So, the poem (mentioned at the end of this post). It's lovely and sweet and I want to memorize it. And incorporate it into my being. But somehow, I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe I'll get lucky and come across a portrait of Ms. Beekman. Now wouldn't that be something?
Without further ado:
My childhood's home in Middletown -- there's magic in the name;
For a lover of its quiet haunts in childhood I became.
While yet a child, a little child, I knew each hill and dell
That lay around the homestead old, the place I loved so well.
The old Homestead! the old Homestead; how dear it is to me,
The white old house, its ample walls, in fancy I shall see;
For every flower, and shrub, and tree, I love them more and more,
From the old locusts in the yard to the rose bush by the door.
The wide green lawn where oft I've played will be remembered too,
With the grand old oaks and green top pines that there together grew,
Where oft with joy and great delight which to the young belong,
I've seen the robin build her next, and heard her morning song.
Here, too, beneath the shady trees, I've sunk upon the grass
To see the beauteous butterflies that near my brow would pass,
Or the humming birds, a tiny tribe, with plumage gay and bright,
As they darted on from flower to flower, in the soft sunbeam's light.
Here, too, upon my pillow, oft I've watched the starlit sky,
Then slept, soft winds among the trees singing my lullaby.
Dreaming of things, sometimes in fear, sometimes in visions strange,
Sometimes of joy, of scenes enjoyed in many a noonday range.
The hill, the hill behind the house, will live in memory's flow,
The limpid spring--the cool and shady grove that lies below,
With winding path beside the brook a most delightful walk,
There oft in childhood I have gone for play and sportive talk.
The dear old Homestead! with the view of waters too, the bay
With vessels slowly dropping down the broad sea's great highway,
Their spreading canvas mirrored bright upon the glassy deep
Whose waters seem to slumber beneath my very feet.
These are but part of countless things that with my heart strings play
As I think of the old Homestead, where my childhood passed away,
I'll ne'er forget the distant hills, with woods on either side
Where moss and flowers I've gathered when wandering far and wide.
'Twas there in early spring-time I've often gone to see
The earliest flowers of the year the dearest things to me;
And there when autumn days came on I've wandered farther still,
To find the crimson cardinal that bloomed beside the rill.
These only are a few bright things my heart will sacred hold
For of all the joys of childhood the half can ne'er be told.
The ramble off for luscious grapes down in the meadow green
With many walks in orchards with their fruit of golden sheen.
The laugh that made the wild-wood ring, when 'neath the chestnut tree
The shaken branches showered down a store of nuts for me.
The old Homestead! the old Homestead, shall be forgotten never
Though the ocean from well-loved scenes my weeping eyes may sever.
From spicy isles, from orange groves, my heart for home will sigh,
For there's no spot like it for me, beneath the wide blue sky.
Though I should dwell in marble halls, with spacious gilded dome,
The place of family and friends, a most delightful home.
When weary of unceasing pomp, and joys that bloom to die,
I'll long to breathe its purer air and see its bluer sky;
With budding trees, and singing birds, and lovely fields of green--
The old Homestead! the old Homestead, will be earth's dearest scene.
Middletown Village, April, 1855
My favorite part is about the boats (7th stanza) "Their spreading canvas mirrored bright upon the glassy deep; Whose waters seem to slumber beneath my very feet." Oh and also the last line "The old Homestead! the old Homestead, will be earth's dearest scene." Oh and also I love locust trees.
I love the freedom of her childhood. Do all children who grow up on acres have this freedom? Even still? Or is that gone? Everything's so fenced in, but then, I've never grown up on acres. We did used to have the freedom of the neighborhood, though. Just went out the door in the morning, came back at night after having played with friends all day. Exploring, riding bikes, being free.
I can't imagine not knowing where my kids are. I also know that around here, you can't ride bikes too easily. I want for my children that freedom and I guess I just have to get them out more. In the spring. More hikes in Tatum Park. More hikes everywhere. More days outdoors. And more deep breaths when they are out of my sight. Maybe they'll stumble on some "humming birds" and see some of the beauty Eleanor, or Leila, saw.
(Image at top of the post is of a locust tree, from this website.)