Main Contents
Jewett's Poems Contents
Burton Trafton's 1949 Edition

VERSES

Sarah Orne Jewett

Boston, 1916
PRINTED FOR HER FRIENDS
To T. J. E.

CONTENTS

  To My Father: I
  To My Father: II
  Assurance
  The Gloucester Mother
  Flowers in the Dark
  Boat Song
  Top of the Hill
  At Home From Church
  Together
 
A Caged Bird
Star Island
The Widows' House
Dunluce Castle
Discontent
A Four-Leaved Clover
A Child's Grave
The Spendthrift Doll
The Little Doll That Lied
The Fallen Oak
NOTES
Clara and Carl Weber in A Bibliography of the Published Writings of Sarah Orne Jewett, explain that this posthumous selection of Jewett's poems was prepared by Mark A. DeWolfe Howe and printed by D. B. Updike, the Merrymount Press, Boston (24). Howe is the author of Memories of a Hostess (1922), which records episodes in the associations of the group of artist friends of Jewett and Annie Fields.

T. J. E. is Dr. Theodore Jewett Eastman (1879-1931), Jewett's beloved nephew, the son of Caroline Jewett and Edwin C. Eastman.


TO MY FATHER

I

When in the quiet house I sat alone,
Sometimes I heard your footfall drawing near;
And with a thrill of gladness open wide
I flung my door to bid you welcome, dear.
Sometimes you did not even speak to me,
But left me quickly when our eyes had met
And you had kissed me -- ah, how tenderly!
Light were the tasks the busy day had set;
I had grown braver for the sight of you;
Out of your sight I was not left alone.
A thousand times across the land and sea
Your loving thoughts straight to my heart have flown,
Returned from that far country of the stars.
Again you find me in the quiet room,--
Your angelhood has lent your love fleet wings
To make the journey through the evening's gloom.
How can I miss you, though the days are long
And dark with sorrow since I saw you die,
Though like a dream my changed life seems to me,
With all its pleasures stolen suddenly?
Who is so alive as he the world calls dead!
What heart so loving as the heart that waits,
Not cold and still, but quick with tenderness!
No other hand will lead me through the gates.
Your great sweet love is ever close to me
To bring me courage, and my soul to keep.
Heaven's peace you bring who ever brought me earth's,
And some fair day I too shall fall on sleep.

NOTE
Theodore Jewett, Jewett's father, died on 20 September, 1878.

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TO MY FATHER

II

I heard to-day the first sweet song of spring--
A blue-bird's eager note, so faint and far,
Across the fields; and first I was so glad.
I thought of summer, and the flowers that are
Waiting for that glad day when they can bloom.
But quick again my heart was sorrowing:
It was mistaken in its winter's end.
I think I never was so grieved and sad,
And in my mind there was no longer room
For any thought but of that dearest friend
Who taught me first the beauty of these days--
To watch the young leaves start, the birds return,
And how the brooks rush down their rocky ways,
The new life everywhere, the stars that burn
Bright in the mild, clear nights. Oh! he has gone,
And I must watch the spring this year, alone.

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ASSURANCE

It sometimes happens that two friends will meet,
And with a smile and touch of hands again
Go on their way along the noisy street.
Each is so sure of all the friendship sweet,
The loving silence gives no thought of pain.
And so I think those friends whom we call dead
Are with us. It may be some quiet hour,
Or time of busy work for hand and head,
Their love fills all the heart that missed them so.
They bring a sweet assurance of the life
Serene above the worry that we know,
And we are braver for the comfort brought.
Why should we grieve because they do not speak
Our words that lie so far below their thought?
 

NOTE
This sonnet originally appeared as the second of two poems, "Verses," in Sunday Afternoon 1 (January - June 1878): 564.  The text varied slightly.

It sometimes happens that two friends will meet
   And with a smile and touch of hands, again
Go on their way along the noisy street:
Each is so sure of all the friendship sweet,
   The loving silence gives no thought of pain.
And so, I think, those friends whom we call dead
   Are with us. It may be some quiet hour
Or time of busy work for hand or head
Their love fills all the heart that missed them so;
   They bring a sweet assurance of the life
Serene, above the worry that we know;
   And we grow braver for the comfort brought.
Why should we mourn because they do not speak
   Our words that lie so far below their thought?
 
 

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THE GLOUCESTER MOTHER

WHEN autumn winds are high,
They wake and trouble me
With thoughts of people lost
A-coming on the coast,
And all the ships at sea.

How dark, how dark and cold
And fearful in the waves,
Are tired folk who lie not still
And quiet in their graves
In moving waters deep
That will not let men sleep
As they may sleep on any hills,
May sleep ashore till time is old
And all the earth is frosty cold.
Under the flowers a thousand springs
They sleep and dream of many things.

God bless them all who die at sea!
If they must sleep in restless waves,
God make them dream they are ashore
With grass above their graves!

