Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Henry William Ellsworth


William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

HENRY WILLIAM ELLSWORTH, a grandson of Oliver Ellsworth, formerly Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court, and son of Henry L. Ellsworth, late Commissioner of Patents of the United States, was born at Windsor, Connecticut, in the year 1814. He graduated at Yale College in 1834, and removed to Indiana in 1835, to reside permanently. In 1844 he was appointed by President Polk Minister of the United States to Sweden and Norway, and remained in Europe from the fall of 1845 to 1850, discharging the duties of the mission. On his return from Europe, Mr. Ellsworth was retained by Benjamin F. Morse as leading counsel in various suits, involving the validity of his telegraph patents. During his residence in Europe, Mr. E. was a constant contributor to the Knickerbocker Magazine. While in Sweden, and from his family, he wrote the lines, "To an Absent Wife," which have been widely circulated, both in this country and in England. His "Cholera King," which has enjoyed almost equal popularity, was written at a later date, and first appeared in the Knickerbocker. Mr. Ellsworth is now a citizen of Indianapolis.


"Lines to an Absent Wife" and "The Cholera-King," in Oliver H. Smith, Early Indiana Trials and Sketches: Reminiscences 223-226 (Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., Printers, 1858)(1857):

Lines to an Absent Wife

Shall we meet again together,
As in happy days of old,—
When around our winter fireside,
Many merry tales were told?
When the yule-log sparkled brightly
And still brighter every eye,
As we recked not of the tempest,
In its wild wrath shouting by?

Shall we meet again together,
On the green and sunny plain,
With the tall grass round us waving,
And the billowy ripened grain,—
Where we scared the timid rabbit,
And the speckled prairie hen;—
From the morning ‘till the twilight,
Shall we wander there again?

Shall we hear once more together,
The soft ripple of that stream,
Whose tones were wont to gladden us,
Like the music of a dream?
Where, in forest-paths, we lingered,
Or with arm-in-arm stole on,
‘Till the silver stars had faded,
And the witching moonlight gone?

Shall we meet again, sweet mother,
With that dear one by our side,
Whom our hearts have loved to cherish
In the fulness of their pride;
Whom we oft have watched together,
In each sunny hour of glee,
While we blest the glorious Giver
That such gentle ones could be?

Shall we meet again together,
For the loved and early gone,
As with noiseless steps we linger
Near each dear sepulchral stone;—
Watching long till evening draweth
Her dark pall around their bed,
And with folded hands above them
Breathe our blessings on the dead?

Shall we meet yet, love, together,
In that spirit clime on high,
Where the blest of earth are gathered,
And the heart's best treasures lie;—
Where each deathless soul retaineth
All it knew or loved of yore;—
Shall we—father, son and mother—
Meet above to part no more?

The Cholera-King

He cometh! A conqueror proud and strong!
At the head of a mighty band
Of the countless dead, as he passed along,
That he slew with his red right hand;
And over the mountains, or down the vale,
As his shadowy train sweeps on,
There stealeth a lengthened note of wail,
For the loved and early gone!

He cometh! The sparkling eye grows dim,
And heavily draws the breath,
Of the trembler who whispers low of him,
And his standard-bearer death,—

He striketh the rich man down from power,
And wasteth the student pale,
Nor ‘scapes him the maid in her latticed bower,
Nor the warrior armed in mail!

He cometh! Through ranks of steel-clad men
To the heart of the warrior brave;
Ye may count where his conquering step hath been
By the spear in each nerveless hand.
Wild shouteth he where on the battle plains,
By the dead are the living hid,
As he buildeth up from the foemen slain,
His skeleton pyramid!

There stealeth ‘neath yonder turret's height,
A lover, with song and lute,
Nor knoweth the lips of his lady bright
Ae pale, and her soft voice mute,—
For he dreameth not, when no star is dim,
Nor cloud in the summer sky,
That she who from childhood loved him
Hath laid her down to die!

She watcheth! A fond young mother dear!
While her heart beats high with pride,
How she best to the good of life may rear,
The dear one by her side;
With a fervent prayer, and a love-kiss warm,
She hath sunk to a dreamy rest,
Unconscious all of the death-cold form,
That she claspeth to her breast!

Sail Ho! For the ship that tireless flies,
While the mad waves leap around,
As she spreadeth her wings for the native skies,
Of the wanderers homeward bound,—
Away through the trackless waters blue,
Yet ere half her course is done,
From the wasted ranks of her merry crew
There standeth only one!

All hushed is the city's busy throng,
As it sleeps in the fold of death,
Like the desert o'er which hath passed along,
The pestilent Simoon's breath;
All hushed! save the chill and stifling heart
Of some trembling passer by,
As he looketh askance on the dead-man's cart,
Where it waiteth the next to die!

The fire hath died from the cottage hearth,—
The plow on the unturned plain
Stands still, while unreaped to the mother earth,
Down droppeth the golden grain!
Of the loving and loved that gathered there,
Each form to the dead hath gone,
Save the dog that howls to the midnight air,
By the side of yon cold white stone!

He cometh! he cometh! No human power
From his advent dread can flee,—
Nor knoweth one human heart the hour,
When the tyrant his guest shall be;
Or whether at flush of the rosy dawn,
Or at noon-tide's fervent heat,
Or at night, where with robes of darkness on,
He treadeth with stealthy feet!


Henry William Ellsworth, Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana (New York: Pratt, Robinson, 1838)(subtitle: "with hints on its agricultural advantages: plan of a dwelling, estimates of cultivation, and notices of labor-saving machines")(New York: Pratt, Robinson, 1838)(New York: Arno Press, 1975)

__________________, The American Swine Breeder, a Practical Treatise on the Selection, Rearing and Fattening of Swine (Boston: Weeks, Jordan, 1840)