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-Louisa Fletcher

(1878-1957)

Biography:
Laurel Louisa Fletcher
Laurel Louisa Fletcher was born 12 December 1878 in Indiana to Stoughton J Fletcher and Lizzie Laurel Locke. Evidently, life in her wealthy family was tumultuous, unconventional and marred by several suicides. Her own mother died when Louisa was only six. The family was considered eccentric at best and scandalous by some due to their deviance from the strict norms of the day.

Louisa, as she was known, would be no exception. She would marry and divorce three times in an age when divorced was frowned upon at the very least. One report states that she was the first in her circle of friends to "bob" her hair, or cut it short, which was also cause for tut-tutting in her day. 

Nick-named "The Abbess" by her family, Louisa was bitten by the theater bug at a young age. It was during the course of a production in Indianapolis that she met her first husband, Newton Booth Tarkington who would twice win the Pulitzer prize for novelists and produce a number of popular novels and plays. They married on 18 June 1902 in Marion, Indiana.

Louisa was an accomplished woman in her own right, having graduated from Smith college in 1900. She apparently collaborated with her husband in adapting some of his novels for the stage. The couple had a daughter, Laurel Louisa, in 1906. But Tark, as he was known by friends, was a hopeless alcoholic, and the couple divorced in 1911.

By 1915 Louisa was in love again, and married her second husband, Willard Connely, a professor of English at Brown University, in Washington D.C. on 15 May of that year. It was during this marriage that many of the poems found in Louisa's book were composed, and several were published in a variety of periodicals including Harper's Monthly and Cosmopolitan. 

The Connelys had a daughter, Nancy, in 1922, just a year after her self-publication of  The Land Of Beginning Again, a collection of Louisa's poetry. Her poem of the same name was considered one of her finest, and it muses about the enticing possibility of being able to go to a place where one could begin again, the consequences of past mistakes undone and forgotten.

Sadly, Louisa's elder daughter died at the age of about 16 in 1923. Louisa again divorced and found herself the single parent of her three year old daughter Nancy in 1925. In 1931 she married, if only briefly, once more to Dr. Peter Knoefel. That marriage ended in 1932. 

Louisa was to become grandmother to Nancy's family of five in her later years, which surely must have been a comfort to her after the trials and sorrows of her earlier life. She died 7 February 1957 at the age of 78. There is a very well done page with more information on Louisa and her fascinating family by a relative which can be seen here.

This portrait of Louisa was done by famed artist by Mary Shepard Greene Blumenschein in 1912, shortly after her divorce from Newton Booth Tarkington.






The Land of Beginning Again  1921
by Louisa Fletcher

 The Land of Beginning Again


I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped, like a shabby old coat, at the door,
And never put on again.


I wish we could come on it all unaware,
Like the hunter who finds a lost trail;
And I wish that the one whom our blindness had done
The greatest injustice of all
Could be at the gates, like and old friend that waits
For the comrade he's gladdest to  hail


We would find all the things we intended to do
But forgot, and remembered -- too late,
Like praises unspoken, little promises broken,
And all of the thousands and one
Little duties neglected that might have perfected
The day for one less fortunate.


It wouldn't be possible not to be kind
In the Land of Beginning Again;
And the ones we misjudged and the ones whom we grudged
Their moments of victory here
Would feel in the grasp of our loving handclasp
More than penitent lips could explain.


For what had been hardest we'd know had been best,
And what had seemed loss would be gain;
For there isn't a sting that will not take wing
When we've faced it and laughed it away;
And I think that the laughter, is most what we're after
In the Land of Beginning Again!


So I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor, selfish grief
Could be dropped, like a shabby old coat, at the door,
And never put on again.




Compensation

 
You are not gone. I find you everywhere;
In every fragrance trembling on the air,
In every color that you loved to wear,
I find you there.

Each melody you sang, each tale you knew,
The paths we traced together, and the blue
Reflected in the willowed pool, renew
the thought of you.

I must not grieve. I must be sure the clear
White dawn is but a sign of you, nor fear
Lest sometime, in a sweet, uncounted year,
I'll find you, dear.


Cedars at Monterey


When windows give upon a lawn -- as these--
Stupendous with majestic, shadowy trees,
I cannot help but feel that -- gazing out
Upon such splendor tapestried about--
Even the paltriest mind, housed briefly here,
Must find all worldly longings disappear,
And yield itself, abased, at beauty's shrine;
Some hidden fount of strange, exotic wine
Must flood its long-dried channels of delight
And probe a nameless rapture at the sight
Of mighty cedars, dreaming in the wind.
What songs awake, what legends prick the mind,
Of Puck and Pan and dryad-haunted trees,
When windows give upon a lawn, as these!


Deirdre


She is a creature of a fair
Unclouded sky, a vessel rare
Wherein the elemental fire and snow
By cunning alchemy are blent. This one
is Deirdre -- all a woman, all a child,
All to be loved. Yet she is wild
As wood nymphs are, shy without fear,
With eyes of wonder, and elusive foot,
A lip where laughter nestles, and a breast
heaving to faintest music. She is blest
beyond her kind, for in her slender hands
She bears the gift of sweet encouragement
And they who once the wearier way have trod
Find in her their desire, the smile of God.


Importunate


I am eager for winter to come
And fold its white arms 'round this home,
This tangled and flower-spent lawn.
I am eager for winter to come.

I am longing for winter to sing
In the thin-pencilled treetops, and bring
Sudden gusts down the chimney's wide throat.
I am longing for winter to sing.

I am homesick for lamplight and dreams,
For the firelog that flickers and gleams--
Pranking shadows that play on the wall.
I am homesick for lamplight and dreams.

 
 Potentialities
Thoughts for my poems are like hidden nests;
A leaf turned back, a leaf snap't, there they lie!
That they are secret is the joy that rests
And comforts me: that I may keep them hidden,
Knowing that I may return when woods be still,
And coax the nestlings into life at will.

That they are mine to warm, and urge, and train
To spread their wings and utter notes of joy,
Mine to behold as bit by bit they gain
A plumage worthy of their empery,
This single rapture to my life belongs--
An endless brooding o'er my fledgling songs.


 Song


The hour is late and we have drifted far--
Far into the enchantment of the night;
The starlit maze of bloom upon the shore
Melts into one white line, and soon the wave
That bears us on shall hide that too from sight.

The hour is late, and see, a flock of dreams
Follow, all drowsy-winged, the wave where dips
Our shallop's prow. Ah, Sweet, sing on, for then
The bandit dreams will flee the beckoning dawn,
Nor hush my joy, the song upon thy lips.


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