The Starry Crown

Centennial Web Edition 2004

Poems by Aaron Southwick 1904

SILENT WORSHIP

Fade away each wild emotion;
     Every care and sorrow cease;
Breathing silent, calm devotion
     Rest each soul in perfect peace.

Linked with Christ in tender union
     All our hearts with love o'erflow,
Holding secret, sweet communion
     Borne by angels to and fro.

Thus our souls may live forever
     Drinking in eternal Truth,
Never more from bliss to sever,
     Joyous in immortal youth.

Through the ages none can measure
     Love shall wing our prayers and praise,
It shall be our dearest treasure
     And the solace of our days.

          - Aaron Southwick, 1830-1909

"Silent Worship" describes the experience of Quaker worship Aaron Southwick must have had in his youth.
[nettie southwick.]
TO NETTIE

O dearest Cherub of my heart!
     On whom my fondest memory lingers,
How sad it was from thee to part!
     No more to kiss thy lips and fingers.

How lovely o'er thy waxen face,
     Enchanting as an angel's story,
I saw thy smile of peace and grace
     That shone with pure celestial glory!

I know that thou art happy now
     With Jesus in his garden vernal,
With crown and chaplet on thy brow
     And living bloom of life eternal.

For often thou dost visit me
     And bring a comfort sweet and cheering
As I thy loving presence see
     Through faith's eternal power appearing.

No more I'll grieve o'er thy fair form
     For which I'm called for age to sever;
I meet thee in the spirit warm
     And we are closer now than ever.

          - Aaron Southwick, 1830-1909

The poem commemorates the death of the poet's daughter Nettie Alice Southwick, in her fourth year, in 1869. It is said that he grieved for her all his life.
[aaron and annette southwick.] THE FORSAKEN ROOM

How dimly through these window panes
     The struggling light intrudes!
     What solemn silence broods
In this old room! what sadness reigns!
The dust is on this ancient chair;
     Its velvet soiled with years;
I see no loved one sitting there;
     My eyes are full of tears.

The marble table, where respose
     The books now read no more
     Reminds me o'er and o'er
Of One as fair as Sunset rose.
And in that dismal corner stands
     The mandolin she played;
But oh! I cannot see the hands
     That sweetest music made!

The useless strings are broken now,
     And in this lonely room
     There dwells a stifling gloom
That darkens all my weary brow.
The cobwebs hang in long festoons;
     They slowly rise and sway;
In sorrow all my gladness swoons;
     I cannot bear to stay.

That flower-enameled escritoire,
     Once kept with tender care,
     Now lies wide-open there
As dusty as the oaken floor.
The pearly knife, the golden pen,
     The crystal stand I see -
Dead fingers will not trace again
     A loving line to me.

Yet memory doth the past restore,
     Its sweetest thoughts and gems,
     The soul's own diadems,
The cherished friend I loved of yore.
I see her flash and slowly glide,
     Like some celestial sprite,
Then hover closely by my side,
     A star of purest light!
I leave my foot-prints on the floor;
     I slowly turn to go;
     I check a wave of woe;
I close for age the creaking door.
And as I stricken walk away
     I hear a phantom voice
In soulful whispers faintly say:
     "Rejoice, my friend, rejoice."

          - Aaron Southwick, 1830-1909

The poem does not say so explicitly, but "The Forsaken Room" must have been written after his wife's death in 1900, at the age of 57.
[the daguerreotype.] THE DAGUERREOTYPE

A precious little relic
     A gift from heart to heart,
Resemblance of a form angelic
     Whose lights and shades impart
Emotions felt of old,
Pure, delicate, untold.

I gaze on every feature
     The satin cheeks, the eyes -
I cannot see the real creature,
     But many beauties rise -
The forehead white and fair,
The puffs of golden hair.

A neck to grace a goddess,
     A sable cord of silk
Above a simple checkered bodice,
     A throat as white as milk
O'erlaid with jet-black cross,
Contrasting gloss with gloss,

Two arms of alabaster,
     So smooth, so plump, so fair!
None molded by an olden master
     Could with their form compare!
Ideals opulent
For inspiraton sent.

No sunny smile reposes
     Upon that mouth and face,
But faintest blush of pale pink roses
     Has left its lovely trace
In silent beauty there
Serene, immobile, rare.

