-Emily Sargent Lewis

1866 - 1931


New York City 1860's

Emily Sargent Lewis was named Emily Shaw Sargent when she was born to George Henry Sargent and Sarah Swift Shaw on 26 February 1866 in New York City, New York. I have not found much about her childhood, but she did grow up in NYC, the 1880 census listing her, at the age of 14, as residing at number 18 West 49th Street with her family.

In about 1887 she married Wilfred Lewis (b 1865) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thereafter, she appears to have spent most of her adult live in the Philly area. Emily and Wilfred had five children: Rupert, Millicent, Winifred, Wilfred and Leicester between 1888 and 1905.

Despite her large family, Emily was a socially active woman, fighting for women's suffrage during the early years of the 20th century. In 1912, two years after publishing her book of poetry, Emily wrote a play for the cause called "Election Day: A Suffrage Play" which gained significant acclaim at the time. Her book of poetry, The Little Singer and Other Verses, was published in 1910 when Emily was 44 years old.

During the 1920's, Emily apparently traveled quite a lot, as there are ship manifest records of her returning to New York from places such as Bremen, Germany, Kobe, Japan, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Northampton, England.

I am convinced that Emily was related to famous painter John Singer Sargent (b 1856). I think she must have been a cousin of his. I have not yet found the connection, but the title of her book and a poem she wrote entitled The Song of the Little Singer are clues that she is indeed related to this famous New England family. I will continue to attempt to connect the dots and update when I have more information.

** note: I have subsequently heard from a descendant cousin of Emily's. She informs me that Emily is not, in fact, related to John Singer Sargent, as far as she knows. Rats!

It must have been a sweet victory for Emily when women finally voted for the first time in 1920. She died in 1931, aged 65.

The Little Singer and Other Verses


by Emily Sargent Lewis

The Poet's Lot


When at dawn the Poet's garden found him

Wandering within its scented mazes,

Lovely words were whispering around him,

Singing syllables and pleasant phrases,

Begging him to give them life in sonnets.

While at noon he walked the crowded city

To his busy brain what thoughts came thronging!

Thoughts of love and sorrow, pain and pity,

Triumph, rage, revenge, defiance, longing--

Clamorous, imploring for expression.

But at eve, his candle shining brightly,

Paper outspread, eager as a lover,

Then he found the words had fled all lightly,

While the wondrous thoughts were misted over--

And the Poet dubbed his muse a wanton.

Why should you be so unkind?

Why not gentle as you ought?

Is it easy love to find?

Well I loved you, I remind,

Love's too precious to be bought;--

Why should you be so unkind?

Fast our lives were intertwined,

Sweet our interchange of thought:--

Is it easy love to find?

Fair are you, and I opined

Grace with courtesy was fraught:--

Is it easy love to find?

Long I loved you, then divined

Flattery, not love, you sought:--

Is it easy love to find?

Death will come like winter wind

Setting all our loves at naught,

Why should you be so unkind?

Is it easy love to find?

The Call

The Clock

We are the sons of the Island-born

Whose lips craved the kiss of brine,

Of strong brown men who paced their decks,

And wan white women who wept their wrecks

Through centuries' long line,

We were bred where towers of stone and brick

Blot out the piloting star;

Where never a sea-gull flaps her wing,

Where the stifled winds no healing bring,

For the cleansing sea is far.

What can we wrest from the misty past?

What heritage, say, have we?

A thrill at glimpse of a sunlit sail,

And surge of blood to our cheeks, land-pale,

At sight of the open sea.

Stunned with the clatter of town and mart,

Hemmed in by visionless wall,

Like sea-birds nesting perforce in trees

Swept inland far from their native seas,

We hear in our hearts the Call.

"Set sail and scud o'er my waters blue,

Asleep on my bosom lie;

Ride like a king on my crested waves,

Or find in my depths you clean salt graves;

Be mine for ever, and aye."

For we are sons of the Island-born

Whose lips craved the kiss of brine,

Of strong brown men who paced their decks,

And wan white women who wept their wrecks

Through centuries' long line.

The clock you gave me long ago

Stands in its wonted place;

Nor ever fast, nor ever slow,

Its pendulum swings to and fro

Beneath its painted face.

The fragile, gilded, crystal thing

Unscathed and sure abides;

Its meshing wheels, its slender spring,

The chimes its sleepless hammers ring

Are faithful as the tides.

But you, the passing years reveal

Less constant than your gift;

Not steadfast like its works of steel,

To you no loyalties appeal,--

O, vagrant as the drift!

Through Half-Shut Eyes

The Song of the Little Singer

Cramped by the limits of a garret-den,

What must he do who loves the peaks and sea

To keep his spirit somewhat sand and free,

Nor pace in torment, tiger-wise, his pen?

Let him call faithful Fancy to his aid--

She waits to serve the Soul, and not in vain--

Then cool his brow against the narrow pain,

An lo! the grimness and the squalor fade.

Through half-shut eyes yon steep roof in the glare

May be a Matterhorn's enticing height,

While some poor neighbor's flapping line of white

Turns into spray, tossing itself in the air.

This still our refuge from the things that be,

The half-shut eyes and spirit fancy-free.

Ho, you who on your mountain-heights

Have sung the songs that must remain;

Sharing your torments and your delights

I hail you, brothers, from the plain.

My pipe is but a slender reed,

My numbers halt, my fingers grope,

But like your own, my spirit's need

To voice its passion and its hope.

Lowly, I tend the Muse's shrine

Till the best miracle be wrought,--

The rapture of the lyric line,

The capture of the cadenced thought.

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