Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: Humanity from 1874

Two boys conspire to reach the doughnuts in a 1920s cupboard. The doughnuts sit in a large pottery bowl on the top shelf. A boy in a red and white sailor suit holds his younger brother, dressed in blue, on his shoulder. The younger boy is reaching up to grab a doughnut or two from the bowl.

Today’s poem, Humanity, from 1874, is by Harriet Bush Ewell. You may remember the first Bush family poem I wrote about, called October. Although Harriet had fewer poems published than her older sister Belle, you can see with Humanity that she also had a gift for rhyme.

Harriet lived and worked at Belvedere Seminary in New Jersey. The school accepted students from kindergarten through graduation. It offered all customary subjects plus some extras. At one time the school even had an astronomy instructor on staff. Harriet taught music. Her two older sisters ran the school.

Wedding bells

On June 23, 1870, Harriet married Belvidere Seminary’s mathematics teacher, Arthur Ewell. She was about 33 years old. Arthur was six years younger. The wedding capped a three-day anniversary celebration for the school. June 21 and 22 focused on the student’s achievements, with an address to close the celebration by suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The next day the celebration continued with wedding and cake. The newlyweds spent the rest of their careers and lives working at the school, leaving it more than 30 years later.

Harriet was a Spiritualist, and Belvidere Seminary was a Spiritualist school for children. Spiritualism became a cultural phenomenon a little after she was born, and she and her two much older sisters spent their lives as Spiritualists dedicated to teaching the younger generations.

After the school closed, Harriet accompanied her husband and her sister to New York, where they settled at a Shaker Community. Her sister Belle officially joined the Shakers before she died. However, it seems that Harriet and Arthur never did, although they lived in the community and were active participants. (The Shaker Museum Facebook page discusses

Her poem Humanity was specifically written for the Spiritualist publication Banner of Light. It was published in December of 1874.


by Hattie (Harriet) Bush Ewell

Each life on the earth is a poem,
  A volume of measure and rhyme,
With pages of truth and of beauty,
  With stanzas both grand and sublime.

Each deed is a line from that poem,
  The record of glory or shame,
That leads to a beautiful moral,
  Or covers with sorrow the name.

The chapters are wonderful stories,
  Of love, of unkindness, of hate,
Of the soul in its struggle for freedom
  Through many a battle with fate.

The leaves of this book have a gilding
  From the gold of a beautiful life;
How sad that they ever are tarnished
  By the fingers of envy and strife.

The type is full often illumined
  By the smiles of the good and the true;
And each year we may add to our treasure
  Some pages both charming and new.

This is the only poem by Harriet I could find. Her description of each life as a poem, tinged with gold, added a positive note to the day. I hope to discover more, dated later than 1875, to see how she matured as a poet.

If you enjoyed this poem Humanity from 1874, you might also enjoy Harriet’s sister Belle’s book of poetry, Voices of the Morning.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack · The Vintage Bookshelf

Twenty Books Worth Reading… in 1921

The other day I stumbled upon an article called Twenty Books Worth Reading. It caught my eye, since I’m always looking for new vintage literature to read. I’m reproducing the list of twenty books worth reading here, along with links to online copies for each title.

As we close one year and start another (I write this at the end of December), it’s helpful to look forward to the new year. I don’t go as far as making a resolution, but I do think through the coming months. What do I want to accomplish? What do I want to learn? What new skill do I want to master this coming year?

One of those lists, of course, includes the list of books that I want to read. My To Be Read list is taller than I am, yet I can always find a new or old title worth delving into. With that in mind, I offer this list.

Twenty books worth reading

Some of these titles you will recognize. Most, however, you probably will not. I was unaware until writing this of a very popular Canadian author named Frederick Niven. He goes on my reading list for this year. I hope you will find at least one book to treasure from this list. Perhaps you will become reacquainted with an old friend.

The books include ten fiction books and ten nonfiction titles.

