"Aunt Betsey's Prayer-Meeting" offers an example of Julia Mathews's poems written for an older audience. It was one of a number of short pieces published in The Illustrated Christian Weekly, then edited by Lyman Abbott (son of series author Jacob Abbott). Like much of Julia Mathews's other work, it has a religious slant and offers a lesson of sorts.
Aunt Betsey's Prayer-Meeting
by Julia A. Mathews
I've been tonight to a meetin',
Our own church meetin' for prayer;
I knew it would n't be Christian
To wish I was n't there;
But somehow I felt quite different
From what I'd felt before.
I went with John and the children
Into the old church door.
I went feelin' chirk [sic] and happy,
I'd had a good, bright day;
Father'd been rakin' the meadow,
The boys were cuttin' hay;
And the smell came up so pleasant,
Just like a sweet wild-rose,
I had to sing at my bakin',
And as I damped my clothes.
And all the day had been shiny,
Indeed, days mostly is;
I think when they go to meetin'
Folks do n't remember this,
It's often so in our meetin's;
They go and sing and pray,
But scarceely ever seem thinkin'
Of the brightness of the day.
To-night there was many prayin',
And many speakin' too,
Yet there was a somethin' wantin'
When they had all got through.
The prayers was real good and earnest,
And there was wise words said,
But somehow even the Scriptur'
To me fell cold and dead.
They told the Lord of our fainlin's,
Of all the cares he'd sent,
Of our troubles and our trials,
(Ownin' 't was kindly meant;)
And they prayed for help and comfort,
I know it was quite right,
But all the while I was wishin'
They'd thank him more to-night.
We'd had such a real nice sunset,
The clouds was gold and red,
And lay on the blue so restful;
I wanted one word said
To thank the Lord for its beauty;
He did it to make us glad;
But never one real thanksgivin'
For that fair sight, he had.
Oh, no, they only just thanked him
In a gen'ral kind of way;
I wished they would speak out plainly,
Of flowers, the new-mown hay,
The birds, the sky, and the sunset,
And all our sweet home-joys;
Would tell him of all the pleasure
We have in our girls and boys.
Then they talked so of our failures!
Enough to fright a soul!
We want some measure of courage
To keep faith bright and whole.
If you should be always tellin'
Your boys of their faults and sin,
Your strivin's to make them better
Would n't be worth a pin.
I know I'm a vexin' sinner,
But I do n't feel I'm "vile;"
If I did I'm sure I should n't
Think it was quite worth while
To tell all my friends and neighbors;
I'd be so much ashamed,
I'm sure I could n't lift my head
If I should hear it named.
I'd just get close to the Master,
To breathe it in his ear;
I know he'd be watchin' for me,
Waitin' my tale to hear.
But I do n't believe he'll ever
Let me be "lost" or "vile,"
For his own strong arm can hold me
Close to him all the while.
So I came straight home this evenin',
I did not fret a mite
To John or the boys of meetin';
They'd think it was n't right.
For they're all strong meetin'-goers,
And they do n't seem to see
The want there is in prayers and things
That is so great to me.
I went off into my bedroom,
And knelt there in the light
Of God's blue sky and shinin' stars,
And then it was all right.
I just told the Lord about it,
How fair my day had been,
At the lovely dawn, at sunset,
And all the time between.
How my work had run on smoothly,
Of my dear daily joys,
Of the solid peace and comfort
I'd had with John and the boys.
I'd never think it was Christian
Not to meet with the rest,
But I like my own prayer-meetin'
Under the stars the best.
Illustrated Christian Weekly 18 September 1875: 451
Copyright 2013 by Deidre Johnson . Please do not reproduce without permission