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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 1949, 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)

 

A Song for Merry Harvest

Bring forth the harp, and let us sweep its fullest, loudest string.
The bee below, the bird above, are teaching us to sing
A song for merry harvest; and the one who will not bear
His grateful part partakes a boon he ill deserves to share.
The grasshopper is pouring forth his quick and trembling notes;
The laughter of the gleaner’s child, the heart’s own music floats.
Up! up! I say, a roundelay from every voice that lives
Should welcome merry harvest, and bless the God that gives.

The buoyant soul that loves the bowl may see the dark grapes shine,
And gems of melting ruby deck the ringlets of the vine;
Who prizes more the foaming ale may gaze upon the plain,
And feast his eye with yellow hops and sheets of bearded grain;
The kindly one whose bosom aches to see a dog unfed
May bend the knee in thanks to see the ample promised bread.
Awake, then, all! ’tis Nature’s call, and every voice that lives
Shall welcome merry harvest, and bless the God that gives.

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

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

I wear not the purple of earth-born kings,
Nor the stately ermine of lordly things;
But monarch and courtier, though great they be,
Must fall from their glory and bend to me.
My sceptre is gemless; yet who can say
They will not come under its mighty sway?
Ye may learn who I am,—there’s

poem

Welcome, all hail to thee!
     Welcome, young Spring!
Thy sun-ray is bright
     On the butterfly’s wing.
Beauty shines forth
     In the blossom-robed trees;
Perfume floats by
     On the soft southern breeze.

Music, sweet music,
     Sounds over the earth;