The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: nature poetry

“A Walk in the Woods” by Elizabeth Oakes Smith

Oaksmith’s poem, “A Walk in the Woods,” reflects on the unchanging and gentle graces of nature. To Oaksmith, nature is an “oracle of peace,” “love to [her],” and “Smiles upward with its pure and tranquil look.” However, the last stanza disturbs the poem’s otherwise neutral tone, with the last two lines reading, “How like the poet’s musty rhymes, / On dusty shelf away, in after times.” This reflection from picturesque nature to something of a dreary message, being that the poet’s voice is doomed to be forgotten, calls to question why she may have shifted her tone. Perhaps her musings in the poem are simply deposited reflections—I will leave my estimations at this, for truly only the poet knows.

A Walk in the Woods
Elizabeth Oakes Smith
From The Ladies’ Companion, October, 1840

The green-draped hills, and bending sky,
The waterfall and glen,
With all the melody of earth,
Are beautiful, as when
With bounding step and throbbings wild,
A part of each I was, a little child.

No tumult now—but o’er me comes
A sweet, yet saddened pleasure—
It sticks upon my inward sense,
A calm that has no measure—
And now I feel each thing to be
An oracle of peace, and love to me.

I mark the blossoms, loving still
The shadow of green wood;
The lowly trailing vine becomes
A minister of good;
And gurgling on, the pebbly brook
Smiles upward with its pure and tranquil look.

The last year’s leaves are grey and old,
And damp beneath the tread;
But ‘mid them, with their pointed cups,
The flowrets lift their head;
The uncouth root is rounder o’er
With velvet-seeming moss, like fairy floors.

And here, beneath the roots, behold,
The squirrel’s store is left—
A heap of darkened walnut shells
Piled in this cosey cleft—
How like the poet’s musty rhymes,
On dusty shelf away, in after times.

“The Indian Summer” by Park Benjamin

The Indian Summer
Park Benjamin

A glimmering haze upon the landscape rests;
The sky has on a softer robe of blue;
And the slant sunbeams glisten mildly through
The floating clouds, that lift their pearly crests
Mid the pure currents of the upper air.
The fields are dressed in Autumn’s faded green,
And trees no more their clustering foliage wear;
Yet Nature smiles, all lovely and serene.
How sweetly breathes this life-inspiring gale,
Stirring yon silver lake’s transparent wave!
Could we but dream that Winter, coldly pale,
Might never o’er this scene of beauty rave,
Or touch the waters with his icy spear,—
Oh! would these golden hours be half so dear?

“The Fallen Leaves” by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Caroline Norton’s poem, “The Fallen Leaves,” depicts four distinct stages relating to the Autumnal season, which are observed by our narrator. A childlike, giddy wonder transitions into premature hope; man’s “prime” transitions into aged nostalgia. These simple themes give the poem such poignancy and sentimentality, that I believe the verses will undoubtedly rouse reminiscent memories of the golden Falls of yore. -Ann

The Fallen Leaves
Caroline Norton

WE stand among the fallen leaves,
Young children at our play,
And laugh to see the yellow things
Go rustling on their way:
Right merrily we hunt them down,
The autumn winds and we,
Nor pause to gaze where snow-drifts lie,
Or sunbeams gild the tree:
With dancing feet we leap along
Where wither’d boughs are strown;
Nor past nor future checks our song–
The present is our own.

We stand among the fallen leaves
In youth’s enchanted spring–
When Hope (who wearies at the last)
First spreads her eagle wing.
We tread with steps of conscious strength
Beneath the leafless trees,
And the colour kindles on our cheek
As blows the winter breeze;
While, gazing towards the cold grey sky,
Clouded with snow and rain,
We wish the old year all past by,
And the young spring come again.

We stand among the fallen leaves
In manhood’s haughty prime–
When first our pausing hearts begin
To love ‘the olden time;’
And, as we gaze, we sigh to think
How many a year hath pass’d
Since ‘neath those cold and faded trees
Our footsteps wander’d last;
And old companions–now perchance
Estranged, forgot, or dead–
Come round us, as those autumn leaves
Are crush’d beneath our tread.

We stand among the fallen leaves
In our own autumn day–
And, tott’ring on with feeble steps,
Pursue our cheerless way.
We look not back–too long ago
Hath all we loved been lost;
Nor forward–for we may not live
To see our new hope cross’d:
But on we go–the sun’s faint beam
A feeble warmth imparts–
Childhood without its joy returns–
The present fills our hearts!

“Autumn Thoughts” by John Greenleaf Whittier

After an unexpected absence, I am back to continue my Autumnal-themed poetry and prose postings. To celebrate, I present a poem by one of my favorite poets-you’ve guessed it(!)- dear John G. Whittier. —Ann Neilson

Autumn Thoughts
John Greenleaf Whittier

GONE hath the Spring, with all its flowers,
And gone the Summer’s pomp and show,
And Autumn, in his leafless bowers,
Is waiting for the Winter’s snow.

I said to Earth, so cold and gray,
“An emblem of myself thou art;”
“Not so,” the Earth did seem to say,
“For Spring shall warm my frozen heart.”

I soothe my wintry sleep with dreams
Of warmer sun and softer rain,
And wait to hear the sound of streams
And songs of merry birds again.

But thou, from whom the Spring hath gone,
For whom the flowers no longer blow,
Who standest blighted and forlorn,
Like Autumn waiting for the snow;

No hope is thine of sunnier hours,
Thy Winter shall no more depart;
No Spring revive thy wasted flowers,
Nor Summer warm thy frozen heart.

“Sunset on the Hudson” by Henry William Herbert


Sunset on the Hudson
By Henry William Herbert
Found in The Magnolia for 1837
(This poem is here paired with its original, featured engraving.)

In the cloud-curtained chambers of the west,
Serene and glorious, he hath sunk to rest—
Immortal giant—but his parting kiss
Hath steeped his earthly bride in holier bliss,
Than when she sunned her in his rapturous ray
Of noontide ardor. Slow they glide away,
The gorgeous gleams that flash from Hudson’s tide,
And paint the woods that gird old Beacon’s side;
Yet round the clouds, that veil the bridegroom’s head,
A fringe of lucent glory still is spread;
While, from the zenith, tints of deeper blue
Steal o’er the bright horizon’s azure hue,
Rob the broad forests of their verdant cheer,
And tinge the silvery brook with shadows clear.
The dewy rushes wave in arrowy ranks,
Now gilt, now gloomy, on the darkening banks;
And snowy sails, that stud the distant river,
Glance, and are lost, as in the breeze they shiver.
There is a thrill in the awakening flush
Of early morn—there is a breathless hush
In fainting noonday—but the faëry space,
That parts the evening from the night’s embrace,
Breathes out a stronger charm, a purer spell,
Bathing the soul in thoughts, that fondly swell
Like sacred music’s melancholy close,—
Sweeter than grief, and sadder than repose.
And is it fancy’s fond delusion only,
That hallows so these woods and waters lonely?—
Or is there in each bold majestic hill
A mighty legend, in each tinkling rill
A whispering voice, and in the wind’s low sigh,
Telling of days and deeds that ne’er shall die?
‘Tis holy all, and haunted!—Each green tree
Hath its own tale, each leaf its memory.
The streams, that knew the Indian’s tread of yore,
The breezy hills, with rock-ribbed summits hoar,
The lordly river, with its ceaseless moan,
Have all a power more potent than their own;
For each and all, with echoing pride, have rung
To the wild peal which freedom’s trumpet sung,
When forth, to shield his bleeding country’s breast,
HE stood—The Cincinnatus of the West—
The founder of a world—whose course was run
All bright and blessing!—like yon setting sun,
Alone of men, HIS youth was spotless seen,
His manhood mighty, and his end serene;
Without one blot to dim his deathless name,
Or bid the nations weep, that watch his fame.