Ellen Sturgis Hooper Poetry
Ellen Sturgis Hooper (1812 – 1848) was an American poet and member of the Transcendental Club, and widely regarded as one of the most gifted among the New England Transcendentalist poets.
She and her sister, Caroline Sturgis Tappan (also a Transcendentalist poet) were acquainted with others in the Transcendentalist movement, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr.
By Ellen Sturgis Hooper
This bright wood-fire
So like to that which warmed and lit
My youthful days—how doth it flit
Back on the periods nigher,
Relighting and rewarming with its glow
The bright scenes of my youth—all gone out now.
How eagerly its flickering blaze doth catch
On every point now wrapped in time’s deep shade,
Into what wild grotesqueness by its flash
And fitful checquering is the picture made!
When I am glad or gay,
Let me walk forth into the brilliant sun,
And with congenial rays be shone upon;
When I am sad, or thought-bewitched would be,
Let me glide forth in moonlight’s mystery,
But never, while I live this changeful life,
This past and future with all wonders rife,
Never, bright flame, may be denied to me
Thy dear, life-imaging, close sympathy.
What but my hopes shot upward e’er so bright?
What but my fortunes sunk so low in night?
Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall,
Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all?
Was thy existence then too fanciful
For our life’s common light, who are so dull?
Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold
With our congenial souls? secrets too bold?
Well, we are safe and strong, for now we sit
Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit,
Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire
Warms feet and hands—nor does to more aspire;
By whose compact, utilitarian heap
The present may sit down and go to sleep,
Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walked,
And with us by the unequal light of the old wood-fire talked.
From The Dial (October 1840) p. 193
I Slept, and Dreamed that Life was Beauty
By Ellen Sturgis Hooper
I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.
From The Dial (July 1840) p. 123
The Straight Road
By Ellen Sturgis Hooper
Beauty may be the path to highest good,
And some successfully have it pursued.
Thou, who wouldst follow, be well earned to see
That way prove not a curvéd road to thee.
The straightest path perhaps which may be sought,
Lies through the great highway men call I ought.
by Ellen Sturgis Hooper
He touched the earth, a soul of flame,
His bearing proud, his spirit high,
Filled with the heavens from whence he came,
He smiled upon man’s destiny.
Yet smiled as one who knew no fear,
And felt a secret strength within,
Who wondered at the pitying tear
Shed over human loss and sin.
Lit by an inward brighter light,
Than aught that round about him shone,
He walked erect through shades of night,
Clear was his pathway—but how lone!
Men gaze in wonder and in awe
Upon a form so like to theirs,
Worship the presence, yet withdraw,
And carry elsewhere warmer prayers.
Yet when the glorious pilgrim guest,
Forgetting once his strange estate,
Unloosed the lyre from off his breast
And strung its chords to human fate;
And gaily snatching some rude air,
Carrolled by idle passing tongue,
Gave back the notes that lingered there,
And in Heaven’s tones earth’s low lay sung;
Then warmly grasped the hand that sought
To thank him with a brother’s soul,
And when the generous wine was brought,
Shared in the feast and quaffed the bowl;—
Men laid their hearts low at his feet,
And sunned their being in his light,
Pressed on his way his steps to greet,
And in his love forgot his might.
And when, a wanderer long on earth,
On him its shadow also fell,
And dimmed the lustre of a birth,
Whose day-spring was from heaven’s own well;
They cherished even the tears he shed,
Their woes were hallowed by his woe,
Humanity, half cold and dead,
Had been revived in genius’ glow.
From The Dial (October 1840) p. 194
To R. W. E.*
Dry lighted soul, the ray that shines in thee,
Shot without reflex from primeval sun,
We twine the laurel for the victories
Which thou on thought’s broad, bloodless field has won.
Thou art the mountain where we climb to see
The land our feet have trod this many a year.
Thou art the deep and crystal winter sky,
Where noiseless, one by one, bright stars appear.
It may be Bacchus, at thy birth, forgot
That drop from out the purple grape to press
Which is his gift to man, and so thy blood
Doth miss the heat which ofttimes breeds excess.
But, all more surely do we turn to thee
When the day’s heat and blinding dust are o’er,
And cool our souls in thy refreshing air,
And find the peace which we had lost before.
*This poem refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a fellow Transcendentalist poet.
You may read more about Ellen Sturgis Hooper at Walden Woods.