The fiction books

  • Miss Lulu Bett. Zona Gale. A story of a modern Cinderella, this book became a play during the winter of 1920. Zona Gale won a Pulitzer for the play version of her story. Read it at Project Gutenberg: Miss Lulu Bett.
  • Main Street. Sinclair Lewis. The story of Carol Kennicott and the town Gopher Prairie, Main Street became a best-selling commentary on small town life. You can Read Main Street at Google Books.
  • Alice Adams. Booth Tarkington. Perhaps best known for his novels Penrod and The Magnificent Ambersons, this new book received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1922. Not only did Alice Adams receive a Pulitzer, but it was made into a movie. Twice. Read Alice Adams at Project Gutenberg.
  • The Golden Answer. Sylvia Chatfield Bates. This started as a serial in the magazine Woman’s Home Companion. You can read The Golden Answer at Google Books.
  • The Brimming Cup. Dorothy Canfield Fisher. An older married woman falls in love with another man. Known in juvenile reading circles for her novel Understood Betsy, Fisher was named by Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the ten most influential women of her time in the United States. Read The Brimming Cup at Project Gutenberg.
  • Seed of the Sun. Wallace Irwin. This one is thinly veiled propaganda. You might want to read it with your blood pressure meds handy, if you have any. It seems to be a fictionalized tirade against Japanese immigrants on the West Coast of the United States. The original reviewer even used the term propaganda in his writeup. I couldn’t get through the first chapter. Read Seed of the Sun at your own risk, available at Google Books.
  • The Mysterious Rider. Zane Grey. Ah, now we are back in familiar territory. A Zane Grey western tale. Take a ride down the trail with The Mysterious Rider at Project Gutenberg.
  • Guns of the Gods. Talbot Mundy. This is a tale of India, the story of Princess Yasmini and her first love affair. Find Guns of the Gods at Project Gutenberg.
  • How Many Cards?. Isabel Ostrander. This is a detective story. Ostrander wrote many detective stories. If you like this one, you may like the others as well. Read How Many Cards? at Google Books.
  • A Tale That Is Told. Frederick Niven. This is a tale about the children of a Scottish minister, told by his son. Niven was a very popular Canadian writer, as I mentioned before. You can find A Tale That Is Told at the Internet Archive.

Nonfiction titles

  • Travels and Adventures of Raphael Pumpelly. Raphael Pumpelly, ed. by O.S. Rice. This is an abridged version of Pumpelly’s autobiography, reworked for teen and young adult readers. Pumpelly was a mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist, and explorer. Quite a bit to fit into one lifetime! Read it yourself at Google Books. Travels and Adventures of Raphael Pumpelly.
  • Roads to Childhood. Annie Carroll Moore. This book, written by a New York City children’s librarian, discusses good books for children. You can get a copy of Roads to Childhood from Google Books.
  • Health for the Growing Child. William R. P. Emerson, M.D. This is a book that discusses underweight and underfed children, a common enough problem in the early Twenties that Emerson wrote a book about it. Emerson was a pediatric specialist and faculty member of Dartmouth, and when he wrote this volume he was probably a faculty member at Tufts University. I could not find a copy of this book anywhere, but the next year Emerson published Nutrition and Growth in Children, which may be an expanded version of the earlier title. Find it at the Internet Archive. Nutrition and Growth in Children.
  • The Autobiography of Margot Asquith. Margot Asquith was a wit, a countess, a British socialite, and married to the (then) current British Prime Minister. According to the reviewer, “she writes often in questionable taste, but seldom if ever is she insincere.” This one goes on my to-read stack. You can find it at Project Gutenberg, in a two-volumes-in-one compilation. The Autobiography of Margot Asquith.
  • Margaret Fuller: A Psychological Biography. Katharine Anthony. Anthony was a college-level math teacher who was interested in both biography and psychology. She combined the two to write several “psychological biographies,” which were either celebrated or panned by the press. You can read Margaret Fuller: A Psychological Biography yourself at the Internet Archive.
  • The Famous Mrs. Fair, and Other Plays. James Forbes. The other two plays in this compilation are The Chorus Lady and The Show Shop. The Famous Mrs. Fair saw stage time as well as a movie adaptation in 1923. Obtain The Famous Mrs. Fair from Google Books.
  • The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. Bertrand Russell. Russell was a British mathematician, philosopher, and pacifist. He wrote more than 60 books. In this one, he puts forth his thoughts about visiting Russia and seeing the beginning of Russian Communism. Read The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism at Project Gutenberg.
  • The Evolution of Sinn Fein. Robert Mitchell Henry. Henry was a professor at Queen’s University, Belfast. The year of 1921 brought Ireland’s struggle for independence to the newspapers of the United States. Sinn Fein was (and is) a political party within Ireland. This book would find interest in those who had read about Ireland’s cause. You can read The Evolution of Sinn Fein at Google Books.
  • San Cristóbal de la Habana. Joseph Hergesheimer. San Cristóbal de la Habana is the original name for Havana, Cuba. This book is a travelogue of Hergesheimer’s trip, filled with luscious descriptions of what he saw. Read San Cristóbal de la Habana from Project Gutenberg.
  • Scenario Writing Today. Grace Lytton. Want to know how movie scripts were written in the Twenties? Look no further than Scenario Writing Today, a book about how to write scripts. Retrieve your copy of Scenario Writing Today from Google Books.