NOTES

"The Gloucester Mother" appeared in McClure's magazine (31:702) in October 1908. That text is slightly different from the one in Verses. Below is the McClure's text.

THE GLOUCESTER MOTHER (McClure's text)

WHEN Autumn winds are high
They wake and trouble me,
With thoughts of people lost
A-coming on the coast,
And all the ships at sea.

How dark, how dark and cold,
And fearful in the waves,
Are tired folk who lie not still
And quiet in their graves: --
In moving waters deep,
That will not let men sleep
As they may sleep on any hill;
May sleep ashore till time is old,
And all the earth is frosty cold. --
Under the flowers a thousand springs
They sleep and dream of many things.

God bless them all who die at sea!
If they must sleep in restless waves,
God make them dream they are ashore,
With grass above their graves.

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FLOWERS IN THE DARK

Late in the evening, when the room had grown
Too hot and tiresome with its flaring light
And noise of voices, I stole out alone
Into the darkness of the summer night.
Down the long garden-walk I slowly went;
A little wind was stirring in the trees;
I only saw the whitest of the flowers,
And I was sorry that the earlier hours
Of that fair evening had been so ill spent,
Because, I said, I am content with these
Dear friends of mine who only speak to me
With their delicious fragrance, and who tell
To me their gracious welcome silently.
The leaves that touch my hand with dew are wet;
I find the tall white lilies I love well.
I linger as I pass the mignonette,**
And what surprise could dearer be than this:
To find my sweet rose waiting with a kiss!

NOTES

"Flowers in the Dark" first appeared in Atlantic Monthly (45:568) in March 1880, where the text is slightly different. The Atlantic text appears below.

mignonette: "A plant (Reseda odorata) cultivated for the fragrance of its blossoms. When trained to grow with a bushy head it is known as tree-mignonette. wild mignonette, the plant R. luteola. The ordinary Fr. name for mignonette is réséda; but Littré says that mignonnette is applied to this plant as well as to several others." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).

FLOWERS IN THE DARK (Atlantic text)

Late in the evening, when the room had grown
Too hot, and tiresome with its flaring light
And noise of voices, I stole out alone
Into the darkness of the summer night.
Down the long garden walk I slowly went.
A little wind was stirring in the trees;
I only saw the whitest of the flowers,
And I was sorry that the earlier hours
Of that fair evening had been so ill-spent;
Because, I said, I am content with these
Dear friends of mine, who only speak to me
With their delicious fragrance, and who tell
To me their gracious welcome silently.
The leaves that touch my hand with dew are wet;
I find the tall white lilies I love well;
I linger as I pass the mignonette;
And what surprise could sweeter be than this,
To find a late rose waiting with a kiss!

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BOAT SONG

Oh, rest your oars and let me drift
     While all the stars come out to see!
The birds are talking in their sleep
     As we go by so silently.
The idle winds are in the pines;
     The ripples touch against the shore.
Oh, rest your oars and let me drift,
     And let me dream forevermore!

The sweet wild roses hear and wake,
     And send their fragrance through the air;
The hills are hiding in the dark,
     There is no hurry anywhere.
The shadows close around the boat,
     Ah, why should we go back to shore!
So rest your oars, and we will float
     Without a care forevermore.

Oh, little waves that plash and call,
     How fast you lead us out of sight!
And we must follow where you go
     This strange and sweet midsummer night;
The quiet river reaches far--
     The darkness covers all the shore;
With idle oars we downward float
     In starlight dim forevermore.

NOTE

Weber and Weber report Jewett's statement that "The Boat Song" first appeared in a little paper published at a fair in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. However, this paper has not been located. Jewett also reported that "Josef Hoffman, the pianist, composed a musical setting for this poem 'and it was afterwards published by some music publishers.'" This music also has not been located. (Weber & Weber 24).  John Austin Parker, "Sarah Orne Jewett's 'Boat Song,'" American Literature 23 (1951) reports, according to Nagel and Nagel's Sarah Orne Jewett: A Reference Guide, that "Among the uncataloged materials of the Library of Congress is a copy of 'Boat Song,' words by Miss Sarah O. Jewett.  Music by Richd. Hoffman.  New York:  G. Schirmer, c. 1879."

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TOP OF THE HILL

Green slope of autumn fields,
     And soft November sun,
And golden leaves--they linger yet,
While tasselled pines new fragrance get,
     Though summer-time is done.

The hedge-rows wear a veil
     Of glistening spider threads,
And in the trees along the brook
The clematis,** like whiffs of smoke,
     Its faded garland spreads.

See, here upon my hand,
     This gauzy-winged wild bee!
Now that the winds are laid,
He suns him unafraid
     Of winter-time or me.

I love the steepled town,
     The river winding down,
The slow salt tide that creeps
Beside a shore that sleeps,
     Dark with its pine woods' crown.**

Here, high above them all
     Upon my broad-backed hill,
Far from shrill voices I,
And near the sun and sky,
     Can look and take my fill.

