Last updated on 11/03/12

Joseph Warren Watson


Joseph Warren was the youngest child of Walter and Rebecca Watson.  He had died at 23 of consumption.  We did find his obituary in the Ypsilanti Commercial Saturday, January 27, 1872:

Watson - In the Town of Canton, January 24, 1872, J. Warren Watson, aged 23 years.

Mr. Watson was a young man of uncommon promise. Though possessing no more than an ordinary common school education, with the exception of the knowledge he acquired by fireside reading and culture, he wrote some fine poems. He was the author of the word-renowned poem, "Beautiful Snow." He contributed some splendid pieces to the Commercial, also in the Commercial Advertiser, Detroit, and literary journals East. Social, gentle and kind in manner, he was greatly beloved by all that knew him. Like Kirk White, he is cut off before his genius had begun to reach its full development. He was a member of the Me. E. Church. Though he loved to communicate brief catches of poetry to contribute to the amusement of gay and festive circles, he rarely entered them himself, but seemed to live as if profoundly conscious of his early death. He died after a lingering illness of that fell destroyer of so many bight ambitious, and beautiful youths - consumption. Farewell, Warren! Your pleasant, genial face will be missed in our office.

In searching the Internet for the poem, Beautiful Snow, I found two sites.  One stated:

"This poem is about the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) in America is the personal testimony of a fallen girl who got right with God just before her tragic passing. Celebrated American poet Walt Whitman found the anonymous poem work and  passed it on to others more than a hundred years ago. It still packs a powerful wallop!" 

Another site stated that it was done by a James W. Watson.  

We have confirmed that J. Warren Watson wrote the poem Beautiful Snow.  It was found published in the Ypsilanti Commercial on January 8, 1870 by J. W. Watson.  

BEAUTIFUL SNOW

(The following is J. W. Watson's great poem, "Beautiful Snow," which has created something of a sensation in the literary world, and made a National reputation for the author, inasmuch as it has been copied into nearly all the leading publications and received the praise of the press generally.)

Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of people you meet.
Dancing, 
        Flirting, 
                       Skimming along,

Beautiful snow! It can do no wrong;
Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek,
Clinging to lips in frolicksome freak;
Beautiful snow from heaven above,
Pure as an angel, gentle as love!

Oh, the snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go
Whirling about in maddening fun:
Chasing, 
        Laughing, 
                Hurrying by.

It lights on the face and it sparkles the eye;
And the dogs with a bark and a bound
Snap at the crystals as they eddy around;
The town is alive, and its heart is aglow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.

How wild the crowd goes swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song;
How the gay sleighs like meteors flash by,
Bright for a moment, then lost to the eye:
Ringing,
        Swinging, 
                    Dashing they go,

Over the crest of the beautiful snow;
Snow so pure as it falls from the sky,
To be trampled in time by the crowd rushing by -

To be trampled and tracked by thousands of feet
Till it blends with the filth in the horrible street.

Once I was pure as the snow, but I fell,
Fell like the snow flakes from heaven to hell;
Fell to be trampled as filth in the street,
Fell to be scoffed, to be spit on and beat;
Pleading, 
    Cursing, 
                    Dreading to die,

Selling my soul to whoever would buy;
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God!  I have fallen so low!
And yet I was once like the beautiful snow..

Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like a crystal, a heart like its glow;
Once I was loved for my innocent grace--
Flattered and sought for the charms of my face!
Father, 
    Mother, 
            Sisters--all,

God and myself I have lost by my fall:
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by,
Will make a wide sweep lest I wander too night,
For all that is on or above me I know,
There is nothing so pure as the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!
How strange it should be when the night comes again
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!
Fainting, 
         Freezing, 
                    Dying alone,

Too wicked for prayer, too weak for a moan
To be heard in the streets of the crazy town,
Gone mad in the joy of snow coming down:
To be and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow.

(The poem ended here in the Ypsilanti Commercial newspaper.  However, on the internet, there was an additional verse.)

Helpless and foul as the trampled snow,
SINNER, DESPAIR NOT! CHRIST STOOPETH LOW
TO RESCUE THE SOUL THAT IS LOST IN SIN,
AND RAISE IT TO LIFE AND ENJOYMENT AGAIN.
Groaning, 
    Bleeding, 
                Dying--for then,

The Crucified hung on the cursed tree!
His accents of mercy fall soft on thine ear,
"Is there mercy for me? Will He hear my weak prayer?"
O God, in the stream that for sinners did flow,
WASH ME, AND I SHALL BE WHITER THAN SNOW.

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