19th Century Women's Poetry

Mary Emily Neeley Bradley (1835-1898)

Born in Easton, MD. Married George T. Bradley; they settled in New York City. She published Hidden Sweetness, her only collection of poems, in 1886; she also published a number of short stories for girls.

A Chrysalis
My little Madchen found one day
A curious something in her play,
That was not fruit, nor flower, nor seed;
It was not anything that grew,
Or crept, or climbed, or swam, or flew;
Had neither legs nor wings, indeed;
And yet she was not sure, she said,
Whether it was alive or dead.
She brought it in her tiny hand
To see if I would understand,
And wondered when I made reply,
"You 've found a baby butterfly."
"A butterfly is not like this,"
With doubtful look she answered me.
So then I told her what would be
Some day within the chrysalis;
How, slowly, in the dull brown thing
Now still as death, a spotted wing,
And then another, would unfold,
Till from the empty shell would fly
A pretty creature, by and by,
All radiant in blud and gold.
"And will it, truly?" questioned she--
Her laughing lips and eager eyes
All in a sparkle of surprise--
"And shall your little Madchen see?"
"She shall!" I said. How could I tell
That ere the worm within its shell
Its gauzy, splendid wings had spread,
My little Madchen would be dead?

To-day the butterfly has flown,--
She was not here to see it fly,--
And sorrowing I wonder why
The empty shell is mine alone.
Perhaps the secret lies in this:
I too had found a chrysalis,
And Death that robbed me of delight
Was but the radiant creature's flight!

[AA; c.1886]