Last weekend I was able to dig through some old family keepsakes and documents, and found quite a lot of interesting stuff. Of particular interest to me was my great-grandmother’s book of autographs, from the late 1800s.
These autograph books more or less functioned as the precursor to the yearbook. The inside pages were all blank paper, and friends or colleagues would write little messages to the owner inside. My great-grandmother used hers from roughly ages 14 to 21.
Surprisingly, there are a number of short poems written to her by her friends in here. Some are very good. This one, from her friend Mollie in 1888, was particularly good.
Loveliest of lovely things are they
On Earth, that soonest pass away;
The rose that lives its little hour,
Is prized above the sculptured flower;
Even love, long tried, and cherished long,
Becomes more tender and more strong
At thought of that insatiate grave,
From which its yearnings cannot save.
[Edit: After posting this I learned that Mollie was quoting William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson.” My apologies to the memory of Mr. Bryant; in my defense, however, I must say that Mollie never attributed the poem to him.]