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 DaisyMy 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 flowerUnfolding in thy life’s first spring,While hope can cheer or love hath powerMy heartstrings still shall round thee cling.Thy little namesake of the fieldIn unassuming beauty blows,Its simple sweetness scarce revealedSo meek and modestly it grows;And thou, my child, my baby treasure,Will that sweet flower resemble theeWhen through the years thy steps shall measureThe paths of life’s dark mystery?Wilt thou, my pretty bud, expandIn growing sweetness day by day,While peace and love with fairy wandShed Heaven’s incense round thy way?Wilt thou, exempt from care or sorrow,Enjoy a length of cloudless years,And all thy future coming morrowBring 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 blestSafe pass thy girlhood’s years away?And will thy prime’s unwritten story,A fair and faultless record show—Thy evening sun’s declining gloryAs brilliant as thy morning’s glow?When age shall trace thy mother’s browAnd bid her halting footsteps stay,With gentle patient care wilt thouHer fond solicitude repay?When death shall still these pulses’ motion,Wilt thou, my darling one, be nearWith love’s compassionate devotionMy 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 theeWherever, darling, thou may’st go.Chicago. G.P.