From the Papers: Mary Baker Eddy’s poetry
Since April is National Poetry Month, we’d like to highlight Mary Baker Eddy’s love of poetry—through the lens of the Mary Baker Eddy Papers website. During her life Eddy wrote and shared many poems. Some of her drafts, as well as letters in which she quoted the verses of other poets, are in our collections.
Eddy wrote poems from the time she was a child. As a young woman, she published her poetry in local newspapers. Later many of her poems were printed in The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel. Ultimately many of them were collected in a volume titled Poems. Seven of her poems were also turned into hymns.
Currently we have drafts of ten poems by Eddy on the Papers website. You can find them as a group by going to the “Selection Category” list on the home page, under “Type,” and then choosing “poem.” One of those selections is an early draft of her poem “Woman’s Rights.” Notice the similarities and differences between the early version and the version that was later published in Poems—for example, in the second stanza:
To heal the sick to lift the weak
To feed the poor the orphan seek
To sing the Bethlehem babe to sleep
Last at the cross to wait and weep1
The right to worship deep and pure,
To bless the orphan, feed the poor;
Last at the cross to mourn her Lord,
First at the tomb to hear his word:2
In addition to writing verse, Eddy also often quoted other poets, such as Felicia Hemans (1793–1835), in several of her sermons and lectures—see for example A10590, A10082, and A10367. She also did this in letters. “I found you in Hemans this morning,” she wrote to the young Alice Sibley, offering a stanza from the poem “The Vaudois’ Wife”:
I bless thee for kind words and looks
Showered on my path like dew,
For all the love in those deep eyes,
A gladness ever new!
For the voice that ne’er to mine replied
But in kindly tones of cheer;
For one sweet spring of happiness
My heart has tasted here.3
Sibley had accompanied Eddy to Vermont when she retreated there for a month, following the death of her husband Asa Gilbert Eddy (1826–1882).
Another way that Eddy shared her love of poetry was by gifting books of poems. In September 1877, for example, she gave an illustrated collection of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems to Grace Choate. Along with her mother, Choate lived with Eddy for a time in her home at 8 Broad Street in Lynn, Massachusetts.4 In December 1884 Eddy again gave the gift of poetry, when she presented her student Mary E. Harris with a copy of “The Last Rose of Summer,” by Thomas Moore (1779–1852).5 She added an inscription to the ornately fringed and illustrated volume:
Mary B.G. Eddy
No doubt we will encounter more drafts of Eddy’s poetry as we continue to publish her papers, as well as letters in which she exchanged verses with students and friends. Poetry gave her a lifelong outlet for sharing her feelings and connecting with others. We hope you enjoy doing the same.
- A10004, 6 May 1876.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Poems (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors, 1910) 21.
- https://mbepapers.org/?load=L11211; Mary Baker Eddy to Alice M. Sibley, 13 January 1883, L11211.
- https://mbepapers.org/?load=L19036; Mary Baker Eddy to Grace E. Choate, September 1877, L19036.
- https://mbepapers.org/?load=L19055; Mary Baker Eddy to Mary E. Harris, December 1884, L19055.