Battle Hymns and Passion Flowers: Julia Ward Howe And the 19th Century Women Poets Collection

howe-blog-post-headerA recently-released biography of Julia Ward Howe by Elaine Showalter titled The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe paints an intriguing picture of an early American abolitionist and feminist whose unhappy marriage bred two works of creative genius: The Battle Hymn of the Republic (1861-1862) and a less-well-known book of poetry called Passion-Flowers (1853). You can read an excellent review of The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe over at Jezebel.com.

In this post we will examine the first edition of Passion-Flowers made available online in our Digital Collections as part of the 19th Century Women Poets Collection, drawn from the holdings of the Armstrong Browning Library.

A Brief Biography of Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe around the time she wrote "Passion-Flowers." Image via Biography.com

Julia Ward Howe around the time she wrote “Passion-Flowers.” Image via Biography.com

 

Before we get into Passion-Flowers, it’s a good idea to get some basic facts about Howe’s life. She was born into a family of means in New York City and rubbed elbows with eminent persons of the day like Charles Dickens. She married Samuel Ridley Howe (known by his nickname, “Chav”) in 1843 and went on to give birth to six children. Her marriage was notoriously unpleasant for her, and she began writing poetry as a form of cathartic therapy; when her husband found out she was writing such explicitly negative and critical poetry about her marriage, the strain on their marriage increased.

Howe was inspired to write Battle Hymn of the Republic after meeting President Abraham Lincoln. She set the lyrics to the tune of John Brown’s Body and it became an instant sensation in the North and has been synonymous with the Civil War ever since. Upon her husband’s death in 1876, she discovered that nearly all the money she’d brought into the marriage from her father’s estate had been lost, squandered by Samuel on bad real estate deals.

In the last decades of her life, Howe became involved in the nascent women’s rights movement, ultimately serving or leading numerous groups in the fight for women’s suffrage and various Christian causes. She died in in 1910 at the age of 91. She was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and her home in Rhode Island, called Oak Glen, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. (To learn more about Howe’s amazing life, read her Wikipedia entry, from which many of these facts were gleaned.)

Passion-Flowers

Inscription on inside cover of the ABL's edition of "Passion-Flowers." It is autographed by Howe and addressed to Mary C. Parkman

Inscription on inside cover of the ABL’s edition of “Passion-Flowers.” It is autographed by Howe and addressed to Mary C. Parkman

 

The copy of Passion-Flowers is asserted to be a first edition, based largely on the inscription found on its inside cover. Here, we see a dedication of the volume to Mary C. Parkman, signed by “J.H.” and dated December 22, 1853. This would mark the book as being part of the initial publication run and thus containing the unedited versions of the poems that would later be “toned down” after her husband’s angry reaction to the picture they painted of Howe’s domestic life.

The poem referenced in the review above, “Mind Versus Mill-Stream,” is a sharp criticism of a man’s belief that he can woo and marry a strong, willful women and then expect her to be docile and easily channeled into the role he sees her playing in the relationship. The whole notion is wrapped up in a metaphor about a miller who wants to harness a wild-running stream to run his mill, only to find the spirited body of water cannot be tamed for long. It is reproduced here in its entirety for your enjoyment.

“Mind Versus Mill-Stream”
Julia Ward Howe, 1853

A Miller wanted a mill-stream,
A mild, efficient brook
To help him in his living, in
Some snug and shady nook.

But our Miller had a brilliant taste,
A love of flash and spray,
And so, the stream that charmed him most
Was that of brightest play

It wore a quiet look, at times,
And steady seemed, and still,But when its quicker depths were stirred,
Wow! but it wrought its will.

And men had tried to bridle it
By artifice, and force,
But madness from its rising grew,
And all along its course

‘Twas on a sultry summer’s day,
The Miller chanced to stop
Where it invited to ‘look in
And take a friendly drop.’

Coiffed with long wreaths of crimson weed,
Veiled by a passing cloud,
It looked a novice of the woods
That dares not speak aloud.

Said he: ‘I never met a stream
More beautiful and bland,
‘Twill gain my bread, and bless it too,
So here my mill shall stand.’

And ere the summer’s glow had passed,
Or crimson flowers did fade,
The Miller measured out his ground,
And his foundation laid.

The Miller toiled with might and main,
Builded with thought and care;
And when the Spring broke up the ice
The water-wheel stood there

Like a frolic maiden come from school,
The stream looked out, anew;
And the happy Miller bowing, said,
‘Now turn my mill-wheel, do!’