The books as a whole

I was surprised I located every one of these titles without much effort. If you would prefer a printed copy, I noticed that almost every one of them appeared available in reprints from Amazon or your favorite reprint seller. Some of them, though, may only be worth one read to you.

Of course, these are all books of their time. They may contain material we find offensive today. They may also have factual information which later proved incorrect. Such is the hazard of reading 100 year old books. Much of the content, however, should be excellent. After all, several of these books became movies, and two received Pulitzer prizes.

Overall, they give a good look at the literature and nonfiction scene of 1921. This not only tells you what people were reading in the early Twenties, but also how they thought about things.

If you would like to add a twenty-first book to your list of twenty books worth reading, I suggest Daddy Long-legs, by Jean Webster. Although it dates a bit earlier than 1921, readers were definitely reading this book in the early Twenties as well.

I wish you happy reading.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: By Loving and Giving We Live

This is not your everyday Christmas poem for December. We read lots of poems about Santas and sleighs, about snowfalls and heavily-laden tables. This month’s poem, By Loving and Giving We Live, presents another perspective to the Christmas getting and giving.

This poem’s author is Clara Haven King. I can find no references to her or to her poetry. A periodical search, newspaper search, and book search turn up nothing. Of course, the possibility exists that the magazine got her name wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time I saw that.

This Christmas poem appeared in the December edition of Needlecraft Magazine in 1922. In the interest of keeping Clara Haven King’s poetry alive, I bring you By Loving and Giving We Live.

By Loving and Giving We Live

by Clara Haven King

“Oh, Christmas is coming again!” you say,
And you long for the time he is bringing;
But the costliest gifts may not gladden the day,
Nor help on the merry bells’ ringing.
Some getting is losing, you understand,
Some hoarding is far from saving;
What you hold in your hand may slip from the band,
There is something better than having.
We are richer for what we give,
And only by giving we live.

Your last year’s presents are scattered and gone;
You have almost forgotten who gave them;
But the loving thoughts you bestow live on
As long as you choose to have them.
Love, love is your riches, though ever so poor;
No money can buy that treasure;
Yours always, from robber and rust secure,
Your own without stint or measure.
It is only love that can give;
It is only by loving we live.

Do you know this poet?

If you have heard of Clara Haven King, or know of a place where her poetry was published, please drop a note in the comments and let me know. I’d like to read more of her work.

If you’d rather read about autumn than Christmas, Belle Bush’s October offers another look at life and humanity.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: Autumn from 1922

Drawing of the top half of a Twenties model in a brown coat and hat with a large blue feather. She is looking at a tree branch next to her that is filled with brown leaves.

