And mid the cheerless hours of night
A mother wandered with her child :
As through the drifting snow she press’d,
The babe was sleeping on her breast.
And colder still the winds did blow,
And darker hours of night came on,
And deeper grew the drifting snow :
Her limbs were chill’d, her strength was gone;
‘O God!’ she cried, in accents wild,
‘If I must perish, save my child !’
She stripp’d her mantle from her breast,
And bared her bosom to the storm,
And round the child she wrapp’d the vest
And smil’d to think her babe was warm.
With one cold kiss, one tear she shed,
And sunk upon her snowy bed.
At dawn a traveller pass’d by,
And saw her ‘neath a snowy veil;
The frost of death was in her eye,
Her cheek was cold, and hard, and pale;
He moved the robe from off the child,
The babe look’d up and sweetly smiled.
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