December 17, 2011

Reese: the battle done

Lizette Woodworth Reese died on December 17, 1935 after a long career as a teacher and poet. She was one month shy of her 80th birthday. The Maryland native published her first poem in 1874 when she was 18 years old. Including her posthumous editions, she was the author of 14 books (not only poetry, but also memoir).

Reese earned many honors throughout her life, including election to Phi Beta Kappa and an honorary doctorate from Goucher College. Just a few years before her death, she was named poet laureate of Maryland. After her death, a large monument to her was placed on East 33rd Street in Baltimore.

Perhaps Reese's most famous poem was "Tears," a sonnet first published in 1899:

When I consider Life and its few years— ,
A wisp of fog betwixt us and the sun;
A call to battle, and the battle done
Ere the last echo dies within our ears;
A rose choked in the grass; an hour of fears;
The guests that past a darkening shore do beat;
The burst of music down an unlistening street—
I wonder at the idleness of tears.
Ye old, old dead, and ye of yesternight,
Chieftains, and bards, and keepers of the sheep,
By every cup of sorrow that you had,
Loose me from tears, and make me see aright
How each hath back what once he stayed to weep:
Homer his sight, David his little lad!

And just to add one more, this one is called "A December Rose":

A rose is a rose all times of the year.
I have one out in my garden there,
In the deep grass out by the gray old stair —
A breath of June in December drear.

Ah, but its red is a little sere,
And nipped by the frost in last night's air!
A rose is a rose all times of the year.
I have one out in my garden there.

So, when Love comes, he is counted dear,
With his reed at his lips, in June-tide fair,
A-piping sweet, or with wind-blown hair,
And tears in his eyes in December drear.
A rose is a rose all times of the year.


  1. I do not see any source online that says that Reese was appointed MD's laureate in 1931 -- except all the ones who keep repeating the assertion that it was so. Was she declared an unofficial laureate by someone?

  2. I'm not sure what you're looking for, if you're already finding sources that offer that information. Here are some books, if you're less trusting of online sources: