The following biographical sketch of William Pinkney Ewing, and a selection of his poetry, is excerpted from George Johnston, The Poets and Poetry of Cecil County, Maryland (Elkton, Maryland: The editor, 1887):
William Pinkney Ewing, son of Patrick Ewing, was born May 28, 1828, on
his father's farm near Rowlandville. He is a brother of Edwin E. Ewing . . . . Mr.
Ewing's early life was spent on his father's farm. When about eighteen
years of age he commenced to write poetry, the first of which was
published in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. He was subsequently a
frequent contributor to the Ladies' Garland, the Cecil Whig and
Cecil Democrat. In 1848, Mr. Ewing commenced the study of the law in
the office of the late John C. Groome in Elkton, and was admitted to the
Elkton Bar, April 10, 1851. In 1853 he removed to Cincinnati, and became
connected with the editorial department of the Daily Atlas of that
city, and contributed editorially and otherwise to several other papers in Cincinnati, until the Atlas was merged into the Gazette. He then
accepted a position on the Southern Lady's Book, published in New
Orleans and remained in that city until the magazine changed
proprietors. Mr. Ewing returned to Elkton in 1855, and resumed the
practice of his profession, but continued to write poetry occasionally
for some years afterwards. In 1871 Mr. Ewing removed to Ashtabula, Ohio, and has since been connected with newspapers in Chicago, Topeka and other western cities; and has corresponded occasionally with the New
York Tribune, New York Evening Post and Chicago Tribune.
In politics Mr. Ewing was originally a Democrat, but in 1850 became a
member of the Free Soil party, and an elector on the Free Soil ticket in
1856. He was a delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated Lincoln
in 1860, and also an elector for the State of Maryland on the Lincoln
ticket the same year. In 186l Mr. Ewing was appointed United States
Naval Agent for the port of Baltimore, and held the position until the
office was abolished in 1865.
In September 1863 he married Mrs. Emma P. Smith, a lady of fine literary
taste and ability who is at this time the head of the cooking school of
the State Agricultural College of Iowa.
Like many other writers Mr. Ewing took no pains to preserve his poems
and it was only after the expenditure of great labor and much trouble
that the following meagre selection was made, which it is feared will
not do full justice to the ability of their author.
THE ANGEL VOICE.
"Oh mother, dear mother,
As calmly last night
I lay on my pallet
An angel in white
Hover'd o'er me, and softly
Said–'come, brother, come,
Away from this world,
To a heavenly home!'"
"Then let me die, mother–
Tho' sweet birds are singing,
And flowers in brightness
And beauty are springing
On hillside and mountain,
O'er meadow and lea,
They no longer possess
Any sweetness for me."
"For that angelic voice,
Ringing still in my ear,
Has attuned my heart
To a holier sphere;
And like a caged eagle,
My soul pines to stay
So long from its home–
Its redeemer away."
O, pale grew that mother,
And heavy her heart,
For she knew her dear boy
From her sight must depart,
And be laid, cold and stiff,
In the earth's humid breast,
Where the wicked cease troubling,
The weary have rest;
But she smoothed down his pillow,
And murmured a prayer,
For the Giver of mercies
Her loved one to spare;
But ere she had finished
Her pious request,
His spirit had flown
To the realms of the blest!
THEN AND NOW.
I love thee, Maude, as I ne'er loved before,
And as I feel I cannot love again;
And though that love has cost me much of pain,
Of agony intense, I would live o'er
Most willingly, each bitter hour I've known
Since first we met, to claim thee as my own.
But mine thou will not be: thy wayward heart
On one by thee deemed worthier is set,
And I must bear the keen and deathless smart,
Of passion unrequited, or forget
That which is of my very life a part.
To cherish it may lead to madness, yet
I will brood over it: for oh,
The joy its memory brings, surpasses far the woe.
"I love thee, Maude, as I ne'er loved before,
And as I feel I cannot love again;"
Thus wrote I many moons ago, and more
Devotedly I love thee now, than when
Those lines were written. But avails it aught?
Have I return? Hold I the slightest part
Within the boundless realm of thy confiding heart?
Or dost thou ever give to me one thought?
I dare believe so: –nor will soon resign
The dream I've cherished long, that some day thou'lt be mine.
THE NEGLECTED HARP.
I touch not that harp,
Let it slumber alone;
For its notes but awaken
Sad memories of one
Whose hand often swept
The soft wires along,
And aroused them to music,
To love, and to song.
But Death, the destroyer,
Ere grief threw a ray
O'er her flowery path,
Snatched her rudely away;
And the harp that resounded,
With loveliest tone,
To her delicate touch,
Has since slumbered alone.
Then awake not a strain–
Let it still repose there,
And be breathed on alone
By the sweet summer air;
For its numbers though lively,
Though joyous and light,
But cast o'er my spirits
A wildering blight.
Never, no nevermore,
Shall thy soft hand be pressed in mine,
Or on my breast thy weary head recline,
As oft of yore.
And though thou wert to me
Life's only charm, I yet can bear
A little while, since thou art free from care,
Alone to be.
For to my heart is given,
The cheering hope, that soon, where pain
And partings are unknown, we'll meet again–
In yonder heaven.
Leila, thou art resting well,
In thy lonely, narrow cell–
Dark and lonely, narrow cell,–
And I would with thee had died,
And was sleeping by thy side,–
In the graveyard by thy side,–
She who gave thee being, she
Who made life a joy to me,–
A blessing and a joy to me.
Were she with thee, I could bear
All life's agony and care,–
Bitter agony and care,–
But alas, she went astray
From the straight and narrow way,–
Virtue's straight and narrow way–
And, O misery, became
To her sex a thing of shame,–
A thing of infamy and shame.
Now, of her and thee bereft,
Naught have I to live for left,–
Naught on earth to live for left;–
And with bleeding heart I roam,
From a desecrated home,–
A broken, desecrated home,–
Looking, longing for the day
When my life shall ebb away,–
To its giver, ebb away.
For I feel, a God of love,
In the better land above,–
Brighter, better land above,–
To these yearning arms again,
With a soul all free from stain,–
Free from every earthly stain,–
Will the wanderer restore,
To be tempted nevermore–
LAY OF THE LAST INDIAN.
They are gone–They are gone,
From their green mountain homes,
Where the antelope sports,
And the buffalo roams;
For the pale faces came,
With insidious art,
And the red men were forced
From their homes to depart!
In the land Manitou
Bestowed on their sires,
Oh! never again
Round their bright council-fires,
Will they gather, to talk
Of the feats they have done,
Or, to boast of the scalps
By their prowess they've won.
For they've gone–they have passed,
Like the dew from the spray,
And their name to remembrance
Grows fainter each day;
But for this were they forced
From their ancestors' graves;
They dared to be freemen,
They scorned to be slaves.