Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tribute to Another Daisy

Within the makeshift shrine Catherine Malloy Tully had kept in remembrance of her first child, she had pasted a small collection of poetry. The first piece we’ve already seen was actually an excerpt of a published work by George Dennison Prentice, a journalist who died in 1870. While Catherine’s handwritten note captured one stanza, the poem—entitled “To Marian Prentice Piatt: An Infant”—is composed of four full stanzas, and can be seen in its original setting here. The collection of Prentice’s work was published in 1876; whether Catherine first discovered the poem after the volume was released, or in a prior format—perhaps included as a verse within the pages of a newspaper or magazine—I can only speculate. To think that the young mother came upon the verse following the death of her child in 1877 would only increase the pathos.

While I’ve wondered if Catherine had first heard the poem quoted as part of a sermon—she did, after all, scribble it on a piece of paper torn from a church publication—given Prentice’s personal history, I find it hard to envision someone of his background meshing well within the context of any homily (except, perhaps, for one urging us to “love your enemies” and “do good to them which hate you,”) for George Prentice’s writings were said to have contributed to “rabid anti-Catholic” and anti-foreigner sentiments. A more genteel representation of the author’s accomplishments may persuade us that it was for his artistic sentiments, rather than for his political ones, that Catherine felt drawn to his verse.

Atop the inside page of this little paper shrine, Catherine had cut and pasted another poem. This one, though typeset, I cannot find in any anthology, so the identifier of “Chicago—G. P.” has yet to receive any fuller disclosure. I’ve transcribed it as best I can, given the fragile condition of the newsprint, the properties of the adhesive over the years, and the original note paper to which it was all affixed. While some of the words make little sense, I wanted to write it exactly as I see it, rather than presume. Of course, it would help to find another published version of the poem to rectify any transcription errors.

Even with this perky symbolism of the daisy, combined with the innocence of a sweet baby girl, the poem has a somber turn to it, again making me wonder if this is a poem that Catherine found during her period of mourning over having lost her own “love’s first pledge.”

To My Little Daughter Daisy

My Daisy sweet, my baby girl,
   With silken tross and eyes of blue,
My love’s first pledge—affection’s pearl,
   I dedicate this lay to you.
My darling Daisy, pretty flower
   Unfolding in thy life’s first spring,
While hope can cheer or love hath power
   My heartstrings still shall round thee cling.

Thy little namesake of the field
   In unassuming beauty blows,
Its simple sweetness scarce revealed
   So meek and modestly it grows;
And thou, my child, my baby treasure,
   Will that sweet flower resemble thee
When through the years thy steps shall measure
   The paths of life’s dark mystery?

Wilt thou, my pretty bud, expand
   In growing sweetness day by day,
While peace and love with fairy wand
   Shed Heaven’s incense round thy way?
Wilt thou, exempt from care or sorrow,
   Enjoy a length of cloudless years,
And all thy future coming morrow
   Bring thee no freight of woes or fears?

With tireless feet and joyous breast,
   Wilt thou through flow’ry pastures stray—
In all thy hopes and wishes blest
   Safe pass thy girlhood’s years away?
And will thy prime’s unwritten story,
   A fair and faultless record show—
Thy evening sun’s declining glory
   As brilliant as thy morning’s glow?

When age shall trace thy mother’s brow
   And bid her halting footsteps stay,
With gentle patient care wilt thou
   Her fond solicitude repay?
When death shall still these pulses’ motion,
   Wilt thou, my darling one, be near
With love’s compassionate devotion
   My ling’ring parting soul to cheer?

Such is thy mother’s wish and prayer,
   But ah! perchance it may not be;
Those sanguine hopes, my Daisy fair,
   Be never realized to me;
But still may Heaven bless thee,
   On thee its choicest gifts bestow.
May dark misfortune ne’er distress thee
   Wherever, darling, thou may’st go.

Chicago.                                  G.P.


  1. Such a profound poem - it says so much with very few words. Do you suppose that if George Prentiss wrote this... he did so for Daisy? Could Catherine have known him?

    1. I tend to doubt that the poem were written for Catherine's Daisy, as George Prentice's death pre-dated Daisy's birth. And, given the editorial stand of the man (and his later location in Kentucky), I doubt he and Catherine would have crossed paths.

      I suspect Daisy may have been an oft-seen name or nickname during that time. Catherine probably identified with the sentiments contained within these poems, which feeling the coincidence of names must have only augmented.

      Thank you for finding that first poem, by the way. That was helpful. I only wish I could have found another source for this second one. I'm not certain the author's initials were G. P. The surname might have started with "D" but the printing was hard to determine.

  2. I wish I could see the Initials better - is there also a surname? All I can see is 2 letter. It I didn't know better (and I really don't!), I'd say they were C. T....


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