Emily Sullivan Oakey, a hymn-writer and a teacher, published her poems in regional and religious periodicals before gathering them into a collection. Although her range appears mainly limited to religion, the language of the flowers, and the months of the year, her works also include an elegy for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the compelling autobiographical piece from which her collection takes its name.

At the Foot of Parnassus

There was a shepherdess who fed her flock
At foot of Mount Parnassus. Dawn by dawn
She saw new glory burn upon the rocks,
And sipped their honey'd dews, and felt updrawn
And filled with music, as a star with fire;
Till, from the foregone tuneful company,
She caught a far-off murmur, "Come, come higher,
For thou art one of us; here thy place shall be."

And she made answer, though her heart gave heed,
"One day, one day, it shall be even so.
But now, what hand my wandering lambs would lead
Among the pasture-lands that lie so low?"
Her rustic pipe she touched at even-tide —
Sweet, sweet its wildness to her ear had grown —
But when the dewy leas grew dark, she sighed:
"Peace, peace, my heart! the Muses know their own."

Sometimes the voice waxed louder: "Come away!
Inhabit now the country of thy dream."
"But I was sent to do this task." One day,
Following her feet along the lonely stream,
Death came by stealth and kissed her pallid cheek.
Far, far and dim the heights of glory grew —
"At least, at least," the cold lips strove to speak,
"I did the thing that I was set to do."


Oakey, Emily Sullivan. At the Foot of Parnassus. Albany: D. R. River, 1883.