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.