September 16, 2011

Marriage of the Smiths: into fleeting days

Samuel Francis Smith, best known for authoring "My Country 'Tis of Thee," married Mary White Smith in Waterville, Maine on September 16, 1834. Eventually, they had six children. Smith was in Waterville as the pastor of a Baptist church as well as serving as a language professor at what is now Colby College, having graduated from both Harvard and Andover Theological Seminary. Years later, he would be remembered as a resident of Newton, Massachusetts, not only because he was born and died there but also because he wrote a history of that town.

Smith wrote throughout his life, particularly patriotic poems, as well religious works. Most important to his wife (pictured), however, were the various anniversary poems he wrote throughout their 61 years of marriage. A major landmark was their 50th anniversary, for which Smith wrote "Our Golden Wedding" on September 16, 1884:

Behold, dear wife, how things have changed,
    Through sunshine and through showers;
The spring has ripened into fall,
    The buds have turned to flowers.

What long, wide paths our feet have trod,
    Since the far days of old!
But love has changed each woe to good,
    The silver moon to gold.

These fifty years of wedded love,
    How brief and few they seem!
Swift as a summer-day of joy,
    Eventful as a dream!

The babes we fostered long ago,
    And called them "children" then;
The girls are into mothers grown,
    The boys to stalwart men.

We launched our bark in sunny youth, —
    The date seems far away;
But years have shortened into months,
    Months into fleeting days.

Once, like new ships, that ride in port,
    With canvas all unfurled,
Successful voyagers, our keel
    Has sailed half round the world.

By day God's loving cloud has moved,
    A shelter o'er our head;
And still by night our winding course
    The pillared fire has led.

Sail on, fair craft, so bravely kept
    Unharmed by wind or wave;
The hand so skilful to direct,
    Is mighty, too, to save.

Sail on, sail on, till golden light
    Shines o'er the distant sea,
And guides the vessel to its port,
    Blest immortality.

One of Smith's final books, Poems of Home and Country (1880), was dedicated "To My Dear Wife, whose love has been the inspiration of my verse and her approval its best reward."

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