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Transcendentalist, literary critic, and feminist; the editor of America's first avant-garde literary magazine and the first regular foreign correspondent of either sex for any American newspaper, Margaret Fuller is remembered today only for drowning during a freak hurricane off the coast of Fire Island, New York. Tragically, the only copy of her literary masterwork was lost in the shipwreck. The Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, written after her death by her fellow transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Henry Channing, and James Freeman Clarke, was one of the most popular books in America during the Civil War and the post-war years.

Lines accompanying a bouquet of wild columbine, which bloomed late in the season

These pallid blossoms thou wilt not disdain,
The harbingers of thy approach to me,
Which grew and bloomed despite the cold and rain,
To tell of summer and futurity.

It was not given to them to tell the soul,
And lure the nightingale by fragrant breath:
These slender stems and roots brook no control,
And in the garden life would find but death.
The rock which is their cradle and their home
Must also be their monument and tomb;
Yet has my floweret’s life a charm more rare
Than those admiring crowds esteem so fair,
Self-nurtured, self-sustaining, self-approved:
Not even by the forest trees beloved,
As are her sisters of the Spring, she dies, —
Nor to the guardian stars lifts up her eyes,
But droops her graceful head upon her breast,
Nor asks the wild bird’s requiem for her rest,
By her own heart upheld, by her own soul possessed.

Learn of the clematis domestic love,
Religious beauty in the lily see;
Learn from the rose how rapture’s pulses move,
Learn from the heliotrope fidelity.
From autumn flowers let hope and faith be known;
Learn from the columbine to live alone,
To deck whatever spot the Fates provide
With graces worthy of the garden’s pride,
And to deserve each gift that is denied.

These are the shades of the departed flowers,
My lines faint shadows of some beauteous hours,
Whereto the soul the highest thoughts have spoken,
And brightest hopes from frequent twilight broken.
Preserve them for my sake. In other years,
When life has answered to your hopes or fears,
When the web is well woven, and you try
Your wings, whether as moth or butterfly,
If, as I pray, the fairest lot be thine,
Yet value still the faded columbine.
But look not on her if thy earnest eye,
Be filled by works of art or poesy;
Bring not the hermit where, in long array,
Triumphs of genius gild the purple day;
Let her not hear the lyre’s proud voice arise,
To tell, “still lives the song though Regnor dies;”
Let her not hear the lute’s soft-rising swell
Declare she never lived who lived so well;
But from the anvil’s clang, and joiner’s screw,
The busy streets where men dull crafts pursue,
From weary cares and from tumultuous joys,
From aimless bustle and from voiceless noise,
If there thy plans should be, turn here thine eye, —
Open the casket of thy memory;
Give to thy friend the gentlest, holiest sigh.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo, William Henry Channing, and James Freeman Clarke. Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1884.

Fuller, Margaret. Life Without and Life Within: or, Reviews, Narratives, Essays, and Poems. Ed. Arthur B. Fuller. Boston, 1895.

Matteson, John. The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography. W. W. Norton, 2012.