To open her 1866 journal, Alice wrote seven quotations in Latin that are hard to decipher to my 21st century eyes. She wrote them in her most elegant script.
Then, she signs her name:
Alice M. Finch
And she quotes Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” a lengthy narrative poem published between 1812 and 1818.*
“There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar”
Alice grew into womanhood a woman during the Civil War. Her family lived a short distance from Richmond, Virginia where so much of the fighting happened. Is it any wonder that she quotes Lord Byron’s lengthy narrative poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” which expresses the disillusionment of a generation weary of war?
The word “childe” is a medieval title for a young man hopeful of knighthood. But it wasn’t knighthood or courtly honor that Alice sought.
In her younger years—according to her journal—she sought to be “worthy of the name of woman.” Later, as a mother, she sought the pleasure of her Lord and precious stolen moments where she could hear her own voice within the pages of her journal.
My quest through my reflections on her journals is to understand what it means to me to be a woman in today’s world.
What’s a quest that you’re on?
* If you’d like to read the full poem by Byron, you can find it on www.archives.org.
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