April 24, 2011

Moulton: Easter morn she kneels and prays

Louise Chandler Moulton struggled with a title for the book that would be published in late 1889. She had considered Vagrant Moods and a friend suggested The Primrose Path but the collection ultimately carried the title In the Garden of Dreams: Lyrics and Sonnets. A friend from Rome wrote to her, "What a perfect title!" and admitted he had been taking a long walk through her dreamy garden.

John Greenleaf Whittier (who was the subject of one of the poems) particularly praised the sonnets in the collection. As he saw it, "the sonnet was never set to such music before, nor ever weighted with more deep and tender thought." Oliver Wendell Holmes, whom Moulton had sought for advice on the book, said it seemed "to hold leaves torn out of the heart's record."

Moulton also experimented with French forms and had a section of rondels and rondeaux. Included among the collection was a poem titled "Easter Sunday":

Easter morn she kneels and prays,
   A gentle saint in baby blue—
Forgive her that her hat is new,
   And all those dear, coquettish ways.

Her loyal soul pure tribute pays
   To that high throne where prayers are due,
At Easter, when she kneels and prays,
   A gentle saint in baby blue.

So innocent her girlish days
   She scarcely knows what sins to rue,
   What pard'ning grace from Heaven to sue,
As, glad with morning's gladdest rays,
A gentle saint, she kneels and prays.

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