This month’s poem is Autumn, from 1922, by Laila Mitchell. Not much information exists about Laila. She seemed to be widely published as a poet. Newspapers, Ladie’s Home Journal, the American Agriculturalist, New Ideal Magazine, and more carried her poetry. I found her published in one book, from 1917: The Best Christmas Book: Recitations, Dialogues, Exercises, Plays… etc., edited by Joseph Sindelar. Definitely one to look at if you like vintage poetry and activities with young folks involved.

Although I’ve titled this poem Autumn from 1922, I have no idea when it was really written. Most of the poetry I found from Laila was printed between 1905 and 1938, and often they listed the periodical where the poem was published first. For instance, a poem about Christmas might be titled Christmasas seen in New Ideal Magazine. Whether this information was provided by Laila or the newspaper itself I have no idea.

So, in the hopes that Laila’s work will not pass from the earth, I give you her Fall poem.


by Laila Mitchell

When maple-leaves begin to show
A tint of crimson at their tips;
When clover-meadows umber grow,
And somber-hued the pheasant slips
Through copse and hedge, the truth is
We near the end of summers reign.

When chestnut-burrs have prickly grown,
And apples ripen on the trees,
When locusts hum their monotone,
And heavy-winged the laggard bees
Fly hiveward, then we’re sure at last
The golden summer-time is past.

When wild-grapes redden in the sun,
And milkweeds spill their snowy down,
When field-mice through the stubble run,
And sumacs don their crimson gown,
When birds in flocks at even meet,
Then autumn comes on flying feet.

And when we wanderers homeward turn,
Tired with the search for happier things,
When on the hearth the home-fires burn,
And in his nook the cricket sings,
We know the crown of all the year,
The gladdest, sweetest days are here.

Do you know Laila?

If you know anything about Laila or her history, or if she published her poetry in one place somewhere, I’d love to know. It seems that she started signing her poetry Laila Mitchell Thornton sometime in the late Twenties/early Thirties, but I was unable to find anything more than the few newspapers who listed her poetry with her added last name.

Laila wrote often about the seasons, the holidays, and nature. If you enjoy this type of nature poetry, you might enjoy this post about A Song of June.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: October by Belle Bush

Magazine image of Belvidere Seminary in New Jersey, where poet Belle Bush lived and worked.

This month’s poem, October, was written by poet Belle Bush. The poem itself is nice, but nothing compared to the story of the woman herself.

One of the things I find most intriguing about these poetry posts is delving into the lives of the poets themselves. Sometimes, I find nothing. Other searches send me down rabbit trails, piecing together a jigsaw of facts that almost creates a complete picture. This is one of those situations. Once in a while I find a poem by someone like Wordsworth, who we’ve all heard of and most of us studied.

Belle Bush, however, started as an enigma. Her actual name was Annabelle, and I believe she never married. She was born somewhere in New York State in February, 1828. She had at least two sisters: Eliza, born in 1818, and Harriet, born in 1837.

A look at the Belvidere Seminary

We first meet the sisters as they head a school they call the Belvidere Seminary. Located in Belvidere, New Jersey, the school accepted both male and female students. Eliza and Belle appear listed as Principals of the school, while Harriet teaches music. In an imposing building not too far from the Delaware River, other instructors teach classes in mathematics, gymnastics, English, German, and French.

A visitor writes of the place:

There is no fuss, no noise, no birch, no rod… The studies were regular, and recreations various and often. The school has beautiful surroundings, good gardens and grounds… It is a charming sight. Birds abound, of wild and melodious song; flowers, fruits, and vegetables are all grown on the place.

The Medium and Daybreak, June 18, 1886

Each day for an hour the students break into work tasks. The girls learn cooking and housekeeping, since they will probably have to manage a household at some point in their lives. The boys engage in some type of outdoor or mechanical work.

This school is unsectarian, to use the word of one of its reviewers. In other words, Belvidere Seminary teaches no classes in Christianity, Judaism, the Bible, or Christian denominational doctrine –– somewhat unusual for the time.

