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