The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

New Name!

Hi, folks.

After careful deliberation (about two minutes of deciding I was completely unsatisfied with my old username) I’ve decided to rename The Materialistic Maiden.

This site’s name is now The Literary Maiden.

What won’t change is my email address. Also, I have created an empty backup blog to store the old name, so if you see that in searches, don’t worry, that’s me.

Thanks for your consideration!


“Stanzas” by H. W. H. [Attributed to Henry William Herbert]

I came across this poem by accident, while seeking out a parody epitaph by Nathaniel Parker Willis, in the Ladies’ Companion. The simple, bleak lines are signed by H. W. H., and although there is not any evidence of this poem being published elsewhere, in book, online, or otherwise, it was undoubtedly written by Henry William Herbert, who often signed off poems and short stories with the three modest initials.

H. W. H.
Ladies’ Companion, January, 1840

“The setting of a Great Hope is like the setting of the sun.”—LONGFELLOW’S HYPERION

WELL did the poet say or sing
The setting of a mighty hope is like the close of day,
When the bright warm sun has sunk to rest,
And the night comes chill and grey.

The flower of life doth pass away,
The music and the tone depart with the hope that disappears,
And nothing more remains behind,
But the darkness and the tears.

The sun may sink behind the hill,
The flowers upon the valley’s brink, may wither, wane and die,
But the day-god shall come forth again,
The world to beautify.

The day-god shall come forth again,
And Earth shall leap to life again, in presence of her King;
The hills shall laugh in glorious light—
The vales, with mirth, shall ring.

But when the hope that gilt our life,
Hath vanished into outer night, despairing and forlorn,
There comes to it, no rising more,
To us, no second morn.

We wander darkling on our way,
We mark no freshness on the earth, no brightness on the wave;
Repining ever, till we find
Rest in the quiet grave.

“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 Broken Heart” by James Gates Percival

James Gates Percival, once a prolific and outstanding poet, has been completely forgotten by the public—in fact, according to author and critic Nathaniel Parker Willis in an 1830 article from the American Monthly Magazine, Percival had resorted, then, to becoming a seldom-spoken name, although he was esteemed to be one “of the finest-strung and loftiest [minds]” of his time (286-89). Despite garnering little fame during and after his lifetime, his poetry, in my opinion, should rank with that of such commonly read poets as Poe, Longfellow, and Whittier. I digress.

Percivals life was encapsulated by tragedy, and he roamed life as a fragile recluse. His earlier poems reflect this sensitive nature, as well as the mental turmoil which he endured during his younger years, being a gentleman of suicidal tendencies. “The Broken Heart” clearly illustrates his grief and a tortured mind, “And his life was a dream of madness”; “His agony was the rack of Hell” (ll 4, 7). There is no strict evidence as to what or whom may have influenced this poem; however, our above context can give us enough clues to surmise Percival was not in a good place when he wrote this poem. It also simply lends to the genius of his pen.

The Broken Heart

James Gates Percival
From The Poetical Works of James Gates Percival: With a Biographical Sketch, Volume 1, 1866

HE has gone to the land where the dead are still,
And mute the song of gladness;
He drank at the cup of grief his fill,
And his life was a dream of madness;
The victim of fancy’s torturing spell,
From hope to darkness driven,
His agony was the rack of Hell,
His joy the thrill of Heaven.

He has gone to the land where the dead are cold,
And thought will sting him—never;
The tomb its darkest veil has rolled
O’er all his faults for ever;
O, there was a light that shone within
The gloom that hung around him;
His heart was formed to woo and win,
But love had never crowned him.

He has gone to the land where the dead may rest
In a soft, unbroken slumber,
Where the pulse, that swelled his anguished breast,
Shall never his tortures number;
Ah! little the reckless witlings know,
How keenly throbbed and smarted
That bosom, which burned with a brightest glow,
Till crushed and broken-hearted.

