On Mrs. Mary Noel M’Donald, or Mary Noel Meigs, along with her poem “Winter”

by Ann Neilson

While looking through the 1853 volume of Graham’s Magazine, I was immediately presented with this Wintery poem, which served as the featured cover piece for January’s issue. Because the author’s name seemed unfamiliar, I took to researching. For those interested, here is what I found.

According to Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises, Volume 1, by William Cushing (what a curious book!), the name “Mrs. Mary Noel (Bleecker M’Donald) Meigs” appears, with an allusion to a poetry book entitled “Poems by…N.Y. 1845” (179). A quick search for Mary Noel Meigs reveals several titles by this authoress, including Lays of a Lifetime, Cousin Bertha’s Stories, Fanny Herbert, and Other Stories: A Holiday Gift, as well as the aforementioned Poems. Her works may also be found in Rufus Griswold’s The Female Poets of America. However, as one may question, what other information is there to support the notion that M’Donald and Meigs are the same person, other than Cushing’s source? According to this page, it is indicated that M’Donald, or Meigs, was married to both Pierre Edward Flemming McDonald [erroneous spelling in Graham’s?] as well as Henry Meigs, Jr., with Bleecker being her maiden name. Therefore, it’s safe to say this Mary Noel M’Donald, the author of the poem featured in my post, is Mary Noel Meigs—a no longer mysterious and obscure poet, but one who was well-published and favored during her time.

What more is to be known of her, though? According to The Cyber Hymnal online, she was born February 15, 1812 in New York, and died May 13, 1890 in New Jersey. Along with her published volumes of poetry and prose, she provided four notable hymns, which are posted on this website, including “Christmas Morning” and “Hark! A Burst of Heavenly Music.” Finally, in Griswold’s Female Poets, he states the following,

The father of Miss Bleecker (now Mrs. Meigs) was of the Bleecker family so long distinguished in the annals of New York, and among her paternal connexions were Mrs. Anne Eliza Blecker and Mrs. Faugeres, whose poems have been commented upon in an earlier part of this volume. Her maternal grandfather was the late Major William Popham, the last survivor of the staff of Washington. In 1834 Miss Bleecker was married to Mr. Pierre E. F. McDonald, who died at the end of ten years. In 1845 she published an octavo volume entitled Poems by M.N.M., and she has since written many poems and prose essays for the magazines, besides several volumes of stories for children, &c. In the autumn of 1848 she was married to Mr. Henry Meigs, of New York.

You may, therefore, find in the poem below a small example of the credence given to her work. However, if I may be critical, I find the following poem to be unorganized and messy. Sloppily displaced words and lack of punctuation in certain areas makes this a confusing and unnatural poem when read aloud. Perhaps her other works are nicer when read or spoken. Regardless, I hope others find enjoyment from this poem.

Winter

Mary Noel M’Donald

HID in the bosom of life-giving earth,
In darkness and in silence deep and still,
The buried seed to springing roots given birth,
That fix them in the mold with firmest will;
Strong hold have they below there in the soil
Before the leaves upshoot them to the light,
And beauty crowns the deep and hidden toil
With blossomed boughs that charm the gazer’s sight
So thou, oh soul, obscure and hidden long,
Uncared for and unknown must bide thy time,
And like the aspiring seed strike, deep and strong,
Roots that shall bear thee upward in thy prime,
So firm sustained, thou shalt the worthier be
For life’s fair flower that all men honor thee.