Tag Archives: poems

Black and white photo. Photo of the bust of a man with curly hair and a beard

Childhood Hours by Cousin Benja

Portrait of Benjamin Mitchell, c. 1860
Portrait of Benjamin Mitchell, c. 1860

 

Benjamin Mitchell (1827-1865), who wrote as Cousin Benja, is featured in this month’s exhibit. He spent all of his life in Kingston and composed poetry and essays primarily about nature, God, and the spirit. The following poem is included in a collection of his works, Poems and Letters, compiled by his sister after he died.

 

Childhood Hours

Oh, give me back my childhood hours,
When I was young, and free
To roam among the woodland bowers,
By mountain side and lea!
To chase beneath the noonday sun
The golden butterfly;
And sail my boat upon the tide,
Beneath the sunset sky.

Oh, give me back my mountain hours,
When not a care I knew;
With heart as gay as summer flowers,
And light as evening dew!
To trace along the hidden path,
That winds by rock and stream;
And pluck the daisy from its bed,
Among the mossy green!

Oh, give me back my childhood hours,
My schoolmates young and gay;
To roam again in quest of flowers,
The pleasant fields of May!
And then at noon to sit and chat,
Beneath the greenwood tree;
And eat our bread and butter there,
And call it “taking tea!”

Oh, give me back my childhood hours,
The dearest to my heart;
When I could sit in Nature’s bowers
And see the day depart.
When I could view the Queen of Night
In lovely beauty dressed,
Casting her silver rays of light,
To make the earth look blest!

Oh, give me back my childhood hours,
Where memory loves to dwell—
Too dear they are to be forgot,
I ever loved them well;
But childhood hours, and halcyon scenes,
Will ne’er return again;
And I must learn to leave my boyhood dreams,
And live like other men!

 

Source: Cousin Benja. Poems and Letters. Plymouth: Memorial and Rock Press, 1866. 

For National Poetry Month: “A-sailing Down Jones River”

Sailboat on the water, no date
Sailboat on the water, no date

A-sailing Down Jones River

Do you recall one night in June,
When sailing down Jones River,
We listened to the Bullfrog’s tune
And watched the moonbeams quiver?
I oft since then have watched the moon
But never, love, ah never, never,
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
While sailing down Jones River.
Can I forget that night in June
And the moonlight on Jones River

Our boat went drifting toward the Bay,
By the wharves along the river,
Those old, old wharves where the good ships lay,
In the days now gone forever.
The busy hum of toil is o’er;
On the ways no ships were standing, standing
Holmes, Cushman, Bartlett, Drew, were gone;
All silent lay The Landing.
Can I forget that night in June
When sailing down Jones River?
Can I forget that Bullfrog’s tune
And the moonlight on Jones River?

Catherine Drew Russell

It was customary in earlier days for boating parties in the river or out into the Bay, to drift and sing. Moonlight parties were especially popular. Popular tunes of the day were often sung with original words, like the above, following the general idea of the song but adapted to the mood of the party. Miss Russell was very apt at impromptu rhyming and this is one of the songs composed at the time and recalled in later years. We used the song with its original music at the meeting of the Jones River Village Club, when Miss Russell gave her Musical Reminiscences of Kingston, with different members assisting in the vocal and instrumental examples. E.F.D. [Emily Fuller Drew]

Sources: IC-11 Delano Photograph Collection; PC-36 Poetry

“I care not a whit for the laugh or the sneer…”

April is National Poetry Month, so here is a poem by Kingston’s own romantic versifier, Benjamin “Cousin Benja” Mitchell.  Born in 1828, Benja lived with his parents and sister in picturesque Thatchwood Cottage on what is now Brookdale Street near the Duxbury line.  He spent much of his life roaming the woods and fields, communing with Nature and God, then returning home to inscribe his bursting spirit on the page. He wrote poems, short essays and obituaries in verse,  many of which were published in literary journals.

After suffering from consumption for several years, Cousin Benja died on April 23, 1865.  His beloved sister Julia gathered his papers and had his works published in 1866.

Verily your friend, Benja R. Mitchell, Kingston, 1864
"Verily your friend, Benja R. Mitchell, Kingston, 1864"

Natural and Happy

I am Nature’s own child — I am wild and romantic,
I love the green fields and the shady old wood ;
And the songs of the streamlets — oh, they drive me most frantic,
As they dance o’er the pebbles in frolicsome mood !

There’s the old rustic bridge that was built by our fathers,
And the wall by the cow-path, so mossy and old,
Is more dear to my heart than a bag full of dollars ;
Than the rustling of silks, or the shining of gold ;

And oft when my hopes in the future do falter,
And visions of darkness have shrouded the mind ;
With a mossy old stump in the woods for an altar,
Have I prayed that my heart be kept gentle and kind.

Let those who delight heaps of gold to be piling,
Pile on, if they choose, till it reaches the blue ;
But be sure that when death sends his arrows a flying,
That a balance of credit has been given to you !

I know it is thought when the beard has grown stronger,
And a row of dark whiskers has mantled the face,
That we should be childlike and gentle no longer,
And to “become like a child” is almost a disgrace !

Just let a man live in accordance with Nature,
Appear as God made him, and use common sense,
He would soon take a trip out to Taunton or Worcester,
Where his board would be paid as a public expense !

I know that my friends are oft shocked at my capers,
And wish I would learn to behave like a man ;
Wear fashionable airs in preference to Nature’s —
And I’d like much to please them, but ’tis more than I can.

They may laugh at my notions, and say that I’m odd,
But I care not a whit for the laugh or the sneer ;
If I’m true to my nature, and true to my God,
‘Twill be well with me always, with nothing to fear.