‘Your mill-wheel?’ cried the naughty Nymph,
‘That would, indeed, be fine!
You have your business, I suppose,
Learn too that I have mine.’

‘What better business can you have,
Than turn this wheel for me?’
Leaping and laughing, the wild thing cried,
‘Follow, and you may see.’

The Miller trudged with measured pace,
As Reason follows Rhyme,
And saw his mill-stream run to waste,
In the very teeth of time.

‘Fore heaven!’ he swore, ‘since thou’rt perverse,
I’ve hit upon a plan;
A dam shall stay thine outward course,
And then, break out who can.’

So he built a dam of wood and stone,
Not sparing in the cost,
‘For,’ thought our friend, ‘this water-power
‘Must not be lightly lost.’

‘What? will you force me?’ said the sprite;
‘You shall not find it gain;’
So, with a flash, a dash, a crash
She made her way amain

Then, freeing all her pent-up soul,
She rushed, in frantic race
And fragments of the Miller’s work
Threw in the Miller’s face.

The good man built his dam again,
More stoutly than before;
He flung no challenge to the foe,
But an oath he inly swore:

‘Thou seest resistance is in vain,
So yield with better grace.’
And the water sluices turned the stream
To its appointed place.

‘Aha! I’ve conquered now!’ quoth he,
For the water-fury bold
Was still an instant, ere she rose
In wrath and power fourfold

With roar and rush, and massive sweep
She cleared the shameful bound,
And flung to utterness of waste
The Miller, and his mound

MORAL.

If you would marry happily
On the shady side of life,
Choose out some quietly-disposed
And placid tempered wife,

To share the length of sober days,
And dimly slumberous nights,
But well beware those fitful souls
Fate wings for wilder flights!

For men will woo the tempest,
And wed it, to their cost,
Then swear that took it for summer dew,
And ah! their peace is lost!

Friends, this is no subtle metaphor: a business-minded man seeks to tame a wild and free resource for the benefit of his work, and despite his best efforts, the nature of the stream is such that he is wrecked by its unbounded power. It’s no wonder that her husband – and, no doubt, the men in his social sphere – would be embarrassed and scandalized by its plain language, insinuation of marital unhappiness and allusions to a man losing control of his wife in a very public way.

Another poem that expresses both regrets and a subdued brand of hope is “Behind the Veil.” In this brief work, Howe tries to put into perspective the equal parts longing and dread that inhabit all human beings; the desire to know the future without having to suffer its consequences, and to seek a silver lining in the direst of circumstances.

“Behind the Veil”
Julia Ward Howe, 1853

The secret of man’s life disclosed
Would cause him strange confusion,
Should God the cloud of fear remove,
Or veil of sweet illusion.

No maiden sees aright the faults
Or merits of her lover;No sick man guesses if ’twere best
To die, or to recover.

The miser dreams not that his wealth
Is dead, as soon as buried;
Nor knows the bard who sings away
Life’s treasures, real and varied.

The tree-root lies too deep for sight,
The well-source for our plummet,
And heavenward fount and palm defy
Our scanning of their summit

Whether a present grief ye weep,
Or yet untasted blisses,
Look for the balm that comes with tears,
The bane that lurks in kisses.

We may reap dear delight from wrongs,
Regret from things most pleasant;
Foes may confess us when we’re gone,
And friends, deny us present.

And that high suffering which we dread
A higher joy discloses;
Men saw the thorns on Jesu’s brow,
But angels saw the roses.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Thoughts on Howe’s Poetry

In the review linked above, the reviewer makes a mention of the fact that Howe took some “swipes” at the Barrett-Brownings in her poetry, and from the text of a letter sent by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford on June 6, 1854 we can see that EBB had no little amount of criticism for Howe, as well.

Portion of a letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford dated June 6, 1854. EBB references Howe’s book “Passion-Flowers” and offers her thoughts on Howe’s abilities as a poet. From the Margaret Clapp Special Collections at Wellesley College via The Browning Letters project.

 

Mrs Howe’s [book, Passion-Flowers] I have read since I wrote last. Some of them are good—many of the thoughts striking, & all of a certain elevation. Of poetry however, strictly speaking, there is not much; and there’s a large proportion of conventional stuff in the volume. She must be a clever woman. Of the ordinary impotencies & prettinesses of female poets she does not partake, but she cant [sic] take rank with poets in the good meaning of the word, I think, so as to stand without leaning– Also, there is some bad taste & affectation in the draping of her personality–

You can read more of the Brownings’ correspondence that references Howe in the Browning Letters project.

