A Time for Rhyme

By
  • Heather Vogel Frederick
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This article is part of our Longyear for Kids series, written with our younger audience in mind. See more articles in the series here.


Do you like to write poetry? Mary Baker Eddy did!

“The writing of poetry has always been a joy to me,” Mrs. Eddy once told her friend Irving Tomlinson.1

From the time she was a little girl living on her family’s farm in Bow, New Hampshire, Mary loved reading and writing poems. “When I was a child it was easier for me to write in poetry than in prose,” she said. “When I first went to school I would write my compositions in poetry.”2

Imagine doing your homework in rhyme! For young Mary, though, this was completely natural.

“From childhood I was a verse-maker,” she later explained,3 and she told her friend Irving, “I was always rhyming….”4

During her early years in school, one of her teachers said to Mary’s mother, “Do you know Mary is a born poet?” Mrs. Baker replied that she didn’t — but she did know Mary was always making up rhymes.5

An artist imagines young Mary at the Baker farm. Oil painting by Max Bohm, LMDB-12809.1, Longyear Museum collection.

Mary often shared her poems with her mother. She told her friend Julia Bartlett this years later when the two of them visited the old Baker homestead. Mary also pointed out the spot where she used to like to sit and write.

“Mrs. Eddy enjoyed writing her little poems under her favorite apple tree near the house and running with them to her mother….,” Julia recalls.6

Here are two stanzas from a poem that Mary wrote — maybe under that very apple tree! — when she was 12:

I’ll rise in the morn and drink in the dew,
From flowers that bloom in the vale—
So mildly dispensing their charms ever new,
Over hillocks, and flowery dales.

I’ll gaze on the orb in yon eastern sky,
For loftier thoughts ‘twill invite!
His beams can enlighten the spiritual eye,
And inspire my pen as I write.

Many years after she wrote those verses, Mary Baker Eddy would revise them for a collection of her poetry. Can you spot the differences?

From Poems by Mary Baker Eddy.

Mary would grow up to become the Discoverer, Founder, and Leader of Christian Science. She would write dozens of poems, and she would write plenty of prose, too, including the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, her most important work.

Seven of Mary Baker Eddy’s poems were set to music and are used as hymns in Christian Science churches and Sunday Schools. Here’s the first verse of “Mother’s Evening Prayer,” one of her favorites:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

Mrs. Eddy wrote two poems especially for young readers. First published in The Christian Science Journal in January 1896 as a New Year’s gift to children everywhere, they were later reprinted in her book Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896 and in Poems.

She would also give permission for these two poems to be reprinted in a magazine of her day called The Children’s Star. Both were included in the very first issue, published in November 1907.

A year after her poems appeared in this magazine, Mrs. Eddy founded a newspaper called The Christian Science Monitor. Perhaps because she loved poetry, its pages often included verse.

One day, she called some of the people who worked for her into her study. Mrs. Eddy was “particularly joyful,” her friend Irving remembers. After everyone had gathered, she told them, “First I want to hear some poetry from our Monitor,” and read a poem aloud. “How fine that the readers of the Monitor can have such bright verses,” she said when she was finished.7

And how fine that we have many of Mary Baker Eddy’s own “bright verses” that we can read today, too!

Notes


  1. Reminiscences of Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson, C.S.B., 147, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts (hereafter referenced as MBEL).
  2. Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy: Recollections and Experiences Amplified Edition (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1994), 130.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, 11.
  4. Tomlinson reminiscences, 147.
  5. Ibid., 148.
  6. Julia Bartlett reminiscences, 27, MBEL. See also A World More Bright: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy by Isabel Ferguson and Heather Vogel Frederick (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2013), 14-15.
  7. Tomlinson, Twelve Years, 93.

This article was written in observance of April as National Poetry Month in the United States.

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