Monday, August 1, 2016

Centennial Birthday Poem

By proofreader and army librarian Warren Handel Cudworth (1877-1927):

Found on

Born in New York City, Aug. 1, 1819.

A blue, blue sky above a blue, blue ocean,
   White canvas bellying to a lashing breeze,
Yielding the very poetry of motion
   To those who sail the sun-bathed Southern seas;
Moonlit lagoons behind long sandy reaches
   Against whose coral barriers breakers toss,
While brightly gleam above the shell-strewn beaches
   Canopus and the Cross;
Low bluffs where oft the zephyrs idly dally,
   Sheer mountains drowned at times in sultry calm,
The haunting glamour of the storied Valley
   Fronded with lithe bamboo and coco palm;
The whaler’s deck where all is eager hurry
   When comes the lookout’s call of “There she blows!”
The chase, harpoon, “Stern all!” and then the flurry
   That marks the drama’s close—
These scenes and hosts of fantasies and fancies
   Come, Melville, at the mention of your name,
And conjure up the time when youth’s romances
   Were quickened by your vivifying flame.
New fads and vapid cults can ne’er unseat you,
   Throned with a fame that deepens and abides.
Hence, loving well your magic page, we greet you
   Across a century’s tides.


Obviously not Rev. Warren Handel Cudworth, the chaplain and historian of the First Massachusetts Regiment who died in 1883--in the pulpit.

Our poet of the "blue blue sky" and "blue, blue ocean" must be Warren Handel Cudworth the army librarian. Born January 23, 1877 and named with the library staff of Camp Upton in Long Island, New York in the November 1918 ALA Handbook. Died January 13, 1927 in Freetown, Bristol County, Massachusetts. Find A Grave has more info including names of parents and presumed siblings.

Warren Handel Cudworth's draft registration dated September 12, 1918 gives his occupation as "Proofreader" for Plimpton Press in Norwood, Massachusetts.

Somebody in the Melville family saved Cudworth's poetic tribute. It's listed as Item # 15, Folder 3 in the online inventory of the Osborne Collection at Southwestern University.

Cudworth's 1917 translation of The Odes of Horace is digitized in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
The Internet Archive has the same privately printed first edition,and also the limited second edition of 250 copies "For public sale" by Alfred A. Knopf:


  1. Interestingly it appears Cudworth was an amateur astronomer - seeing a new star in the constellation Aquila in 1918.

  2. This book says Cudworth was a proofreader for thirty years at Plimpton Press.

  3. Cudworth's Library was donated by his father to the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood MA:

    1. Astronomer, Latinist, Librarian, Poet...Melville's ideal reader?

    2. Mr. Cudworth's books were sold to the public by the MMLibrary during its renovation.
      Does anyone know how, if at all, this WHC is related to the Rev. WHC?