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About this poet

Eliza Cook was born on December 24, 1818, in London, England. Self-educated as a child, she began writing poems at the age of fifteen and published her first poetry collection, Lays of a Wild Harp: A Collection of Metrical Pieces (John Bennett, 1835), two years later. Cook also published poems in magazines such as Metropolitan Magazine, New Monthly Magazine, and Weekly Dispatch, which published her most popular poem, “The Old Arm-Chair.”

In 1838, Cook published her second collection, Melaia and Other Poems, which was well received in both England and America, where an edition was reissued in 1844, and followed by Poems, Second Series (Simpkin, Marshall, 1845) and New Echoes, and Other Poems (Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1864). Known as a poet of the working class, Cook wrote poems that advocated for political freedom for women and addressed questions of class and social justice. Despite her popularity, she was criticized for the ways in which she bucked gender conventions in both her writing and her life; Cook wore male clothing and had a relationship with American actress Charlotte Cushman, to whom she addressed a number of her poems.

In 1849, Cook started a penny-biweekly called Eliza Cook’s Journal, which contained poems, reviews, and social essays written mostly by her for a female audience. She continued the publication until 1854. Plagued by bad health in the last years of her life, Cook published little; she died on September 23, 1889, in Wimbledon, England.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

New Echoes, and Other Poems (Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1864)
Poems, Second Series (Simpkin, Marshall, 1845)
Melaia and Other Poems (J. and H. G. Langley, 1844)
Lays of a Wild Harp: A Collection of Metrical Pieces (John Bennett, 1835)

 

Christmas Tide

                    
          When the merry spring time weaves
          Its peeping bloom and dewy leaves;
          When the primrose opes its eye,
          And the young moth flutters by;
          When the plaintive turtle dove
          Pours its notes of peace and love;
And the clear sun flings its glory bright and wide—
          Yet, my soul will own
          More joy in winter's frown,
And wake with warmer flush at Christmas tide.

          The summer beams may shine
          On the rich and curling vine,
          And the noon-tide rays light up
          The tulip's dazzling cup:
          But the pearly misletoe
          And the holly-berries' glow
Are not even by the boasted rose outvied;
          For the happy hearts beneath
          The green and coral wreath
Love the garlands that are twined at Christmas tide.

          Let the autumn days produce
          Yellow corn and purple juice,
          And Nature's feast be spread
          In the fruitage ripe and red;
          ’Tis grateful to behold
          Gushing grapes and fields of gold,
When cheeks are brown'd and red lips deeper dyed:
          But give, oh! give to me
          The winter night of glee,
The mirth and plenty seen at Christmas tide.

          The northern gust may howl,
          The rolling storm-cloud scowl,
          King Frost may make a slave
          Of the river's rapid wave,
          The snow-drift choke the path,
          Or the hail-shower spend its wrath;
But the sternest blast right bravely is defied,
          While limbs and spirits bound
          To the merry minstrel sound,
And social wood-fires blaze at Christmas tide.

          The song, the laugh, the shout,
          Shall mock the storm without;
          And sparkling wine-foam rise
          ’Neath still more sparkling eyes;
          The forms that rarely meet
          Then hand to hand shall greet,
And soul pledge soul that leagues too long divide.
          Mirth, friendship, love, and light
          Shall crown the winter night,
And every glad voice welcome Christmas tide.

          But while joy's echo falls 
          In gay and plenteous halls,
          Let the poor and lowly share
          The warmth, the sports, the fare;
          For the one of humble lot
          Must not shiver in his cot,
But claim a bounteous meed from wealth and pride.
          Shed kindly blessings round,
          Till no aching heart be found;
And then all hail to merry Christmas tide!


This poem appeared in Melaia and Other Poems (Charles Tilt, 1840). It is in the public domain.

This poem appeared in Melaia and Other Poems (Charles Tilt, 1840). It is in the public domain.

Eliza Cook

Eliza Cook

Eliza Cook was born on December 24, 1818, in London, England. Self-educated as a child, she began writing poems at the age of fifteen and published her first poetry collection, Lays of a Wild Harp: A Collection of Metrical Pieces (John Bennett, 1835), two years later. Cook also published poems in magazines such as Metropolitan Magazine, New Monthly Magazine, and Weekly Dispatch, which published her most popular poem, “The Old Arm-Chair.”

by this poet

poem
The holly! the holly! oh, twine it with bay—
   Come give the holly a song;
For it helps to drive stern winter away,
   With his garment so sombre and long.
It peeps through the trees with its berries of red,
   And its leaves of burnish’d green,
When the flowers and fruits have long been dead,
   And not even
poem

We know ’tis good that old Winter should come,
Roving awhile from his Lapland home;
’Tis fitting that we should hear the sound
Of his reindeer sledge on the slippery ground:

For his wide and glittering cloak of snow
Protects the seeds of life below;
Beneath his mantle are

poem

Twilight shade is calmly falling
     Round about the dew-robed flowers;
Philomel’s lone song is calling
     Lovers to their fairy bowers;

Echo, on the zephyrs gliding,
     Bears a voice that seems to say,
“Ears and hearts, come, list my tiding,
     This has been a