Helen Hunt Jackson was not a poet I knew until fairly recently. here is what I wrote about her a little while ago:
Helen Fiske is a poet and novelist of whom I know next to nothing; I had not even come across her name before today… however, I found this poem about autumn, about November, and although we have another sunny autumn day today, I’m sure we’ll have more typical weather before too long.
Helen Fiske was born in 1835 in Massachusetts, the daughter of the amazingly named Nat Welby Fiske and Deborielle Waterman Vinal. I can’t help but reflect that I am often criticised for the unusual names of characters in my books, but in real life real people have much more extraordinary names.
Helen’s life seems marked by tragedy, her two little brothers died at birth, her mother died when she was only fifteen, and her father died when she was eighteen. She married a Mr Hunt when she was twenty-two and had two sons, one died as an infant in 1854, when Helen was only twenty-four, her husband died in 1863, and her other son died as a teenage boy in 1865. Helen married again, in 1875, a Mr Jackson and she took his name, and was quite irritated when her first married name remained attached to her and she was widely known as Helen Hunt Jackson.
She became involved in trying to draw attention to the dreadful plight of the native American peoples, many of whom had been moved hundreds of miles from the own homelands to ‘reservations’ and ‘territories’. She is most well-known for her non-fiction book called ‘A Century of Dishonour’ and her novel ‘Ramona’.
From ‘A Calendar Of Sonnets’ here is January
O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire
The streams than under ice. June could not hire
Her roses to forego the strength they learn
In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn
The bridges thou dost lay where men desire
In vain to build.
O Heart, when Love’s sun goes
To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,
Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,
The winter is the winter’s own release.