August 19, 2012

Morris: Can I now forget her?

George Pope Morris had a long career as an editor, publisher, and poet/songwriter. His most famous was, without a doubt, "Woodman, Spare That Tree!" A sort of one-hit wonder, the song is still familiar in modern times as a plea for environmental preservation. Only slightly less well known in his day was another song, "Near the Lake." It was originally published as a four-stanza poem "Long Time Ago" in the New-York Mirror for August 19, 1837, before being edited to three stanzas:

Near the lake where droop'd the willow,
        Long time ago!
Where the rock threw back the billow,
        Brighter than snow;
Dwelt a maid, beloved and cherish'd,
        By high and low;
But with autumn's leaf she perished,
        Long time ago!

Rock and tree and flowing water,
        Long time ago!
Bee and bird and blossom taught her
        Love's spell to know!
While to my fond words she listened,
        Murmuring low,
Tenderly her dove-eyes glistened
        Long time ago!

Mingled were our hearts for ever!
        Long time ago!
Can I now forget her?—Never!
        No, lost one, no!
To her grave these tears are given,
        Ever to flow;
She's the star I miss'd from heaven,
        Long time ago!

*Further reading: Minor Knickerbockers: Representative Selections (1947), by Kendall B. Taft, which provided the confirmation of the date for this post.

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