Poets of the South
by F.V.N. Painter
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The close of the war found him a ruined man; he was almost destitute of property and broken in health. He was obliged to sell some of his household furniture to keep his family in bread. "We have," he says, in a sadly playful letter to Hayne at this period, "we have—let me see!—yes, we have eaten two silver pitchers, one or two dozen silver forks, several sofas, innumerable chairs, and a huge—bedstead!" He could find no paying market for his poems in the impoverished South; and in the North political feeling was still too strong to give him access to the magazines there. The only employment he could find was some clerical work for a season in the governor's office, where he sometimes toiled far beyond his strength. In this time of discouragement and need, the gloom of which was never lifted, he pathetically wrote to Hayne: "I would consign every line of my verse to eternal oblivion for one hundred dollars in hand."

In 1867 his physicians recommended a change of air; and accordingly he spent a month with his lifelong friend Hayne at Copse Hill. It was the one rift in the clouds before the fall of night. There is a pathetic beauty in the fellowship of the two poets during these brief weeks, when, with spirits often attuned to high thought and feeling, they roamed together among the pines or sat beneath the stars. "We would rest on the hillsides," says Hayne, "in the swaying golden shadows, watching together the Titanic masses of snow-white clouds which floated slowly and vaguely through the sky, suggesting by their form, whiteness, and serene motion, despite the season, flotillas of icebergs upon Arctic seas. Like lazzaroni we basked in the quiet noons, sunk in the depths of reverie, or perhaps of yet more 'charmed sleep.' Or we smoked, conversing lazily between the puffs,—

'Next to some pine whose antique roots just peeped From out the crumbling bases of the sand.'"

Timrod survived but a few weeks after his return to Columbia. The circumstances of his death were most pathetic. Though sustained by Christian hopes, he still longed to live a season with the dear ones about him. When, after a period of intense agony that preceded his dissolution, his sister murmured to him, "You will soon be at rest now," he replied, with touching pathos, "Yes, my sister, but love is sweeter than rest." He died October 7, 1867, and was laid to rest in Trinity churchyard, where his grave long remained unmarked.

Two principal editions of his works have been published: the first in 1873, with an admirable memoir by Hayne; the second in 1899, under the auspices of the Timrod Memorial Association of South Carolina. A number of his poems and his prose writings still remain uncollected; and there is yet no biography that fully records the story of his life. This fact is not a credit to Southern letters, for, as we have seen, Timrod was a poet of more than commonplace ability and achievement.

For the most part, his themes were drawn from the ordinary scenes and incidents of life. He was not ambitious of lofty subjects, remote from the hearts and homes of men. He placed sincerity above grandeur; he preferred love to admiration. He was always pure, brave, and true; and, as he sang:—

"The brightest stars are nearest to the earth, And we may track the mighty sun above, Even by the shadow of a slender flower. Always, O bard, humility is power! And thou mayest draw from matters of the hearth Truths wide as nations, and as deep as love."



Lanier's genius was predominantly musical. He descended from a musical ancestry, which included in its line a "master of the king's music" at the court of James I. His musical gifts manifested themselves in early childhood. Without further instruction in music than a knowledge of the notes, which he learned from his mother, he was able to play, almost by intuition, the flute, guitar, violin, piano, and organ. He organized his boyish playmates into an amateur minstrel band; and when in early manhood he began to confide his most intimate thoughts to a notebook, he wrote, "The prime inclination—that is, natural bent (which I have checked, though)—of my nature is to music, and for that I have the greatest talent; indeed, not boasting, for God gave it me, I have an extraordinary musical talent, and feel it within me plainly that I could rise as high as any composer."

This early bent and passion for music never left him. His thought continually turned to the subject of music, and in the silences of his soul he frequently heard wonderful melodies. In his novel, Tiger Lilies, he lauds music in a rapturous strain: "Since in all holy worship, in all conditions of life, in all domestic, social, religious, political, and lonely individual doings; in all passions, in all countries, earthly or heavenly; in all stages of civilization, of time, or of eternity; since, I say, in all these, music is always present to utter the shallowest or the deepest thoughts of man or spirit—let us cease to call music a fine art, to class it with delicate pastry cookery and confectionery, and to fear to make too much of it lest it should make us sick." At a later period, while seeking to regain his health by a sojourn in Texas, he wrote to his wife: "All day my soul hath been cutting swiftly into the great space of the subtle, unspeakable deep, driven by wind after wind of heavenly melody. The very inner spirit and essence of all wind-songs, bird-songs, passion-songs, folk-songs, country-songs, sex-songs, soul-songs, and body-songs, hath blown upon me in quick gusts like the breath of passion, and sailed me into a sea of vast dreams, whereof each wave is at once a vision and a melody."

This predominance of music in the genius of Lanier is at once the source of his strength and of his weakness in poetry. In his poems, and in his work entitled The Science of English Verse, it is the musical element of poetry upon which the principal emphasis is laid. This fact makes him the successor of Poe in American letters. Both in theory and in practice Lanier has, as we shall see, achieved admirable results. But, after all, the musical element of poetry is of minor importance. It is a means, and not an end. No jingle of sound can replace the delicacy of fancy, nobleness of sentiment and energy of thought that constitute what we may call the soul of poetry. Rhapsody is not the highest form of poetic achievement. In its noblest forms poetry is the medium through which great souls, like Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Tennyson, give to the world, with classic self-restraint, the fruitage of their highest thought and emotion.

The life of Lanier was a tragedy. While lighted here and there with a fleeting joy, its prevailing tone was one of sadness. The heroic courage with which he met disease and poverty impart to his life an inspiring grandeur. He was born at Macon, Georgia, February 3, 1842. His sensitive spirit early responded to the beauties of Nature; and in his hunting and fishing trips, in which he was usually accompanied by his younger brother Clifford, he caught something of the varied beauties of marsh, wood, and sky, which were afterwards to be so admirably woven into his poems. He early showed a fondness for books, and in the well-stored shelves of his father's library he found ample opportunity to gratify his taste for reading. His literary tastes were doubtless formed on the old English classics—Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Addison—which formed a part of every Southern gentleman's library.

At the age of fifteen he entered the Sophomore class of Oglethorpe College, near Milledgeville, an institution that did not have sufficient vitality to survive the Civil War. He did not think very highly of the course of instruction, and found his chief delight, as perhaps the best part of his culture, in the congenial circle of friends he gathered around him. The evenings he spent with them were frequently devoted to literature and music. A classmate, Mr. T. F. Newell, gives us a vivid picture of these social features of his college life. "I can recall," he says, "my association with him with sweetest pleasure, especially those Attic nights, for they are among the dearest and tenderest recollections of my life, when with a few chosen companions we would read from some treasured volume, it may have been Tennyson, or Carlyle, or Christopher North's Noctes Ambrosianoe, or we would make the hours vocal with music and song; those happy nights, which were veritable refections of the gods, and which will be remembered with no other regret than that they will nevermore return. On such occasions I have seen him walk up and down the room and with his flute extemporize the sweetest music ever vouchsafed to mortal ear. At such times it would seem as if his soul were in a trance, and could only find existence, expression, in the ecstasy of tone, that would catch our souls with his into the very seventh heaven of harmony."

Lanier was a diligent student, and easily stood among the first of his classes, particularly in mathematics. His reading took a wide range. In addition to the leading authors of the nineteenth century, he showed a fondness for what was old and quaint in our literature. He delighted in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and in the works of "the poet- preacher," Jeremy Taylor. At this time, too, his thoughtful nature turned to the serious problem of his life work. He eagerly questioned his capabilities as preliminary, to use his own words, "to ascertaining God's will with reference to himself." As already learned from his notebook, he early recognized his extraordinary gifts in music. But his ambition aimed at more than a musician's career, for it seemed to him, as he said, that there were greater things that he might do.

His ability and scholarship made a favorable impression on the college authorities, and immediately after his graduation he was elected to a tutorship. From this position, so congenial to his scholarly tastes, he was called, after six months, by the outbreak of the Civil War. In his boyhood he had shown a martial spirit. With his younger brother he joined the Macon Volunteers, and soon saw heavy service in Virginia. He took part in the battles of Seven Pines, Drewry's Bluffs, and Malvern Hill, in all of which he displayed a chivalrous courage. Afterward he became a signal officer and scout. "Nearly two years," he says, in speaking of this part of his service, "were passed in skirmishes, racing to escape the enemy's gunboats, signaling dispatches, serenading country beauties, poring over chance books, and foraging for provender." In 1864 he became a blockade runner, and in his first run out from near Fort Fisher, he was captured and taken to Point Lookout prison.