He longed to love, and a frown was all
The cold and thoughtless gave him;
He sprang to Ambition’s trumpet-call,
But back they rudely drave him:
He glowed with a spirit pure and high,
They called the feeling madness;
And he wept for woe with a melting eye,
‘T was weak and moody sadness.

He sought, with an ardor full and keen,
To rise to a noble station,
But repulsed by the proud, the cold, the mean,
He sunk in desperation;
They called him away to Pleasure’s bowers,
But gave him a poisoned chalice,
And from her alluring wreath of flowers
They glanced the grin of malice.

He felt that the charm of life was gone,
That his hopes were chilled and blasted,
That being wearily lingered on
In sadness, while it lasted;
He turned to the picture fancy drew,
Which he thought would darken never;
It fled;—to the damp, cold grave he flew
And he sleeps with the dead for ever.

“An Easter Flower Gift” by John Greenleaf Whittier

Christos Anesti! Please enjoy this celebratory poem by John Greenleaf Whittier in observation and celebration of Easter.*

An Easter Flower Gift
John Greenleaf Whittier

O dearest bloom the seasons know,
Flowers of the Resurrection blow,
Our hope and faith restore;
And through the bitterness of death
And loss and sorrow, breathe a breath
Of life forevermore!

The thought of Love Immortal blends
With fond remembrances of friends;
In you, O sacred flowers,
By human love made doubly sweet,
The heavenly and the earthly meet,
The heart of Christ and ours!


*The Eastern Orthodox observation of Easter is Sunday, April 8 (I am Eastern Orthodox); however, I celebrate both observances of this Holy holiday, and thus am posting this delightful poem today!

“A Sonnet.—The Poet” by Elizabeth Oakes Smith

A Sonnet.—The Poet.
Elizabeth Oakes Smith
From The Ladies’ Companion, October, 1842

IT cannot be—the baffled heart, in vain,
May seek amid the crowd its throbs to hide,
Ten thousand others, kindred pangs may bide;
Yet not the less will our own griefs complain.
Chained to our rock, the vulture’s gory stain
And tearing beak are every moment rife,
Renewing pangs, that end but with our life.
Thence bursteth forth the gushing voice of song—
The soul’s deep anguish thus an utterance finds,
Appealing to all hearts, and human minds
Bow down in awe; thence doth the bard belong
Unto all times.    And this, oh, this is fame!
He asked it not—his soul demanded bread,
And ye, charmed with the voice, gave but a stone

Please consider another poem of mine.

Submitted by Ann Neilson She lilts upon lilac clusters, wrapped in jasmine, clover, and rue, and dallies with the daisies, whilst peonies, blushing, whisper to breezy winds—“Spring has come.” Vita Brevis accepts poetry submissions year-round. Send us your best work! Photo Credit: Woman with a Parasol in a Garden – Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

via Printemps — Vita Brevis

“Who is my Neighbor?” by William Cutter

Who is my Neighbor?
William Cutter

THY neighbor ? It is he whom thou
Hast power to aid and bless—
Whose aching heart, and burning brow,
Thy soothing hand may press.

Thy neighbor ? ’tis the fainting poor,
Whose eye with want is dim,
Whom hunger sends from door to door—
Go thou, and succor him.

Thy neighbor ? ’tis that weary man,
Whose years are at their brim,
Bent low with sickness, care an pain—
Go thou, and comfort him.

Thy neighbor ? ’tis the bereft
Of every earthly gem—
Widow and orphan, helpless left—
To thou, and shelter them.

Thy neighbor ? yonder slave,
Fettered in thought and limb,
Whose hopes are all beyond the grave—
Go thou, and ransom him.

Whene’er thou meet’st a human form
Less favored than thine own,
Remember, ’tis thy neighbor worn,
Thy brother, or thy son.

Oh ! pass not, pass not heedless by—
Perhaps thou can’st redeem
One breaking heart from misery—
Go, share thy lot with him.

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