Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lydia H. Sigourney--Antebellum American Poet


Lydia H. Sigourney
(1791 - 1865) American Poet and Educator


I recently became aware of another 'Lydia' and thought her poem Indian Summer is appropriate for this time of year, and nicely follows yesterday's post discussing the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. In his article in The Victorian Web titled, A Short Consideration of the Life of Lydia Sigourney, Matthew Koyle quotes Melissa Ladd Teed's description of her:
As a dedicated, successful writer, Lydia Sigourney violated essential elements of the very gender roles she celebrated. In the process, she offered young, aspiring women writers around the country an example of the possibilities of achieving both fame and economic reward.

Other researchers write about the influence this poet-writer enjoyed in her time. Sandra Zagarell of Oberlin College writes at
Cengage.com:
Sigourney was enormously popular. In 1848 the respected publishers Cary and Hart issued her selected poems in their series of works by American poets, the preceding volumes having been devoted to three highly regarded male writers, Bryant, Longfellow, and N. P. Willis. She was also enormously productive: at her death in 1865 she had published over fifty books. Their range attests to the variety of forms in which antebellum writers could undertake to guide the public. She wrote communitarian narratives, educational volumes, advice manuals, travel literature, temperance pieces, meditative prose, and exemplary memoirs as well as a vast and varied quantity of poetry.

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Indian Summer

    WHEN was the redman's summer?
    When the rose
    Hung its first banner out? When the gray rock,
    Or the brown heath, the radiant kalmia clothed?
    Or when the loiterer by the reedy brooks
    Started to see the proud lobelia glow
    Like living flame? When through the forest gleamed
    The rhododendron? Or the fragrant breath
    Of the magnolia swept deliciously
    Over the half-laden nerve?
    No. When the groves
    In fleeting colours wrote their own decay,
    And leaves fell eddying on the sharpen'd blast
    That sang their dirge; when o'er their rustling bed
    The red deer sprang, or fled the shrill-voiced quail,
    Heavy of wing and fearful; when, with heart
    Foreboding or depress'd, the white man mark'd
    The signs of coming winter: then began
    The Indian's joyous season. Then the haze,
    Soft and illusive as a fairy dream,
    Lapp'd all the landscape in its silvery fold.
    The quiet rivers, that were wont to hide
    'Neath shelving banks, beheld their course betray'd
    By the white mist that o'er their foreheads crept,
    While wrapp'd in morning dreams, the sea and sky
    Slept 'neath one curtain, as if both were merged
    In the same element. Slowly the sun,
    And all reluctantly, the spell dissolved,
    And then it took upon its parting wing
    A rainbow glory.
    Gorgeous was the time
    Yet brief as gorgeous. Beautiful to thee,
    Our brother hunter, but to us replete
    With musing thoughts in melancholy train.
    Our joys, alas! too oft were woe to thee.
    Yet ah! poor Indian! whom we fain would drive
    Both from our hearts, and from thy father's lands,
    The perfect year doth bear thee on its crown,
    And when we would forget, repeat thy name.

    -Lydia Sigourney

7 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

I don't know whether its the same with you, but in the UK an "Indian Summer" is a late or early heat, usually May or September when we wouldn't usually expect it, so it's really interesting to see something so different and more spiritual described.

We Brits sometimes get a skewered view of the US, so it's always refreshing to find some hidden gems like this. :)

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Soft and illusive as a fairy dream,
Lapp'd all the landscape in its silvery fold.

50 books?! That is really impressive for that day and age.....Did she use a pseudo-name I wonder?

In any event, that was a great poem....yesterday I noticed that one of our trees leaves had began to turn yellow......Fall is right around the corner!

Lydia said...

DFTP,
What interesting comments from the UK. Here, "Indian Summer" is the weather that begins just as Wayfaring Wanderer mentions below. The leaves turn color, the air is crisper. I've never heard it described for a heat as you mentioned it is there, and never for any months other than late Aug.-Oct., depending upon how early winter wants to push in. I hope we have a long "Indian Summer" this year, that the colored leaves stay on the trees longer than they did around my town last year (it was beautiful until some blasted heavy winds came).

WW,
It really was a great poem and it's exciting to me that now some new readers know about it, and her. The bios I read say that her early writing was done anonymously, then when her parents needed assistance and her husband's work couldn't provide it all she wrote seriously - under the name of Mrs. Sigourney. :)

Pietro said...

Very interesting post and blog. I enjoy it a lot.
I'll read it more in detail when I'll be offline.
Have a nice day!

Pietro Brosio Gallery

rachael said...

Lydia,
We read this poem today in my english class! I thought of you when I saw the author's name. My school curriculum seems to coincide very well with your blog posts (:

Lydia said...

Pietro,
Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment! I just returned from a much-enjoyed tour of your artistic blog; wonderful. For readers here who may be interested in what your profile says, but don't speak Italian I had my handy online translator at iGoogle translate it:

"SHOW MAJOR: - Promoter of Fine Arts in Turin - Gallery "Artincontri" - Artepadova 2000 - Villa Ormond, Sanremo - Gallery "Old Town", Florence - Artexpo New York - REVIEWS: - Enzo Fabiani - Sandra Myrtle - Gerard Argelier - Giorgio Falossi -- Christie Grizivatz - Flavio De Gregorio - Paul Levi - Mariarosaria Belgiovine"

Lydia said...

Rachael,
First, the Monarch Butterfly migration and now this poem in class: a bit of synchronicity going on here!
That's very cool that your English teacher had your class read Lydia Sigourney's work. That puts you decades&decades ahead of me in reading this poem!

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