Celebrating John Burrough’s First Book with Rebecca Palfrey Utter’s Poem: The Wake-Robin

"A fair and pleasant vision the nodding blossoms make;

And the flower's name and mission is

'Wake, Robin, wake!'"

April 3, 1837

On this day, the Naturalist, poet, and philosopher John Burroughs was born.

John's first book was called Wake Robin, a common name for the woodland plant known as trillium.


In my research, I found a little-known poem called The Wake-Robin by Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter.


Rebecca was a descendant of Gene Williams Palfrey, who served with George Washington and was an ambassador to France.


When she was 28, Rebecca became the wife of a Chicago Unitarian minister named David Utter.

After that, Rebecca worked beside David as a missionary, and she coined the now-popular term “Daughter of the King” in one of her more famous poems.


Here’s The Wake-Robin by Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter.

When leaves green and hardy
From sleep have just uncurled —
Spring is so tardy
In this part of the world —
There comes a white flower forth,
Opens its eyes,
Looks out upon the earth,
In drowsy surprise.
A fair and pleasant vision
The nodding blossoms make;
And the flower's name and mission
Is "Wake, Robin, wake !”

But you're late, my lady,
You have not earned your name;
Robin's up already,
Long before you came.
You trusted the sun's glances,
To rouse you from your naps;
Or the brook that near you dances
At spring's approach, perhaps;
Your chamber was too shady,
The drooping trees among;
Robin's up already,
Don't you hear his song?

There he sits, swinging,
In his brown and scarlet cloak,
His notes like laughter ringing;
Tis plain he sees the joke.
"Accidents will happen,”
Laughs robin loud and clear;
"If you think to catch me napping,
Wake earlier next year!"

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Wake Robin by John Burroughs
Wake Robin by John Burroughs
Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter
Rebecca Salsbury Palfrey Utter
Wake Robin (Trillium)
Wake Robin (Trillium)

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