Born: August 12, 1835, Torrington, Connecticut.
Died: October 22, 1920, New York City.
Buried: Trinity Church, New York City.
Ellen was the daughter of William Huntington and Elizabeth Vincent, youngest sister of railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington, and wife of Isaac Edwin Gates.
After marriage, she lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After her husband’s death, she moved to New York City, where she lived the rest of her life.
Stand up, stand up, behold the light!
I come, the long belated one.
The curtains of the dark are rent,
Uprises sea and continent,
And plain across astonished skies
On endless roads my chariot flies.
On worlds that widen evermore
God’s own eternal light shall pour.
My sister Darkness sat alone,
Unmoved, unconscious, still as stone,
With naught to take and naught to lose;
In awful cold, the slime and ooze
Sucked softly and no foolish fears
Disturbed the peace of hemispheres.
And there were sapphires bright and blue,
And shapeless diamonds without hue,
And there was never song nor word,
The under earth was still unstirred
’Til suddenly my rays were flung
Across a world new-made and young.
I touched the depths that hold the gold,
In deepest mines I backward rolled.
The awful black that filled the space
Wherein my living fires should race.
First came the rocks and one by one
They formed the earth’s great skeleton.
The undivided sea and land
Lay motionless, no human hand
Had flung a seed in furrows deep,
There were no springs to downward leap,
No winds across the earth to sweep.
In darkest depths were slabs of jade
And whitest marble, slowly laid
And kept for monuments to be
When God should separate the sea
From the dry land, when Time should be.
How old am I? God only knows;
Far up among unmelted snows
My beams came down like ponderous blows.
The shrieking ice before me fled
And named my name to quick and dead.
I said to scented spice and wood,
Come forth and end earth’s solitude.
Not yet from heavenly height had come
The loud clear word that rang as far
As God’s unnumbered æons are.
The senseless worm that slowly crawls
’Neath roots of trees and crumbling walls
And gnaws, the roots of roses fair
Must welcome give; my rays are there
As on the bones of mastodons.
Impartial, glorious, I can tell
Where walk the feet of Rafael.
On earth or sea or depth or height
There’s nothing half so swift as light.
My rays fell down on Sinai old
When all the mountain was ablaze
And God’s great glory on it shone,
When Moses talked with God alone.
Where dark monsoons and mistrals cry
As summoned by a trumpet call
Into the pockets of the sky
I fling myself, I make no cry.
I feel no sense of wrong or right,
All passionless and pale the light
That has no soul but simply came
When far beyond all suns aflame
The unseen forces named my name.
Wherever human races are
I wrap around them fold on fold;
They feel no weight of band or bar,
They laugh and weep, they sing and cheer
In God’s unnoticed atmosphere.
I, I am but a thought of God,
A shining mite when time was young,
A swift and radiant energy.
My sparks across His world I flung.
No mortal man may measure me
Nor weigh me in his shaking scales.
Should any say,
How long, O sun,
Before thy wondrous race is done?
I cannot tell, I may go far
As God’s most high archangels are.
They watch me well, for well they know
That unextinguished I shall glow,
For long as God’s own love shall be
Must heaven and earth have need of me.
I am the light that fills the space
Unoccupied, I know the seas
Where clouds like frightened creatures race.
Shall I be one when Time is done,
When at the last great legions come?
Shall I be joined with larger light
And with all earthly honors come
When God’s own chariot swings in sight?
Helen M. H. Gates
The Marble House, 1921