• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Agnes.

 

I

 

Surely there hangs a dimmer shine

Over the sky than a month ago!

Surely your somber, soughing pine

Has tears in its voice—it’s sobbing so.

Listen—that lonely robin weaves,

Whole heartbreaks into his plaintive weet,

And even the scarlet maple leaves

Fall with a sigh about my feet:

And the Indian Summer seems so wan—

Agnes has gone!

 

II

 

There is the reason! Out of the sky,

Purpled and paled with dreamy mist—

Shaken from breezy wafts that lie

Calmed in their isles of amethyst—

Dropping from every bird that croons—

Heard in the leaf-fall—heard in rain—

Under the nights and under the moons—

Ere these sounds the sad refrain,

Throbbing and sobbing over and on

‘Agnes has gone!’

 

III

 

Ah for the left—who bear to miss

Out of their lives, this life so rare!

Tender—how tender!—an angel’s kiss

Hallowed it daily, unaware:

Gracious as sunlight—sweet as dew

Shut in a lily’s golden core—

Fragrant with goodness through and through—

Pure as the spikenard Mary bore—

Pensive as twilight—soft as dawn—

—Agnes has gone!

 

IV

 

Close by the side of our Hero1 lay,

(Said she not so?)—the darling down—

Close—that the shadowing of the bay

Jointly her resting place may crown,

Has she not borne her woman’s part,

Bitterness—exile—loss, as he?

Pillow we then on the royal heart,

Daughter with father—Lee with Lee—

Soothed—that to him—tho’ from us withdrawn,

Agnes has gone!

 

M. J. P.2

   

 

Source: Photocopy of original, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 g, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 19

 

1. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), father of Eleanor Agnes Lee (1841-1873). Both are buried in Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia.

 

2. Margaret Junkin Preston (1820-1897) was an American poet and author born in Milton, Pennsylvania, to Reverend George Junkin (1790-1868) and Julia Rush Miller Junkin (1795-1854). Preston received a private education early on from her father, who cultivated her literary and intellectual talents. When her father accepted the presidency of Washington College in 1848, she and her family moved to Lexington, Virginia. Once there, she became closely acquainted with Agnes Lee and the Lee family, who lived in her Lexington home. In 1857, she married John Thomas Lewis Preston, a professor at the Virginia Military Institute and widow of seven children. Preston stopped writing by request of her husband, who like many antebellum Southerners disapproved of women being published. During the Civil War, however, John Preston encouraged his wife to continue her writing, which he admired, sympathetic to the war. Her most famous work as a result, which would go on to give her post-war renown, was Beechenbrook: A Rhyme of War.  Preston died in Baltimore, Maryland, and was buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.

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