-Mildred Whitney Stillman

1891 - 1956

Biography:

Mildred Margaret Whitney, daughter of Calvin Eastman Whitney and Fannie Baruch, was born in San Francisco, California in 1891. Apparently she spent her childhood in the city by the bay, as she appears in the 1910 census as living in San Francisco at the age of 19 with her mother and step-father, William Reding, and several siblings. It is not known whether her childhood was remarkable in any way, but her adult life surely would be.

Mildred, who had completed high school, was married a year after this census report in June of 1911, when she was about 20 years old, to Ernest Goodrich Stillman. He was the son of wealthy investor, James Jewett Stillman, who had made his fortune via the railroad and banking industries.

Ernest was a multi-talented man, who had a lifelong fascination with firefighting (he even invented a specialized flash light for firefighters) and many varied interests and talents which he pursued and excelled at. He had graduated from Harvard University, then obtained his M.D. from Columbia and was involved in research in the field of pulmonology.

The 1920 census finds Mildred and Ernest living in New York City with three children. By 1930 their Manhattan home had burgeoned to include a total of six children; Jane, Calvin, John, Timothy, Dora and Penelope. Doubtless Mildred was very busy raising her brood, but she evidently found time for writing as she published her first book of poetry, Wood Notes, in 1922 followed by Unknowing in 1925 and Queens and Crickets in 1928. These three volumes are in my collection, but Mildred added to her list of literary accomplishments throughout the 1930's, including several stories and books for children.

Photo from newspaper- Mildred as bride

The Stillmans had a summer home in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York on the banks of the river, which at the time was a popular spot for the rich and famous to spend the summer season. Ernest Stillman founded a hospital here which is still in operation. When at their Manhattan home, he served as medical officer for the Fire Dept of NYC for many years. He was an avid movie maker and brought his movie camera to film many fires during the 1920's and 30's. The Stillmans were involved in many charitable projects and programs throughout their lives as well.

Mildred's poetry was widely published at the time, appearing in a number of magazines and journals, which she credits in her books. By 1940, the Stillmans had retired to Cornwall to enjoy their golden years and their many grandchildren. Mildred died on 11 August 1956 in this beloved location.

Cornwall-on-Hudson

Woodnotes

(1922)

by Mildred Whitney Stillman

Unknowing and Other Poems

(1925)

by Mildred Whitney Stillman

Queens and Crickets

(1928)

by Mildred Whitney Stillman

Pansies

May

Pansies, pensées, little thoughts in flower,

Tender fancies sprung to life

In the twilight hour.

Hopes— too subtle for confession,

Dreams— too sweet to find expression—

Far too shy, for human ear,

Touched the ground, and blossomed there.

(Woodnotes)


Frost

Along the northern garden bed

My zinnias are dead, are dead;

And by the southern bordered walk

Red roses blacken on the stalk.

But the rowdy white chrysanthemums,

The devil-may-care chrysanthemums,

Fling out their petals bright and bold

And laugh back and the bitter cold.

(Unknowing)

I know that up in Cornwall now

The buds are on the apple bough,

And every valley farm is bright

With blooming pear tree's bridal white,

And golden throated warblers trill

Across the green and purple hill.

I know that by the upper brook,

Long stemmed blue violets rise and look

And in the fresh turned garden beds

Young peas and lettuce lift their heads

And all day long the horses plough

In Cornwall now.

But primrose pale and lilac spray

Are fair ambassadors of May,

And here where jangling carbells ring,

My room is radiant with spring.

For nestled in soft wrappings near

Blooms the best blossom of the year.

I am quite sure no rose-bud glows

As pink as Timmy's tiny toes.

I am quite sure no morning skies

Are bluer than my Timmy's eyes,

And no May violet rising slim

Could be so sweet as little Tim.

(Unknowing)

Five O'Clock

Not Lavender

Here where we came so many times before,

We come again for one last cup of tea.

I push the toast to you, and while I pour

The cream in your green cup I only see

The empty tossing miles that you will cross.

O, it is only human to regret

Love is once more ambassador of loss.

I count the hours that I shall not forget,

The pleasant hours or your companionship,

Knowing quite well that though the full years fly

It is not only for your wedding trip,

It is forever we must say good-bye.

Your bread and butter note will come again

Then nothing more. Well, do not miss your train.

(Queens and Crickets)

You have not told me anything to-day

I did not know before. Though dignity

And thought are there, and utter honesty,

Your face holds less of marble than of clay.

Before we ever talked at all I saw

Voluptuousness in your sweet eyes and mouth,

The yielding of the drowsy-lidded South,

I knew that love would be your only law.

You always seemed to me to blossoms bees

Care most for — lilacs in full bloom

Or honey suckle taking all the room

Along the wall — or florid peonies.

To-day you only told me what I knew

I never asked for lavender of you.

(Queens and Crickets)

Cuddle Down

Boylston Street

Little white bird, with the soft flannel vest,

Cuddle down, cuddle down, into your nest,

Hands never idle, the merry day through,

Faithful rag dolly is waiting for you,

Press your hot cheek on her cool gingham breats,

Cuddle down, cuddle down, into your nest.

Soft in the nursery and loud in the hall,

Little shoes trotted from window to wall,

Now the limp stockinged feet, plead for their rest,

Cuddle down, cuddle down, in your warm nest.

Eyes wide with wonder, from morning till night,

Draw the fringed curtains now, in the dim light,

Smooth out protesting lips, mother knows best,

Cuddle down, cuddle down, into your nest.

(Woodnotes)

The Old South spire is purple

On a heaven of flaming gold,

For the sun has sunk in the Fenway mist

And the river wind blows cold.

The paths of the common grow crowded,

With shoppers hurrying home;

And the shadow crawls

Up the old brick walls

Till it reaches the State House Dome.

(Woodnotes)

Night Watch

Evangeline

Sleep, sleep, wayward sleep.

Will you come to me if I count your sheep?

One and two — one an two.

Throw open the gate and let them through.

Let them linger or let them leap,

What do I want with sleep?

Sleep, sleep, fickle sleep.

The house is hushed. The shadows heap

On bureau and chair. Both doors stand dark.

The fire has faded to one red spark.

Its ashes seep.

Sleep, sleep, wanton sleep.

The gutters drip and the hemlocks weep.

There is no wind in the naked trees

But a grape-vine taps in the stealthy breeze

And drifts are deep.

Sleep, sleep, vanished sleep.

The moon has set where the hills rise steep.

And if I look out there is nothing to see.

There is no one awake in the world but me.

But me and the owls and mice that creep,

Who have all day to sleep.

(Queens and Crickets)

Gray dew upon the cob-webbed lawn,

That gently dips to the garden close,

Gray sheen alone the lupine stalks,

And silver on the grassy walks,

Between the sweet pea rows.

Gray haze across the heavens drawn,

With white light shining through.

Gray fog between dull sea and sky,

Where anchored sail boats sleeping lie,

Waiting for breezes blue.

Gray-robed, like the pearl morning mist

You — mid the garden flowers

Like some soft fog breath strayed away,

When all her sisters sought the bay,

In the damp early hours.

So shimmering the lifting haze

That softens and endears.

More gentle than the misty skies,

The tender brightness in your eyes,

The love — the tears.

(Unknowing)

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