Make your own free website on


Young Frank Church

       Church Home Page  Frank & Myrtle's Petersburgh

Poetry Page

9/11/01 Memorial Page

Church archives & photo gallery
Archives & Photo Gallery

It is scarcely possible for people today to imagine how different life was a century ago. Most people in the United States still lived in small towns and on farms. They had no computers, televisions, or radios. Most homes did not even have electricity. There were no superhighways - only a few people had ever seen an automobile (known back then as a "horseless carriage"). People traveled around therir communities by foot or by horse, and a few went greater distances by railroad, in passenger cars pulled by steam-powered locomotives. Almost all women worked only in the home; none was permitted by law to vote. For both women and men, life was also much shorter: On average, people lived only about fifty years. - "Sociology," John Macionis, 8th ed. ©2001, p. 623

Without televison or radio, and in many places with no electricity for lighting, country folk in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had to make their own entertainment in the evenings after the work day was done. Cards and parlor games, handcrafts, visiting with relatives and neighbors on trellised porches during warmer weather, and books and newspapers provided diversions that folks turned to. Especially the reading, and especially poetry. Many homes were stocked with substantial private libraries. The works of the great poets of the era - Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, Whitman, just to name a few - were widely circulated, and people could recite long epics by heart. Frank Church was not alone in this regard. A voracious reader, he memorized passages from poetic works both famous and obscure. (See our "Memorial" page for one of his remembered recitations.)

These treasured hardbound books in leather and gilt were often richly illustrated with engraving and lithograph by talented and now forgotten artists, with finely detailed flowery drawings representative of the Victorian era. Our exquisite engraving of vinery and a mountain castle, shown full size on this page and reduced in size for the navigation side bar of our website's front page is the illustration for Longfellow's poem "Flowers," from an 1884 edition of his collected works.We would be remiss if we did not also include the text of the poem to accompany it, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a favorite of the Frank Church family.

The family also knew Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha," and Esther could recite his Norse ballad "The Skeleton in Armor," (no doubt learned from her fifth-year reader.) Another favorite, "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight" by Rose Hartwick Thorpe (1850-1939), (who also wrote "Remember the Alamo"), has been included on this page along with "Flowers." "The Gypsy's Warning," an old folk song possibly of the Elizabethan era, and "The Weeping Willow" are reproduced from Esther's hand-written recollection of the songs' lyrics. - DJB, 7/13/03 [Recently we have added another family favorite, the 19th century English folk poem "Tommy's Prayer." (1/09/06)]


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Spake full well, in language quaint and olden,
One who dwelleth by the Castle Rhine,
When he called the flowers, so blue and golden
Stars, that in the earth's firmament do shine.

Stars they are, wherein we do read our history
As astrologers and seers of eld;
Yet not wrapped about with awful mystery,
Like the burning stars, which they beheld.

Wonderous truths, and manifold as wonderous,
God has written in those stars above;
But not less in the bright flowers under us
Stands the revelation of his love.

Bright and glorious is that revelation,
Written all over this great world of ours;
Making evident our own creation,
In these stars of earth, these golden flowers.

And the Poet, faithful and far-seeing,
Sees, alike in stars and flowers, a part
Of the self-same, universal being,
Which is throbbing in his brain and heart.

Gorgeous flowerets in the sunlight shining,
Blossoms flaunting the bright of day,
Tremulous leaves, with soft and silver lining,
Buds that open only to decay.

Brilliant hopes, all woven in gorgeous tissues,
Flaunting gayly in the golden light;
Large desires, with most uncertain isssues,
Tender wishes, blossoming at night!

These in flowers and men are more than seeming;
Workings are they of the self-same powers,
Which the Poet, in no idle dreaming,
Seeith in himself and in the flowers.

Everywhere about us are they glowing,
Some like stars, to tell us Spring is born;
Others, their blue eyes with tears o'erflowing,
Stand like Ruth amid the golden corn;

Not alone in Spring's armorial beaing,
And in Summer's green-emblazoned field,
But in the arms of brave old Autumn's wearing,
In the centre of his brazen shield;

Not alone in meadows and green alleys,
On the mountain-top, and by the brink
Of sequestered pools in woodland valleys,
Where the slaves of nature stoop to drink;

Not alone in her vast dome of glory,
Not on graves of bird and beast alone,
But in old cathedrals, high and hoary,
On the tombs of heroes, carved in stone.

