Poem Mash Up

The zinc marker in the City Cemetery in Warsaw, Missouri, manufactured by the White Monument Company in the same city, has a trap door, unique to the design, that reveals an obituary for two—Martha Elmy Shrum and her daughter, Jennie Myrtle Shrum.  The obituary gives the life and death details for both—Martha was 33 years old, while her daughter was just shy of 4 years old.  While many epitaphs found on gravestones were chosen from a book and are fairly common, their epitaph is a combination of poems by two different poets—a mash up, if you will.

Martha Elmy Schrum

Daughter of Rev. W. K. and Mrs. Charlotte White.  She was born in New Market, Montgomery county, Indiana Aug. 13, 1865, and came with her parents to Benton county, Mo., in 1875.  In early life she joined the M. E. church, South.  She was married to Wm. J. Schrum, July 23, 1884.  She died at Warsaw, Mo., Sept. 5, 1898, after two years of suffering, which she endured with Christian resignation.  Her husband and two children—Ethel Maria and Frances J.—survive her.

Jennie Myrtle,

Daughter of Wm. J. Schrum and Martha Elmy Schrum was born July 2, 1885 and after nine weeks of suffering died May 16, 1889.

“There is a reaper whose name is Death,

And with his sickly keen

He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,

And the flowers that grow in between.”

  .           .         .        .         .

Death waits not for the lapse of time,

Nor spares the young in years:

He cometh in the glad spring time,

When hopes begin with fears;

‘Tis sad to lay so fair a thing,

Beneath the damp, cold, ground;

While all the fairest flowers of spring

Are blossoming all around.”

              Yes, it is sad, but we mourn not as those that have no hope, but look to the resurrection morn, when all the children and those that “die in the Lord” shall stand glorified with God.  Pray and trust on, loved ones, for “there remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God.”

              Hope may vanish away in this life; but there shineth a star that shall never grow dim; the one that stood in Bethlehem.

              Look up, ye saints, and ever wait, till God doth say, “it is enough.”

The first quatrain is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poignant poem, “The Reaper and the Flowers” first published in 1839.  It is significant, in this case, because the poem was written after Longfellow’s wife died having had a miscarriage.  Here, as with Longfellow, William Shrum lost his wife, and his daughter, Jennie, as well.

The second next eight lines, are from a second poem, this one written by Rose Ringgold, which appeared on pages 261-262 of the Southern Lady’s Companion which was a monthly periodical devoted to literature and religion and published in the late 1840s.  The book was printed in Nashville for the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Martha Shrum, as the obituary states, was a member of the ME Church and her father was a minister in that church, as well.  It is likely that the book was part of their personal library and the poem “Addressed to Mrs. – of Vicksburg, Miss.” was most likely known to the family.

Lines from the poem are in those eight lines, with two lines changed:

Death waits not for the lapse of time,

Nor spares the young in years:

He cometh in the glad spring time,

When hopes begin with fears;

‘Tis sad to lay so fair a thing,

Beneath the damp, cold, ground;

While all the fairest flowers of spring

Are blossoming all around.”

In the original poem the second couplet reads:

He cometh in the glad spring mourn,

When hopes begin to bloom

And ends with:

And when the tufted moss has grown

Above each loved one’s tomb!

Perhaps that was just too grim and sad for them to quote the poem in its original verse.  Below is the poem in its entirety.

I KNOW thee not—may never hear

Thy sweet-toned voice of love;

May never clasp they gentle hand,

Till friend meets friend above,

And yet if in the world of ours

The spirit wanders free,

May I not seek thy home of flowers,

And sigh or weep with thee?

Thine is an early grief—too soon

Thine eyes are dimm’d with tears;

Ah! Death waits not the lapse of time,

Nor spares the young in years!

He cometh in the glad spring morn,

When hopes begin to bloom—

And when the tufted moss has grown

Above each loved one’s tomb!

I know not the delicious thrill

Of thy maternal breast,

When first to thy young, trusting heart

The infant boy was prest—

The delicate young blossom

Of thy warm and tender love—

With thy white arms folded o’er him,

Like the white wings of a dove!

Yet I have wept as thou dost weep—

Have sigh’d as thou dost sigh—

For a gentle one, that fell asleep,

To waken in the sky.

We could not call it death, so sweet

The lips unshadowed close!

She looked a sleeping cherub,

In her beautiful repose!

‘Twas sad to lay so fair a thing

Beneath the damp, cold ground,

While the fairest buds of early spring

Were blossoming around!

We raised no marble o’er her mould—

No sculptured columns rare—

But soon the simple violets told

How young she was and fair!

Three summers, and three autumns,

And three winters have passed by—

And three gay springs have blossomed

Since we saw this loved one die!

She lies in the lone church-yard,

Yet her grave is ever green,

And flowered by angel footprints,

Though the angels are unseen.

God stay thee, stricken mother,

In thy agony and tears—

And bend the bow of promise

Where the shadow now appears!

Oh! Turn thy gaze, mourner,

Where the stars are hung on high,

Thy cherub boy smiles on thee,

From the portals of the sky!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Poem Mash Up

  1. gsb03632 says:

    Thanks for this: it’s wonderful from start to finish. Here and there I had trouble working through the poems because I think there might be some typos. It’s interesting that the second poem almost always has a strong beat on the second syllable.

Leave a Reply to gsb03632 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s