Edith Matilda Thomas
Biography of Edith Matilda Thomas
Edith Matilda Thomas was an American poet who "was one of the first poets to capture successfully the excitement of the modern city."
Born in Chatham Center, Ohio, Edith Thomas was educated at the normal school of Geneva, Ohio, and attended Oberlin College (though she had to drop out). She taught school for two years, and then became a typesetter.
She began writing early for the local newspapers, then was encouraged by author Helen Hunt Jackson to send verse to more important periodicals. She "gained national attention with her poetry.... Scribner's, The Atlantic Monthly, The Century and other prominent magazines published her poems." Jackson's "enthusiasitic endorsement produced almost immediate literary celebrity."
In 1884, Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts wrote of her that "as far as I am aware her poems are not yet gathered in book form, and are therefore only to be obtained, few in number, by gleaning from the magazines and periodicals. Yet so red-blooded are these verses, of thought and of imagination all compact, so richly individual and so liberal in promise, that the name of their author is already become conspicuous.... We are justified in expecting much from her genius."
Her first volume appeared in 1885 entitled 'A New Year's Masque and Other Poems'.
In 1887 she moved to New York City, where she worked for Harper's and Century Dictionary. She lived in New York for the rest of her life. She published over 300 poems between 1890 and 1909, although "the demands of the leading literary magazines constantly exceeded her supply."
On her death she was called "one of the most distinguished American poets” by the New York Times.
Her Selected Poems came out in 1926, a year after her death.
Canadian poet Sir Charles G.D. Roberts wrote that "Miss Thomas’s work, in some of its best characteristics, recalls to me Shakespeare’s sonnets."
In Modern American Poetry, Louis Untermeyer called her "the author of some dozen books of verse, most of them lightly lyrical in mood, although a few of her poems have a more dramatic quality. The best of her work may be found in Lyrics and Sonnets (1887), The Inverted Touch (1890), and The Flower from the Ashes (1915).
Thomas acknowledged Helen Hunt Jackson as a major influence on her work.
The biographical dictionary Notable American Women says that "she drew her principal literary inspiration from the lyrics of John Keats. She was a classsic poet in her prosodic regularity and in her continuing attention to Greek subjects. She was romantic in her emphasis on the self, although an aura of sentiment and pathos kept her from developing a constructive romantic position.... She was one of the first poets to capture successfully the excitement (the "ardent bulbs") of the modern city, and one of the most consistent in crying out against the inroads of the dollar sign on American culture."
Edith Matilda Thomas's Works:
A New Year's Masque and Other PoemsBoston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1885. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1885.
The Round Year. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1886.
Lyrics and Sonnets. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1887.
Babes of the Year. New York: F.A. Stokes, 1888.
Babes of the Nations. New York: F.A. Stokes, 1889.
Heaven and Earth (1889)
The Inverted Torch. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1890.
Fair Shadow Land. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1893.
In Sunshine Land. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1895.
In the Young World. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1896.
A Winter Swallow, With Other Verse. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1896.
The Dancers. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1903.
Cassia, and other Verse. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1905.
Children of Christmas. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1907.
The Guest at the Gate. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1909.
The Flower from the Ashes. Portland, ME: T.B. Mosher, 1915.
The White Messenger, and Other War Poems. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1915.
Selected Poems, ed. Jessie Belle Rittenhouse ed. New York, London: Harper Brothers, 1926.
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Edith Matilda Thomas Poems
Apple-green west and an orange bar, And the crystal eye of a lone, one star . . . And, "Child, take the shears and cut what you will, Frost to-night -- so clear and dead-still."
I know it must be winter (though I sleep) -- I know it must be winter, for I dream I dip my bare feet in the running stream, And flowers are many, and the grass grows deep.
The Inverted Torch
Threading a darksome passage all alone, The taper's flame, by envious current blown, Crouched low, and eddied round, as in affright, So challenged by the vast and hostile night,
Nature And Man
Oh, the glance of the dew! Oh, the flame of the rose springing forth of the thorn! Oh, the song of the arrow-marked finch singing love in the front of the morn!
The Red Cross Nurse
THE battle-smoke still fouled the day, With bright disaster flaming through; Unchecked, absorbed, she held her way— The whispering death still past her flew.
The Mother Who Died Too
She was so little—little in her grave, The wide earth all around so hard and cold— She was so little! therefore did I crave My arms might still her tender form enfold.
The Blessed Present
Pluck me yon rose, but say not, '‘T will not last!' Or that 'To-morrow’s rose may be more sweet.' Say not, the darling bird I hear, will fleet When its green summer home yields to the blast.
As I came through the Valley Sleep (Upon each side a frowning steep), A dream my weighted steps o'ertook: 'I am the Fear thou wouldst not brook
The master- he loved my kitten, my kitten; She was still too weak to stand, When he placed her upon one hand,
The Burden of Age
There is a dancing in the morning beams, There is a rainbow sown amid the dew, There is a glint of gold shot through the sands,
The Young of Spring
There are so many, many young! So many, in thy world, O Spring, And scarcely yet they find a tongue,
The War Of Bread
Of all the wars that waste this world, Where the life of man has bled, This is the war I most abhor— The theft of the people's bread!
Ride through the land, Vigilantes, ride! From this bound of the East where the inrolling tide With more than the red of the sunrise is dyed, As crimson the foam is borne to our strand! Ride!
Run up your Black Flag, Skull and crossbones display! Why should you palter—why should you lag?— For never was freebooting crew,
Apple-green west and an orange bar,
And the crystal eye of a lone, one star . . .
And, "Child, take the shears and cut what you will,
Frost to-night -- so clear and dead-still."
Then, I sally forth, half sad, half proud,
And I come to the velvet, imperial crowd,
The wine-red, the gold, the crimson, the pied, --
The dahlias that reign by the garden-side.