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Ode to Ellen Cobby
Sarah Orne Jewett
Age 13 or 14
Ode to Ellen Cobby
Millinary fancy goods & confectionary
Oh Ellen in thy better years
When you no candy kept
And millinary was thy stock
My admiration slept
But when that failed and peppermints
Then was thy rising sun
And cassia buds increased thy stock
Twas then my love begun
And when it swelled to "lassy gobs"
I made a frequent call
And when "sprucegum to chaw" came in
I loved you more than all
Pine apples cocoanuts I saw
To deck your rising fame
Oranges sweet and lemons sour
Then blessed was thy name
Peanuts chestnuts walnuts came
Candy all kinds all seasons
If I did not fratronize you then
I'd like to know the reasons
Oh Ellen when you kept spruce beer
I thought it was my lot
As I was strictly temperance
Never to taste a drop
Oh when you added chocolates
I reverenced your store
Then syrup bottles cent apiece
My love I'd ne'er give o'er
Ellen I have stuck by you
Though you've cost me many a dollar
And never ceased my love for you
Nor wanted you "to holler"
Sarah O. Jewett
-- 1863 --
Original transcriber note: The original manuscript has two question marks which appear to have been placed after the composition of the ode (a teacher perhaps?). The first is at the end of line one (.. .years ?) and the second is at the end of line 23 (.. .temperance ?).
The manuscript of this poem is held in the Sarah Orne Jewett Collection, 1801-1997 of the University of New England's Maine Women Writers Collection: 1, Manuscripts and Notes, item 001. "Ode to Ellen Cobby" handwritten poem.
Ellen Cobby, milliner of South Berwick, Maine, seems to have left little evidence in public records. She appears as Ellen S. Colby in the Maine Register 1857 and Business Directory 1856 (p. 247) as a seller of millinery and fancy goods. Court records indicate that as Ellen S. Cobby, she was sued for non-payment of bills, in 1858 by William Oxnard, Merchant of Portland, ME, and in 1866 by Jonathan Darling of Chicago. It appears her business career ended in 1870, when a fire destroyed the business block in South Berwick. This business block was located directly across Main Street from the house where Jewett was born, and so only a few steps from the Jewett-Eastman house, where she lived during most of the first half of her life.
In South Berwick Village and the Fire of 1870, by Mary Rice Jewett (Old Berwick Historical Society, 2002), her store is mentioned by Edward B. Pike and by Mary Jewett. In his account of “The Old Buildings Before the Fire,” Pike mentions “the Hat store of David Hammonds afterwards occupied by the Misses Cobbe as a milliners store, and later for various other purposes” (14-15). In her account, Mary Rice Jewett says, “The hat, cap and fur store adjoined this, first kept by David Hammond, succeeded by John S. Pike, and afterward that business being given up Miss Ellen Cobbey had for many years a millinery shop there and lived in the rooms above” (25). Both Pike and Mary Jewett locate the store directly across Main Street from the older Jewett house.
cassia buds: Wikipedia says that cassia or cinnamon buds are the dried flowers of the cinnamon tree, sometimes used as a spice in pickles. Apparently, they were sold as a treat in Cobby's shop, or it is possible this name was given to a cinnamon candy.
"lassy gobs": Probably a form of molasses taffy.
"sprucegum to chaw": Wikipedia says: "Spruce gum is a chewing material made from the resin of spruce trees. In North America, spruce resin was chewed by Native Americans, and was later introduced to the early American pioneers and was sold commercially by the 19th century, by John B. Curtis amongst others."
spruce beer: Wikipedia says: "Spruce beer is a beverage flavored with the buds, needles, or essence of spruce trees. Spruce beer can refer to either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages."
syrup bottles cent apiece: Exactly what is meant here has not been determined, and assistance is welcome. Does Jewett refer to individual servings of sweet syrup in bottles, or to individual drinks made from soda fountain syrup, or to something else?
Original transcriber unknown; checked and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College, assisted by Linda Heller.
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