I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors including some surprisingly famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.
I found this poem earlier published in the Cambridge Chronicle on the 4th January, 1849. The author was acknowledged as Thomas Miller – Basket Maker; and the introduction to the poem reads: “As an extraordinary specimen of this author’s power, we give “The Dying Widow”, which has a homely vigor and pathos that remind us of the few lyrical productions of Crabbe. We do not prefer such subjects, and are half disposed to resent having our critical dignity moved to tears by a ballad : nevertheless, we cannot deny the talent of the artist. – Foreign Eclectic Review. ”
Thomas Miller (1807 – 1874, England) came from an impoverished background and may have been a basket maker at one time, but went on to become a prolific author. He did actually have a son named Henry. Note the paragraph referencing the sentimental miniatures that husband and wife had of each other, which would be of particular interest to the jewellery collectors amongst our readership.
THE DYING WIDOW’S LAMENT. By Thomas Miller.
THOSE cold white curtain-folds displace,-
That form I would no longer see ;
They have assumed my husband’s face,
And all night long it looked at me.
I wished it not to go away,
Yet trembled while it did remain ;
I closed my eyes, and tried to pray,-
Alas ! I tried in vain.
I know my child is very weak,
O’ve seen what fancy can create ;
I long have felt too low to speak,-
Oh ! I have thought too much of late,-
I have a few requests to make :
Just wipe these blinding tears away ;
I know your love, and for my sake
You will them all obey.
My child has scarce a month been dead ;
My husband has been dead but five ;
What dreary hours since then have fled !
I wonder I am yet alive.
my child ! through him death aimed the blow,
And from that hour I did decline :
His coffin, when my head lies low,
I would have placed on mine.
Those letters which my husband sent
before he perished in the deep :
What hours i reading them I’ve spent,
Whole nights, in which I could not sleep ;
O ! they are worn with many a tear,
Scarce fit for other eyes to see ;
But oft when sad they did me cheer,-
Pray, bury them with me.
This little cap my Henry wore
The very day before he died ;
And I shall never kiss it more,-
When dead, you’ll place it by my side ;
I know these thoughts are weak, but oh !
What will a vacant heart not crave ?
And as none else can love them so,
I’ll bear them to my grave.
The miniature that still I wear,
When dead, I would not have removed ;
‘T is on my heart, – oh leave it there
To find its way to where I loved ;
My husband threw it round my neck,
Long, long before he called me bride ;
And I was told that, ‘midst the wreck,
He kissed mine, ere he died.
There’s little that I care for now,
Except this simple wedding ring ;
I faithfully have kept my vow,
And feel not an accusing sting ;
i never yet have laid it by
A moment since my bridal day ;
Where he first placed it, let it lie ;
Oh ! take it not away !
Now wrap me in my wedding gown,
you scarce can think how cold I feel ;
And smooth my ruffled pillow down ;
Oh ! how my clouded sense reel !
Great God ! support me to the last,
Oh, let more air into the room :
The struggle now is nearly past,-
Husband and child ! I come !