A school with a twist

Why this freedom and departure from the customary school discipline and religious instruction of the day? Because this was a Spiritualist school. Belle Bush was a Spiritualist. She and her sisters believed they could communicate with the dead.

Here’s a recommendation from a parent:

I have four children in this Institute who have been there for one year, and if these children were in my own home they could not be better cared for spiritually, morally, and intellectually. I placed my children in that Institution because I feel that as Spiritualists they must receive a spiritual education.

Mrs. Prior, at the National spiritualists Assn. fifth annual convention, 1897

In addition to running a school, Belle wrote poetry for Spiritualist publications and songs for the Spiritualist songbooks. She was truly a leader in the movement: discussed at the National conventions, quoted in books. She published a book of poetry. For many years the Spiritualists bantered the idea of endowing her school, turning it into a Spiritualist university. Unfortunately, that dream never became a reality and the school seemed to close sometime around 1905.

After the school closing, Belle, her sister Harriet, and Harriet’s husband traveled to New York. There they lived with the Shaker community in Mount Lebanon. Once there, even in her seventies, Belle continued to contribute. She wrote poetry for the Shaker periodicals and assisted with celebrations. The Shakers welcomed her as a poetess and fellow traveler, and she stayed with them until her death on May 5, 1914.

And now… the poem October by Belle Bush

I located a publication of this poem in 1874, and again in 1921. However, as I researched Belle’s life I saw that she sold this poem over and over to various periodicals through the years. The 1921 version is abridged; the original poem as published contains a full dozen stanzas.

by Belle Bush

Now comes autumn's fairest moon,
And the royal purple noon
   Of all the earthly glory;
Now let cares drift far away,
While each wonder-working day
   Tells to us its story.

Scarfs of gold and crimson rest
On each mountain's plumed crest
   In a dewy splendor;
While o'er all earth's dainty things
Nature spreads her gentle wings,
   As of each most tender.

And there is a glory born,
With our life's empurpled morn,
   Stronger than all grieving;
Aye, and brighter than the days
Scarfed in gold and crimson haze --
   All of faith's fair weaving.

Leaves may fall and quick winds sigh,
Summer's beauties fade and die;
   Still faith, to us replying,
Mounts upward singing to2wards love's gate,
And bids us calmly work and wait,
   All cause fo grief denying.

Ah, if the autumn of our days
Finds but the soft and mellow haze,
   Our fading joys concealing,
Then will our hearts be full of peace,
And every hour bring rich increase,
   A life of use revealing.

If you’d like to read Belle’s book of poems, it’s called Voices of the Morning. Published in 1865, you can find it on Google Books.

Belle’s sister Harriet was also a poet, though not as prolific as Belle. I hope to cover a bit of her story, along with one of her poems, a bit later.

For a very different poem about nature, take a look at A Song in June.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: Queen Anne’s Lace

A closeup photo of a meadow with white Queen Anne's Lace flowers. In the background to the left you see some yellow summer flowers.

I always loved Queen Anne’s Lace. When I was young I memorized the poem Queen Anne’s Lace by Mary Leslie Newton that brought the flower to life for me. You may know it. It went like this:

Queen Anne, Queen Anne has washed her lace
(She chose a Summer’s day)
And hung it in a grassy place,
To whiten, if it may.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has left it there,
And slept the dewy night:
Then waked, to find the sunshine fair,
And all the meadows white.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, is dead and gone
(She died a Summer’s day)
But left her lace to whiten on
Each weed-entangled way!

I expected to see the poem above when I turned the pages of a September issue of Needlecraft magazine and saw the title of the monthly poem. Seeing a poem for adults in the space surprised me, I was so ready for the children’s chant above.

I poked around a bit to unearth some history for both poets. While I can find a good deal of information about Mary Leslie Newton, whose life was well documented and who wrote several books, I found almost nothing on Alicia C. Stewart.

