“To E. O. S.” by Sarah Helen Whitman

by Ann Neilson

In this endearing tribute written by Whitman to her close friend, Elizabeth Oaksmith, Whitman attests to Oaksmith’s mysticism. Both Whitman and Oaksmith bonded over a mutual interest in supernatural studies, and this tribute gives unique, brief glimpses into the divinatory eye of Oaksmith, as perceived by an adoring Whitman. It is worth noting this poem is especially befitting to be posted on this date, for today we celebrate Oaksmith’s 212th Birthday. Perhaps I can find my own divinatory means to contact Oaksmith on her birthday—think she’d be willing to communicate with us?

[By the way, the featured photo, if you’re able to see it, is of Elizabeth Oaksmith, not Sarah Helen Whitman. I deliberately chose the former’s photo, considering the day.]

To E[lizabeth] O[akes] S[mith]
By Sarah Helen Whitman
From Hours of life, and other poems by Sarah Helen Whitman, pg. 189.

“Eos, fair Goddess of the Morn! whose eyes
Drive back night’s wandering ghosts.”
HORNE’S ORION.

When issuing from the realms of ‘Shadow Land’*
I see thee mid the orient’s kindling bloom,
With mystic lilies† gleaming in thy hand,
Gathered by dream-light in the dusky gloom
Of bowers enchanted—I behold again
The fabled Goddess of the Morning, veiled
In fleecy clouds. Thy cheek, so softly paled
With memories of the Night’s mysterious reign,
And something of the star-light, burning still
In thy deep, dreamy eyes, do but fulfil
The vision more divinely to my thought:
While all the cheerful hopes enkindling round thee—
Warm hopes, wherewith thy prescient soul hath crowned thee—
Are with the breath of morning fragrance fraught.

*Note: possibly a reference to Oaksmith’s book, Shadow Land, or The Seer, published in 1852.
†Note: Lilies are often associated with possessing divinatory powers.