June 4, 2014

Madison Cawein: done gone and got married

Madison Cawein married Gertrude McKelvey in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 4, 1903 at 7 a.m. The ceremony, which took place at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, was officiated by Rev. Reverdy Estell and was attended by only a few close relatives. The groom was 38, the bride (wearing a dark blue dress and white blouse and black hat) was 29. Almost exactly nine months later, they had their first and only child Preston Hamilton Cawein (mother and son are pictured here).

The happy husband had, by then, published nearly 20 books, mostly of poetry, and was earning a substantial income as a the popular "Keats of Kentucky." After the wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Cawein headed to Colorado for their honeymoon. As Mr. Cawein wrote a few days later, he wrote to his friend James Whitcomb Riley:

Well, here I am at the foot of Pike's Peak, in the heart of the Rockies, with the loveliest and sweetest girl in the world, spending my honeymoon. I have thought of you many a'time during our jaunts among the canons and cliffs, watching the mists gather and descend on the mountain heights, or gathering wild flowers, of which there is a vast profusion as well as variety, among the heaven-kissing hills, or sitting wondering by some mountain-torrent flinging its wild waters down the bouldered sides of a precipice in many a foaming and roaming cascade; like some snowwhite nymph tossing her arms of foam above her head and flaunting her wild hair of spray to the music of the wind-rocked pines.

Riley, you must not forget me now I have "done gone and got married." My wife is a beautiful, a talented girl; a singer as well as a musician; a reader of the best literature and appreciative of the best poetry, present and past. She has read your work, as every one has, and is full of enthusiasm for it. She is a girl of mind as well as soul...

Undoubtedly to Cawein's delight, Riley did not forget his newly married fellow writer. In fact, the Indiana poet dedicated a poem to his Kentucky friend, "To a Poet on his Marriage":

Ever and ever, on and on,
From winter dusk, to April dawn,
This old enchanted world we range
From night to light—from change to change—
Or path of burs or lily-bells,
We walk a world of miracles.

The morning evermore must be
A newer, purer mystery—
The dewy grasses, or the bloom
Of orchards, or the wood's perfume
Of wild sweet-williams, or the wet
Blent scent of loam and violet.

How wondrous all the ways we fare—
What marvels wait us, unaware! . . .
But yesterday, with eyes ablur
And heart that held no hope of Her,
You paced the lone path, but the true
That led to where she waited you.

Upon Cawein's death in 1914, he left his money, his property, his investments, and his copyright, to his widow, with the exception of a $1,000 fund for his son. By then, Cawein had suffered a reversal of fortune thanks to the stock market crash.

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