Monday, April 18, 2016

A Birthday Poem from a Waterford-Linked Poet

Two of Waterford's farms are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you live in the area, you've probably driven often past one of them: the Lee Farm, with its date of 1811 painted on the barn.

The men in the Lee family, sent forth into the world from the farm in Waterford, or sometimes born further away and ending at the farm instead, often wrote about their world.  The Lee farm women wrote on other topics: consider the extensive dairy records kept by Bertha Lee, for example, and just before her time, this poem (fitting for National Poetry Month!) by Phoebe Harrington (Fenton) Brown (1804-1889), mother-in-law of Edward Payson Lee (1839-1922; one of the four Lee brothers engaged in the Civil War). Although Phoebe was a Northeast Kingdom gal, born in St. Johnsbury, she appears to have moved to Attleboro, Mass., around 1870 to live near another of her daughters, Jeannette. In this poem she honors her own 83rd birthday:

My Old House

I hail once more my natal day
Still in my tenements of clay
With many favors blest
And He who placed the structure here
Can prop it up another year
If he should think it best --

Long has it stood though snows & rains
And braved life’s fearful hurricanes,
While many stronger fell.
The reason why we cannot see
But what to us seems mystery
The builder knows full well,

But now tis weather-worn and old
The summers heat & winters cold,
Pierce through the walls and roof
The tattering pillars too are weak
The poor old rusty hinges creak,
The windows are too dim.

Nature and reason tell us all
This shattered frame ere long must fall
When, where, or how is unknown,
We'll leave that with the architect
And trust his wisdom to direct,
The taking of it down.

And when you see it prostrate lie
Let not a tear bedim the eye
The tenant is not here
But just beyond time’s little space
Has found a quite resting place
No more to date her year

And though she walks with you no more
The world would move just as before
Tis meet it should be so.
Let each his house in order set
That he may leave without regret
Whenever called to go.

P. H. Brown, aged 1883, So. Attleboro

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