August 22, 2010

The fearful lessons of man's fate

Born in Connecticut in 1803, Harvey D. Little did not move to Ohio until he was 12 or 13 years old. He would spent the rest of his life there, mostly in the city of Columbus. A lawyer by training, he was a newspaperman and editor by trade. His main employment was with the Eclectic and Medical Botanist, which he managed until his death due to cholera on August 22, 1833. He was 31 years old and left behind a wife and young child (two other children had died young; by some accounts, they died only days earlier).

He wrote poetry as well, though he never published them in book form. Most were published in a St. Clairsville newspaper under the pseudonym Valesques. A member of the Columbus Typographical Society, Little was given a memorial three months after his death by that organization.

His poem "Away, away, I scorn them all":

Away, away, I scorn them all,
  The mirthful board, the joyous glee;
The laughter of the festive hall;
  The long wild shouts of revelry;
To their vain worshipers they bring
Seasons of bitter sorrowing.

But, oh, by far the wiser part,
  To visit that secluded spot,
Where death hath quench'd some faithful heart,
  And closed, for aye, its varied lot:
For there, beside the funeral urn,
Lessons of wisdom we may learn.

The brief but busy scenes of life—
  Its fickle pleasures, and its woes—
Its mingled happiness and strife—
  Its fearful and its final close,
Pass through the mind in swift review,
With all their colorings strictly true.

We see the littleness of man—
  The end of all his pride and power:—
Scarce has his pilgrimage began
  E'er death's dark clouds upon him lower;
And rank, and pomp, and greatness, flee
Like meteor gleams!—and where is he?

Yes, where is he, whose mighty mind
  Could soar beyond the bounds of space,
And in some heavenly planet find
  The spirit's final resting place?
Gone! gone, in darkness, down to dust!
"Ashes to ashes," mingle must.

Well may we learn from life's last scene,
  The fearful lessons of man's fate:
How frail the barriers between
  The living and the dead's estate.
The elastic air—the vital breath—
Is but the link 'twixt life and death.


  1. Hello, I came across your post while looking for information about Harvey D. Little. I am processing a manuscript collection that contains some documents pertaining to him - mostly it is about his sister-in-law Sarah (Howard) Forrer and her family, but Harvey is mentioned a few times and there are at least a couple of letters by him (that I've found so far). Thank you for posting this; I did not realize he wrote poetry and also did not know his occupation. You might be interested in a blog post I wrote yesterday that mentions him: Have a great day! -Lisa

  2. Hi, Lisa! I don't generally accept comments for such old posts, but I thought this was interesting. I'm guessing few people in the world have an interest in Harvey D. Little.

    I was fairly familiar with "Quaker dating" because of my interest in John Greenleaf Whittier (nicknamed "The Quaker Poet"). Best of luck with what you do!

  3. It's me again. I found a couple of poem's Harvey wrote in that collection I've been working on, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them :