Poetry in Stitches

June 6, 2010

In 1921 Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe wrote a book that is still referenced today. Assisted by fellow members of the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America, along with members from sister chapters, Bolton and Coe put together descriptions of over 2500 17th, 18th and 19th century samplers in their book American Samplers. This is a staggering amount of information and, for me, the best part of the book is the inclusion of an anthology of verses found on the included samplers. Over 800 examples are given; divided into almost a dozen categories. My favorites include “If to learning you will attend,/Learning will be your surest friend,/Dunces ever meet with shame/and never rise to work or fame.” Of course I was also partial to “This needlework of mine can tell/When I was young I learned well/And by my elders I was taught/Not to spend my time for naught.” I was also struck by “The father fled to worlds unknown/When aged fifty-two/The mothers left and may we all/her virtuous steps pursue.” It’s interesting to read, and ponder, these verses with a 21st century eye. To read all the verses as well as the rest of the book you can search Google Books for American Samplers. It can be downloaded in pdf format and saved for easy access.

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