The Wayfarer’s Song, Installment 12

November 16, 2014

An Experiment in point of view.

Our next wayfarer, Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842), was the father of Selim, who came to my rescue more than once while I was still a green “Jack Doe” in Frisco. Samuel was born in the county of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of four children born to a poor farmer (a veteran of the Revolutionary war) who tilled the barren soil on a small farm owned by his second wife. He was not able to get his sons a good education, for there was no school held in the village except during the winter months; and economy drove the selection of its teacher who was generally as ignorant as the school’s pupils. By the age of fourteen years, Samuel had a limited knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but a tangible gift for rhyme. Be not deceived, sadly, young Samuel knew that the occupation of poet that first finds a man poor, keeps him so.

How happy is the minstrel’s lot,

   Whose song each care beguiles

The frowns of Fortune fright him not,

   Nor does he court her smiles.

Contented with his tuneful lyre,

   His art can yield the rest;

He pours his soul along the wire,

   And rapture fires his breast.

Samuel’s father and his village teacher could see how bright the lad was – with characteristic quickness of apprehension and strength of memory – and they contrived to procure an education for him. A good preacher, Reverend Nehemiah Thomas (1766-1831) spent a winter teaching him English, Latin, and the classics. Samuel lamented that his education could only last but one short season:

And here the muse bewails her hapless bard,

   Whose cruel fate such golden prospects marr’d;

For hope once whisper’d to his ardent breast,

   “Thy dearest, fondest wish shall be possess’d;”

Unfolded to his view the classic page,

   And all its treasures promised ripening age;

Show’d Learning’s flowery path which led to Fame,

   Whose distant temple glitter’d with his name.

Illusive all! – the phantom all believe,

   Though still we know her promises deceive;

Chill penury convinced the wretch, too late,

   Her words were false, and his a hapless fate.

Young Samuel was compelled to choose a profession, and choose he did, that steadfast profession of Printer. Saying adieu to his dear family, he traveled to the metropolis of his native state, and bound himself as an apprentice to Benjamin Russell, Esq., the publisher and editor of the Columbian Centinel in the year 1806. Samuel, using the pseudonym “Selim,” began to get his poems published in various Boston publications; sadly, he did not retain any copies of these productions. Samuel began to dream of taking an extensive tour of the United States to broaden his understanding of the workings of the world; practicality compelled him to remain with this former master for another year. And alas, he was drawn into hazardous speculations that put him into debt.

Rather than get bound again he traveled destitute along the byways and highways to New York. Samuel hoped to procure employment in the different towns sufficient to continue his tour. His optimism was only dashed when after applying in every printer’s shop in every village, the response was the same: no work here. At length, he found himself in New Haven – a stranger with blistered feet and an empty purse. Not one to give up, Samuel wrote to a friend and asked for some money to carry him further on his quest, and the friend acquiesced. Having a genteel appearance and manners, along with a growing knowledge of human nature, Samuel procured decent lodgings despite poverty, and was treated with respect.

Finding himself comfortable, Samuel returned to his natural disposition that led to scribbling verses, falling in love, and forming transient amiable attachments. He worked for nine months, and decided to begin his own publication, purchased type and a press on credit and soon found himself received payment insufficient to cover costs. In short, he became the pail, dejected picture of despair. In 1810, Samuel formed an enduring amiable attachment with a young lady and the two married. Samuel was no longer a wayfarer.

Love Hitch

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