The works contained in Passion-Flowers may not have risen to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s definition of “poetry,” but they certainly embodied a spirit and confrontational attitude that gained her some measure of fame and attention from a population of America’s women who saw her resistance to traditional gender roles as a way of pushing back against the lives they were expected to live, at least in the eyes of their male acquaintances. And while Howe would gain her greatest notoriety – and lasting fame – from the important lyrics she penned during the American Civil War’s earliest hours, her work in Passion-Flowers should also become required reading for anyone interested in the mindset behind one of America’s most influential 19th century women.


Read more books in the 19th Century Women Poets Collection here. Learn more about the correspondence of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in The Browning Letters project.

 

Classic Post: “Confuse Me, I’m Irish”: Evaluating Unusual Irish-Centric Sheet Music From The Early 1900s

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re re-posting this classic post on the strange kinds of Irish-themed sheet music to be found in our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. Taitneamh a bhaint as tú féin! (That’s Irish for “Enjoy yourself!”)


“Confuse Me, I’m Irish”: Evaluating Unusual Irish-Centric Sheet Music From The Early 1900s

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From "The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago." 1920.

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From “The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.” 1920.

 

As anyone with a pulse will recall, this past week saw the annual celebration of all things Irish: St. Patrick’s Day. And like any culturally specific holiday, it was a rousing blend of traditional folklore, modern contrivance (everyone should drink green beer, just like the Real Irish People Do!) and a smattering of stereotyping. And while modern society has, for the most part, toned down its outright offensive tendencies on days like St. Paddy’s (or Patty’s – there’s actually an ongoing argument online about that one), it wasn’t that far back in our history that the very real plight of Irish Americans was portrayed in popular culture in a starkly different way.

While browsing our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music earlier this week in pursuit of some new material for our Tumblr, Digitized and Randomized, I went straight to a set of results based on Mrs. Spencer’s category, “Ethnic-Irish.” I got more than 300 results, and they ran the gamut from patently offensive to heartbreaking and everything in between. And so I thought it would be fun to examine some of the more unusual pieces of music from the Irish category, especially those that feature Irish protagonists in strange situations.

How Did We Get Here?

Before we jump into our results, it’s worth a quick peek into the history of Irish Americans prior to the mid-1900s (the time when the pieces we’ll examine were all created). In the late 1800s, Irish immigration to America had seen hundreds of thousands of men, women and children arriving in the U.S. and swelling the ranks of established Irish neighborhoods in East Coast cities as well as strongholds in the South. As the poorest of all immigrant groups to arrive in the U.S. in the 19th century, they often took dangerous, low-paying jobs. Add to this fact a tendency for urban neighborhoods to be crowded, unsafe and unsanitary, and you began to see a rise in alcohol abuse and crime – two stereotypical traits assigned to Irish Americans in the popular culture of the day (as we’ll see below).

Other sources of “inspiration” for the pieces we’ll explore today include the long-standing (and often violent) split between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants; the alleged belligerence and/or violent tendencies of Irish men; the supposed moral and intellectual inferiority of the Irish; and the pervasive myth that the Irish are perpetually inebriated. As composers of the early 20th century set pen to paper in the pursuit of filling the American public’s insatiable appetite for musical entertainment, they kept these “facts” and half-truths about Irish Americans in mind, spawning pieces that drew on Irish Americans’ fond remembrances of their native culture (example) to anti-Irish sentiment (example).

An Irish Pharoah?

But understanding pro- and anti-Irish sentiment is a relatively easy task compared to puzzling out the meanings behind our featured pieces for this week’s post. They are loosely gathered around a pair of themes: the Irish protagonist in an unfamiliar setting and/or the presence of Irish where audiences wouldn’t expect to find it, like our first piece: The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.

"The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago" by Chris Smith. 1920.

“The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago” by Chris Smith. 1920.

 

The visuals on this piece are particularly striking, with a typical desert scene set before the pyramids mixed with the cognitive dissonance of a repeated shamrock motif on the throne of an Egyptian queen. The central conceit for this piece is that the narrator has deciphered a startling fact from the “weird and cryptic” writings found “upon the tombs that dot Sahara’s sands”: the Irish were Egyptians long ago – “Just read between the lines and you will know.”

