19th Century Women's Poetry

Elizabeth Margaret Chandler (1807-1834)

Born at Centre, Delaware, Chandler's father was a farmer; her mother, Margaret Evans Chandler, died when she was an infant. Soon after her mother's death, Margaret was sent to Philadelphia to live with her grandmother, where she attended a Quaker school. She began publishing poetry while still in her mid-teens. As a young woman she was a member of a Philadelphia anti-slavery society and wrote newspaper items and The Slave Ship as part of the abolitionist movement. In 1830 she moved with relatives to Tecumseh, Michigan, where she became interested in Native American culture, as reflected in some of her poetry. She died in Tecumseh, when she was only twenty-six years old. Poetical Works of Elizabeth M. Chandler was published posthumously in 1836.

The Brandywine.
My foot has climb'd the rocky summit's height,
And in mute rapture, from its lofty brow,
Mine eye is gazing round me with delight,
On all of beautiful, above, below:
The fleecy smoke-wreath upward curling slow,
That far beneath in gentle murmurs flow,
Or onward dash in foam and sparkling sheen,
While rocks and forest-boughs hide half the distant scene.
In sooth, from this bright wilderness 'tis sweet
To look through loop-holes form'd by forest-boughs,
And view the landscape far beneath the feet,
Where cultivation all its aid bestows,
And o'er the scene an added beauty throws;
The quiet cattle stretch'd in calm repose,
The cot, half seen behind the sloping hill,
All mingled in one scene with most enchanting skill.

The very air that breathes around my cheek,
The summer fragrance of my native hills,
Seems with the voice of other times to speak,
And, while it each unquiet feeling stills,
My pensive soul with hallow'd memories fills:
The flower-gemm'd margin of these gushing rills,
When lightly on the water's dimpled breast,
Their own light bark beside the frail canoe would rest.

Oh! if there is in beautiful and fair,
A potency to charm, a power to bless;
If bright blue skies and music-breathing air,
And nature i her every varied dress
Of peaceful beauty and wild loveliness,
Can shed across the heart one sunshine ray,
Then others, too, sweet stream, with only less
Than mine own joy, shall gaze, and bear away
Some cherish'd thought of thee for many a coming day

But yet not utterly obscure thy banks,
Nor all unknown to history's page thy name;
For there wild war hath pour'd his battle ranks,
And stamp'd in characters of blood and flame,
Thine annals in the chronicles of fame.
The wave that ripples on, so calm and still,
Hath trembled at the war-cry's loud acclaim,
The cannon's voice hath roll'd from hill to hill,
And 'midst thy echoing vales the trump hath sounded shrill.

My country's standard waved on yonder height,
Her red cross banner England there display'd,
And there the German, who, for foreign fight,
Hand left his own domestic hearth, and made
War, with its horrors and its blood, a trade,
Amidst the battle stood; and all the day,
The bursting bomb, the furious cannonade,
The bugle's martial notes, the musket's play,
In mingled uproar wild, resounded far away.

Thick clouds of smoke obscured the clear bright sky,
And hung above them like a funeral pall,
Shrouding both friend and foe, so soon to lie
Like brethren slumbering in one father's hall.
The work of death went on, and when the fall
Of night came onward silently, and shed
A dreary hush, where late was uproar all,
How many a brother's heart in anguish bled
O'er cherish'd ones, who there lay resting with the dead.

Unshrouded and uncoffin'd they were laid
Within the soldier's grave, e'en where they fell;
At noon they proudly trod the field--the spade
At night dug out their resting-place--and well
And calmly did they slumber, though no bell
Peal'd over them its solemn music slow;
The night-winds sung their only dirge, their knell

Was but the owlet's boding cry of woe,
The flap of night-hawk's wing, and murmuring waters' flow

But it is over now,--the plough hath rased
All trace of where war's wasting hand hath been;
No vestige of the battle may be traced,
Save where the share, in passing o'er the scene,
Turns up some rusted ball; the maize is green
On what was once the death-bed of the brave;
The waters have resumed their wonted sheen;
The wild bird sings in cadence with the wave,
And nought remains to show the sleeping soldier's grave.

A pebble stone that on the war-field lay,
And a wild-rose that blossom'd brightly there,
Were all the relics that I bore away,
To tell that I had trod the scene of war,
When I had turn'd my footsteps homeward far.
These may seem childish things to some; to me
They shall be treasured ones; and, like the star
That guides the sailor o'er the pathless sea,
They shall lead back my thoughts, loved Brandywine, to thee.


*A stream near the author's birthplace.