Although she wrote about a wide range of topics from the Civil War to fantasies of foreign castles, Celia Thaxter is best known for her work about the sea. Her many poems and two books of prose about the Isles of Shoals are still in print today. These two poems, continuously read, studied and anthologized, remain her best known works today.
"Land-locked" was Celia's first published work. She wrote it "among the pots and kettles" while still a young wife raising three children in a home owned by the family of her husband Levi Thaxter. Having spent most of her childhood on the isolated Isles of Shoals, Celia found the transition to rural mainland life difficult. This poem speaks eloquently of her homesickness for the Isles while living in Newtonville, Massachusetts.
Submitted without her knowledge, the poem appeared in the March 1860 "Atlantic Monthly" run by a friend of Celia's husband Levi. It was the kick-off to a lengthy career that would turn Mrs. Thaxter into one of the country's most popular female poets in the 19th century.
According to scholar Jane Vallier, "Land-locked" represents Celia's first phase of writing, a world centered around her husband and his Cambridge society. "Sandpiper" appears at the beginning of Celia's second phase which is more female-centered. It appeared in her 1872 collection simply entitled "Poems." The poem can be read for depth and meaning, or taken simply as verses for children. The book was published with $500 by her husband Levi who sold enough copies to require a second printing soon after. John Greenleaf Whittier, then one of the nation's most popular poets, praised her new small volume of work, most of it reprinted from ten years of submissions to literary magazines. -- JDR
Sources: "Poet On Demand" by Jane Vallier, Peter E. Randall Publisher and "Sandpiper" by Rosamond Thaxter, Peter E. Randall, Publisher. Pictures courtesy of the publisher from the recent reissue of "Sandpiper".
See Celia's Newtonville, MA house
Black lie the hills; swiftly doth daylight flee;
O happy river, could I follow thee!
Have patience; here are flowers and songs of birds,
Neither am I ungrateful; but I dream
To feel the wind, sea-scented, on my cheek,
O Earth! Thy summer song of joy may soar
Across the narrow beach we flit,
Above our heads the sullen clouds
I watch him as he skims along,
Comrade, where wilt thou be tonight,
All new content
[ Poems | New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Sponsors | History Themes ]