The “proof” of their ancient Egyptian heritage is given as the fact that the pyramids were built by manual labor (“It must have been the Irish who build the Pyramids / For no one else could carry up the bricks”); the Nile was dug by a tough, brave man (“For no one but an Irishman would fight a crocodile”); and the drovers of desert caravans had to have been named Houlihan, Mac or O.

This piece achieves a strange blend of whimsy (adding shamrocks to a typical Egyptian scene) and humor with negative stereotyping of not one but two cultures. This two-front offensive is also evident in our next piece, Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney.

"Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney," by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.

“Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney,” by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.

 

Another “humorous” piece that trades on the unexpected mashup of two traditionally oppressed and/or caricatured cultures, this piece details the chaos that naturally followed when an Indian princess (Arrah Wanna) marries an Irishman named Barney Carney. It seems all it took to completely disrupt Native American culture (at least as the stereotypes would have it) was for one woman to marry a man from Erin, as evidenced by such strange occurrences as:

– “[n]o more do the Indians put paint upon their face”

– “The tom-toms play the ‘Wearing of the Green'”

– “The wigwams are full of Irish Blarney”

– “The Pipe of Peace is made of Irish clay”

There are more, but you get the picture. The introduction of an outsider of Irish origin upsetting the local culture (or attempting to assimilate into it in unexpected, humorous ways) will be repeated in our remaining pieces, each with the theme of romantic interest as a primary motivator. Up next is our final example of an Irishman falling under the guile of a “foreign” culture: O’Brien is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian.

"O'Brien Is Tryin' To Learn To Talk Hawaiian" by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.

“O’Brien Is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian” by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.

 

Here, a hapless tourist from Ireland arrives in the Sandwich Isles (the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Capt. Cook in the 1700s) and discovers the native women to be of such beauty that he instantly forgets his wife at home in the presence of a “lovely Hula dancer down beside Hawaii Bay.” Pat O’Brien, our protagonist, is revealed to be a skilled performer in his own right (“He won Bridget, Kate and Mary by singing ‘Tipperary’ / And he’ll win his Lulu too”) who is so moved by the girls’ beauty that he attempts to learn her native tongue, to hilarious results. In addition to being a standard “man falls in love with beguiling, exotic beauty” tale, there’s also the opportunity for lyricist Al Dubin to mock the languages of both Ireland and Hawaii, as in this tongue-twisting passage:

He’s sighin’ and cryin’ and all the time he’s tryin’
Just to say “I love you true”
With his “Arrah Yaka Hula Begorra Hick Dula”
And his Irish “Jiji Boo”

We never learn if this would-be suitor succeeds in his philandering pursuits, but we’ll leave him at his studies (“Hawaiian’s hard to get with an Irish alphabet”) and shift our attention to two pieces where the object of the narrator’s affection is a woman of Irish heritage. The first is set in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and bears the title Santiago Flynn.

"Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode" by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.

“Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode” by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.

 

This piece relates a tale of two would-be lovers: Santiago Flynn (“He dressed like a Spanish grandee / He rode on a pony thin”) and an Irish Rose who lived on a nearby plantation. Though Rose liked the cut of Santiago’s jib (“She cried, ‘You’re a hot tamale'”), she regrets that she can only marry a man from Ireland. And then, to our surprise (SPOILER ALERT!), Santiago reveals his secret:

“He jumped in a wild fandango
He cried with an Irish grin
‘Tho born underneath the Mano
My father was Paddy Flynn’

And so was Santiago able to gain access to his lover’s abode (“She cried ‘Come in, Mister Flynn / I’ll never say again'”) and all ends well for our protagonist. It should be noted that this piece uses a particularly unpleasant slur used in reference to Santiago’s outward appearance, so be ready if you click over to read the lyrics in full.

Our last piece combines the exotic (an Egyptian setting) with the romantic, the stereotypical and the allure of an Irish woman’s beauty, all under a ridiculous title: Cleopatricola.

"Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola" by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.

“Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola” by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.

