Spotlight Poetry Celebration – Tribute to Mother – A Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

The image depicts a painting titled Gabrielle et Jean by the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir,. The work is a gentle portrait painting of a mother and child. The artist has used a palette of warm colours and soft brushstrokes that capture so elegantly a mother playing with her child on her lap at a table with a toy.The image supports the poem Tribute to Mother written by John Greenleaf Whittier  the poet.
© Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle et Jean, c. 1895/96

Tribute to Mother by John Greenleaf Whittier

A picture memory brings to me;
I look across the years and see

Myself beside my mother’s knee.
I feel her gentle hand restrain
My selfish moods, and know again
A child’s blind sense of wrong and pain.

But wiser now, a man grey grown,
My childhood’s needs are better known.
My mother’s chastening love I own.

Poem Attribution © John Greenleaf Whittier, Tribute to Mother

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Painting Attribution © Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle et Jean, c. 1895 / 96

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Poetry Plus – Flowers in Winter – A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

Flowers in Winter (Excerpt) by John Greenleaf Whittier

Morning Wakes Frost Bound

Morning wakes frost bound
Winter’s fragile light gleams pale
Silence white robed clings

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 -1892) American poet and abolitionist who, in the latter part of his life, shared with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the distinction of being a household name in both England and the United States.

© (Photographer Unstated), John Greenleaf Whittier, ( c.1840-1860)

Whittier had only a limited formal education. He became an avid reader of British poetry, however, and was especially influenced by the Scot Robert Burns, whose lyrical treatment of everyday rural life reinforced his own inclination to be a writer.

Whittier’s career naturally divides into four periods: poet and journalist (1826–32), abolitionist (1833–42), writer and humanitarian (1843–65), and Quaker poet (1866–92).

At age 19 he submitted his poem “The Exile’s Departure” to the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison for publication in the Newburyport Free Press, and it was accepted. Garrison encouraged other poetic contributions from Whittier, and the two men became friends and associates in the abolitionist cause.

Whittier turned to journalism. He edited newspapers in Boston and Haverhill and by 1830 had become editor of the New England Weekly Review in Hartford, Connecticut, the most important Whig journal in New England.

Whittier also continued writing verse, sketches, and tales, and he published his first volume of poems, Legends of New England, in 1831.

After 1831 Whittier rembraced Garrisonian abolitionism. His fiery antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency made him prominent in the abolition movement, and for a decade he was probably its most influential writer.

He served a term in the Massachusetts legislature, spoke at antislavery meetings, and edited the Pennsylvania Freeman (1838–40) in Philadelphia.

In 1840 he returned to live with his mother, aunt, and sister.

© Daderot, John Greenleaf Whittier Home, Amesbury, Mass.

Whittier’s mother and his beloved younger sister died in the period from 1857 to 1864, but his personal grief, combined with the larger national grief of the Civil War, furthered his literary maturity.

The publication in 1866 of his best-known poem, the winter idyll Snow-Bound, was followed by other triumphs in the verse collections The Tent on the Beach (1867), Among the Hills (1868), and The Pennsylvania Pilgrim (1872).

Whittier’s 70th birthday was celebrated at a dinner attended by almost every prominent American writer, and his 80th birthday became an occasion for national celebration.

After outgrowing the Romantic verse he wrote in imitation of Robert Burns, Whittier became an eloquent advocate of justice, tolerance, and liberal humanitarianism.

The lofty spiritual and moral values he proclaimed earned him the title of “America’s finest religious poet,” and many of his poems are still sung as church hymns by various denominations.

After the Civil War he changed his focus, depicting nature and homely incidents in rural life. Whittier’s best poems are still read for their moral beauty and simple sentiments.

Poem Attribution © John Greenleaf Whittier, Flowers in Winter (Excerpt)

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Haiku Attribution Goff James, Morning Wakes Frost Bound

Copyright (c) 2021 Goff James – All Rights Reserved 

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Photo 1 Attribution © (Photographer Unstated), John Greenleaf Whittier, ( c.1840-1860)

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Photo 2 Attribution © Daderot, John Greenleaf Whittier Home, Amesbury, Mass., (Date Unstated)

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Painting Attribution © Marianne Quinzin, Bloom 07, (Date Unstated)

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Flowers in Winter by John Greenleaf Whittier

How strange to greet, this frosty morn,
In graceful counterfeit of flower,
These children of the meadows, born
Of sunshine and of showers!

How well the conscious wood retains
The pictures of its flower-sown home,
The lights and shades, the purple stains,
And golden hues of bloom!

It was a happy thought to bring
To the dark season’s frost and rime
This painted memory of spring,
This dream of summertime.

Our hearts are lighter for its sake,
Our fancy’s age renews its youth,
And dim-remembered fictions take
The guise of present truth.

A wizard of the Merrimac,–
So old ancestral legends say,–
Could call green leaf and blossom back
To frosted stem and spray.

The dry logs of the cottage wall,
Beneath his touch, put out their leaves;
The clay-bound swallow, at his call,
Played round the icy eaves.

The settler saw his oaken flail
Take bud, and bloom before his eyes;
From frozen pools he saw the pale
Sweet summer lilies rise.

To their old homes, by man profaned
Came the sad dryads, exiled long,
And through their leafy tongues complained
Of household use and wrong.

The beechen platter sprouted wild,
The pipkin wore its old-time green,
The cradle o’er the sleeping child
Became a leafy screen.

Haply our gentle friend hath met,
While wandering in her sylvan quest,
Haunting his native woodlands yet,
That Druid of the West;

And while the dew on leaf and flower
Glistened in the moonlight clear and still,
Learned the dusk wizard’s spell of power,
And caught his trick of skill.

But welcome, be it new or old,
The gift which makes the day more bright,
And paints, upon the ground of cold
And darkness, warmth and light!

Without is neither gold nor green;
Within, for birds, the birch-logs sing;
Yet, summer-like, we sit between
The autumn and the spring.

The one, with bridal blush of rose,
And sweetest breath of woodland balm,
And one whose matron lips unclose
In smiles of saintly calm.

Fill soft and deep, O winter snow!
The sweet azalea’s oaken dells,
And hide the banks where roses blow
And swing the azure bells!

O’erlay the amber violet’s leaves,
The purple aster’s brookside home,
Guard all the flowers her pencil gives
A live beyond their bloom.

And she, when spring comes round again,
By greening slope and singing flood
Shall wander, seeking, not in vain
Her darlings of the wood.

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