Apparently Alicia’s poetry found occasional publication, even if she is forgotten today. I located one poem called Thanksgiving, published in a Vermont newspaper in 1934. But as far as I can tell, she published no compilations, she appeared in few magazines, and she left her papers to no university. If anyone knows anything about Alicia C. Stewart, the poet, please drop a line in the comments. I’d like to find out more about her.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace
by Alicia C. Stewart

As I looked from my window this morning
  O'er the meadows, drenched deeply with dew
That the sunbeams were turning to diamonds
  A marvelous miracle grew.
There, dainty and white as a snowflake,
  And pure as a baby's sweet face,
All over the green carpet scattered
  Glistened patches of Queen Anne's Lace.

Were they dropped from the hands of the fairies ––
  Wee 'kerchiefs so filmy and fine?
I wondered what magic had brought them,
  Like stars in the meadow to shine;
And whether a needle or shuttle,
  Each serving so well in its place,
Was plied by Queen Anne's skillful fingers
  As she fashioned her beautiful lace.

Arily, gracefully swaying,
  Facing the sun and the sky ––
No loom for that magical weaving,
  No shuttle nor needle to ply.
Straight from the hand of the Father,
  Pasture and meadow to grace
Teaching the lesson of trusting,
  came this wonderful Queen Anne's Lace.

One of the things that appealed to me about this poem, Queen Anne’s Lace, was its mention of needle and shuttle made lace. What a delightful nod to the lacemakers among us. I wondered which kind of lacemaking needle the poet had in mind, if any, when she wrote these words?

If you enjoyed this poem about nature and its flowers, you may enjoy A Song of June as well.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Tatting Poem: A Summer Idyl

Vintage illustration of an outdoor window with a large pot of clover on the sill. Four swallows circle around the side of the window and swoop below on the right side. Scrollwork and blue flowers frame the left side of the window.
Flowers blooming, birds singing – a sure sign of summer.

Not many poems exist that extol the glories of tatted lace. Well, actually, there might be more than you think. This tatting poem, A Summer Idyl, is one of… well… a few.

Usually I open these poetry selections with an outline of the author’s life and a link to other works if I can find them. This time, though, a lengthy search turned up nothing on the poet who wrote this tatting poem, A Summer Idyl. His name was Allan C. Stewart. And while his name may be lost to time, this poem can live on.

This is a nice poem to enjoy with your own shuttle, or crochet hook, or knitting needles in your lap. Or fix yourself a nice cool beverage, sit outdoors, and enjoy.

A Summer Idyl
by Allan C. Stewart

Swinging in a shaded hammock,
   Watching Phyllis at her lace,
Life seems dowered with richest promise,
   Filled with tenderness and grace.
Flowers are blooming, birds are singing,
   Bowered in leafy tents of green,
I have eyes for naught but Phyllis,
   Busy little household queen.

In and out her shuttle flashes,
   While the dainty fabric grows
Like a dream of fairy weaving,
   Smooth and lustrous, row on rows.
Chains and picots, rings and roses
   One by one I see arrayed,
Fashioned by the slender fingers
   Of this winsome, 'witching maid.

All intent upon her tatting, 
   Still she sits, demure and cool,
Never once her eyes are lifted––
   Deep-fringed, like a woodland pool,
How I wish I knew her fancies...
   Phyllis tilts her saucy face,
Saying sweetly, "I was thinking
   My new thread makes lovely lace!"

As you can see, there’s a bit more going on here than a young lady at her tatting shuttle. We have to wonder if Phyllis is as enamored with her companion as her companion is with her? Don’t you wish you could continue to chapter two, and find out what happens when the autumn leaves fall?

I think many of us have been like Phyllis at one time or another, so wrapped in our current task that we focus on nothing else. I know I have! In fact, tatting thread in a new color takes me there almost every time.

If you enjoyed this poem, you may also like A Song of June. Do you know of any poems from the Teens through the Twenties that you’d like me to share? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: July

A girl waters flowers in a 1920s illustration. A house sits in the background. Picture accompanies a poem, July, by Susan Swett.
Warm weather, beautiful flowers… it must be July!

