Elizabeth Oakes Smith
Biography of Elizabeth Oakes Smith
Elizabeth Oakes Smith (August 12, 1806 – November 16, 1893) was a poet, fiction writer, editor, lecturer, and women’s rights activist whose career spanned six decades, from the 1830s to the 1880s. Most well- known at the start of her professional career for her poem "The Sinless Child" which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1842, her reputation today rests on her feminist writings, including "Woman and Her Needs," a series of essays published in the New York Tribune between 1850 and 1851 that argued for women’s spiritual and intellectual capacities as well as women’s equal rights to political and economic opportunities, including rights of franchise and higher education.
Smith was born August 12, 1806 near North Yarmouth, Maine to David Prince and Sophia née Blanchard. After her father died at sea in 1808, her family lived with her maternal and paternal grandparents until her mother remarried and moved with her stepfather to Cape Elizabeth, Maine then Portland, Maine. In her autobiography (parts of which were published in the 1860s and 1880s), she recalls being a precocious student, and at age twelve taught in a Sunday School for black children. Despite her wishes to attend college like her male cousins, however, she was married in 1823 at the age of sixteen to a thirty-year-old magazine editor and later humorist, Seba Smith, best known for his “Jack Downing” series.
Elizabeth Oakes Smith Poems
To the Hudson
O RIVER! gently as a wayward child I saw thee mid the moonlight hills at rest; Capricious thing, with thine own beauty wild, How didst thou still the throbbings of thy breast!
The Same Old Song
Mothers, out of the mother-heart, Fashion a song both soft and low, Always the same dear mother art, Rocking the baby to and fro,
It cannot be, the baffled heart, in vain, May seek, amid the crowd, its throbs to hide; Ten thousand others kindred pangs may bide, Yet not the less will our own griefs complain.
I dreamed last night, that I myself did lay Within the grave, and after stood and wept, My spirit sorrowed where its ashes slept! 'Twas a strange dream, and yet methinks it may
With no fond, sickly thirst for fame, I kneel, Oh, goddess, of the high-born art to thee; Not unto thee with semblance of a zeal I come, oh, pure and heaven-eyed Poesy!
Alone we stand to solve the doubt, Alone to work salvation out, Casting our helpless hands about
Thou art not of earth, thou beautiful thing, With thy changeless form and hue- For thou in thy heart hast ever borne A drop of that living dew
The Sinless Child Part 5
The loud winds rattled at the door— The shutters creaked and shook, While Eva, by the cottage hearth, Sat with abstracted look.
Thou poet-painter, preacher of great truth, Far more suggestive thine than written tome Lo, we return with thee to that vast dome, Dim cavern of the past. Visions uncouth,
The Sinless Child Part 7
'Twas night—bright beamed the silver moon, And all the stars were dim; The widow heard within the dell Sweet voices of a hymn,
The Sinless Child Part 1
Whilom ago, in lowly life, Young Eva lived and smiled, A fair-haired girl, of wondrous truth, And blameless from a child.
The Sinless Child Introduction
Sweet Eva! Shall I send thee forth With other hearts to speak? With all thy timidness and love, Companionship to seek?
The Sinless Child Part 6
'Tis the summer prime, when the noiseless air In perfumed chalice lies, And the bee goes by with a lazy hum, Beneath the sleeping skies:
The Sinless Child Part 3
As years passed on, no wonder, each An inward grace revealed; For where the soul is peace and love, It may not be concealed.
And is this life? and are we born for this?
To follow phantoms that elude the grasp,
Or whatso'er's secured, within our clasp,
To withering lie, as if each mortal kiss
Were doomed death's shuddering touch alone to meet.
O Life! has thou reserved no cup of bliss?
Must still THE UNATTAINED beguile our feet?
The UNATTAINED with yearnings fill the breast,
That rob, for aye, the spirit of its rest?