The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

Seventy-one, and of course in my dotage!

Some thoughts on my seventy-second birthday.

This morning, e’er yet

I arose from my bed,

My children, dear children,

Came into my head.

And I thought it might be

Some amusement for you

To mark my arrival

At seventy and two.

My health is quite good

For one of my age,

And in some employment

Again, I engage.

Pieced twenty-six covers

In about the last year,

Tied fourteen in comforts,

And some of them here.

And six I did quilt,

With help but at two,

And they are all here

To divide among you.

And twenty-eight horse nets

This year I have made,

To protect the good horses

In sun and in shade.

And five pairs of stockings

Likewise I have knit,

And made me four dresses,

And well they do fit.

For ladies fine chairs

Eight tidies I knit,

Eight covers for cushions,

For ladies to sit.

And within the last week

I pieced covers four,

Cut eight pounds of rags

To carpet the floor.

This outburst of bragging

Forgive—be so kind,

Because I’m so feeble

In body and mind.

With my eyes I have suffered

Five long years and o’er,

And torturing operations,

But still my eyes are sore.

So much extreme suffering,

My strength has destroyed

Old age, care and sorrow

My mind hath impaired.

What few fleeting moments

Remain for me here,

O, May they be spent

In thy favor and fear!

That when death overtakes me,

It’s close upon my track

I may lie down in peace,

Not with sorrow, look back.

Oh! Jesus, prepare me

For some humble place,

A low seat where I may

But see thy bright face.

When through the bright valley

And show of death,

I am called to pass,

And resigneth my breath,

Oh! Jesus, be with me,

And grant me thy grace,

To comfort and cheer me

In death’s cold embrace.

O! Do not forsake me,

But lead me safe through

To the Golden City,

Jerusalem anew.

In lonesome blindness, thinking of my past life,
I thought I would write something about a trip
I took to Pennsylvania in the year of 1814.

In the fall of fourteen I

One morning left my home,

And sat out for Pennsylvania,

On horseback all alone.

To leave two little sons,

And travel day by day,

And go three hundred miles,

Seemed rather a long way.

I was crying in the morning,

Cried when I went away,

And still I kept a crying

The most part of that day.

When I got on horseback

He handed up my child,

And walked with me down the lane,

Talking kind and mild,

And when his father took him,

He looked me in the face,

And cried out, “Mamma, Mamma,”

With such an anxious grace.

It seemed to thrill my soul,

First words he ever spoke,

Then be compelled to leave him,

My heart it almost broke.

To see his earnest anguish

Seemed more than I could bear,

To God, I did commend him,

In earnest, fervent prayer.

I had arranged my business

That journey then to take,

All needful preparation

I had striven to make.

I had engaged a trusty woman,

Of my children to take care,

To keep my house in order,

My things in good repair.

I felt I needed fortitude

To tear myself away,

Some feeling my incompetence

To travel day by day.

The oldest son was four years old

And could ask for all he’d need,

And I could leave him awhile, I felt,

So now that the rest agreed.

The younger, nineteen months

And never spoke before,

And then to go and leave him,

It made my heart ache sore.

So I went off a crying,

And traveled all that day,

Till I came to Dr. Austin’s

And there that night did stay.

When I got to the doctor’s

Of course I told my friend

What a day of trial

And sorrow I did spend.

She heard my tale of sadness

And saw my flowing tears,

And then expressed her sorrow,

And for my safety felt some fears.

She said, “If you must go fretting

And crying all the way,

You’d best go back tomorrow

And with your children stay.

“Remember that your children

Are ever in God’s care,

And you’re but poor protection

Even when you are there.

“And since you have started

And have thought it for the best,

Go on and do your business,

And set your heart at rest.”

I saw her advice was good,

And knew that she was right,

And I strove to take her counsel,

And that, with all my might.

I strove to give up my children

And leave them in God’s care,

That he might protect them

Was my daily prayer.

Then I felt more cheerful,

Set the trip before my eyes,

I traveled till it was late,

And early still did rise.

The mare that I rode on,

Hard at work had been,

A plowing corn and hauling grain,

And was rather thin.

But after I came home,

And neighbor then did say,

“This mare’s worth twenty dollars more

Then when she went away.”

When I was feeling cheerful

And thought that I could go,

In the night missed my door

And tumbled down below.

I found I was some hurt,

But traveled on next day,

And still kept on my journey

And the fall made no delay.

I went to see my parents, too,

And did on horseback ride,

And in four days from that time

Got to my mother’s side.

I went to see his parents

Likewise, as well as mine,

And then got safely home

About the appointed time.

Still those two little sons

At home, when I went away,

Were constantly on my mind,

Almost both night and day.

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