February 19, 2013

Death of Moulton: my first thought this morning

Publisher and editor William Upham Moulton died on February 19, 1898, leaving behind his wife Louise Chandler Moulton. They had been married just over 42 years. A well-known poet and author, Mrs. Moulton was deeply saddened by the loss of her husband and, two years later, on the anniversary of his death, she wrote in her journal:

Two years ago this day Mr. Moulton passed out of life. It was my first thought this morning, and the sadness of it has been with me all day.

Years earlier, Mrs. Moulton had considered the possibility that she might predecease her much older husband. Her poem "Wife to Husband" imagines such a scenario and grants permission for him to remarry, so long as she is remembered:

If I am dust while thou art quick and glad,
Bethink thee, sometimes, what good cheer we had, —
What happy days beside the shining seas,
Or by the twilight fire in careless ease,
Reading the rhymes of some old poet lover,
Or whispering our own love-story over.

When thou hast mourned for me a fitting space,
And set another in my vacant place,
Charmed with her brightness, trusting in her truth,
Warmed to new life by her beguiling youth,
Be happy, dearest one, and surely know
I would not have thee thy life's joys forego.

Yet think of me sometimes, where cold and still
I lie, who once was swift to do thy will,
Whose lips so often answered to thy kiss,
Who dying blessed thee for that bygone bliss, —
I pray thee do not bar my presence, quite,
From thy new life, so full of new delight.

I would not vex thee, waiting by thy side;
My shadow should not chill thy fair young bride;
Only bethink thee how alone I lie! —
To die and be forgotten were to die
A double death; and I deserve of thee
Some grace of memory, fair howe'er she be.

Despite these sentiments, Mrs. Moulton herself never remarried. Incidentally, though obituaries for Mr. Moulton referred to him as "a man of flawless integrity and the highest sense of honor," Fanny Fern might have disagreed.

1 comment:

  1. I love that last stanza, for it seems to describe in part the journey I am on to document the graves of both sung and unsung bards...

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