Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beauties of the mind

In yesterday's post I said Sarah Thorn's poems celebrate intelligence and intellectual brilliance. Here's an example.

This poem makes me think of a letter that my great-grandfather wrote when he was a new immigrant in New York City. The year was 1855, just 21 years from the date my great- great-grandmother wrote the poem. He was 20 and she 18 at the time each of them wrote. Addressing his aunt Sarah, back in Münster, he wrote:
Now that I have reported all my doings up to now, it is up to you to let me know what has happened in the family since I last heard from you. I hope you, dear grandfather, are in the best of health. I beg you earnestly, dear Sarah, to tell my sisters to become useful members of society. Let them be industrious, thrifty, and god-fearing. Instill in them the good old teaching: Do right and fear none. When you raise them with these basics and when I may be so fortunate to see them again as blossoming young women physically strong and intellectually developed, then nothing would be more precious to me than to show you my gratitude.
It's touching to see the spirited young man giving orders to his elders, not in a bossy way (he was not a bossy person; my father's favorite adjective for him was 'jolly'), but earnestly. More than that, the phrase I've put in Italics, "blossoming young women physically strong and intellectually developed" makes me think of this poem's emphasis on beauty as an attribute of people and things, and beauty as an attribute of minds and intelligence.

You can read a full transcription of my great-grandfather's letter here.

Some of this transcription is doubtful. I welcome corrections.
An Untitled Poem by Sarah Thorn

The downey Cheek so bright so fair
Thy bosoms snowy whiteness
The panting lips so red so rare
The eye with sparkling brightness
Her beauty's like the summer leaf
Which length of time decay
For evening time that cruel thief
Will surely steal away

But when conjoined with them we find
Charms that surpass all beauty
A virtuous heart a feeling mind
Success becomes a duty
Mad are those who idly range
To all but beauty blind
For time nor place can never change
The beauties of the mind.



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