I breathe the sweet air in,
     While lower drops the sun,
And brighter all too soon
Grows the pale hunter's moon,
     The whole year's fairest one.

Oh, lovely light that fades
     Too soon from sky and field,
Oh, days that are too few,
How can I gather you,
     Or treasure what you yield!

Oh, sunshine, warm me through,
     And, soft wind, blow away
My foolishness, my fears,
And let some golden years
     Grow from this golden day!
 

NOTES

clematis: "A genus of twining shrubs (N.O. Ranunculaceæ), having flowers with a showy calyx and no corolla, and seed-vessels adorned with long feathery appendages." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).

pine woods' crown: Jewett describes the area around her home town of South Berwick, Maine. See "The Old Town of Berwick" as well as "River Driftwood" and other sketches in Country By-Ways for other descriptions and further information.

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AT HOME FROM CHURCH

The lilacs in the sunshine lift
     Their plumes of dear old-fashioned flowers
Whose fragrance fills the silent house
     Where, left alone, I count the hours.

High in the apple-trees the bees
     Are humming, busy in the sun;
An idle robin cries for rain
     But once or twice, and then is done.

The Sunday morning stillness holds
     In heavy slumber all the street,
While from the church just out of sight
     Behind the elms, comes slow and sweet

The organ's drone, the voices faint
     That sing the quaint long-metre hymn--**
I somehow feel as if shut out
     From some mysterious temple, dim

And beautiful with blue and red
     And golden lights from windows high,
Where angels in the shadows stand,
     And earth seems very near the sky.

The day-dream fades, and so I try
     Again to catch the tune that brings
No thought of temple or of priest,
     But only of a voice that sings.
 

NOTES

"At Home from Church" first appeared in Sunday Afternoon (3:481) June 1879.

long-metre hymn: a hymn-stanza of four lines, each containing eight syllables." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).

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TOGETHER

I wonder if you really send
     These dreams of you that come and go!
I like to say, "She thought of me,
     And I have known it." Is it so?

Though other friends are by your side,
     Yet sometimes it must surely be
They wonder where your thoughts have gone -
     Because I have you here with me.

And when the busy day is done,
     When work is ended, voices cease,
And everyone has said good-night
     In fading twilight, then, in peace,

Idly I rest; you come to me,
     Your dear love holds me close to you.
If I could see you face to face,
     It would not be more sweet and true.

And now across the weary miles
     Light from my star shines. Is it, dear,
You never really went away--
     I said farewell, and--kept you here?
 

NOTES

"Together" first appeared in Atlantic Monthly (35:590) May 1875.  A copy of the poem dated October 1874 appears in Jewett's diary of that year.  Both texts are different from the Verses text; below are copies.

From Atlantic Monthly

TOGETHER.

I wonder if you really send
     These dreams of you that come and go!
I like to say, "She thought of me,
     And I have known it." Is it so?

Though other friends are by your side,
     Yet sometimes it must surely be,
They wonder where your thoughts have gone,
     Because I have you here with me.

And when the busy day is done
     When work is ended, voices cease,
When every one has said good night,
     In fading firelight then in peace

I idly rest; you come to me, -
     Your dear love holds me close to you.
If I could see you face to face
     It would not be more sweet and true;

And so, across the empty miles
     Light from my star shines. Is it, dear,
Your love has never gone away?
     I said farewell and -- kept you here.
 
 

From Jewett's 1874 diary.
Reprinted from MS Am 1743.1 (341) by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
{} indicates text inserted by Jewett.
[] indicates a guess at intended punctuation.
[ red ] indicates deleted text.

Together

I wonder if you really send
     These loving thoughts that come and go;
I like to say; ‘she thought of me
     And I have known it;’ Is it so?

Though other friends walk by your side,
     Yet sometimes it must surely be,
They wonder where your thoughts have gone;
     Because I have you here with me.

And when the busy day is done
     When work is ended; voices cease,
And everyone has said good night,
     When sleep is waiting and in peace.

{I idly} lie at rest: you come to me
     Your dear love holds me close to you[.]
If I could see you face to face,
     It would not be more sweet and true.

I do not hear the words you speak
     Nor [ grasp ] {touch} your hands, nor see your eyes,
[ Yet ] So, far away the flowers may grow
     From whence to me the fragrance flies.

And so across the weary miles
     Light from my star shines  Is it, dear
Your love has never gone away?
     I said farewell – and kept you here.

Oct. 1874 -----
 
 

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CAGED BIRD

High at the window in her cage,
     The old canary sits and sings,
Nor sees across the curtain pass
     The shadow of a swallow's wings.

A poor deceit and copy this
     Of larger lives that count their span,
Unreckoning of wider worlds,
     Or gifts that Heaven keeps for man!

She gathers piteous bits and shreds,
     This solitary mateless thing,
Patient to build again the nest
     So rudely scattered spring by spring;

And sings her brief, unheeded songs,
     Her dreams of bird-life wild and free,
Yet never beats her prison bars
     At sound of song from bush or tree.

Yet in my busiest hours I pause,
     Held by a sense of urgent speech,
Bewildered by that spark-like soul
     Able my very soul to reach.

She will be heard; she chirps me loud
     When I forget those gravest cares,
Her small provision to supply--
     Clear water or the seedsman's wares.

She begs me now for that chief joy
     The round great world is made to grow--
Her wisp of greenness. Hear her chide
     Because my answering thought is slow!

What can my life seem like to her?
     A dull, unpunctual service mine,
Stupid before her eager speech,
     Her flitting steps, her insight fine!

To open wide thy prison door,
     Poor friend, would give thee to thy foes;
And yet a plaintive note I hear,
     As if to tell how slowly goes

The time of thy long prisoning.
     Bird! does some promise keep thee sane?
Will there be better days for thee?
     Will thy soul too know life again?

Ah, none of us have more than this--
     If one true friend green leaves can reach
From out some fairer, wider place,
     And understand our wistful speech!
 

NOTE

"A Caged Bird" first appeared in Atlantic Monthly (59:816-817) June 1887, where the text is slightly different. Below is the Atlantic text.

A CAGED BIRD. (Atlantic text)

High at the window in her cage
     The old canary flits and sings,
Nor sees across the curtain pass
     The shadow of a swallow's wings.

A poor deceit and copy, this
     Of larger lives that mark their span,
Unreckoning of wider worlds
     Or gifts that Heaven keeps for man.

She gathers piteous bits and shreds,
     This solitary mateless thing,
To patient build again the nest
     So rudely scattered spring by spring;

And sings her brief, unlistened songs,
     Her dreams of bird life wild and free,
Yet never beats her prison bars
     At sound of song from bush or tree.

But in my busiest hours I pause,
     Held by a sense of urgent speech,
Bewildered by that spark-like soul,
     Able my very soul to reach.

She will be heard; she chirps me loud,
     When I forget those gravest cares,
Her small provision to supply,
     Clear water or the seedsman's wares.

She begs me now for that chief joy
     The round great world is made to grow,--
Her wisp of greenness. Hear her chide,
     Because my answering thought is slow!

What can my life seem like to her?
     A dull, unpunctual service mine;
Stupid before her eager call,
     Her flitting steps, her insight fine.

To open wide thy prison door,
     Poor friend, would give thee to thy foes;
And yet a plaintive note I hear,
     As if to tell how slowly goes

The time of thy long prisoning.
     Bird! does some promise keep thee sane?
Will there be better days for thee?
     Will thy soul too know life again?

Ah, none of us have more than this:
     If one true friend green leaves can reach
From out some fairer, wider place,
     And understand our wistful speech!

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STAR ISLAND

High on the lichened ledges, like
     A lonely sea-fowl on its perch,
Blown by the cold sea-winds it stands,
     The quaint, forsaken Gosport church.

No sign is left of all the town
     Except a few forgotten graves;
But to and fro the white sails go
     Slowly across the glittering waves.

And summer idlers stray about,
     With curious questions of the lost
And vanished village and its men
     Whose boats by these same waves were tossed.

I wonder if the old church dreams
     About its parish, and the days
The fisher-people came to hear
     The preaching and the songs of praise.

Rough-handed, browned with sun and wind,
     Heedless of fashion or of creed,
They listened to the parson's words--
     Their pilot heavenward indeed.

Their eyes on week-days sought the church,
     Their surest landmark, and the guide
That led them home from far at sea,
     Until they anchored safe beside.

The harbor-wall still braves the storm
     With its resistless strength of stone.
Now busy fishers all are gone,
     The church is standing here alone.

I know the blue sea covers some,
     And others in the rocky ground
Found narrow lodgings for their bones.
     God grant their rest is sweet and sound!

I saw the worn rope idle hang
     Beside me in the belfry brown.
I gave the bell a solemn toll:-
     I rang the knell for Gosport town.
 

NOTE

"Star Island" first appeared as "On Star Island" in Harper's Magazine (63:550-551), September 1881, where there were two more stanzas. Weber and Weber report that the poem was written at Isles of Shoals, July 26, 1880 (25). Below is the Harper's text. Click here to view the illustration with the Harper's text.

ON STAR ISLAND

High on the lichened ledges, like
    A lonely sea-fowl on its perch,
Blown by the cold sea winds, it stands,
    Old Gosport's quaint, forsaken church.

No sign is left of all the town
    Except a few forgotten graves;
But to and fro the white sails go
    Slowly across the glittering waves.

And summer idlers stray about
    With curious questions of the lost
And vanished village, and its men,
    Whose boats by these same waves were tossed.

I wonder if the old church dreams
    About its parish, and the days
The fisher people came to hear
    The preaching and the songs of praise!

