July 15, 2011

Osgood: a pearl lies smiling and snowy

Frances Sargent Locke Osgood gave birth to her first daughter, Ellen Frances Osgood, on July 15, 1836. Ellen was born in England, where her mother and father (the painter Samuel Stillman Osgood) had moved shortly after their marriage. It was in that country that Fanny Osgood, as she was known, published her first book of poems, A Wreath of Flowers from New England. Included in that collection was a poem on "Ellen's First Tooth":

Your mouth is a rose-bud,
And in it a pearl
Lies smiling and snowy,
My own little girl!
Oh! pure pearl of promise!
It is thy first tooth—
How closely thou shuttest
The rose-bud, forsooth!

But let me peep in it.
The fair thing to view—
Nay! only a minute—
Dear Ellen! now do!
You wont? little miser,
To hide the gem so!
Some day you'll be wiser,
And show them, I know!
How dear is the pleasure—
My fears for thee past—
To know the white treasure
Has budded at last!
Fair child! may each hour
A rose-blossom be,
And hide in its flower
Some jewel for thee!

Also in the book was a  couplet, "Little Ellen's Pun":

She raised a box—(a baby of two years!)
And smiling, cried—"Shall Ellen box her ears?"

Many of Osgood's poems delve into the day to day life of mothers and wives. Perhaps because of this, she became one of the most popular women poets of the 1840s (of course, that she was first popular in England is always helpful for an American writer). Osgood, who was born in Boston 200 years ago this year, died of tuberculosis in 1850; she was 38 years old. Her two daughters, including Ellen, died within a year after their mother. A third, Fanny Fay, had died not long after her birth.

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