Love or Fame; and Other Poems

Author: Fannie Isabel Sherrick

Part I.

Girlhood, the dearest time of joy and love,
The sunny spring of gladness and of peace,
The time that joins its links with heaven above,
And all that’s pure below; a running ease
Of careless thought beguiles the murmuring stream
Of girlish life, and as some sweet, vague dream,
The fleeting days go by; fair womanhood
Comes oft to lure the girlish feet away,
But by the brooklet still they love to stray,
Nor long to seek the world’s engulfing flood.

Hilda—a name that seems to stand alone—
So strong, so clear it sharply echoing tone;
And yet a name that holds a weirdlike grace,
Withal like some strange, haunting, beauteous face;

A woman’s name, by woman’s truth made dear,
That leans upon itself and knows no fear,
And yet a name a shrinking girl might wear,
With girlish ease, devoid of thought and care.
And she is worthy of this name so true—
This girl with thoughtful eyes of darkest hue,
This maiden stepping o’er the golden line
That separates the child from woman divine.
Not yet she feels the longing, vague unrest
That ever fills the woman’s throbbing breast,
But with a childlike questioning after truth,
She lingers yet amid the dreams of youth.

And now upon the bounding ocean’s shore
She stands where creep the wavelets more and more,
Until at last the rocky ledge they meet,
And break in foam around her lingering feet.
Her eyes glance downward in a careless way,
As though she loved their soft caressing play,
And fain would stand and muse forever there,
Lulled by their murmuring sound.

Placid and fair
The ocean lies before her dreamy eyes,
Stretched forth in beauty ’neath the sunny skies,
And through the clouds’ far lifting, sheeny mist
She sees the pale blue skies by sunlight kissed.
Enraptured by the calm and holy scene,
She stands a creature pure and glad; serene,
Her eyes glance heavenward and a roseate shade
Plays o’er her Hebe features—perfect made.

A child of nature, she has never known
The arts and wiles which worldlier spirits own;
She loves the ocean’s ever changing play,
When round her form is flung its dashing spray,
And oft she laughs in wildest, merriest glee
When folded close within its billows free.

She loves the wildwood’s green and leafy maze,
Within whose foliage hide the sun’s bright rays;
And like a child she hoards the bright-eyed flowers,
Companions of so many happy hours.
With loving heart she greets each form of earth,
To which God’s kindly hand has given birth.
But better far than all, she loves to roam
Far on the cliff’s lone height, and there at eve
To watch the dark ships as they wander home.
Strange dreams in this calm hour her fancies weave,
So quaint and odd, they seem but shadowy rays,
Caught from the sunset’s deep, mysterious haze.

Lo! now she stands like some pale statue fair,
With eyes cast down and careless falling hair;
She vaguely dreams of things that are to be,
A woman’s future, noble, fresh and free;
And o’er her face youth’s crimson colors flow,
As with a beating heart she thinks she’ll give
Her life to one true heart, and with a glow
Of pride she vows her future life to live
So good and true that all her days shall seem
But the fulfillment of his heart’s proud dream.

Yet soon she trembles with some unknown thought,
A vague and restless longing fills her breast,
And with a passionate fear her mind is wrought.
She cannot case away the strange unrest;
With hands clasped close in attitude of prayer
She stands, her pleading face so young and fair,
Is turned unto the skies, but no, not here
Will God speak all unto her listening ear;
Too soon in dark, deep strife upon this shore
Her soul will yield its peace forevermore.

And then she hurries home with flying feet,
The faces of that humble home to meet;
For there in peace her dear old parents dwell,
That simple twain who love this maid so well
They fain would keep her with them ever there,
A thoughtless child, free from all grief and care.
But ah! they cannot understand the heart,
Which turns from all their loving ways apart,
And dwells within a region of its own.
Within that home she seems to stand alone,
While all unseen the forces gather, day
By day, that o’er her life shall hold their sway;
And like a fragile flower before the storm,
She bows her head and ends her slender form,
For even like the flower she must stand
And brave the tempest, for ’tis God’s command.

And like to her how many a girl has stood
Upon the unknown brink of womanhood
And sought in vain from guiding hand and power;
But unlike her in that dread trial hour,
They’ve lost their faith, for Hilda’s trusting mind,
E’en though it stood alone, had so much strength,
And faith that to life’s problem she could find
Solution strange and subtle; even though at length
She might complain and grieve o’er all the wasted past.
Oh! life is dark and full of unseen care,
And better were it if all girls thus fair
And young were truly understood at last.
For every girl some time will feel the need
Of loving hearts to strengthen and to lead,
When first are opened to her wondering eyes
The world’s fair fields and seeming paradise.
She only sees the beauty—hears the song,
Knows not the hidden snares, nor dreams of wrong.
’Tis woman’s happiest time, and yet ’tis true
A sombre tinge may mar its brightest hue.
For girlhood too will have its doubts and fears,
Will lose the past and long for coming years,
And sad indeed when youth is left alone
To face the coming future all unknown.
The eyes see not that should be strong and keen;
While powerless, weak girlhood stands between
The tides of life, and though its aims are high,
How often will they fail!

Where dangers lie
Poor Hilda stands and knows it not, the dream
Of life to her is bright, youth’s sunny gleam
Shines over all in tender, softened light,
And swiftly do the moments wing their flight.
But yet so sensitive her shrinking soul,
That o’er her life sometimes great shadows roll,
Like angry clouds; upon a wild dark shore
She stands, alone and weak, while more and more
The unknown forces grow and cast their blight,
Till all the past is lost in one dark night;
Unto the woman’s lot her life is cast,
And like a dream the girlish days drift past.


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Chicago: Fannie Isabel Sherrick, "Part I. Girlhood," Love or Fame; and Other Poems, ed. Keil, Heinrich, 1822-1894 and trans. Seaton, R. C. in Love or Fame; and Other Poems (New York: George E. Wood, 1850), Original Sources, accessed May 11, 2021,

MLA: Sherrick, Fannie Isabel. "Part I. Girlhood." Love or Fame; and Other Poems, edited by Keil, Heinrich, 1822-1894, and translated by Seaton, R. C., in Love or Fame; and Other Poems, New York, George E. Wood, 1850, Original Sources. 11 May. 2021.

Harvard: Sherrick, FI, 'Part I. Girlhood' in Love or Fame; and Other Poems, ed. and trans. . cited in 1850, Love or Fame; and Other Poems, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 11 May 2021, from