June 29, 2010

Thaxter: So soon the end must come

At the end of her life, Celia Thaxter wrote to a friend that he should visit. "Some of us may be slipping out of this mortal state," she warned. It had been two decades since she wrote of the "memorable murder" on the Isles of Shoals where she lived; she remained there nonetheless. In early summer of 1894, she went with friends to tour the islands once more. A friend wrote somewhat romantically about this trip: "Perhaps she knew that it was a farewell."

Celia Thaxter was born on June 29, 1835. She died 58 years later in 1894. She was buried on the island she called home after a funeral held in her parlor. The room was decorated with blossoms from her personal garden, one which was then (as now) quite famous. In the grave, she was covered with more flowers. "After all was done, and the body was at rest... young flower-bearers brought their burdens to cover her," writes her earliest biographers. The flowers piled up, "until it became a mound of blossoms, allied the scene, in beauty and simplicity... It was indeed a poet's burial."

From Thaxter's poem, "Philosophy":

So soon the end must come,
  Why waste in sighs our breath?
So soon our lips are dumb,
  So swift comes death.

So brief the time to smile,
  Why darken we the air
With frowns and tears, the while
  We nurse despair? [...]

Have courage! Keep good cheer!
  Our longest time is brief.
To those who hold you dear
  Bring no more grief.

But cherish blisses small,
  Grateful for least delight
That to your lot doth fall,
  However slight.

And lo! all hearts will bring
  Love, to make glad your days:
Blessings untold will spring
  About your ways.

So shall life bloom and shine,
  Lifted its pain above,
Crowned with this gift divine,
  The gift of Love.

*The image above is "Celia Thaxter in Her Garden" by Childe Hassam. The original is in the Smithsonian Institute.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica BussmannJune 29, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    I'm happy to know more about her, as I have driven by her house in Watertown (that has a sign on it referencing that she lived there) and I often wonder who she was, but then forget once I'm home and could look it up. So, thanks.