Rough-handed, browned by sun and wind,
    Heedless of fashion or of creed,
They listened to the parson's words --
    Their pilot heavenward indeed.

Their eyes on week-days sought the church,
    Their surest landmark, and the guide
That led them in from far at sea,
    Until they anchored safe beside

The harbor-wall that braved the storm
    With its resistless strength of stone.
Those busy fishers all are gone -
    The church is standing here alone.

But still I hear their voices strange,
    And still I see the people go
Over the ledges to their homes:
    The bent old women's footsteps slow;

The faithful parson stop to give
    Some timely word to one astray;
The little children hurrying on
    Together, chattering of their play.

I know the blue sea covered some,
    And others in the rocky ground
Found narrow lodgings for their bones -
    God grant their rest is sweet and sound!

I saw the worn rope idle hang
    Beside me in the belfry brown.
I gave the bell a solemn toll -
    I rang the knell for Gosport town.
 
 

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THE WIDOWS' HOUSE

[AT BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA]

What of this house with massive walls
     And small-paned windows, gay with blooms?
A quaint and ancient aspect falls
     Like pallid sunshine through the rooms.

Not this new country's rush and haste
     Could breed, one thinks, so still a life;
Here is the old Moravian** home,
     A placid foe of worldly strife.

For this roof covers, night and day,
     The widowed women poor and old,
The mated without mates, who say
     Their light is out, their story told.

To these the many mansions** seem
     Dear household fires that cannot die;
They wait through separation dark
     An endless union by and by.

Each window has its watcher wan
     To fit the autumn afternoon,
The dropping poplar leaves, the dream
     Of spring that faded all too soon.

Upon the highest window-ledge
     A glowing scarlet flower shines down.
Oh, wistful sisterhood, whose home
     Has sanctified this quiet town!

Oh, hapless household, gather in
     The tired-hearted and the lone!
What broken homes, what sundered love,
     What disappointment you have known!

They count their little wealth of hope
     And spend their waiting days in peace,
What comfort their poor loneliness
     Must find in every soul's release!

And when the wailing trombones go
     Along the street before the dead
In that Moravian custom quaint,
     They smile because a soul has fled.
 

NOTES

Moravian: "A member or adherent of the 'Unity of Moravian brethren', a Protestant sect, founded early in the 18th c. in Saxony by emigrants from Moravia, and continuing the tradition of the Unitas Fratrum, a body holding Hussite doctrines, which had its chief seat in Moravia and Bohemia.
     "The virtual founder of the body was Count Zinzendorf, who was the patron of the Moravian refugees, and embraced their doctrines. The Moravians early obtained many adherents in England and the American colonies." There was a Moravian congregation in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century. (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).

many mansions: See John 14:2.

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DUNLUCE CASTLE

To-day upon thy ruined walls
The flowers wave flags of truce,
For time has proved thy conqueror,
And tamed thy strength, Dunluce!**

Marauders in their clanking mail
Ride from thy gates no more,--
Lords of the Skerries' cruel rocks,**
Masters of sea and shore.

Thy dungeons are untenanted,
Thy captives are set free;
The daisy with sweet childish face
Keeps watch and ward o'er thee.
 

NOTES

"Dunluce Castle" first appeared in Harper's Magazine (67:924) November 1883.

Dunluce Castle: near Ballycastle, County Antrim, in Ireland. This 14th-century castle is "situated on a rock separated from the mainland by a chasm, which is spanned by a footbridge." (Source: Britannica Online). Jewett visited Ireland in the summer of 1882.

Skerries: "A rugged insulated sea-rock or stretch of rocks, covered by the sea at high water or in stormy weather; a reef." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).

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DISCONTENT

Down in a field, one day in June,
     The flowers all bloomed together,
Save one who tried to hide herself,
     And drooped, that pleasant weather.

A robin who had flown too high
     And felt a little lazy
Was resting near this buttercup
     Who wished she were a daisy.

The daisies grow so trig and tall,--
     She always had a passion
For wearing frills around her neck
     In just the daisies' fashion.

And buttercups must always be
     The same old tiresome color--
While daisies dress in gold and white,
     Although their gold is duller.

"Dear robin," said this sad young flower,
     "Perhaps you'd not mind trying
To find a nice white frill for me
     Some day when you are flying."

"You silly thing!" the robin said,
     "I think you must be crazy.
I'd rather be my honest self
     Than any made-up daisy.

"You're nicer in your own bright gown,--
     The little children love you.
Be the best buttercup you can,
     And think no flower above you.

"Though swallows leave me out of sight,
     We'd better keep our places;
Perhaps the world would all go wrong
     With one too many daisies.

"Look bravely up into the sky
     And be content with knowing
That God wished for a buttercup
     Just here, where you are growing."
 

NOTE

"Discontent" first appeared in St. Nicholas (3:247) February 1876. It was reprinted in Jewett's Play Days, 1878. Each text is slightly different. Following are the texts from St. Nicholas and then Play Days.

