Mary’s Sampler

Mary’s Sampler is a poem written by Eleanor W.F. Bates, taken from the book Genealogical History of the French and Allied Families. The titular Mary is Mary Estabrook who is one of the roots of my family tree. My great-grandmother’s great-grandmother was Sarah Estabrook. I can’t vouch for her sampler-making skills.

The silks are dim and faded that once were bright and gay
The blue has turned to creamy white, the pink has changed to gray;
Long time the web has hid within the attic’s farthest nook,
Wrought more than ninety years ago by Mary Estabrook.
Upon the old stone door-step, when summer days were long,
She sat and marked her letters, peradventure sometimes wrong,
And if she took some stiches out to put them in again, –
Dear little Mary, did you long to drop your needle then?
Or if the days were sultry, she took her pretty work,
And sat beneath the butternuts where cooling shadows lurk;
Twin trees were they, of ample girth, and Mary loved them well;
Perchance a tribute leaf or nut upon her sampler fell.
In Mary’s quaint old garden, sweet-williams, pinks and phlox
Grew side by side with balsams, prince’s feather, four-o-clocks;
Tall tiger lilies stood alone, stiff poised on stately stem,
Near where the poppies spread their bloom, each one a glowing gem.
The beauty of the blossoms slipped into Mary’s soul,
And in the centre of her web she stitched a curious scroll,
A twisting vine of varied green, with here and there a rose,
Or else it is a strawberry – perhaps – but no one knows.
Cross stitch and over and over, the sampler grew apace;
Three times she marked the alphabet upon its homespun face,
And when the letters were too few to finish out the line,
She made a row of tiny trees, with foliage thick and fine.
If any little maidens now live in that fair town,
One wonders if they ever take a square of linen brown,
And patiently work day by day, design upon design,
As once did “Mary Estabrook, of Sudbury, aged nine!” 

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