September 24, 2012

Birth of Wilde: like the summer rose

Richard Henry Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland on September 24, 1789, though he moved to the United States when he was a boy. He grew up in Baltimore and was frequently ill throughout his childhood — a fact which, his earliest biographers suggested, drove him to books. At age 11, he was pulled from school to work in a store. After his father's death, Wilde's mother relocated the family to Augusta, Georgia. His mother further inspired his interest in reading. Trying to overcome his family's poverty, he studied for the bar and became a lawyer. By 1814, he was elected to Congress. Eventually, he moved to New Orleans, where he died in 1847, just short of his 58th birthday.

Throughout it all, he dabbled in his own writings and published translations of or articles on Old World authors like Tasso and Dante. Among his own original works is the poem "Stanzas," also known by its first line, "My Life is Like the Summer Rose":

My life is like the summer rose
    That opens to the morning sky,
But ere the shades of evening close,
    Is scatter'd on the ground — to die!
    Yet on the rose's humble bed
The sweetest dews of night are shed,
As if she wept the waste to see—
But none shall weep a tear for me!

My life is like the autumn life
    That trembles in the moon's pale ray,
Its hold is frail — its date is brief,
    Restless — and soon to pass away!
Yet, ere that leaf shall fall and fade,
The parent tree will mourn its shade,
The winds bewail the leafless tree,
But none shall breathe a sigh for me!

My life is like the prints, which feet
    Have left on Tampa's desert strand;
Soon as the rising tide shall beat,
    All trace will vanish from the sand;
Yet, as if grieving to efface
All vestige of the human race,
On that lone shore loud moans the sea,
But, none, alas! shall mourn for me!

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