Rebecca Hammond grew up near the Ohio River. She married Samuel Lard in February of 1798 and had four children with him. Rebecca was one of the first female school teachers in Jennings County, a job that came with much pressure to compete with males. She was committed to her job and was set on success. So much so that her husband filed for divorce on the grounds that she had chosen her job over their marriage. They divorced in April of 1828.
Lard’s poems, although quite old, still apply to life in today’s world. In her collection Miscellaneous Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects, she writes about nature, not only the nature of environment, but also the nature of humans. She discusses beauty, death, and feelings by comparing them to natural phenomena.
For example, in her poem “The Scenes of Nature Must Decay,” she discusses how time and age can destroy beauty. She first shows how time can erode the beauty of the landscape:
Summer, whither art thou fled,
... With soft zephyrs sighing?
Pleasant landscape, grove and mead;
... All their beauties dying.
...... Wintry winds begin to roar,
...... Grove or landscape, charm no more,
.......Time hath stole their bloom away,
...... Scenes of nature must decay. (42)
After showing the way that nature itself experience change, she goes on to compare it to the way that people share the same change. Her example is of a girl who blossoms into an attractive young lady, and she gives this woman and others like her the advice to enjoy youth and beauty while it lasts.
The theme of fading beauty appears again in her poem “The Tree.” Here, she explains that since physical beauty and youth leave so quickly, the mind and heart must be made equally beautiful. She also ties in the theme that those with good hearts shall be rewarded after death.
BEHOLD, fair maid, the blooming tree,
Now flourishing and fair you see;
With fruit and verdant foliage crown’d;
It spreads a pleasing shade around;
But withering blasts shall soon assail,
And strew the leaves along the vale;
Nought can avert th’ impending fate,
Sad emblems of our mortal state;
So time shall all your charms deface,
And triumph o’er the beauteous face;
His with’ring hand your blossoms spill:
To my advice then be inclin’d,
Improve the beauties of your mind:
So shall you flourish in your prime,
Nor fear the fading hand of time.
Then when by death you’re called away
To realms of everlasting day,
Virtue shall raise you o’er the tomb,
And like the rose of Eden bloom. (16)
Rebecca also writes about the seasons and the effect that is has on people’s emotions. Some examples of these works are “Summer” and “The Gloom of Winter.”
Lard’s most well known poem is her twelve page book On the Banks of the Ohio. In it, she describes the landscape of the area and the beauty of the untouched nature. She talks about the native people and how dangerous they were to the survival of herself and the people with whom she lived and traveled.
....The power that form’d the hills and spread the plain,
And bade the rivers roll towards the main,
By the same fiat gave this clime to rise,
And bloom in splendour ‘neath the western skies;
Crown’d with his richest gifts this favour’d land,
And pour’d his bounties with unsparing hand…
Then beasts of prey here found a resting place,
And savage men delighted in the chase.
No cultering hand improv’d the fertile soil,
But herbs and flowers in wild confusion lay,
And trees umbrageous veil’d the noontide ray…
The lofty mountains, gloomy deserts pass’d,
Ohio’s blooming banks apear’d at last;
Like a new Eden opening in the wild,
Boundless to view the flowery region smil’d.
Here joyous Seasons danc’d around the year,
The vernal plains seem’d wide as nature’s sphere,
And numerous rivers here meandering stray
Through fertile vales; and then their tribute pay
To great Ohio, whose majestick stream
Rolls on to meet the sun’s far-setting beam. (3-4)
In the last passage, Lard compares the area to Eden, which she references several times throughout the poem. She continues to talk about the natives and the immigrants who have settled among them. She states that the Ohio River was a very important port and means of transportation for the people of this time. She describes the villages and towns that pop up along the river, and how the people depend on this natural resource for survival.
The river’s self is a stupendous port,
Where every country, every clime resort;
The great highway, by nature’s high behest,
To fertile climes extensive in the West. (8)
In the following passage, Lard evokes a muse, much like the Greek poets of centuries ago. She asks the muse to guide her and allow her to tell of the beauty of the region.
Ye gentle Muses, now inspire the lay,
While on the blooming banks I raptur’d stray;
Lead me propitious through the laureate vales,
Shew me the rosy bowers and flowery dales,
Lo! What a pleasing prospect spreads around
The woodland scenes, that with wild notes resound;
The gay luxuriant upland; while below
In deeper green th’ enameled meadows glow,
Where lowing herds and bleating flocks are seen,
Sporting in richest pastures, fresh and green.
Wide are the fields and rich the teeming soil,
Unsparing bounty well rewards the toil;
And fills the hand of each industrious swain,
That turns the glebe along the furrow’d plain. (6)
Lard’s poems are an invaluable source of information on the life and setting of early people in the state of Indiana. It is important to learn how settlers felt about not only the land, but also about the people who were there. Lard’s works are an expression of the settlers and are an important part of the literature of Indiana.
Lard, Rebecca Hammond. Miscellaneous Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects. Woodstock: David Watson. 1820.
Lard, Rebecca Hammond. On the Banks of the Ohio. Albany: John C. Johns. 1823.
Seaver, Sharon. "Rebecca Hammond." Hammond/ Laird. 10 Oct.-Nov. 2005 <http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~jlopp/laird.htm>.
Lard Family Genealogy