This month’s poem, July by Susan Swett, is an old one. The poet died in Boston in 1907.

Susan lived with her younger sister Sophie, and both made their living as writers. Susan wrote poems and short stories. Her sister wrote stories and for a while was an editor of Youth’s Companion magazine. Susan’s poems appeared in children’s magazines like St. Nicholas as well as periodicals aimed at adult readership.

Of all her work, July is probably Susan Swett’s most famous poem. It appeared in children’s readers, women’s magazines, and you can find it online today.

Life of the poet

Born in Maine in 1843, Susan wrote one book of short stories, Field Clover and Beach Grass. It was published in 1898. A regional writer, her stories focus on the New England area that she knew. Much of Field Clover and Beach Grass is written in a New England dialect. However, she wrote her poems in standard English.

Published the day after her death, her obituary says, “her poems… reflected in a peculiarly happy manner the writer’s intimate knowledge of nature and her fondness for birds and flowers and all the various phases of the outdoor world. She was a ‘nature lover’ in the broadest and best sense, and though her fine talent for writing was for many years hindered by impaired health she has left many word-pictures of field and forest and garden that are deemed among the best of their kind.” (The Boston Globe, Jan 1, 1908.)


I hope you enjoy this month’s magazine poem, July, by Susan Swett. It appeared in a copy of Needlecraft magazine in the early 1920s.

by Susan Hartley Swett 

When the scarlet cardinal tells
  Her dream to the dragon-fly,
And the lazy breeze makes a nest in the trees,
  And murmurs a lullaby––
    It is July.

When the tangled cobweb pulls
  The cornflower's cap awry,
And the lilies tall lean over the wall
  To bow to the butterfly
    It is July.

When the heat like a mist-veil floats,
  And poppies flame in the rye,
And the silver note in the streamlet's throat
  Has softened almost to a sigh––
    It is July.

When the hours are so still that time
  Forgets them and lets them lie
Neath petals pink till the night stars wink
  At the sunset in the sky––
    It is July.

If you would like to read other poems that magazines of the day thought their readers might enjoy, see A Song of June and Hurdy Gurdy Days.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: A Song of June

Image is a close shot of marigolds and coleus with a background of fir tree.
A profusion of summer marigolds and coleus brighten the day.

Every month’s magazine delivery brought a new poem to read, ponder, and savor. Some, like A Song in June, were pretty enough to memorize. Others made the reader think. A few caused the reader to cringe. At least, I hope they did. Every now and then one of these poems makes me cringe.

While the month’s poem or poems may sit on any random page, waiting to be discovered much like today’s weekly poetry in the New Yorker, they ususally appeared on the first printed page. Somewhere below the masthead, among the editorials and shameless plugs to buy from the advertisers, you find the poem. Often it spoke of the seasons or an upcoming holiday. Once in a while it extolled the wonders of needlework or baking. Regardless where you found it, it was always there, waiting for you.

Today’s poem, A Song of June, was penned by poet Helen Coale Crew. Helen wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and children’s books. School readers, poetry anthologies, Harper’s Magazine, and Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine published her work. However, today she is an almost unknown author. Wikipedia contains no entry on her. You can find only one or two of her poems online. A dedicated search turns up a short story or two.

If you opened your much-anticipated June 1920 magazine issue, you found this poem. Not very long, it brought the joy of June right to your front porch as you sat reading with a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Here it is.

A Song of June

by Helen Coale Crew (1920)

Oh hear!   Oh hear!
June draweth near;
    I know it by the trilling clear
From bluebird's breast
When from his nest
    He rises in the golden air.

Oh, see!   Oh, see!
How yonder tree
    Is clothed in white, all maidenly;
While every bloom
Sweet with perfume,
    Is plundered by a dusty bee.

Oh, smell and taste!
For now in haste
    The sun is opening every flower.
See yonder rose
Its heart disclose,
    June ripens in one perfect hour!

