19th Century Women's Poetry

Anne Reeve Aldrich (1866-1892)

Reeve Aldrich's grand-uncle was the poet James Aldrich. She published her first volume of poetry, The Rose of Flame in 1889; it was not well received (critics cited its "unrestrained expression"). But she persevered, publishing a novel, The Feet of Love, in 1890, and a second volume of poetry, Songs about Love, Life, and Death, was published postumously.

A Song About Singing
O nightingale, the poet's bird,
A kinsman dear thou art,
Who never sings so well as when
The rose-thorns bruise his heart.
But since thy agony can make
A listening world so blest,
Be sure it cares but little for
Thy wounded, bleeding breast!

[AA; early 1890s]

Music of Hungary
My body answers you, my blood
Leaps at your maddening, piercing call
The fierce notes startle, and the veil
Of this dull present seems to fall.
My soul responds to that long cry;
It wants its country, Hungary!
Not mine by birth. Yet have I not
Some strain of that old Magyar race?
Else why the secret stir of sense
At sight of swarthy Tzigane face,
That warns me: "Lo, thy kinsmen nigh."
All's dear that tastes of Hungary.

Once more, O let me hear once more
The passion and barbaric rage!
Let me forget my exile here
In this mild land, in this mild age;
Once more that unrestrained wild cry
That takes me to my Hungary!

They listen with approving smile,
But I, O God, I want my home!
I want the Tzigane tongue, the dance,
The nights in tents, the days to roam,
O music, O fierce life and free
God made my soul for Hungary!

[AA; early 1890s]

Love's Change
I went to dig a grave for Love,
But the earth was so stiff and cold
That, though I stove through the bitter night,
I could not break the mould.
And I said: "Must he lie in my house in state,
And stay in his wonted place?
Must I have him with me another day,
With that awful change in his face?"

[AA; early 1890s]

How can it be that I forget
The way he phrased my doom,
When I recall the arabesques
That carpeted the room?
How can it be that I forget
His look and mien that hour,
When I recall I wore a rose,
And still can smell the flower?

How can it be that I forget
Those words that were the last,
When I recall the tune a man
Was whistling as he passed?

These things are what we keep from life's
Supremest joy or pain;
For Memory locks her chaff in bins
And throws away the grain.

[AA; early 1890s]