 

This piece comes closest to embodying all of the elements we’ve discussed so far into one semi-coherent package. Rather than post excerpts of the lyrics, I’m choosing to reproduce them in full:

VERSE
Once I took a camel ride
Far across the desert wide
Met a maiden way down by the Nile
As I sat down by her side
Her entrancing form I spied

Then she gave me a sweet Irish smile
She told me that she was born in Erin
Cleopatricola was her name
Mighty soon my love I was declarin’
I spoke these words and set her heart aflame

CHORUS
Cleopatricola Cleopatricola
tell me what to do
By my heart and soul O Cleopatricola
I’m in love with you

There I found my Shamrock in Sahara
By the River Nile so fresh and green
Cleopatricola Patricola,
My Egyptian Colleen

VERSE
As the sun was going down
We went down to Cairo town
Met King Pharaoh and all of his crew
First we read the Rubaiyat
Then we had a little chat
Played Casino with Pharoah till two

She told me that she was “jipt” in Egypt
And that King Rameses was the blame
He told her she’d be a queen of Sheba
And spoke those very words before I came
(Repeat CHORUS)

This one’s got it all: a fish-out-of-water, a besotted suitor, a jilted lover, Irish motifs (the shamrock), local flair (Casino and the Rubaiyat) and Irish slang (referring to Irish women as Colleens). Add that to what I consider the best example of cover art of the pieces we’ve examined today – she looks like an Egyptian princess by way of Zelda Fitzgerald – and you have a winner in the category of Wait, Did I Seriously Just Read A Song About An Irish Person Doing WHAT?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at some of the stranger pieces from our Irish subcategory in the Spencer Collection. There are no end of interesting pieces in the Spencer Collection, and we’ll be taking a look at them again from time to time. ‘Til then, if you find any fun examples of cross-cultural curiosity, send us a tip at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu. See you next week!


For more examples of Irish-themed sheet music in the Spencer Collection, click here. Special thanks to our friends at the Crouch Fine Arts Library for the partnership that brings the Spencer Collection to you via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections!

From the First Issue to Last Semester: The Newly Expanded “Baylor Lariat” Digital Archive!

Lariat_complete_headerIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably wondering where we’ve been the past month or so. Well, it’s been a long time coming, but we’ve been laboring over a major project and have returned today to announce a major addition to the Baylor Lariat digital collection. For the first time ever, every issue from 1900 to the most recent completed academic semester (Fall 2015) is available in one place: The Lariat Digital Archive!

“But wait,” you may be saying to yourself. “I thought they were all already in one place? What gives?” To which I would answer: “Oh, ho, ho! But the ‘born digital’ era Lariats were NOT previously part of this collection. They lived in a separate online archive attached to the Baylor Lariat website. In fact, any issue from Fall 2006 to the present wasn’t in our Digital Collections at all … UNTIL NOW.”

Your reaction to this news, probably.

Your reaction to this news, probably.

 

That’s why it’s been a month since we posted, gentle readers: I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the process of prepping files for loading, scanning missing pages, generating metadata and loading almost a thousand issues of The Lariat from Fall 2006 to Fall 2015 into our digital collections, and that’s a process that takes a little focused attention. So please excuse our lateness, but we hope you’re as excited as we are to be able to find gems like these all in the comfort of a single digital platform!

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.26.54 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An ad for Nautica Jeans Co. from the first all-digital edition of The Lariat, August 29, 2006

 


 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.29.15 PMArticle about the opening of the Riley Digitization Center, featuring our Assistant Director and yours truly operating our original Kirtas APT-2400 digital book imager (RIP)

 


 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.37.19 AMCover of the April 4, 2012 issue documenting the Lady Bears’ NCAA national championship and 40-win perfect season. #sicem

 


 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.41.32 AMIssue commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

 


 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.44.36 AMEditorial cartoon depicting the embattled tenure of former BU president John Lilley, shown as a dodgeball player attempting to avoid a number of controversial stories dogging his administration.

 


 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.53.50 AMFirst issue of Fall 2014 semester, the inaugural year of McLane Stadium’s term as home of Baylor Bear football.

 


 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.03.47 AMA nifty piece of “will the latest technology kill you with radiation?” illustrated for the October 19, 2007 issue.

There’s so many more great moments in this set of materials, and you can see them all at this link. We encourage you to take a look at these important resources, and take advantage of the increased accuracy of keyword searchability that comes from the source material being “born digital.” Happy reading!


Special thanks to our friends at Student Publications – Julie Freeman and Paul Carr – for their invaluable help in gaining access to these resources. Be sure to visit the Lariat’s website for this semester’s issues!