One of the reasons for blogging about vintage poetry is to introduce poets both remembered and forgotten. So many good writers faded into obscurity when their particular style fell from fashion. I want to bring some of them back. They need to be known, read, and remembered. Sometimes I may even reproduce one of those cringey poems for your enjoyment.

In case you wonder about this poet, Helen was born Helen Cecelia Coale in Baltimore City, Maryland in December of 1866. She died in Evanston Illinois in 1941 and is buried in Ohio. Her husband Dr. Henry Crew taught physics at Northwestern University in Illinois, and was known for authoring General Physics, a college textbook of the Teens and Twenties. They had three children.

If you loved this poem, A Song in June, you might also like Aegean Echoes, a book of poetry that Helen wrote in 1911. You can find it here to read or download at the Internet Archive. A quick search of the Archive, while you’re there, will show you several books you can check out to read, but that are still under copyright.

If you enjoyed this selection, you may also want to read my post about Hurdy-Gurdy Days, a poem about spring.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: Hurdy-Gurdy Days

Spring days bring frolic after the quiet of winter.

In the Twenties and Thirties, almost every subscription magazine offered a monthly poem. Even periodicals devoted to only needlework printed editorials, letters from readers, and the obligatory poem of the month. I opened my May magazine from yesteryear and my eyes fell on the poem, Hurdy-Gurdy Days, by Martha Haskell Clark. And I realized I wanted to share it.

Then I wondered. Who was Martha Haskell Clark? Where did she live? What did she do? Here’s what I found out with a little poking around.

Martha Gay Haskell was born in 1885 in Minneapolis. Her father founded the Minneapolis Times, spent several years as publisher of the Boston Herald, and then six years as the vice president of the International Paper Company. Martha married a Dartmouth professor, Eugene Clark, in 1906. Her poetry appeared in Scribner’s, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Sadly, she died in 1922 following an appendectomy. She was only about 36 years old. At her death she left a ten-year-old son.

But while she was alive, healthy, and full of life, she wrote poetry. Here is her poem Hurdy-Gurdy Days for your enjoyment.

Hurdy-Gurdy Days

by Martha H. Clark

April walks beside us still in budded cloak of brown,
   Primrose gold above the hill the lengthened sunsets burn; 
Every wind, a minstrel, goes singing through the town,
   For hurdy-gurdy days are here––and May is at the turn!

May is at the turning in a blur of hill-blue haze,
There's the hint of leaf-smoke drifting down the dingy city ways;
There's a flash of bluebird weather through a rift of rainy skies,
And the dawn of dreams remembered in a gray world's eyes.

A battered hurdy-gurdy at the corner of the street,
  Old tunes, forgotten tunes, and lilac breath and fern,
Where grimy venders' baskets spill their fragrance, haunting-sweet,
  And every day is yesterday––and Youth is at the turn!

May is at the turning like a Gipsy in the lane,
With leaf-mist at her girdle, and her brown hair pearled with rain;
There's the green of the new grass creeping up the roadways from the south,
And the curve of love and laughter on a gray world's mouth.

March ran whistling down the hill, the gamin of the year;
  April's but a child at school, with life and love to learn;
Sudden through the city-gray, riotous and dear,
  Hurdy-gurdies strum the dusk––and May is at the turn!

May is at the turning in a burst of tulip-flame,
With a spattering of cowslip gold to show the road she came;
There's a young moon's silver sickle-gleam through orchard-boughs astart,
And forgotten love-songs throbbing in a gray world's heart.

Not much of Clark’s poetry appears online to the general searcher. As far as I know, only one book of poetry, called The Home Road, exists. It was published two years after her death, and contains poems collected from the various publications they appeared in. It also contains a short biography that tells you more about Martha and reveals her personality and interests. You can find it at Google Books. If you download it to take a look, be sure to read To a Kitten, Red Geraniums, and Trains –– three very different types of poems from a gifted hearthside poet.