Julia A. Moore

The Sweet Singer of Michigan



ÝThis defense of The Sentimental Song Book was written by Mrs. Moore in 1878, and published in a book hearing the title, A Few Choice Words to the Public, With New and Original Poems (Grand Rapids: C. M. Loomis, 1878). It is important, not only as a reply to some of the hostile reviews of her work, but also as a statement of Mrs, Moore's poetical philosophy. The exact form of the treatise has been retained.

DEAR READERS: -- I wrote that little volume of poems without a thought of the future or what the public would think of me. I have found to my sorrow that the public thinks I am a fool. I was very foolish, I admit, in signing my original name to that little book, when a ficticious name would have done just as well. And another foolish act was when I told where I resided. But it is done and cannot be helped, and now I must stand the abuse of the press to pay me for my thoughtlessness. Very few people get through this world without committing some act they are sorry for afterwards. If I were the only one in this world who had committed an error I should go wild over what I have done. While writing the poems in that little book I never thought of the future or of fame. I wrote them to please a few intimate friends, and thus kept writing one after another till I had quite a collection, and through the ardent desire of friends I concluded to have them published. I wrote some of those poems when quite young, and I had them published just as they were written. I wished for something different from all literary work, something to catch the public eye, and I think I have it in that little book. Its rare combination has caused a great many literary people to laugh at my ignorance, yet at the same time, some of them could not help thinking that the sentiments were good, although so rarely constructed in poetry. That little book reminds me of what I have heard said about my uncle when a boy while learning music. He had been learning a very difficult piece of music. He had learned it so he could play it quite well. He said to the professor, "what do you think of it." The gentleman smiled and said, "my boy, the work is well laid, but it needs a little more filling." Now, dear readers, that is just what is the trouble with my little book. It needs a little more filling. Poetry, in its high perfection, is thought, feeling, imagination and music expressed in versification. The individual that can, with science, combine these four properties together in good moral sense, and make it beneficial to mankind, is indeed a true poet. Literary is a work very difficult to do. It needs to be thoroughly studied to make it as it should be. There are two different fountains from which inspiration flows to the writer, the intellect and the heart, thought and feeling. Thought makes the best artist, has greater forethought, a wiser command of means, gives greater completeness, higher finish. But the heart has a power even greater than this; a power of life and soul, swaying the entire human sympathy and action. It has more freshness, more originality, more sincerity. Its highest influence is more enduring, and it effects the human mind and draws the soul of one being nearer to another, and nearer to Him who gave it. Thought sees truth and reveals it, or often conceals it. Heart feels truth itself, and, with a generous fullness of eloquence all its own, to which no force feeling can ever attain, compel conviction. Many a highly polished, classic sonnet, lies in cold neglect on the library shelf, while the humble ballad, full of true natural feeling, is preserved in affectionate living remembrance. It is read and appreciated. What a person writes from intellect only may be foreign to his own life, a work wholly artificial. It is a work of the head alone. It may be very skillfully formed, quite faultless in tone, it may be successful in its way, but the soul and spirit will be wanting to make the work elegant. What is written from the heart must have the same coloring as the character of the writer. True natural feeling flows freely from the innermost nature and carries with it some of the inherent force of truth. Where both powers are called into action, where a strong intellect plans and a noble and generous heart works, there we may look for a great literary work. Thus imitation can never attain the highest and most elegant product. Genius is something nature gives to all human beings. Some people use it one way, some another, some abuse it, others apply it in its high perfection. Genius, with science applied to all work, either manual or mental, is indeed highly beneficial to all mankind. The youth of to day may become great with the aid of industry and truth. Without these two properties we cannot accomplish any thing of true merit. Merit is gained only by our endeavors, and we should try at all times to accomplish that which is beneficial to ourselves and the rising generation. The hour when our young people leave their comfortable homes to enter the cares of life often forms a crisis in their careers. It is a period to which they have looked forward with large hopes, and to which they will look back in all their future career with deep interest. They are now called to act for themselves, to stand alone. Parents' arms no longer sustain them, their mother's love no longer shields them, but from homes of affection and quiet they venture out into the cold and stormy world, where fierce temptations will assail and bitter trial may await them. Much, very much, depends on their earliest impressions, their first steps, for these will shape their paths and affect their character to the end. We should not cause any act of ours to mar their career or sadden their lives. We should help to sustain them in all their good works and by so doing we will be fulfilling one of the best offices to humanity. We should live peacefully together and work our way up honestly and industriously until we gain the height of distinction, for no one will give us wealth or fame without working for it. We should not trouble ourselves about our neighbors' affairs, but let every one do as they please. It is all we can do to clean the weeds from our own garden, yet how often we look in our neighbor's and see the weeds growing and think if they were in ours we would pull them up and in their place plant flowers. Now, dear readers, perhaps you have seen a few persons weeding in my literary garden. I think when they have finished there will be but little left for me to do. Some newspapers have ridiculed me as being a farmer's wife. Readers, I am a farmer's wife and I'm honored by the name. People with good sense will not say aught against the farmers, for they are the fountain and source of all national and foreign commerce. If it were not for the farmers what would the people in the cities do. Commerce would be affected to a great degree. The people may have money but it would be of no use to them. I have heard some young men say, "I would not be a farmer for anything." Suppose all young men should say so. What would become of the world? It would go down to degradation. People would die for want of food. No, we want more farmers and less lawyers, then this country would prosper and soon be able to pay her great debt. Education is needed; it enriches the mind and decorates the person with something the world can not take from us. Education is required in farming as well as in any other occupation. Some young men of to day would find it very profitable in the future if they would become farmers and till the beautiful land we inherited from our fathers. There are thousands of acres waiting for the ax and the plow. Our forefather, George Washington, and likewise Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster and several others I could mention, were farmers and they became famous, and some of them (as we all know) arose to be President of our nation. Yet some of them after living in the "White House" returned to the farm. Yes, after being in the highest office in the country took farming as their choice; and were they thought any the less of for being farmers? Were their wives thought any the less of for being mere farmers' wives? They were industrious; and what is that raises young people from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to never dying fame; what, but industry? Sons and daughters may be born of humble parents and in obscure circumstances; born in some narrow and obscure corner of the earth; are they compelled to stay there? Did Providence mean they should raise no higher? We think not; they may become great and good by their own endeavors in industry. Industry is the handmaid to wealth, and honest wealth cannot be gained without her assistance. Every important work requires certain mental and moral qualifications in the agency employed. The greatest work of to day is the temperance work. The theologists are industriously working for the reformation in man, and for the benefit of the little ones in our midst, whose tender ages need a kind and loving father to guide their youthful footsteps in the paths of honest industry and truth. May they keep working until reformation is truly gained throughout our land, then we would have truly a happy land, and all the little children that have parents would have a happy home, and Willie and Nellie would have their wish.*

*See the poem, "Willie's and Nellie's Wish."

Reprinted from The Sweet Singer of Michigan: Poems by Mrs. Julia A. Moore,
ed. Walter Blair (Chicago: Pascal Covici, 1928).

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