Harriet Prescott's [Spofford] Early Work 1

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A Reader Who Agrees With Us That Mrs Spofford Should

To the Editor of the Republican: -

I am extremely glad to see in your weekly issue, just read, an
article of warm admiration and suggestion regarding the literary
work of Harriet Prescott of the early Atlantic days, as well as the
well-known writer of to-day. For several years I have wondered
why everything of hers was not gathered up and re-presented to
the public, and have many times thought of write her and urge the
matter upon her attention.

As usual, your paper is alert upon the trail of genius. That she has
genius I am sure no one can deny who has known her work. Her
vivid imagination is a refreshing protest to those who still revolt
from a literature of materialism. She was the very tropics of those
old high-flavored Atlantic monthlies: the Atlantics of Holmes and
Longfellow, of Thoreau, and Emerson, of Whittier, Lowell and
Higginson, and I well remember with what distinct
disappointment I used to put down the current number, if there
was no kindling touch of hers found in them. The late Mr. Bowles
keenly felt her originality and power and frequently sent me brief
extracts from her manuscripts given him by his friends in the
editor's sanctum.

Among these are none more beautiful than a few stanzas from a
long poem entitled "Pomegranate Flowers." To begin with the
picture of the old seaport:--

The street was narrow, close and dark,
     And flanked with antique masonry,
The shelving eaves left for an ark
     But one long strip of summer sky,
     But one long line to bless the eye,--

     The thin white cloud lay not so high
     Only some brown bird, skimming nigh,
     From wings whence all the dew was dry
Shook down a stream of forest scents,
Of odorous blooms and sweet contents
     Upon the weary passers-by.

Ah, few but haggard brows had part
     Below that street's uneven crown,
And there the murmurs of the mart
     Swarmed faint as hums of drowsy noon.
     With voices chiming in quant tune
     From sun-soaked hulls long wharves adown
     The singing sailors rough and brown
     Won far melodious renown.
Here listening children, ceasing play,
And mothers sad their well-a-way,
     In this breezy seaboard town.


Then all at once the personality of the woman of the pomegranate
flowers, in the high old building, flashes upon us in the lines:--


Ablaze on distant banks she knew
     Spreading their bowls to catch the sun,
Magnificent Dutch tulips grew
     With pompous color overrun,
     By light and snow from heaven won
     Their misty web azaleas spun:
     Low lilies pale as any nun,
     Their pensile bells rang one by one:
And spicing all the summer air
Gold honeysuckles everywhere
     Their trumpets blew in unison.


And then, further on, her portrait:--


Of all fair women she was queen,
     And all her beauty, late and soon,
O'ercame you like the mellow sheen
     Of some serene autumnal noon.
     Her presence like a sweetest tune
     Accorded all your thoughts in one.
     Than last year's elder-tufts in June
     Browner, yet lustrous as a moon.