Friday, May 31, 2013

So, this Sunday morning, if you're bored and hungry in central Maine, you might drop by Stutzmans' farmstand and cafe in Sangerville. They'll be serving brunch from 10 to 2, and String Field Theory will be performing several short sets. We'll be playing songs we know by heart along with songs we've hardly ever played before, and if you ever wanted to hear a classically trained violinist attempt to cover Jimi Hendrix's "Fire," this is your chance.

And now, to celebrate Obscure Poet Friday, I offer you a sample from Maria White Lowell (1821-1953), wife of somewhat-less-obscure poet James Russell Lowell (pal of Thoreau, ancestor of Amy and Robert). The opening words of Maria's Wikipedia article are quite riveting: "Maria was born in Watertown, Massachusetts to a middle-class intellectual family. She was raised under a strict ascetic discipline at an Ursuline Convent which was later burned by a mob in 1834." She started her married life overflowing with Transcendentalist enthusiasms, which dwindled into ill-health and dead babies, and she herself died at the age of 32. Her poems were "privately printed after her death," presumably by her husband, and they include the following. I'm assuming, given the state of both her health and the nineteenth-century medical profession, that she had considerable knowledge of the subject matter.

An Opium Fantasy

Maria White Lowell

Soft hangs the opiate in the brain,
And lulling soothes the edge of pain,
Till harshest sound, far off or near,
Sings floating in its mellow sphere.

What wakes me from my heavy dream?
Or am I still asleep?
Those long and soft vibrations seem
A slumberous charm to keep.

The graceful play, a moment stopt,
Distance again unrolls,
Like silver balls, that, softly dropt,
Ring into golden bowls.

I question of the poppies red,
The fairy flaunting band,
While I, a weed with drooping head,
Within their phalanx stand:--

"Some airy one, with scarlet cap,
The name unfold to me
Of this new minstrel who can lap
Sleep in his melody!"

Bright grow their scarlet-kerchief'd heads,
As freshening winds had blown,
And from their gently-swaying beds
They sang in undertone:--

"Oh he is but a little owl,
The smallest of his kin
Who sits beneath the midnight's cowl
And makes this airy din."

"Deceitful tongues of fiery tints!
Far more than this ye know,
That he is your enchanted prince
Doom'd as an owl to go;--

"Nor his fond play for years hath stopt,
But nightly he unrolls
His silver balls, that, softly dropt,
Ring into golden bowls."

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