Biography of Ethelwyn Wetherald
Agnes Ethelwyn Wetherald was a Canadian poet.
She was born at Rockwood, Ontario, the daughter of Rev. William Wetherald, a Quaker minister. She was educated at the Friends' Boarding School in Union, New York, and at Pickering College. She sold her first poem to St. Nicholas Magazine at 17, and soon was contributing to many publications throughout Canada and the United States, including The Globe, The Week, and Rose-Belford's Canadian Magazine. She co-wrote a novel, An Algonquin Maiden (1887), with Graeme Mercer Adam, and in 1895 published her first volume of poetry.
She worked for several decades as a proofreader, journalist, and editorial assistant at newspapers in Ontario and the north-eastern United States. For a time she 'conducted the Women's Department' of the under the pseudonym "Bel Thistlethwait." She adopted a child, Dorothy, in 1911 when she was 54, and in 1921 published a book of children's verse, Tree-Top Mornings, dedicated to Dorothy.
Reviewing her 1907 book, The Last Robin, The Globe pronounced: "The salient quality of Miss Wetherald's work is its freshness of feeling, a perennial freshness, renewable as spring. This has a setting of harmonious form, for the poet's ear is delicately attuned to the value of words, both as to the sound and the meaning.... The sonnets are an important part of the volume, and, to some minds, will represent the most important part. Miss Wetherald's sonnets are flowing in expression and harmonious in thought; some are beautiful."
The Dictionary of Literary Biography calls the best of her poems "musical, restrained, and precise," and "equal to much of the work of her better-known Canadian contemporaries such as Archibald Lampman, Bliss Carman, and Duncan Campbell Scott." On occasion, it adds, "her themes and images recall the poetry of Emily Dickinson."
Ethelwyn Wetherald's Works:
The House of the Trees and other poems. Toronto: William Briggs, 1895.
Tangled in Stars: Poems. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1902.
The Radiant Road. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1904.
The Last Robin: Lyrics and Sonnets. Toronto: William Briggs, 1907.
Poems, Lyrics, and Sonnets. Toronto: Musson, 191?.
Tree-top Mornings. Boston: Cornhill, 1921.
Lyrics and Sonnets
An Algonquin maiden: a romance of the early days of Upper Canada (with Graeme Mercer Adam). London: S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1887.
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Ethelwyn Wetherald Poems
The Snow Storm
The Great soft downy snow storm like a cloak Descends to wrap the lean world head to feet; It gives the dead another winding sheet,
The Hay Field
With slender arms outstretching in the sun The grass lies dead; The wind walks tenderly and stirs not one Frail fallen head.
Now that the earth has hid her lovely brood Of green things in her breast safe out of sight,
The Indigo Bird
When I see, High on the tip-top twig of a tree, Something blue by the breezes stirred, But so far up that the blue is blurred,
Muck of the sty, reek of the trough, Blackened my brow where all might see, Yet while I was a great way off
Mother and Child
I saw a mother holding Her play-worn baby son, Her pliant arms enfolding The drooping little one.
In the Crowd
Here in the crowded city's busy street, Swayed by the eager, jostling, hasting throng, Where Traffic's voice grows harsher and more strong,
Hearing the strange night-piercing sound Of woe that strove to sing, I followed where it hid, and found A small soft-throated thing,
My orders are to fight; Then if I bleed, or fail, Or strongly win, what matters it?
Thank God for pluck–unknown to slaves– The self ne'er of its Self bereft, Who, when the right arm's shattered, waves The good flag with the left.
Unto my friends I give my thoughts, Unto my God my soul, Unto my foe I leave my love– These are of life the whole.
The House of the Trees
Open your doors and take me in, Spirit of the wood; Wash me clean of dust and din, Clothe me in your mood.
One day I caught up with my angel, she Who calls me bell-like from a sky-touched tower. 'Twas in my roof-room, at the stillest hour
If One Might Live
If one might live ten years among the leaves, Ten–only ten–of all a life's long day, Who would not choose a childhood 'neath the eaves
O Master-Builder, blustering as you go
About your giant work, transforming all
The empty woods into a glittering hall,
And making lilac lanes and footpaths grow
As hard as iron under stubborn snow,
Though every fence stand forth a marble wall,
And windy hollows drift to arches tall,
There comes a might that shall your might o'erthrow.
Build high your white and dazzling palaces,