MyRye.com is working with the Rye Historical Society on Papers from our Past. The Rye Historical Society Archives contains centuries of stories, from everyday life in Rye to significant events in American History.
by Alison Cupp Relyea, Director of Programming and Education for the Rye Historical Society
April is National Poetry Month, so we dug through the Rye Historical Society Archives to look for examples of poetry in our local history. Rye has some recognized connections to poetry, from its status as American poet Ogden Nash’s hometown to poetry being aviator Amelia Earhart’s other passion. Deeper in the files of photographs and manuscripts, we discovered two timeless examples of poetry and art that capture the natural beauty of Rye.
These two postcard-sized documents, each with a hand-painted illustration on one side and a poem written in cursive on the other, are held safe within a folder within a box on a shelf in the archives.
The only information contained in these small paintings is place and date. One is titled Ryelands (now known as the Rye Marshlands) and the other Old Manursing Island, and both are from August 1892. On the back of the Old Manursing Island in the upper right corner next to the poem titled Silence, it says a name, May Farrand or Farrano. Is this the name of the poet, the painter or both? Are these famous poems?
The poem Silence appeared in a periodical called The Fisherman in 1895 with the title The Sea of Silence. This magazine, published in Gloucester, Massachusetts, was about fisherman and fisheries, but also featured poetry, current events, and stories of coastal communities and the people who lived in them. The poem is featured in the second volume of the periodical, with no author listed, only the word “Selected” as a byline. While the poet remains a mystery, it must have been a popular poem of the time, with sensory language that echoes the experience of August in Rye on the Long Island Sound.
Golden Love, the poem on the back of the Ryelands card, has an author, or a composer and songwriter, to claim it. Milton Wellings, a popular composer, wrote the music, and Mary Mark Lemon wrote the words. Wellings and Lemon were both well-known at the time and are featured in the Discography of American Historical Recordings. Below is a link to a recorded version of Golden Love. A short article about Wellings in the New York Times from 1908 gives clues to a hard life and misfortune, in part due to the shifting music industry. Fortunately for us, this music has endured.
These small pieces of artwork, images of Rye’s landscape now frozen in time, are windows to life over a century ago. The bit of context we have brings deeper meaning to a fleeting moment when an artist sat down with pen and paint to capture something beautiful.
The solemn sea of silence is unbroken,
No wave of speech, no whisper meets the ear.
No message sent from you or me, no token,
That I was ever loved, or you were ever dear,
No ripple on the surface of the ocean
That stretches ‘twixt our hearts so deep and wide,
No sound of breakers, and no sight of motion,
No slightest murmur on the quiet tide.
Oh sea across thy vast expanse some message,
Send o’er thy waters as the sea-gull flies,
Some winged traveler, some bird of passage
To break the strange solemnity that lies
Above a shore where waters are unmoving,
And never sound to break the stillness heard,
To say that I was loved or you were loving,
To mar the reigning calmness by a word,
A silence deep and vast and never-ending
A mighty ocean and a waveless beach,
Where even darkness pauses ere descending
And all unknown the blessedness of speech.
Once more we meet beside the shining river
Not as we parted in the bygone days,
When storms of fate had torn our love asunder,
And clouds obscured the golden love, dawn’s rays.
Once more we meet and cancel old regrets,
Once more we meet and hand clasps hand again,
Never to ask if one of us forgets,
Never to think of bygone hours of pain.
Once more we meet where sunset gilds the heavens,
Meet as we parted, loyal, brave and true;
Once the hand of time has touched us gently,
Changing, perchance, our hair to whiter hue,
Once more we meet, the lonely hours are over,
Once more we meet and own the past was best,
Never to part, oh darling never more,
Until the angels call us home to rest.
To learn more:
The Fisherman, periodical featuring The Sea of Silence
Golden Love Sheet Music
Golden Love audio recording in the Library of Congress
Discography of Mary Mark Lemon
Milton Wellings article in the New York Times, 1908: