Forgotten Poet of the Civil War: Mollie Moore

Tomorrow night is the fifth meeting of our reading group at the Winnsboro Public Library for the program, Battlefield Louisiana: The Louisiana Experience During the Civil War.  The series is generously sponsored by Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Tonight, we discuss Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-1868.  This is a Civil War classic, and truly valuable for understanding life at the homefront in Louisiana. The book is filled with information that will keep the most diligent researching or chasing down words, places, people, and details.

For example, the book mentions Miss Mollie Moore, who was known as “the Texas song bird.” She was a poet of some renown in those days, and she came to visit Tyler, Texas, about the same time that the Stone family were refugees there. I managed to find one of her poems. Here it is:

Of the Time for Mirth.

                “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….A time to weep and a time to laugh.”—Bible. 

We know the time to mourn—we know when tears 
Swell ‘neath the eyelids—and when sighs have birth;
We know the time, amid life’s glooms and fears,
For grief—but oh!  when is the time for mirth? 

We marked the shrinking cheek, the paling brow,  
As they we loved passed to the “viewless bourne.”
We saw the shadows press—the tide ebb low—    
We need no task—we know the time to mourn! 

We see our idols crumble on their shrines, 
We feel our fancies wither like the morn,
We see each star grow clouded where it shines,   
Alas!   We know too well the time to mourn! 

We know the time to mourn—we feel the knell         
That sends its clanging echoes o’er the earth
He bid us weep—we know the time—But tell,      
Oh life—canst tell our hearts the time for mirth. 

Is it when household bands group round the door       
At eventide, to watch the sun go down?
When twilight shadows dusk the shining floor, 
And day, with all its weary cares, is gone? 

Say is it then? alas!  what band is whole?              
What hearthstone hath not felt its secret pain?
What household group can hear the curfew toll,     
And think not sadly on its “broken chain?” 

When is the time for mirth?  is it when gay              
And joyous music fills the banquet hall,
And glancing forms, like airy meteors, stray      
And hope and youth and beauty crown them all? 

Not there!  for not a heart that gathers there,       
But hath a steel-beaked vulture at its core,
That feeds while yet the fair cheek seems so fair,       
While yet the young feet kiss the festal floor? 

When is the time for mirth?  is it when bells            
Awake the breathing millions of the earth
With “Victory,” and loud the pean swells    
Its pride?  Oh life!  is that a time for mirth? 

Ah no!  far, far, upon the rough field lying,            
How many sleep the last, the dreamless sleep!
And you proud banner in the free winds flying         
How red it gleams!  so crimson!  let it sweep— 

And let it sweep—and let the bells peal on, 
And let the glad cry rouse the echoing earth!
But dirges, for the brave, the lost, the gone,              
Will come—and ah!  when is the time for mirth? 

Is it when sunshine lies along the grass,   
And roses in the sunshine gaily bloom?
When fragrant jasmines climb the rail?  alas!       
The shades, the groping shadows—how they come! 

We know the time for grief—we know when tears 
Will swell the eyelids, and when sights have birth,
Too oft it comes, griefs, hour, too oft it nears            
Our hearts, but oh!  when is the time for mirth?                                                                      
                Mollie E. Moore.
Tyler, Smith county, Texas, Dec. 7, 1863. 

I found this poem at: