The Myosotis Arvensis-"Forget-me-Not."
Jane Margaret Matthews Beardsley (1824-1851)
Among the thousand beauteous gems,
That greet the rising sun,
There is a little flower that opes,
Its petals one by one.
It seems as if its upturned eye,
Had caught from heaven the hue,
That melts upon the cloudless sky,
So beautiful and blue.
It cannot boast the perfumed breath
That lingers round the rose,
Nor doth it to th' admiring gaze
The tulip's charms disclose;
And yet, this little simple flower,
Is not unknown to fame,
But common as a "household word"
Is its familiar name.
It is the lover's parting gift
To her he holds most dear,
He lingers till its azure leaves
Are moistened with a tear;
And filial love has bid it wave
Above a parent's tomb,
There faithful hearts have cherished it
And plucked its earliest bloom.
'Twas once a mighty monarch* sought,
A floral badge to wear,
He passed each stately blossom by,
The gaudy and the rare;
He left the lily's kingly pride
To wither on the stem,
And chose this simple flower to grace
His regal diadem.
Oh! happy one that thus can bless,
The lowly and the great,
Can bloom within the peasant's home
Or deck the throne of state!
Thy language is a smile from Heaven
To cheer the darkest lot,
The joyless e'en is blest, who hears
"Dear friend, forget me not."
*Henry IV. of England
In reading poems and observations of Myosotis, I stumbled upon this lovely poem by Jane Margaret Matthews Beardsley. The poem is from a privately published collection entitled The Unforgotten and Other Poems. The collection was printed in 1891, some 40 years after Jane died at the age of 27 and shortly before the 1892 death of her widowed husband. It is clear from the preface that her husband published the collection, but it set me to wondering why the poems were published four decades after her death at such a young age.
I cannot find much more detail about Jane. At the age of 18, she married The Revered E. Edwards Beardsley, D.D., LL.D. who was the longtime Rector of St. Thomas's Church in New Haven, CT. They had one daughter together, Elisabeth Margaret Beardsley, when Jane was 20 years old. When Elisabeth was just 7 years old, Jane died suddenly. It does not seem that Rev. Beardsley ever remarried.
Rev. Beardsley who was the long time rector of St. Thomas's Church died on St. Thomas day in 1892. In a flowery funeral sermon given by the Bishop of Connecticut, there was no mention of Jane. Their daughter Elisabeth is only mentioned once at the end of the sermon, she would have been 48 at the time of her father's death. In an obituary for Rev. Beardsley found in The Churchman, it only mentions that Jane died suddenly and that Elisabeth became the "head of her father's house." So how Jane died so young remains unknown, and it is unclear when in her short life she wrote the poems in this collection.
You may truly enjoy some of Jane's work, especially her naturalist observations. She writes about everything from crickets, to trying to return to an old home, to the loss of a tree, and the Aurora Borealis.
Long, long have I watched thy wild flickering beam,
Oh! beautiful Northern light,
For the heavens are tinged with thy transient gleam
And decked with a halo of glory they seem
Those clouds on the brow of the night.
I have linked to a full copy of Unforgotten and Other Poems, which you can download here. While we will never know the reason this young woman's poems were kept private until 40 years after her passing, I am glad they found their way into publication, and eventually onto the internet for discovery by a larger audience. See where a photo can take you?