by Celia Thaxter
About the Poet:
Celia Thaxter (1835-1894). A child of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth. She writes: "After winter has fairly set in, the lonely dwellers at the Isles of Shoals find life quite as much as they can manage, being so entirely thrown upon their own resources that it requires all the philosophy at their disposal to answer the demand…. One goes to sleep in the muffled roar of the storm, and wakes to find it still raging with senseless fury…. The weather becomes of the first importance to the dwellers on the rock; the changes of the sky and sea, the flitting of the coasters to and fro, the visits of the sea-fowl, sunrise and sunset, the changing moon, the northern lights, the constellations that wheel in splendor through the winter night,—all are noted with a love and careful scrutiny that is seldom given by people living in populous places…. For these things make our world: there are no lectures, operas, concerts, theatres, no music of any kind, except what the waves may whisper in rarely gentle moods; no galleries of wonders like the Natural History rooms, in which it is so fascinating to wander; no streets, shops, carriages; no postman, no neighbors, not a door-bell within the compass of the place!… The best balanced human mind is prone to lose its elasticity and stagnate, in this isolation. One learns immediately the value of work to keep one's wits clear, cheerful, and steady; just as much real work of the body as it can bear without weariness being always beneficent, but here indispensable…With a bright and cheerful interior, open fires, books and pictures, windows full of thrifty blossoming plants and climbing vines, a family of singing birds, plenty of work, and a clear head and quiet conscience, it would go hard if one could not be happy even in such loneliness. Books, of course, are inestimable. Nowhere does one follow a play of Shakespeare's with greater zest, for it brings the whole world, which you need, about you; doubly precious the deep thoughts which wise men have given to help us, doubly sweet the songs of all the poets; for nothing comes between to distract you."