Thursday, 20 December 2018

Margaret Widdemer (1884 - 1978) - American writer and poer

Margaret Widdemer was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA on 30th September 1884. She was raised and educated in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where her father, Howard T. Widdemer, was a Minister of the First Congregational Church. Margaret graduated from the Drexel Institute Library School in 1909. She first came to public attention with her poem “The Factories” abour child labour.

In 1919, Margaret married Robert Haven Schauffler.  She also won the Pulitzer Prize (known then as the Columbia University Prize) in 1919 for her collection “The Old Road to Paradise”. The Award was shared with writer, poet, editor, singer/songwriter Carl Sandburg for his poetry collection “Cornhuskers”.

Margaret's memoir “Golden Years I Had” recounts her friendships with writers Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Margaret Widdemer died on 14th July 1978, leaving a legacy of novels, poems and children’s fiction.

“The Old Road to Paradise”

Ours is a dark Easter-tide,
  And a scarlet Spring,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
  All the saints sing,
Glad for the great companies
  Returning to their King.

Oh, in youth the dawn's a rose,
  Dusk's an amethyst,
All the roads from dusk to dawn
  Gay they wind and twist;
The old road to Paradise
  Easy it is missed!

But out on the wet battlefields,
  Few the roadways wind,
One to grief, one to death
  No road that's kind–
The old road to Paradise
  Plain it is to find!

(Martin in his Colonel's cloak,
  Joan in her mail,
David with his crown and sword–
  None there be that fail–
Down the road to Paradise
  Stand to greet and hail!)

Where the dark's a terror-thing,
  Morn a hope doubt-tossed.
Where the lads lie thinking long
  Out in rain and frost,
There they find their God again,
  Long ago they lost:

Where the night comes cruelly,
  Where the hurt men moan,
Where the crushed forgotten ones
  Whisper prayers alone,
Christ along the battlefields
  Comes to lead His own:

Souls that would have withered soon
  In the hot world's glare,
Blown and gone like shriveled things,
  Dusty on the air,
Rank on rank they follow Him,
  Young and strong and fair!

Ours is a sad Easter-tide,
  And a woeful day,
But high up at Heaven-Gate
  The saints are all gay,
For the old road to Paradise,
  That's a crowded way!

Original Source: Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

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