Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Gates of Circumstance

This used (but undated) postcard features a pastoral scene and a short poem:

The Gates of Circumstance
The massive gates of Circumstance,
Are turned upon the smallest hinge,
And thus some seeming petty chance
Oft gives our life an after tinge.
— Anon.

There is a longer, slightly different version of this poem. The oldest reference I found to it comes from the May 30, 1863, issue of Harper's Weekly1:

The massive gates of Circumstance
Are turned upon the smallest hinge,
And thus some seeming pettiest chance
Oft gives our life its after-tinge.

The trifles of our daily lives,
The common things, scarce worth recall,
Whereof no visible trace survives,
These are the mainsprings after all.

Affixed to this postcard is a green, one-cent John Smith stamp that was first issued on April 25, 1907, so the postcard could be at least that old. It was mailed to Pleasantville, Iowa.

The short note states:
"Maude and Chet got here this a.m. Fern [?] freind arrived this afternoon and we are looking for Laura tonight and then we will all be at home when they get here.
Esther [?]"

1. On May 28, 1863, two days before that issue of Harper's Weekly, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first official African-American units in the United States, marched from Boston, Massachusetts, to fight for the Union. Just 51 days later, the 54th took part in the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. Only 315 men were left from the 54th after the battle — 30 were killed in action, 24 later died of wounds, 15 were captured, and 52 were reported missing after the battle and never seen again.

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