earlyamericanwomenpoets



1827-1892


pic - Cooke Rose Terry.jpeg

Rose Terry was the daughter of affluent, middle-class parents living in Westhersfield, Connecticut. Her father, Henry Wadsworth Terry, held a living, and her mother, Anne Wright Hurlbut, was the daughter of the first New England ship-builder to circumnavigate the world. When Rose Terry was six years old, the family moved to her paternal grandfather's mansion in Hartford. Formally educated at the Hartford Female Seminary (which had been recently established by Catherine Beecher), Rose Terry was compelled to graduate early after her father had suffered some financial setbacks. After teaching at Hartford, she took a post at a Presbyterian school in Burlington New Jersey, and then worked as a governess for a clergyman's family. She returned to Hartford after four years, in 1847, in order to pursue her literary career and to earn her own living as a writer. In 1873, at the age of forty-six, she married Rollin H. Cooke, a bank clerk in Winstead, Connecticut, and a widower sixteen years her junior. Although Rollin seems to have admired and encouraged Rose Terry Cooke in her writing, he and his father quickly ran through all of her savings, forcing her to make a new financial start late in life. Although highly regarded by her own generation of critics and readers, she was dismissed and then forgotten during the early twentieth century.

Solitaire


Patience? Yes, that's a woman's game;
The dull delight of solitude,
Where rank on rank she strives to frame,
And speech or laughter ne'er intrude.

Night after night, beside the fire,
When evening's lonely lamp is lit,
Oppressed with thoughts that vex and tire,
Among the cards her fingers flit.

The woman's game! On some poor king
The sequence of her play is built;
The queen comes after, hapless thing!
And next the knave with grinning guilt.

Then all her treasures, one by one,
Are thrown away to swell the pile,
The last and least: when that is done,
Begin again, the night beguile.

A woman's game; to sit and wait;
Build and rebuild, though fate destroy.
Shuffle the cards; for soon or late
There comes an end to grief and joy.

A man may fight, or sow, or reap,
Divide the seas, or traverse earth;
She can but drudge, or pray, or weep,
What are her life or loving worth?

She sits there when the day is dead,
Lonely and listless. Do you dare
Deny, when all is done and said,
That woman's game is solitaire?


Blue-Beard's Closet


Fasten the chamber!
Hide the red key;
Cover the portal,
That eyes may not see.
Get thee to market,
To wedding or prayer;
Labor or revel,
The chamber is there!

In comes a stranger —
"Thy pictures how fine,
Titian or Guido,
Whose is the sign?"
Looks he behind them?
Ah! have a care!
"Here is a finer."
The chamber is there!

Fair spreads the banquet,
Rich the array;
See the bright torches
Mimicking day;
When harp and viol
Thrill the sweet air,
Comes a light whisper:
The chamber is there!

Marble and painting,
Jasper and gold,
Purple from Tyrus,
Fold upon fold,
Blossoms and jewels,
Thy palace prepare:
Pale grows the monarch;
The chamber is there!

Once it was open
As shore to the sea;
White were the turrets,
Goodly to see;
All through the casements
Flowed the sweet air;
Now it is darkness;
The chamber is there!

Silence and horror
Brood on the walls;
Through every crevice
A little voice calls:
"Quicken, mad footsteps,
On pavement and stair;
Look not behind thee,
The chamber is there!"

Out of the gateway,
Through the wide world,
Into the tempest
Beaten and hurled,
Vain is thy wandering,
Sure thy despair,
Flying or staying,
The chamber is there!


Sources

Cooke, Rose Terry. How Celia Changed Her Mind and Selected Stories. ed. Elizabeth Ammons. State University of Rutgers, 1986.

— — —. Poems. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1861.

— — —. Poems. 2nd edition. New York: Geo. Gottsberger Peck, 1888.

Willard, Frances Elizabeth and Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, eds. American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Acheivements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century. Vol. 1. Mast, Crowell, & Kirkpatrick, 1897. 204.