DISCONTENT. (St. Nicholas text)

Down in a field, one day in June,
     The flowers all bloomed together,
Save one, who tried to hide herself,
     And drooped, that pleasant weather.

A robin who had soared too high,
     And felt a little lazy,
Was resting near a buttercup
     Who wished she were a daisy.

For daisies grow so trig and tall;
     She always had a passion
For wearing frills about her neck
     In just the daisies' fashion.

And buttercups must always be
     The same old tiresome color,
While daisies dress in gold and white,
     Although their gold is duller.

"Dear robin," said this sad young flower,
     "Perhaps you'd not mind trying
To find a nice white frill for me,
     Some day, when you are flying?"

"You silly thing!" the robin said;
     "I think you must be crazy!
I'd rather be my honest self
     Than any made-up daisy.

"You're nicer in your own bright gown,
     The little children love you;
Be the best buttercup you can,
     And think no flower above you.

"Though swallows leave me out of sight,
     We'd better keep our places;
Perhaps the world would all go wrong
     With one too many daisies.

"Look bravely up into the sky,
     And be content with knowing
That God wished for a buttercup
     Just here, where you are growing."
 

DISCONTENT (Play Days text)

Down in a field one day in June,
     The flowers all bloomed together
Save one, who tried to hide herself
     And drooped, that pleasant weather.

A robin who had flown too high,
     And felt a little lazy,
Was resting near this buttercup
     Who wished she were a daisy.

The daisies grow so trig and tall;
     She always had a passion
For wearing frills around her neck
     In just the daisies' fashion.

And buttercups must always be
     The same old tiresome color,
While daisies dress in gold and white,
     Although their gold is duller.

"Dear robin," said this sad young flower,
     "Perhaps you'd not mind trying
To find a nice white frill for me
     Some day, when you are flying."

"You silly thing!" the robin said,
     "I think you must be crazy,
I'd rather be my honest self
     Than any made-up daisy.

"You're nicer in your own bright gown
     The little children love you;
Be the best buttercup you can,
     And think no flower above you.

"Though swallows leave me out of sight,
     We'd better keep our places.
Perhaps the world would all go wrong
     With one too many daisies.

"Look bravely up into the sky
     And be content with knowing
That God wished for a buttercup
     Just here, where you are growing."

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]


A FOUR-LEAVED CLOVER

Dear Polly, these are joyful days!
Your feet can choose their own sweet ways;
You have no care of anything.
Free as a swallow on the wing,
You hunt the hayfield over
To find a four-leaved clover.

But this I tell you, Polly dear,
One thing in life you need not fear:
Bad luck, I'm certain, never haunts
A child who hunts for what she wants,
And hunts a hayfield over
To find a four-leaved clover.

The little leaf is not so wise
As it may seem in foolish eyes;
But then, dear Polly, don't you see
If you are willing carefully
To hunt the hayfield over,
You find your four-leaved clover?

Your patience may have long to wait,
Whether in little things or great,
But all good luck, you soon will learn,
Must come to those who nobly earn.
Who hunts the hayfield over
Will find the four-leaved clover!

Now put it in your dear trig shoe--
Lovers by scores will flock to you.
Dear Polly, you will always find
Both friends and fortune true and kind;
So hunt the hayfield over
And keep the four-leaved clover!

NOTE
"A Four-leaved Clover" first appeared - with significant differences - under the title "Perseverance" in St. Nicholas Magazine (10:840-841) in September 1883, with an illustration by Rose Mueller. The text appears below. Click here to see the illustration with another copy of the text.

PERSEVERANCE.

Dear Polly, these are joyful days!
Your feet can choose their own sweet ways;
You have no care of anything.
Free as a swallow on the wing,
   You hunt the hay-field over
   To find a four-leaved clover.

But this I tell you, Polly dear,
One thing in life you need not fear:
Bad luck, I'm certain, never haunts
A child who works for what she wants,
   And hunts a hay-field over
   To find a four-leaved clover!

The little leaf is not so wise
As it may seem in foolish eyes;
But then, dear Polly, don't you see,
Since you were willing carefully
   To hunt the hay-field over,
   You found your four-leaved clover!

Your patience may have long to wait,
Whether in little things or great,
But all good luck, you soon will learn,
Must come to those who nobly earn.
   Who hunts the hay-field over
   Will find the four-leaved clover.
 
 

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]


A CHILD'S GRAVE

More than a hundred years ago
     They raised for her this little stone;
"Miss Polly Townsend, aged nine,"
     It says, is sleeping here alone.

'T was hard to leave your merry mates
     For ranks of angels robed and crowned,
To sleep until the judgment day**
     In Copp's Hill burying-ground.

You must have dreaded heaven then--
     A solemn doom of endless rest,
Where white-winged seraphs tuned their harps--
     You surely liked this life the best!

