September 30, 2011

Marriage of Celia Thaxter

Levi Thaxter was 27 and Celia Laighton was 16 when they married on September 30, 1851. The new bride, now using the name Celia Thaxter, was born in New Hampshire but grew up on the Isles of Shoals. She felt somewhat landlocked when, after their marriage, the couple moved to Watertown, Massachusetts (despite its name). A short move to neighboring Newton was no better. Ultimately, the couple had three children, but were not long happy together. By the late 1860s, Celia Thaxter and her husband spent much of their time apart from one another. Celia spent much of the rest of her life on Appledore island.

In her own restlessness, Celia Thaxter had turned to writing as a way of remembering her happy years on the island. Ten years into her marriage, she published her first poem, "Land-Locked." Her first book, published in 1872, was copyrighted in her husband's name. Included in that collection was "Twilight":

September's slender crescent grows again
Distinct in yonder peaceful evening red,
Clearer the stars are sparkling overhead,
And all the sky is pure, without a stain.

Cool blows the evening wind from out the West
And bows the flowers, the last sweet flowers that bloom,
Pale asters, many a heavy-waving plume
Of golden-rod that bends as if opprest.

The summer's songs are hushed. Up the lone shore
The weary waves wash sadly, and a grief
Sounds in the wind, like farewells fond and brief:
The cricket's chirp but makes the silence more.

Life's autumn comes; the leaves begin to fall;
The moods of spring and summer pass away;
The glory and the rapture, day by day,
Depart, and soon the quiet grave folds all.

O thoughtful sky, how many eyes in vain
Are lifted to your beauty, full of tears!
How many hearts go back through all the years,
Heavy with loss, eager with questioning pain,

To read the dim Hereafter, to obtain
One glimpse beyond the earthly curtain, where
Their dearest dwell, where they may be or e'er
September's slender crescent shines again!

3 comments:

  1. Celia Thaxter is best remembered for her garden and the wonderful book she wrote about it, An Island Garden (still in print), illustrated by the American painter Childe Hassam. Along with her influential garden, Thaxter created a sort of literary refuge on Appledore Island where she entertained American writers.

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  2. The public can visit Celia's historic garden on Appledore Island:
    https://www.sml.cornell.edu/sml_reservation.php

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  3. I don't normally accept comments on a post so old. I wanted to go on record and say, however, that the above two comments bother me: Celia Thaxter should not be best remembered for her garden, which so few can visit simply because of geography. Her writing is too good for that.

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