In the cottage of the rudest peasant,
In ancestral homes, whose crumbling towers,
Speaking of the Past unto the Present,
Tell us of the ancient Games of Flowers;

In all places, then, and in all seasons,
Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,
Teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,
How akin they are to human things.

And with child-like, credulous affection
We behold their tender buds expand;
Emblems of our own great resurrection.
Emblems of the bright and better land.


by Rose Hartwick Thorpe (1850-1939)

Slowly England's sun was setting oe'r the hilltops far away,
Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad day;
And its last rays kissed the forehead of a man and maiden fair,--
He with steps so slow and weary; she with sunny, floating hair;
He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, she, with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur, "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

"Sexton," Bessie's white lips faltered, pointing to the prison old,
With its walls tall and gloomy, moss-grown walls dark, damp and cold,--
"I've a lover in the prison, doomed this very night to die
At the ringing of the curfew, and no earthly help is nigh.
Cromwell will not come till sunset;" and her lips grew strangely white,
As she spoke in husky whispers, "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

"Bessie," calmly spoke the sexton (every word pierced her young heart
Like a gleaming death-winged arrow, like a deadly poisoned dart),
"Long, long years I've rung the curfew from that gloomy, shadowed tower;
Every evening, just at sunset, it has tolled the twilight hour.
I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just and right:
Now I'm old, I will not miss it. Curfew bell must ring to-night!"

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
"At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must "die.
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he'd trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, Where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, On which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

She has reached the topmost ladder, o'er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; 'tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

Out she swung,-- far out. The city Seemed a speck of light below,--
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, As the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil's funeral knell.
"Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart's wild throbbing: "Curfew shall not ring tonight!"

It was o'er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

O'er the distant hills comes Cromwell. Bessie sees him; and her brow,
Lately white with sickening horror, has no anxious traces now.
At his feet she tells her story, shows her hands, all bruised and torn;
And her sweet young face, still hagggard, with the anguish it had worn,
Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light.
"Go! your lover lives," said Cromwell. "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

Wide they flung the massive portals, led the prisoner forth to die,
All his bright young life before him. Neath the darkening English sky,
Bessie came, with flying footsteps, eyes aglow with lovelight sweet;
Kneeling on the turf beside him, laid his pardon at his feet.
In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, "Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring to-night."

- anon.

Trust him not, oh gentle lady
Though his voice be low and sweet
Heed him not who kneels before thee
Pleading gently at thy feet
For thy life is in its morning
Blot not this thy happy lot
Trust him not, oh gentle lady
Gentle lady, trust him not.

Lady, once there lived a maiden
Pure and sweet and as thou art fair
He wooed, he wooed and won her
Filled her gentle heart with care.
But he heeded not her weeping
He cared not her life to save
Soon she perished and now she's sleeping
In the cold and silent grave.

Trust him not, oh gentle lady,
'Though he speaks with accents sweet.
For his heart is oh, so wicked
And is filled with all deceit
He will bring only heartbreak
'Though he seems so good and mild
Lady in the church yard yonder
Sleep this gypsy's only child.

Additional lyrics and bagpipe arrangement:

- anon.

Down by the Weeping Willow,
Where the flowers sweetly bloom
There lies my own fond lily
A sleeping in her tomb.
One night as the moon shone brightly,
And the sea winds gently blew
A jealous-hearted lover
Down to her cabin flew.
Saying, "Love let us go a walking
Way down the forest way.
And as we walk we'll ponder
And name our wedding day."
As they walked she talked of their future,
But he said you've been untrue
She said, "No, no, darling Edward,
Because I love only you."
"Now down on this isle I have you,
Where no one can hear your cries."
And deep into her bosom
He plunged a fearful knife.
"I fondly forgive you, Edward,
With my last and dying breath
For I have never deceived you
And she closed her eyes in death."



Church Home Page || Frank & Myrtle's Page || Memorial Page || "Ode to Petersburgh" || Top of Page

"The Church Family of Petersburgh, NY featuring descendants of Frank and Myrtle Church" website
©2002 by Daniel J. Bornt, e-mail to: