nature · poetry

Young Charlotte, or The Frozen Maid

'Sleigh_Ride',_oil_painting_by_Cornelius_Krieghoff

“Sleigh Ride” by Cornelius Krieghoff

As a starving person’s focus becomes their gnawing hunger, so does trying to stay warm become the focus of a person who can’t find warmth. Today was one of those days. I give you now the poem that Maine poet, Seba Smith, was inspired to write after reading an article in the 1/8/1840 New York Observer (see article ). She called it, “A Corpse Going to a Ball”. It was first published in The Rover in 1844. The poem was later set to music and became a popular folk ballad called “Young Charlotte” or “Fair Charlotte,” attributed to William Lorenzo Carter. 

This poem was found in a book of poems/songs my grandparents had at their house when I was a young child. I was quite taken by it and may have even memorized it, or at least parts of it. Luckily I was able to find out there in internet land, at: http://restoreedwardsplace.blogspot.com/2014/11/frozen-charlotte.html

Update as of 12/1/18:  Please also check out The Muscleheaded Blog for a very colorful post — with priceless photos — surrounding Young Charlotte’s demise.  It’s very much worth a look.

Young Charlotte, or The Frozen Maid

*

Young Charlotte lived by the mountainside,

in a cold and dreary spot;

No dwelling there for five miles round,

except her father’s cot;

*

And yet on many a winter’s eve

young swains were gather’d there

For her father kept a social board,

and she was very fair.

*

Her father loved to see her dressed

fine as a city belle

For she was the only child he had

and he loved his daughter well.

*

‘Tis New Year’s Eve – the sun is down –

why looks her restless eye

So long from the frosty window forth,

as the merry sleighs go by?

*

At the village inn, fifteen miles off,

is a merry ball tonight –

The piercing air is cold as death

but her heart is warm and light;

*

And brightly beams her laughing eye,

as a well-known voice she hears

And dashing up to the cottage door

her Charley’s sleigh appears.

*

Now daughter dear,” her mother cried,

This blanket ’round you fold

For ’tis a dreadful night abroad

and you’ll catch your death a-cold.”

*

O nay, O nay,” fair Charlotte said

and she laughed like a gypsy queen.

To ride with blankets, muffled up

I never could be seen–

*

My silken cloak is quite enough;

you know ’tis lined throughout;

And then I have a silken shawl

to tie my neck about.”

*

Her bonnet and her gloves are on,

she jumps into the sleigh;

And swift they ride by the mountainside,

and over the hills away.

*

There’s life in the sound of the merry bells,

as o’er the hills they go;

But a creaking wail the runners make,

as they bite the frozen snow.

*

How long and bleak the lonely way!

how keen the wind does blow!

The stars did never shine so cold–

how creaks the frozen snow!

*

With muffled faces, silently,

five cold, long miles they’ve passed,

And Charles, with these few frozen words,

the silence broke at last–

*

Such night as this I never saw–

the reins I scarce can hold;”

And Charlotte, faintly shivering said,

I am exceeding cold.”

*

He crack’d his whip, and urged his steed

more swiftly than before,

And now five other dreary miles

in silence are passed o’er–

*

How fast,” said Charles, “the freezing ice

is gathering on my brow;”

But Charlotte said, with feebler tone,

I’m growing warmer now.”

*

And on they went through the frosty air

and the glittering cold star-light;

And now at last the village inn

and the ballroom are in sight.

*

They reach the door, and Charles jumps out,

and holds his hand to her–

Why sits she like a monument,

that hath no power to stir?

*

He call’d her once – he call’d her twice–

she answered not a word;

He asked her for her hand again,

but still she never stirr’d–

*

He took her hand in his, O God!

’twas cold and hard as stone;

He tore the mantle from her face;

the cold stars on her shone–

*

Then quickly to the lighted hall

her voiceless form he bore–

His Charlotte was a stiffened corpse,

and word spake never more.

8 thoughts on “Young Charlotte, or The Frozen Maid

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