October 26, 2011

Moulton: as from a passing cloud

Louise Chandler Moulton was uneasy as she sailed back to the United States from Europe in 1891. Just before leaving, she had received a telegram informing her of her mother's illness. As she sailed, she remarked on the lovely weather, but noted, "I am so anxious as to what news of my poor mother awaits me." Sure enough, upon landing, she learned that her mother died on October 26, 1891 (she is pictured here in healthier times). Moulton had missed the funeral as well. As she recorded in her journal: "Oh, what it is to know that I shall never see her again!"

Moulton herself died only 27 years later. Her mother figured more than once in her poetry. One poem is called "My Mother's Picture":

How shall I here her placid picture paint
   With touch that shall be delicate, yet sure?
   Soft hair above a brow so high and pure
Years have not soiled it with an earthly taint,
Needing no aureole to prove her saint;
   Firm mind that no temptation could allure;
   Soul strong to do, heart stronger to endure;
And calm, sweet lips, that utter no complaint.

So have I seen her, in my darkest days
   And when her own most sacred ties were riven,
Walk tranquilly in self-denying ways,
   Asking for strength, and sure it would be given;
Filling her life with lowly prayer, high praise, —
   So shall I see her, if we meet in heaven.

Another poem, "A Dream in the Night," is subtitled "To My Mother," and more expressly addresses her dead mother:

Sometimes it seems thy face —thy long-hid face —
   Looks out on me as from a passing cloud,
   Till I forget they clad thee in thy shroud,
And laid thee sleeping in thy far-off place —
So once again the tender, healing grace
   Of thy dear presence is to me allowed.
   Wilt thou not bless the head before thee bowed?
Wilt not thy voice thrill through the empty space?

How lone and cold the world without thee seemed!
   Regaining thee, how warm it is and bright!
      Yet all in vain to reach thee do I seek: —
And then I wake to know I have but dreamed,
   And thou art silent as the silent night —
      With tears I call thee, yet thou dost not speak.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.