March 27, 2010

The Twenty-Seventh of March

The poet William Cullen Bryant once wrote, "I think the wedded life of few men has been happier than mine." He married Frances Fairchild in 1821, and they experienced a long and happy marriage. Bryant was so enamored of her, in fact, that he wrote a birthday poem in her honor, "The Twenty-Seventh of March" (she was born March 27, 1797):

Oh, gentle one, thy birthday suns should rise
Amid a chorus of the merriest birds
That ever sang the stars out of the sky
In a June morning. Rivulets should send
A voice of gladness from their winding paths,
Deep in o'erarching grass, where playful winds,
Stirring the loaded stems, should shower the dew
Upon the glassy water. Newly blown
Roses, by thousands, to the garden walks
Should tempt the loitering moth and diligent bee.
The longest, brightest day in all the year
Should be the day on which thy cheerful eyes
First opened on the earth, to make thy haunts
Fairer and gladder for thy kindly looks.

The full poem is much longer and eloquently shows his love for her.

In her later years, she was struck by illness. She died in 1866 at the age of 70, a ripe old age for women in the 19th century. Even so, a day after her death, Bryant wrote to a relative: "Her life seemed to close to me prematurely, so useful was she and so much occupied in doing good, and yet she was in her seventieth year, having been born on the 27th of March, 1797. It is now more than forty-five years since we were married -- a long time, as the world goes, for husband and wife to live together. Bitter as the separation is, I give thanks that she has been spared to me so long, and that for nearly half a century I have had the benefit of her counsel and her example."

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