Poetry by Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

Poet Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt (1836–1919) is not as well known as Emily Dickinson, but her verses show some of the same power and originality. Here is an index to the Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt poetry referenced in American Literature (EIL3).

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, American Poet

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, American Poet. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“The Palace Burner”

“The House Below the Hill”

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt Biography

Here is a brief profile of Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt from the 1893 book, A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life, edited by Frances E. Willard And Mary A. Livermore (now in the public domain). This mini-biography has been slightly adapted for easier online reading.

American poet Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt was born in Lexington, Ky,, 11th August, 1836. Her grandfather, Morgan Bryan, a relative of Daniel Boone, was one of the earliest settlers of the state of Kentucky. He emigrated from North Carolina with Boone’s party, and his “station” near Lexington, known still as “Bryan’s Station,” was one of the principal points of attack by the Indians who invaded Kentucky from the Northwest in August, 1782, having been besieged by them for several days before the celebrated battle of the Blue Lick.

Childhood and Education

Mrs. Piatt’s early childhood was passed near Versailles, in Woodford county, where her mother, a lovely and beautiful woman, whose maiden name was Mary Spiers, and who was related to the Stocktons, Simpsons and other early Kentucky families, died in her young womanhood, leaving her oldest child, Sarah, only eight years of age. Later she and a younger sister were placed by their father with an aunt, Mrs. Boone, in New Castle, where she went to school and was graduated in the Henry Female College.

Development as a Poet

The loss of her mother, with various consequent influences, lent to a very sensitive nature a hue of sadness not easy to outgrow, and observable, though often in company with playful and humorous elements, in her writings early and late. It was in her young girlhood, in New Castle, her poetic temperament first manifested itself in the composition of verse. She had always been an eager reader of books, and had especial fondness for Shelley, Coleridge and Byron, among modern English poets, though she also read Moore, Scott, Mrs. Hemans and the others of their period.

Some of her early verses, which often recalled and suggested such models, were shown by intimate friends to George D. Prentice, then editor of the “Louisville Journal,” and he praised them highly, recognizing what seemed to him extraordinary poetic genius and confidently predicting the highest distinction for their author as an American poet. He wrote to her: “I now say emphatically to you again . . . that, if you are entirely true to yourself, and if your life be spared, you will, in the maturity of your powers, be the first poet of your sex in the United States. I say this not as what I think, but what I know.”

Her early published poems, appearing in the “Louisville Journal” and the “New York Ledger,” were widely read and appreciated, and were perhaps more popular than her later and far better and more individual work. On 18th June, 1861, she became the wife of John James Piatt, and went with her husband to reside in Washington, D. C. They remained in that city, where Mr. Piatt was in governmental employment, until 1867, seeing somewhat of the great events of the time.

In July, 1867, they removed to Ohio, where, soon after, they made their home on a part of the old estate of Gen. W. H. Harrison, in North Bend, a few miles below Cincinnati, on the Ohio River. That home they left only for brief periods until they went to reside abroad. It is the place most endeared to Mrs. Piatt by love and sorrow, for there several of her children were born and two of them are buried.

Later Life and Poetry

It was after her marriage Mrs. Piatt’s more individual characteristics as a poet distinctly manifested themselves, especially the quick dramatic element seen in so many of her best poems, and the remarkable sympathy with and knowledge of child life, which Prof. Robertson has recognized in his volume entitled “The Children of the Poets” (London, 1886).

The first volume in which her poems appeared was a joint volume by herself and husband, entitled, “The Nests at Washington, and Other Poems” (New York, 1864). Her next volume was “A Woman’s Poems” (Boston, 1871), appearing without the author’s name on the title page. That was followed by “A Voyage to the Fortunate Isles,” etc. (1874); “That New World,” etc. (1876); “Poems in Company with Children” (1877); and “Dramatic Persons and Moods” (1878). All the last-mentioned volumes were published in Boston.

At the same time Mrs. Piatt has contributed to the various American magazines, the “Atlantic Monthly,” “Scribner’s Monthly,” the “Century,” “Harper’s Magazine,” and “St. Nicholas.” In 18S2 Mrs. Piatt accompanied her husband to Ireland, where he went as Consul of the United States to Cork, and has since that time resided in Queenstown. Since going to Ireland Mrs. Piatt, who perhaps has some remote Irish traces in her blood, as her maiden name might be held to indicate, has published “An Irish Garland” (Edinburgh, 18S4); a volume of her “Selected Poems” (London. 1885), “In Primrose Time: a New Irish Garland” (London, 1886); “The Witch in the Glass, and Other Poems” (London, 1889), and “An Irish Wild-Flower” (London, 1891). The first, third and last of the volumes just mentioned contained pieces suggested by her experiences in Ireland. A little joint volume by herself and husband, “The Children Out-of-Doors: a Book of Verses by Two in One House,” was also published (Edinburgh, 1884), and all of those later volumes were issued simultaneously in the United States. Mrs. Piatt’s foreign critics have been, perhaps, more generous in their appreciation than even those of America.