Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother’s Day Greetings
From Another Age

With nary a mark to tell where she got it, or who might have bestowed it upon her, Agnes Tully Stevens’ keepsake card bears a familiar verse that even I remember hearing, so long ago, being recited.

Unlike the card I posted Friday, appearing older than the hidden mark that revealed its date of 1979, this card is undated and appears yellowed. I have no idea where Agnes might have gotten the card—somewhere in Chicago, I presume—for there is no publisher's information affixed to the cardstock.

There is no listing of author, but using a segment of the first stanza to search for further information online, I found a longer version attributed to the poet, Ann Taylor. Apparently, Ann Taylor wrote the original version of the poem in her earlier years, revising the concluding stanza much later in life. She also saw selected stanzas of the rather long poem set to the artwork of James Pollard with a working title the same as the opening line of the version of Agnes Tully Stevens’ card. The Pollard artwork—a young child kneeling and praying in her bedroom—was estimated to have been created and published some time between 1820 and 1850. Since Ann Taylor was born in 1782, the poem must have been known some time before James Pollard chose it to accompany his artwork.

Whether Agnes Tully Stevens’ card was inspired from the publications of those earlier years—perhaps passed along by her own mother—or served as a later testimony of the enduring sentiments expressed in the original poem, I have no way to tell. Regardless, it is a fitting way to pass along those wishes for a happy Mother’s Day, from our Tully ancestors, through Agnes, to her grandchildren—and now to you!

Who taught my infant lips to pray

My Mother

Who taught my infant lips to pray,
To love and serve God every day,
And walk in wisdom’s pleasant way?
My Mother!

Who ran to help me when I fell
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My Mother!

How could I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee
Who wast so kind to me?
My Mother!

Ah! no, the thought I cannot bear,
And if God pleased my life to spare
I trust I shall reward thy care,
My Mother!


  1. I wonder now how far back the idea of kissing a boo-boo goes.

    1. Apparently, more than a century! Good point, Wendy. Actually, that gets me to wondering about the roots of a lot of our customary sayings and traditions...

  2. Replies
    1. It is, Colleen--actually, it's larger than life in this version online. The original is about the size of an index card.

  3. I've enjoyed your series of older (time-tested?) Mother's Day cards very much. This card is a poem I've never heard of -- though it must have been famous. It does seem a "fit" for the era in which it was written, the first half of the 19th century. It reminds me of "the angel in the house," the Victorian ideal of the caring woman. Recently this ideal has been much commented upon by women's studies programs . . . living for others, and so forth.

    1. Mariann, that's interesting about the women's studies perspective and that of the Victorian role model.

      I really wanted to find a copy of the sketch by James Pollard that accompanied the poem, but was unsuccessful in locating anything online. That may have also gone along with the ideal you were mentioning.

  4. Replies
    1. Or...who knows...maybe she picked this one out for herself :)

  5. That's a beautiful old card! And the Mothers day messages on it in the form of poem is fantastic. Loving it <3

    Anne xxx


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