Sarah Bishop was a minor theme in the works of Samuel G. Goodrich. A ghostly figure whom Goodrich saw as a child, this Connecticut hermit provided the template for a character in the autobiography of “Robert Merry,” the putative editor of Goodrich’s magazine for children, Robert Merry’s Museum; the “autobiography” had appeared two years earlier in Robert Merry’s Miscellany.

But Bishop already had provided the subject of one of Goodrich’s literary works: “It will not surprise you that a subject like this should have given rise to one of my first poetical efforts—the first verses, in fact, that I ever published. I gave them to Brainard, then editor of the Mirror, at Hartford, and he inserted them, probably about the year 1823.” (Recollections of a Lifetime) In his poem, Goodrich does more than describe Bishop: he provides her a gothically tragic demise as a meeting with the man who wronged her drives her literally to her death.


http://www.merrycoz.org/sgg/OLDSARAH.xhtml
Sarah Bishop, by Samuel Griswold Goodrich (from the Connecticut Mirror, August 25, 1823; p. 3)

Mr. Brainard

The following lines are founded upon the history of Sarah Bishop, a hermitess, who lived 25 years in the cleft of a rock on the mountain which forms the boundary between this state and that of New-York. She used often to visit the adjacent villages, but had little intercourse with the inhabitants. Her name, and some obscure hints of the occasion of her misfortunes, were all that could be gathered from her, respecting her earlier life. She was found dead on the mountain about fifteen years ago, standing erect, her feet somewhat pressed into the mire. The following lines are believed to convey a correct representation of her in the main; for the appearance of the grey stranger at the end of the story, however, I will not vouch.

S.

For many a year the mountain hag

Was a theme of village wonder,

For she lived in a cave of the dizzy craig,

Where the eagle bore his plunder.

Up the beetling cliff she was seen at night,

Like a ghost go glide away;

And she came again with the morning light,

From the forest wild and gray.

And when winter came with its shrieking blast,

Old Sarah no more was seen,

’Till the snow-wreath away from the mountain passed,

And the forests were waving in green.

Her face was wrinkled, but passionless seem’d

As her bosom were withered and dead,

And her colourless eye like an icicle gleam’d,

But no sorrow or sympathy shed.

Her long snowy locks like the winter drift,

On the wind were backward cast—

And her crippled form glided by so swift,

You had said ’twere a ghost that passed.

And her house was a cave in a giddy rock,

That o’erhung a sullen vale—

And ’twas deeply scarred by the lighting’s shock,

And swept by the vengeful gale.

As alone on the cliff she musingly sate,

The fox at her fingers would snap—

The raven would sit on her snow-white pate,

And the rattlesnake coil in her lap.

And the vulture looked down with a welcoming eye

As he stooped in his airy swing—

And the haughty eagle hovered so nigh,

As to fan her long locks with his wing.

But when winter rolled dark its sullen wave

From the west with gusty shock—

Old Sarah, deserted, crept cold to her cave,

And slept without bed in her rock.

No fire illumined her dismal den,

Yet a tattered bible she read,

For she saw in the dark with a wizzard ken,

And talked with the troubled dead.

And ’twas said that she muttered a foreign name,

With curses too fearful to tell,

And a tale of perfidy—madness—and shame

She told to the walls of her cell.

* * * * * *

Years—years passed away and a stranger came

To the village with age all white—

He gloomily listened to tales of the dame,

And went to her desolate height.

He saw her—she stood on the jutting cliff,

Her hair on the wild winds [sic] breath—

Yet a statue she seemed for her limbs were stiff,

And pale in the palsy of death.

Like a desolate ruin she stood on the brink,

With a writhéd lip and glaring eye—

And her cold clay with horror seemed to shrink,

As the stranger came shuddering nigh.

He approached—but the hurrying gust swept on,

And bore her away from his sight—

And high on the craig the wild eagle alone,

Attended her funeral rite.

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