The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Taking a Break

Hi, folks. I’ll be on hiatus again for an indefinite amount of time. In the meantime, look forward to some poems I’ve pre-scheduled to post within the next few months. Until then!

Selections from Evenings in Autumn by Nathan Drake

Born in 1766, Nathan Drake was a British essayist, Shakespeare scholar, and medical practitioner.  According to Charles Dexter Cleveland in English Literature of the Nineteenth Century, “Dr. Drake was kindness, courtesy, and candor personified; and no one can read his eminently instructive writings without feeling that they are the productions of a mind pure, benevolent, and well stored, and distinguished for its refined and delicate taste” (258). Drake’s Evenings in Autumn reflects the moral, pure, and elegant style typical of the author. I have chosen short passages from this 27 paged article in order to reintroduce his writings before the public. These writings also muse and reflect on one of nature’s better seasons. I hope they inspire you as the year begins to close.

Selections from “Introductory. On the influence of Autumnal Scenery over the Mind and Heart”
Nathan Drake
From Evenings in Autumn; a Series of Essays, Narrative and Miscellaneous, Vol. 1

Evening, when the busy scenes of our existence are withdrawn, when the sun descending leaves the world to silence, and to the soothing influence of twilight, has ever been a favorite portion of the day with the wise and good of all nations. There appears to be shed over the universal face of nature, at this period, a calmness and tranquility, a peace and sanctity, as it were, which almost insensibly steals into the breast of man, and disposes him to solitude and meditation. He naturally compares the decline of light and animation with that which attaches to the lot of humanity; and the evening of the day, and the evening of life, become closely assimilated in his mind (2).

—— —— ——

Autumn has, indeed, and particularly the Evening of Autumn, been a chosen season for study and reflection with some of the most exalted spirits of which our country can boast. Milton we know to have been so partial to this period of the year, and so impressed with conviction of its friendliness to poetic inspiration, as to leave it on record that he felt the prompting of his genius most effectual and satisfactory to himself about the Autumnal Equinox; and his attachment to the Twilight of Evening is so conspicuous throughout the whole of his poetry, as to induce one of his commentators, unconscious one would imagine of the delightful influence of such an hour, to conjecture, “that the weakness of our poet’s eyes, to which this kind of light must be vastly pleasant, might be the reason that he so often introduces the mention of it”* (4-5).

*Todd’s Milton, vol. iii, p. 121, note.

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We cannot be surprised, therefore, that this, the evening of the dying year, should be the chosen season with the poet, the philosopher, and the man of sorrows, with him who turns from the too frequent selfishness of human life to the silent sympathy of suffering nature; with him who loves to search into the great and beneficent designs of Providence, and with him who in “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” is wont to pour forth the unpremeditated inspiration of devotional fervor. It is scarcely possible, indeed, to listen to the winds of Autumn as they strew the withered foliage around us, without, mentally at least, adopting the very beautiful invocation of a living bard…(15).

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No period of the year, indeed, is better entitled to the appellation of The Season of Philosophic Enthusiasm, than the close of Autumn. There is in the aspect of every thing which surrounds us, as the sun is sinking below the horizon, on a fine evening of October, all that can hush the troubled passions to repose, yet all which, at the same time, is calculated to elevate the mind, and awaken the imagination (17-18).

“The Fairy Mirror” from the Knickerbocker

The Fairy Mirror
By V. N. O.
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 49, 1857, pg 485

THE morning dew was glittering on the flowers,
A mist was floating from the lake;
It was that heavenliest of hours,
When little birds begin to wake,
To move, and murmur a half-finished tune,
Uncertain as to whether waking,
Upon so bright a morn in June,
Was not on their part a mistaking.

There was a noiseless kind of sound,
So quiet that you felt, not heard, it;
As if the spirit of the ground
Had unintentionally stirred it:
The fleecy clouds above were still,
On the blue lake there seemed no motion;
Nor even on the distant hill:
Nature had drunk a sleeping potion.
A leaf alone from an old tree,
As if it brought some angel’s message,
Fell gently, and it seemed to me
A good, a fair, a heavenly presage.
I caught it: in its very heart
Rested a drop of morning-dew:
I looked, I could not check the start:
Whom saw I there?—dear friend, ’t was you!

Detroit, July 3d, 1856.

“Sonnet: Charity” from the Knickerbocker

Sonnet: Charity.
By L. Q. I.
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 49, 1857, pg. 342.

‘BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS CHARITY.’

’T IS said the Earth grows doting in her age,
And locket ever backward; that her heart
Out-poured its mother-tide on knight and sage,
Her first-born songs: and now, not all our art
Can win one love glance from her tear-blind eyes.
Come, KANE! and stand before her; let each scar
In glory now beneath the polar star
Proclaim the greatest hero ‘neath GOD’s skies!
And if she maunder still of victors dead,
Blood-stained, while thou art robed in Charity;
If crowning them she strip the laurel-tree,
And thee disowning, will not wreathe thy head:
Then, GOD of orphans! let this wanderer come
To share the crown and sun-light of THY home!

January, 1857.

“The Mother” by Timothy Cole

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From the Century magazine, Volume 86, pg. 920.

The Mother
By Timothy Cole
From the Century magazine, Volume 86, pg. 920.

DEAR solacer and goddess of the hearth,
O mother! whose enfolding arms and breast
Cradle the infant world from dawn’s fair birth
To the sun’s ripening noon with loving girth;
How oft, in dreaming of thy sheltering rest,
Whose ingle-glow now kindles to new worth
Our souls, we see thy phantom figure blest,
Still ministrant, in light and beauty dressed.
Where light is, thitherward the spirit tends:
Mankind were yet within the womb of night,
From joy imprison’d save for thy sweet might,
Save for the flame thy love forever lends.
While beacon-like thy fire throws its spark.
We shall not fear, though all the world grow dark.

“The Land of the Blest” by James Gates Percival

The Land of the Blest.
By James Gates Percival
From Poems by James Gates Percival, pp. 368-370.

THE sunset is calm on the face of the deep,
And bright is the last look of day in the west,
And broadly the beams of its parting glance sweep,
Like the path that conducts to the land of the blest:
All golden and green is the sea, as it flows
In billows just heaving its tide to the shore;
And crimson and blue is the sky, as it glows
With the colors which tell us that daylight is o’er.

I sit on a rock that hangs over the wave,
And the foam heaves and tosses its snow-wreaths below,
And the flakes, gilt with sunbeams, the flowing tide pave,
Like the gems that in gardens of sorcery grow:
I sit on the rock, and I watch the light fade
Still fainter and fainter away in the west,
And I dream I can catch, through the mantle of shade,
A glimpse of the dim, distant land of the blest.

And I long for home in that land of the soul,
Where hearts always warm glow with friendship and love,
And days ever cloudless still cheerily roll,
Like the age of eternity blazing above:
There, with friendships unbroken, and loves ever true,
Life flows on, one gay dream of pleasure and rest;
And green is the fresh turf, the sky purely blue,
That mantle and arch o’er the land of the blest.

The last line of light is now crossing the sea,
And the first star is lighting its lamp in the sky;
It seems that a sweet voice is calling to me,
Like a bird on that pathway of brightness to fly:
“Far over the wave is a green sunny isle,
Where the last cloud of evening now shines in the west;
‘Tis the island that Spring ever woos with her smile;
O, seek it,—the bright, happy land of the blest!”