Louisa Higginson's Locomotive

Brattleboro Railroad Depot, March 1849.jpg

Vermont Phoenix, March 16, 1849.

Song of the First Locomotive That Came to Brattleboro, February 1849.

[Next Sunday, Feb. 20, will be the 49th anniversary of the opening to Brattleboro of the Vermont & Massachusetts railroad, and the arrival here of the first locomotive cars. In recognition of this event Mrs. Addison Brown, retaining in her 90th year vivid memory of the past and active interest in everything of the present, has copied these lines for publication in The Phoenix. They were written for a children's paper, in the summer of 1849. The initials appended will be recognized by a few old-time friends as those of a young woman then well known, and belonging to a prominent Brattleboro family.]

"I come! I come! Ye have called me long,"
I come through the hills with a clattering throng
Of cars behind me, which shake the earth
And to many an uncouth sound give birth.
I have passed through many a sheltered vale
Where the farmers shrank at the sudden gale
Made by my hot and whizzing breath.
As I reeled along the hills beneath,
The weeping elm trees gracefully bent
To see what such a hurrying meant;
And the oriole wondered at my haste
As he swung aloft in his airy nest.
But I doubt not, now that I am gone,
They think it a dream of the early morn,
(For birds and flowers are careless things.)
The robin spreads his golden airy wings,
And the pink spireas look smartly up
And the foxglove opens its yellow cup.
They never dream, in their present delight,
That I and my train will be back at night.

How slow yon river runs!
Strange to me
That it should not flow more speedily,
But stops to play with each old gray stone
With as soft and musical a moan
As if there were nothing on earth to be done
But to flash, and murmur, and shine in the sun.
It must have caught that lazy song
From the sleepy stage coach winding along
That turnpike road in old fashioned times
Which still around the precipice climbs,
To show how slowly people could go
Before they had learned my speed to know.
Yon mountain, too, has a placid look,
With shadows resting on each green nook,
And gray mists gathered half up its side
Seem as they could not quite decide
Whether to float into upper air
Or still to suspend their curtain fair
Over its rugged and time worn brow
Which shows so softly through them now.

But I must not stay in this gossiping mood,
I only stopped for water and wood,
And to let you villagers have a gaze
At what seems to set them all in a maze.
My course is onward--and faster yet,
With shriek, and hiss, and hot steam set,
Shaking the echoes from out your mountains,
And drowning the voice of your shady fountains,
I am off--and as I thunder along
Ye may hear the last strain of the first engine's song.

L. H.

Vermont Phoenix, February 18, 1898.


First Railroad Station In Brattleboro

Built In Winter 1849

Detail From An Engraving By Thomas Chubbuck

Louisa Higginson was born in Boston on November 19, 1816. Louisa borrowed extensively from the popular song "Voice of Spring" for her "Song of the Locomotive". With her younger brother Thomas Wentworth Higginson, she planned a verse collection to be called Songs Beside Two Rivers---the Connecticut River and the Merrimack River, but this was never completed.







Site Design © Vermont Technology Partners, Inc.