If one desire unspoken,
     One touch that I might give,
One earnest look at that dear token,
     Could make it wake and live,
Those features now so still
Should move, and speak, and thrill.

          - Aaron Southwick, 1830-1909

"The Daguerreotype" is one of many poems in The Starry Crown that recall the poet's old loves. A charming ditty, even if the extra foot in the third line clunks in every stanza. I wonder if the poet imagined a musical setting. Daguerreotype photographs were introduced in 1839. An approximate date for this daguerreotype is 1850.
BUTTE

How oft my mind reverts to thee,
     Thou city of the tunneled hills;
Thy lofty towers I still can see,
Thy smoke descending silently
     Till all thy dingy streets it fills.

Thy engines puff, and roll, and slide
     The busy copper mines to gain;
The laboring cars still onward glide
Both up and down the mountain side
     In many a heavy-laden train.

The whistles shriek; their echoes fly
     And many times the sounds repeat;
The trolley cars go rattling by;
They swift descend or climb on high
     And ring their bells at many a street.

The eager people come and go
     In jostling crowds the livelong day;
No hours of rest they see or know
Above the ground, or down below -
     The "get there god" bears constant sway.

A ceaseless strife for pelf and place
     Pervades the throbbing, pulsing air
Which gives excitement to the race,
And quickens every nerve and pace
     To gain the lion's regal share.

Midst life, and death, and stirring deeds
     Thy people live, and sleep and wake;
Explosions vast they scarcely heed;
In vain for time the idlers plead;
     The rocks must rend, the mountains shake!

And as thy wealth is very great
     Thy generous people spend it free;
They have no time to fool or wait;
Tomorrow will be much too late;
     Their presence spans futurity.

To drill, to blast, to raise the ore,
     To smelt it in the roaring fire,
To strive for riches evermore,
The gold and copper to adore,
     Stirs many a heart with fierce desire.

To live beneath thy smoky skies,
     To draw thy people's craving breath,
Is but to feel contagion rise
And catch the fever as it flies
     Till all is stilled in final death.

          - Aaron Southwick, 1830-1909

"Butte" must have been written after a visit to Butte, Montana, possibly to visit his youngest son Earnest Alonzo Southwick, who lived there in the later 1890's. In this enlarged view of the text we see the worn Linotype matrices of a country newspaper in 1904. The matrices were used to cast sticks of Babbitt metal type that were then collected in cases, locked, and used directly as printing plates.
[butte.]

LONESOME HOLLOW

On beyond the jumping-off place,
Where the highway turneth south,
You will find a yawning hollow
And you'll dash into its mouth.
Just beyond you'll climb a hillside,
Then you'll wind around a bluff, -
There's the ranch and little cottage!
"Lonesome Hollow", sure enough!
You will know it by the windmill,
And its wheel that creaking goes
With its loftly lordly rooster,-
Iron cock that never crows,
In the yard you'll see the chickens
And the pigs each other follow,
Towser sleeping by the woodpile,
Guardian of Lonesome Hollow.
In the house you'll find "Aunt Debbie"
With her pencil or a book;
In her lap you'll see her tatting,
Spool of thread and little book.
And you'll find the happy Governor
Hovering near his better half,
Hitching "Flara" to her buggy,
Feeding hogs, or cow or calf.
You will find the kids a-cooking
Bread, and beans, and cake and pie
For themselves and many others,
Tramps and boarders, low and high,
Or you'll find them at the organ
Singing like so many larks,
Entertaining males and females,
Be they strangers, friends or sparks.
When the cottage you have entered
you will wish to stay and stay -
You'll forget 'tis Lonesome Hollow,
Don't forget to come away.

Not in The Starry Crown." Quoted in Pioneers of the Bluestem Prairie: Kansas Counties Clay, Geary, Marshall, Pottawatomie, Riley, Wabaunsee, Washington. Riley County Genealogical Society, Manhattan KS 1976; 1991 reprint. "The area referred to has been in the Fort Riley Military Reservation since 1941." Aaron Southwick kept an inn in Riley around 1870. "Sparks" are suitors.
Aaron Southwick's great-grandson Robert Southwick Richmond writes this page a century after the first publication of The Starry Crown. The book was not copyrighted, and as far as I know the poems are in the public domain.

Return to The Starry Crown Web page.

Return to Bob Richmond's site map

E-mail Bob Richmond

Posted to the Web May 28th, 2004.
Revised June 2nd, 2004.