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“To a Girl”

Poem used to describe Dorothy Thompson’s assistant, Beatrice Sorchan.

“Thou art so very sweet and fair…”

In Dorothy Thompson & Rose Wilder Lane: Forty Years of Friendship (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991), William Holtz includes a letter from Dorothy to Rose, dated August 13, 1921. In it, Dorothy writes that she is “off to meet Beatrice Sorchan” for a walking trip in the Bavarian Alps (page 15). Sorchan had been Thompson’s assistant and was later the translator of many books into English, and she is described with the following lines: “Thou art so very sweet and fair / With such a heaven in thine eyes, / It almost seems an overcare / To ask thee to be good or wise…” Her photo is at right.

William Holtz even sent a letter to American Notes & Queries magazine, asking for help identifying the above lines. He must have received no responses, since he included an endnote in Forty Years of Friendship that he was unable to identify them.

The verse is part of a poem usually credited to “Anonymous” but written by two friends, Elizabeth Anna Hart and Menella Bute Smedley in the 1860s. The first part is “Lovers.” The second part is “To a Girl,” copied below. I wonder if Thompson ever used the second verse to describe Rose?

Thou art so very sweet and fair,
With such a heaven in thine eyes,
It almost seems an overcare
To ask thee to be good or wise:

As if a little bird were blam’d
Because its song unthinking flows;
As if a rose should be asham’d
Of being nothing but a rose.

Alas! why have we souls at all?
Why has each life a higher goal?
May not a thing as pure and small
As thou art — be excused a soul?

If there were only birds and flowers,
How beautiful the world would be!
Or could we spend our happy hours,
And live like them, how blest were we!

Alas! but life is but a breath,
And every breath with danger rife,
And every breath leads on to death,
And after death — the real life!


“To a Girl”