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Friday, August 11, 2017

Poetry Friday--"Moonlight"

I was flipping through an old book (published in 1935), The Heavenly Guest and Other Unpublished Writings by Celia Thaxter [811 THA]. Celia Thaxter died in 1894, and the volume was created for the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1835. In the "Preface" to the book is this:
The reader must remember that as Celia did not publish these poems she probably considered them unfinished, or below the standard of her best work.

I read a poem that appealed to me "Moonlight," and rather than type it out here, I went looking for it online so I could cut and paste it into the post. I was surprised to find it in a magazine, The Century, from March 1891. It seems that this poem should not have been labeled as "unpublished."


The poem as it appears in the book was not labeled, "Picture by Childe Hassam." What a shame it wasn't, because it gives a whole new meaning to the poem.

Of course, I looked online for Hassam's painting "Moonlight." I found it listed as having been created in 1892. Then, in a beautiful book in our collection, Childe Hassam: American Impressionist by H. Barbara Weinberg [751.93 WEI], I found a chronology of exhibitions showing that it had been shown in the spring of 1891, so it must have been painted some time before then.


Perhaps Thaxter was present at its creation since she and Childe Hassam were friends and spent time together on the Isles of Shoals (in New Hampshire).

In any case, "Moonlight," the poem, is a work of ekphrasis, that is, art about art. I would not have known it unless I had come upon the poem in The Century.

Head down to the bayou for this week's Round-Up being hosted by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.


11 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your research, Diane, and I save many moon poems and this written so long ago, and evidently from a friend's painting, is rich with love for the moon.

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  2. Wow, thank you for your sleuthing! I love the "mystery" in the poem -- and in the painting. Posthumous work is interesting... I've been learning how Mary Shelley edited and published her husband Percy Shelley's work after his death... it becomes collaborative work, doesn't it? But then: every poetry book I've done while alive is collaborative (with the help of an editor!). The difference is, I get the last word (usually). Thank you! xo

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  3. What a wonderful "team" Thaxter and Hassam made. Judging from your location in NH, I'm assuming you've made the journey out to Appledore? It's well worth the trip, and so inspiring! I was not familiar with Moonlight, so thank you for sharing it with us. -- Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/

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  4. Not only is "Moonlight" a lovely poem--that reflects on a lovely painting, but I'm so glad you shared the story of your discovery of their history.

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  5. What a treasure. Both of these pieces are enchanting. I appreciate knowing the history behind it, too. Very cool! I have a poem about the moon, too this week at the ridge.

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  6. What a great find, Diane.- poem and painting a pair

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  7. Childe Hassam is a favorite, but this painting is new to me. Baxter's poem captures its mystery and beauty perfectly. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  8. Thank you for sharing these two beautiful works, and for doing the background work!

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  9. This post is a great illustration of why Google will never replace smart human librarians. I love your curiosity and what you discovered!

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  10. I love the diligence you apply to your posts here. I love that the internet has made connecting the dots so much easier than it used to be. Thanks for uniting painting and poem.

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  11. Lovely combination Diane, thanks for both. The painting is wonderful, so moving and mood emitting!

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