Dickinson’s Poem “For Lydia”

A testament of love for his wife and family - Part 2

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Daniel S. Dickinson died suddenly on April 12, 1866. The day before he died he was quite well and trying a case in court with his close friend Daniel Webster. Five days before his death, he had composed a poem to his wife in which he referred to their deceased children buried in Spring Forest Cemetery.

The principal reason I wrote this essay is to share the poem with you, 156 years later and more than eight years after I “discovered” it and was moved by the love of this man for his wife and family. “For Lydia” was published the year after his death by his brother and others who organized his works into two volumes (John R. Dickinson, et al., ed., Speeches and Correspondence, Etc., of the Late Daniel S. Dickinson, vol. 2, pp. 699-700 (1867), https://archive.org/details/speechescorresp03mygagoog/page/700/mode/2upn ).

 

FOR LYDIA

In youth’s bright morn, when life was new,
     And earth was fresh with dew and flowers,
And love was warm, and friendship true,
     And hope and happiness were ours;
We started, hand in hand, to thread
     The chequered, changeful path of life,
And, with each other, trusting tread
     The battle-fields of worldly strife.
We ranged in walks obscure, unseen,
     O’er rugged steep, through vale and glen,
And climbed along the hill-sides green,
     Unmindful of the future then.
We caught the song of earliest birds,
     We culled the loveliest flowers of spring;
We plighted love in whispering words,
     And time sped on by fairy wing.
And as it passed, new joys were found,
     And life was gladdened by the birth
Of prattling babes, who clustered round
     To cheer with smiles our humble hearth.
Fate thrust us forth before the world,
     And phantoms whispered earthly fame,
Where hope’s proud banner is unfurled
     And happiness too oft a name.
Thus lured along, we rode the dark
     And foaming tide of public life,
And proudly dared with slender barque,
     The elements of storm and strife.
But storm and strike thank Heaven have passed;
     The night has fled, and morning come!
And we, tossed mariners, at last
     Returned once more to hearth and home.
But of the loved ones God had given,
     Two have returned—two sunk to rest—
In Life’s gay morning called to Heaven,
     To the bright mansions of the blest.
They sleep amid Spring Forest’s glades,
     Where flow its streamlet’s murmuring waves,
And oft at evening’s gentle shades
     We’ll weep beside their early graves.
Yet loves cluster round us still,
     To gild the days of life’s decline,
And whisper—‘tis our Father’s will
     That blessings yet are yours and mine.
No change of life, no change of scene,
     No fevered dreams, no cankering cares,
No hopes which are, or e’er have been,
     Nor wrinkled brow nor silver hairs,
Have ever changed that vow of youth,
     Or blotted it from memory’s page;
But, warm as love, and pure as truth,
     It ripens with the frosts of age.
A few more days, a few more years
     Of life’s capricious, fitful tide;
A few more sorrows, joys and tears,
     And we shall slumber side by side.
Then let us live—then let us love—
     As when life’s journey we begun,
Until we meet in worlds above
     When this sad pilgrimage is done.

 

[Note: For Part 1 of this brief series, an introduction to Daniel Dickinson, statesman and poet, click here: https://www.newoxfordreview.org/meet-daniel-s-dickinson-statesman-poet/]

 

James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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