May 23, 2011

Cranch and Fuller: the noblest woman of her time

On May 23, 1870, the New England Women's Club held an event in honor of Margaret Fuller. Fuller would have been 60 years old that day, if she hadn't died tragically two decades earlier. The featured speaker was fellow Transcendentalist and poet Christopher Pearse Cranch, who read his original poem "To the Memory of Margaret Fuller Ossoli." The massive poem was over 1,400 words long; here are a few snippets.

...One record rises from our past,
That shall forever last;
A name our age can never
From its remembrance sever.
We bear it in our hearts to-day,
Fresh as the perfume of the May.
It vibrates in the air, a rich, full-chorded strain
Touched with weird minor moods of pain,
The music of a life revealed to few,
Till to the age Death gave the fame long due,
And made the unfinished symphony a part
Of the great growing century's mind and heart.

But when I strive the music to rehearse,
How feebly rings my verse!
And why intone this melody of rhyme
For one, the noblest woman of her time,
Whose soul, a pure and radiant chrysolite,
Dims the superfluous arts our social forms invite?

Cranch notes that in her time, she was met with scorn by some. But Fuller, he writes, used her "wise intuition" to raise an "image of ideal womanhood." He references poetically her "Conversations" as well as who she was as a person:

...Her sweet persuasive voice we still can hear
Ruling her charmed circle like a queen;
While wit and fancy sparkled ever clear
Her graver moods between.
The pure perennial heat
Of youth's ideal love forever glowed
Through all her thoughts and words, and overflowed
The listeners round her seat.
So, like some fine-strung golden harp,
Tuned by many a twist and warp
Of discipline and patient toil,
And oft disheartening recoil, —-
Attuned to highest and to humblest use,—
All her large heroic nature
Grew to its harmonious stature.
Nor any allotted service did refuse,
While those around her but half understood
How wise she was, how good,
How nobly self-denying, as she tasked
Heart, mind, and strength for truth, nor nobler office asked.

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