P. Richard Eichman, 60, first small-town poet laureate in Md.


P. Richard Eichman, Maryland's first small-town poet laureate who chronicled in verse the life and foibles of the Carroll County village of Union Bridge, died of cancer Thursday at Carroll County General Hospital. He was 60.

Two years ago, he was designated poet laureate of Union Bridge by the Town Council.

On the day of his death, his 200-page volume of verse celebrating the everyday life of the Carroll County town of 1,003 souls was shipped to England for an initial printing of 1,000 copies.

Plans for a U.S. edition are under way, with the money raised from sales of the book going to a scholarship that will be named for the author, said friends.

The costs were underwritten by three Union Bridge firms-Lehigh Cement Co., Maryland Midland Railway and Pfoutz & Sons Inc. millworks, he said.

In addition to his verse - from two-line epigrams to a 40-stanza work that fills 10 pages, he wrote a section explaining forms of poetry. It was unclear what working title Mr. Eichman was using for the book.

After poetry was dropped from the town newsletter in 1997, local residents rallied to his cause, which led to his appointment as poet laureate - in the tradition of poets who served at the pleasure of British monarchs. Their chief responsibility was dashing off poetry celebrating the sovereign's birthday and victorious battles, which led Town Attorney John T. Maguire II to quip, "I don't see us going to war."

Mr. Eichman, also a musician and portrait painter, was born in Frederick and lived his entire life in the frame house on East Thomas Street built by a great-uncle during World War I.

Here, in rooms filled with classic British literature ranging from the 16th century to the 19th century, with a focus on the works of Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Pope, Lord Byron and Jonathan Swift, Mr. Eichman composed his sonnets, heroic couplets, epigrams and iambic tetrameter in the style of Swift.

Byron's "Don Juan" served as the inspiration for his poems in "ottava rima," a "strange form of rhyming," he told The Sun in a 1999 interview.

He used ottava rima in his "Commentary on the Common Taste," explaining how a "Senator Bloat" has given himself a raise.

And then the tattle turns to tasty morsels From Tortes and tarta to veal and oyster patties Which the small hamlet's money-raising corps sells. 'Ah, cakes! From you Our coffers' mat and fat is Let poets (worthless crew!) praise petits fours; also The town shall want of nourishment.' And that is As far as public admiration runs To tricky politics and sticky buns.

A graduate of Elmer A. Wolfe High School, Mr. Eichman earned his bachelor's degree in piano and music education from the Peabody Conservatory in 1962. He taught music in Baltimore County public schools for 18 years until retiring in 1980. For the past 20 years, he worked as a portrait painter and gave lessons in his basement studio.

He was stricken with melanoma in 1997 and, although in declining health, continued playing the organ at St. James Lutheran Church in Union Bridge.

"Would you believe he played the Christmas morning service? That was a goal he set for himself, and he made it. And he played beautifully," said Perry L. Miles, a Union Bridge resident and close friend.

He is survived by a sister, Margaret Lindsay Ellis of Easton, Pa.

Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at St. James Lutheran Church, 14 S. Benedum St., Union Bridge.

Sun staff writer Sheridan Lyons contributed to this article.

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