The gray slate headstones frightened you,
     When from Christ Church your father brought
You here on Sunday afternoon,
     And told you that this world was nought;

And you spelled out the carven names
     Of people who beneath the sod,
Hidden away from mortal eyes,
     Were at the mercy of their God.

You had been taught that He was great--
     You only hoped He might be good-- <
   &n

Did you grow up to womanhood
     In Heaven, and did you soon lose sight,
Because you are so happy there,
     Of this world's troubles infinite?

No one remembers now the day
     They buried you on Copp's Hill-side;
No one remembers you, or grieves
     And misses you, because you died.

I see the grave and serious men
     And pious women, meek and mild,
Walk two by two in company,
     The mourners for this little child.

The harbor glistened in the sun;
     The bell in Christ Church steeple tolled;
And all her playmates cried for her--
     Miss Polly Townsend, nine years old.
 

NOTE

"A Child's Grave" is first known to have appeared in an anthology, The Poets of Maine, compiled by George Bancroft Griffith (Portland, ME: Elwell, Pickard & Co., 1888, pp.742-3). Weber & Weber in A Bibliography of the Published Writings of Sarah Orne Jewett (p. 25) indicate that this poem was "For L. A.," Lillian Aldrich. Lillian Aldrich and her husband, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, were close friends of Jewett and of Annie Fields, traveling and spending summers together.
     Below is the text that appears in The Poets of Maine.

judgment day: see Revelation 20:11-14.
 

A CHILD'S GRAVE. (Anthology text)

More than a hundred years ago
     They raised for her this little stone;
"Miss Polly Townsend, aged nine,"
     Under the grass lies here alone.

'T was hard to leave your merry notes
     For ranks of angels, robed and crowned,
To sleep until the Judgment Day
     In Copp's Hill burying-ground.

You must have dreaded heaven then,--
     A solemn doom of endless rest,
Where white-winged seraphs tuned their harps--
     You surely liked this life the best!

The gray slÌte head-stones frightened you,
     WhÌn from Christ Church your father brought
You here on Sunday afternoon,
     And told you that this world was nought;

And you spelled out the carven names
     Of people, who, beneath the sod,
Hidden away from mortal eyes,
     Were at the mercy of their God.

You had been taught that He was great,
     And only hoped He might be good.--
An awful thought that you must join
     This silent neighborhood!

No one remembers now the day
     They buried you on Copp's Hill-side;
No one remembers you, or grieves
     Or misses you because you died.

I see the grave and reverend men
     And pious women, meek and mild,
Walk two by two in company,
     The mourners for this little child.

The harbor glistened in the sun,
     The bell in Christ Church steeple tolled,
And all the playmates cried for her,
     Miss Polly Townsend, nine years old.

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]


THE SPENDTHRIFT DOLL

As I was coming down the street,
     I saw the saddest sight;
Sitting before a candy-shop,
     A doll all dressed in white.
A Paris hat was on her head,
     Her eyes were china blue,
And, looking down below her gown,
     I saw her pink kid shoe.

Her veil thrown back showed me that her
     Expression was refined;
Her carriage-top was folded down,
     Her sash was tied behind.
Beside her sat a shaggy dog,
     And, as I came too near,
His growls, though not so very loud,
     Were terrible to hear!

Just then the shop-door opened wide
     And out two children came;
The last one several bundles bore,
     The first one just the same.
And some they put behind the doll,
     And some before her lay;
And taking now the horse's place
     They turned to go away.

We, who are good, can't understand
     Such very wicked ways;
There must have been at least a pound
     Of candy in the chaise!
The money she so idly spends
     She might so wisely use--
Buy some poor doll a Sunday hat,
     Or week-day pair of shoes;

To outgrown and old-fashioned dolls
     She might be such a friend;
To heathen dolls in savage lands
     Improving books might send.
'T is sad to think that one so small
     Can be so great in sin.
I fear my tears will form a lake
     And I shall fall therein!
 

NOTE

"The Spendthrift Doll" first appeared in Merry's Museum (59:88-89) February 1871. The text of the first appearance differs from the text above. Below is the Merry's Museum text, which was published under the name of Sarah O. Sweet.

THE SPENDTHRIFT DOLL

As I was coming down the street,
     I saw the saddest sight;
Sitting before a candy store,
     A doll all dressed in white!
A Paris hat was on her head;
     Her eyes were china blue;
And, looking down below her gown
     I saw her pink kid shoe.

Her veil, thrown back, showed me that her
     Expression was refined;
Her carriage-top was folded down;
     Her sash was tied behind:
Beside her sat a shaggy dog;
     And, as I went too near,
His growl, though not so very loud,
     Was terrible to hear.

Just then the shop door opened wide,
     And out two children came:
The last one several bundles bore,
     The first one just the same;
And some they put behind the doll,
     And some before her lay,
And taking now the horse's place,
     They turn to go away.

