The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

A description of my mother:

In height she was five feet,

Four inches and a half,

Was rather grave and sober,

And did but seldom laugh.

And if she chanced to laugh,

She never made a noise,

She said for girls

‘Twas unbecoming.

Her words were rather few,

Her government was good,

Her children did obey her,

She let them know they should.

She kept us well at work,

Then work was very plenty,

As regular at five

As at fifteen or twenty.

She said, for our encouragement,

We had best do all we could,

When we were about to leave her,

Help us the more she would.

Her weight at twenty-three

Was one hundred twenty-seven,

But when she arrived at thirty,

Two hundred and eleven.

When she arrived at forty,

Two hundred thirty-two,

She always was industrious,

Found plenty still to do.

She often met with accidents,

Her sufferings were extreme,

With broken bones and joints put out,

“Twas plainly to be seen.

But still she labored on,

Up to a good old age,

She was almost eighty

Before she left the stage.

Description of my father:

My father, always well,

Seemed never sick nor tired,

And always did more work,

Than any he had hired.

He was a first class blacksmith,

That work he could do right,

Worked in the field all day

And in the shop at night.

He made and kept his tools

In order on his farm,

Hard work seemed not to hurt him

Nor do him any harm.

He was always to good humored,

So pleasant and so mild,

So cheerful and so social,

Indulgent to his child.

I always could approach him

And ask him what I would,

And always get the answer

Pleasantly and good.

How well I loved his company

In the house and on the farm,

A going to church or market

My dependence was his arm.

He plowed his corn and mowed his hay,

When he was eighty-four

Few men can do so much work

After they are four score.

He fed his stock and chopped his wood,

And kept his fire alive,

But epidemic took him off

When he was eighty-five.

He was about five feet

And seven or eight in length,

Almost all bone and muscle,

And was well made for strength.

His weight about one hundred

And fifty or fifty-five,

As healthy, sound and active

As any now alive.

His eyes were blue and bright,

His hair was raven black,

Industry, perseverance,

Of these there were no lack.

His beard was black, his teeth were white,

Stood firmly in his head,

Were double all around,

And white when he was dead.

When young, I stood behind him,

A combing his black hair,

While he was reading

I was standing on his chair.

I combed it round my fingers,

So beautifully it curled,

In such glossy ringlets,

I thought it best the world.

Over his white linen stock

That buckled on behind,

A Quaker silver buckle,

And beautifully it shined.

The stock, fine Irish linen,

Gathered full and plaited,

When ironed nice and smooth,

No dress for neck could beat it.

The contrast was so striking,

The vivid black and white,

The collar of vest or coat

Concealed it not from sight.

The coat breast was oval round,

The skirt was straight and square,

The vest had waists and flaps,

“Twas the style the Quaker wore.

In those days they wore the breeches

“That reached full half way down,

Close below the knee

A band was fixed around.

And on the band, a buckle

That kept it nice and bright,

With the stockings well shoved under

And the buttons all fixed right.

And when they wore long boots

Which were tucked to fit the leg

With long sharp turned up toes,

They then looked very snug.

And a buckle on the boot,

Near the top behind,

And a strap sewed on the breeches

To boot to confine.

The shining silver buckle

In the shape of a heart,

Upon the well blacked boot,

Depend, it did look smart.

Likewise the silver knee buckle

On the outside of each knee,

And row of gilded buttons

Looked nice and fine you see.

My father had the breeches,

He had red plush and blue,

Black velvet, snuff and drab,

That was the Quaker hue.

It took five silver buckles,

Then to dress a man,

These times with scarce a buckle,

Dress themselves well they can.

And now they’re wearing boots,

The top halfway up the leg,

And their pants are shoved down over,

And that don’t look so snug.

But let them dress cheap as they can,

These times do much demand it,

These times are hard and we’re debarred,

Silver, they can’t command it.

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