A Southern Lady's Poem

These days, it's popular to say Southerners, and Southern ladies in particular, were backward and uneducated. History proves otherwise.

Southern ladies ran the businesses, churches and farms in the absence of their men who were fighting a war. Southern ladies homeschooled many of their sons and daughters in their early years, and sometimes all the way through high school. And Southern ladies turned out some amazing literature.

Today I thought it would be inspiring to look at a Southern lady who wrote a once-famous poem called "The Blue Cockade."

The Literary School Girl
Mary Walsingham Crean was born in Charleston, South Carolina. She was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mary was blessed with early success as a writer, something that doesn't always happen to young authors. One source states, "Her career as a writer commenced as a school-girl, and opened with a series of lively, dashing, and piquant articles, prose and verse, communicated to the "Sunday Delta" when under the control of the gifted Joseph Brenan. Much interest prevailed for a time over the gay and graceful incognita, and the gifted authoress continued for several years a frequent contributor to the same paper, winning a local popularity seldom attained at the first steps of a literary career."

The Civil War interrupted her regular writing career, so she switched to more martial themes and kept on writing. Her sense of humor and patriotism blended to create some uplifting poetry.

One poem laments teasingly about the absence of gentlemen escorts for the ladies:

On Sunday, when we go to church,
We look in vain for some
To meet us, smiling, on the porch
And ask to see us home.
And then, we can't enjoy a walk
Since all the beaux have gone,
For what's the good, (to use plain talk,)
If we must trudge alone?

"The Letter" by Haynes King
The Attractive Authoress
Mary took up her regular writing career again after the war. Apparently, her family came upon hard times and her pen was needed to bring in more income. What began as a fun hobby turned into a much-needed job.

Of both English and Irish descent, Mary combined a well-rounded literary background with a sense of humor. Her poems and sketches throughout her life were informative, entertaining and heart-warming. Mary's critique of Oscar Wilde's lecture tour of America in 1881 is still in many libraries today. A number of sources mention that she was working on a novel about life in old New Orleans - I haven't been able to find out if she ever completed it. Mary's work earned her a place in "The Living Female Writers of the South" (a fascinating book!), published in 1872.

I've not yet discovered any photos of Mary, but this is a description I found. "In person, Mary Walsingham is tall and slender, with a form of graceful symmetry, of fair complexion, blue or gray eyes, and brown hair. Her manners are peculiarly attractive, and strongly represent the mingled brilliancy and softness, wit, passion, gayety, tenderness, and general versatility which mark her writings."

Here's the poem that led me to discover this wonderful Southern lady.


The Blue Cockade

God be with the laddie, who wears the blue cockade!
He's gone to fight the battles of our darling Southern land;
He was true to old Columbia, till more sacred ties forbade -
Till 'twere treason to obey her, when he took his sword in hand;
And God be with the laddie, who was true in heart and hand,
To the voice of old Columbia, till she wronged his native land!

He buckled on his knapsack - his musket on his breast -
And donned the plumed bonnet - sword and pistol by his side;
Then his weeping mother kissed him, and his aged father bless'd,
And he pinned the floating ribbon to his gallant plume of pride.
And God be with the ribbon, and the floating plume of pride!
They have gone where duty called them, and may glory them betide!

He would not soil his honor, and he would not strike a blow,
For he loved the aged Union, and he breath'd no taunting word;
He would dare Columbia, till she swore herself his foe -
Forged the chains for freemen - when he buckled on his sword.
And God be with the freeman, when he buckled on his sword!
He lives or dies for duty, and he yields no inch of sward.

The foes they come with thunder, and with blood and fire arrayed,
And they swear that we shall own them - they the masters, we the slaves;
But there's many a gallant laddie, who wears a blue cockade,
Will show them what it is to dare the blood of Southern braves!
And God be with the banner of those gallant Southern braves!
They may nobly die as freemen - they can never live as slaves!





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