We who are good can't understand
     Such very wicked ways;
There must have been at least a pound
     Of candy in the chaise!
The money she so idly spends
     She might so wisely use!
Buy some poor doll a Sunday hat,
     Or week-day pair of shoes.

To outgrown and old-fashioned dolls
     She might be such a friend!
To heathen dolls in savage lands
     Improving books might lend.
'T is sad to think how one so small
     Can be so great in sin:
I fear my tears will form a lake
     And I shall fall therein!

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]


THE LITTLE DOLL THAT LIED

"Why, Polly! What's the matter, dear?
You look so very sad:
Has your new doll been taken ill?
It cannot be so bad!"
Nine of the dolls sit in a row,
But there is one beside--
See in the corner, upside-down,
The little doll that lied!

Out in the corner, all alone,
The wicked doll must stay!
None of the rest must speak to her,
Or look there while they play.
All her best clothes, except her boots,
Are safely put aside
(Her boots are painted on her feet)--
The little doll that lied!

Oh, lying's such a naughty thing!
Why, she might swear and steal.
Or murder someone, I dare say;
Just think how we should feel
To have her in a prison live,
Or, worse than that, be hung!
What won't she do when she is old,
If she did this so young?

And now the silver mug and spoon
Come into use again,
And down the faces of the dolls
The tears run fast as rain.
Three have tipped over in their grief,
Their tears cannot be dried;
Their handkerchiefs are dripping wet--
The little doll has lied!
 

NOTE

"The Little Doll that Lied" first appeared in St. Nicholas (1:595) August 1874, where the text is slightly different. Below is the St. Nicholas text.

THE LITTLE DOLL THAT LIED. (St. Nicholas text)

"Why, Polly! What's the matter, dear?
   You look so very sad:
Has your new doll been taken ill?
   It cannot be so bad."
Nine of the dolls sit in a row,
   But there is one beside,
See in the corner, upside down,
   The little doll that lied!

Out in the corner, all alone,
   The wicked doll must stay;
None of the rest must speak to her,
   Or look there while they play.
All her best clothes, except her boots,
   Are safely put aside;
Her boots are painted on her feet,--
   The little doll that lied!

Oh, lying's such a naughty thing!
   Why, she might swear and steal,
Or murder some one, I dare say;
   Just think how we should feel
To have her in a prison live,
   Or, worse than that, be hung!
What won't she do when she is old,
   If she did this so young?

And now the silver mug and spoon
   Come into use again,
And down the faces of the dolls
   The tears run fast as rain.
Three have tipped over with their grief,
   Their tears cannot be dried;
Their handkerchiefs are dripping wet,--
   The little doll has lied!

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]


THE FALLEN OAK

Where the oak fell, a great road leads away,
Across the country to the door of day,
To find no ending where the sky begins:--
What the oak knew our larger outlook wins.

[ BACK TO CONTENTS ]



Burton Trafton, Jr. 's 1949 Edition

Burton Trafton edited a centennial edition of Verses in 1949 (Cleveland: American Weave Press).  It differed in several ways from the 1916 edition.

1.  He included this preface.

SARAH ORNE JEWETT
September 3, 1849 – June 24, 1909
At
South Berwick, Maine

            CENTENNIALS are fine things. This, the one hundredth anniversary of Sarah Orne Jewett's birth is bringing across the threshold of many a mind a realization of the timeless beauty of her writings, and their right to a permanent place in American Literature; writings which made Miss Jewett welcome at the homes of Matthew Arnold, Christina Rossetti, and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and which set her apart as the artist among her friends and fellow authors—a group including Holmes, Whittier, Lowell, Howells, and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Willa Cather later dedicated a novel:  "To the memory of Sarah Orne Jewett, in whose beautiful and delicate work there is the perfection that endures."

 * * *

             The following poems first appeared as a group in 1916, seven years after Miss Jewett's death, and were for distribution among her friends. Those to her father reflect, in a degree, the tremendous emotional upheaval occasioned by the death of one upon whom she was so emotionally dependent. It was he who she felt first gave her the insight which enabled her to write realistic, sensitive, and wholly quiet descriptions of Maine people and the Maine landscape. Others reflect her attachment to her native town; to the coast at Wells and York and the Isles of Shoals where her friend Celia Thaxter made her home. They are homely poems, often lacking the precision of her prose. One might question, indeed, whether she ever intended they be brought together under one cover. But there is beauty here, and with the re-awakening of an interest in her works on the part of both layman and scholar, it seems entirely appropriate that such an edition be made available to an appreciative audience this centennial year.

Burton W. Trafton, Jr.
South Berwick, Maine

June, 1949               
          

2.  Trafton moved the final poem, "The Fallen Oak" to the beginning, where it appears before the contents, and the title is not included in the contents list.

3.  He combined the first two poems under one title, "To My Father," but retained the numerical distinction I and II.

4.  There are other minor changes in typography and design.




Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College

Main Contents
Jewett's Poems Contents