It is remarkable that, amid the distractions and hardships of active service, his love of music and letters triumphantly asserted itself. His flute was his constant companion. He utilized the brief intervals of repose that came to him in camp to set some of Tennyson's songs to music and to prosecute new lines of literary study. He took up the study of German, in which he became quite proficient, and by the light of the camp fire at night translated from Heine, Schiller, and Goethe. At the same time his sympathy with the varied aspects of Nature was deepened. Trees and flowers and ferns revealed to him their mystic beauty; and like Wordsworth, he found it easy, "in the lily, the sunset, the mountain, and rosy hues of all life, to trace God."

It was during his campaigns in Virginia that he began the composition of his only novel, Tiger Lilies, which was not completed, however, till 1867. It is now out of print. Though immature and somewhat chaotic, it clearly reveals the imaginative temperament of the author. War is imaged to his mind as "a strange, enormous, terrible flower," which he wishes might be eradicated forever and ever. As might be expected, music finds an honored place in its pages. He regards music as essential to the home. "Given the raw materials," he says, "to wit, wife, children, a friend or two, and a house,—two other things are necessary. These are a good fire and good music. And inasmuch as we can do without the fire for half the year, I may say that music is the one essential. After the evening spent around the piano, or the flute, or the violin, how warm and how chastened is the kiss with which the family all say good night! Ah, the music has taken all the day cares and thrown them into its terrible alembic and boiled them and rocked them and cooled them, till they are crystallized into one care, which is a most sweet and rare desirable sorrow—the yearning for God."

After the war came a rude struggle for existence—a struggle in which tuberculosis, contracted during his camp life, gradually sapped his strength. Hemorrhages became not infrequent, and he was driven from one locality to another in a vain search for health. But he never lost hope; and his sufferings served to bring out his indomitable, heroic spirit, and to stimulate him to the highest degree of intellectual activity. Few men have accomplished more when so heavily handicapped by disease and poverty. The record of his struggle is truly pathetic. In a letter to Paul Hamilton Hayne, written in 1880, he gives us a glimpse both of his physical suffering and his mental agony. "I could never tell you," he says, "the extremity of illness, of poverty, and of unceasing toil, in which I have spent the last three years, and you would need only once to see the weariness with which I crawl to bed after a long day's work, and after a long night's work at the heels of it—and Sundays just as well as other days—in order to find in your heart a full warrant for my silence. It seems incredible that I have printed such an unchristian quantity of matter—all, too, tolerably successful—and secured so little money; and the wife and the four boys, who are so lovely that I would not think a palace good enough for them if I had it, make one's earnings seem all the less." During all these years of toil he longed to be delivered from the hard struggle for bread that he might give himself more fully to music and poetry.

In 1867, while in charge of a prosperous school at Prattville, Alabama, he married Miss Mary Day, of Macon, Georgia. It proved a union in which Lanier found perpetual inspiration and comfort. His new-found strength and happiness are reflected in more than one of his poems. In Acknowledgment we read:—

"By the more height of thy sweet stature grown, Twice-eyed with thy gray vision set in mine, I ken far lands to wifeless men unknown, I compass stars for one-sexed eyes too fine."

And in My Springs, he says again, with great beauty:—

"Dear eyes, dear eyes and rare complete— Being heavenly-sweet and earthly-sweet— I marvel that God made you mine, For when He frowns, 'tis then ye shine!"

In 1873, after giving up the study of law in his father's office, he went to Baltimore, where he was engaged as first flute for the Peabody Symphony concerts. This engagement was a bold undertaking, which cannot be better presented than in his own words. In a letter to Hayne he says: "Aside from the complete bouleversement of proceeding from the courthouse to the footlights, I was a raw player and a provincial withal, without practice, and guiltless of instruction—for I had never had a teacher. To go under these circumstances among old professional players, and assume a leading part in a large orchestra which was organized expressly to play the most difficult works of the great masters, was (now that it's all over) a piece of temerity that I don't remember ever to have equaled before. But I trusted in love, pure and simple, and was not disappointed; for, as if by miracle, difficulties and discouragements melted away before the fire of a passion for music which grows ever stronger within my heart; and I came out with results more gratifying than it is becoming in me to specify." His playing possessed an exquisite charm. "In his hands the flute," to quote from the tribute paid him by his director, "no longer remained a mere material instrument, but was transformed into a voice that set heavenly harmonies into vibration. Its tones developed colors, warmth, and a low sweetness of unspeakable poetry; they were not only true and pure, but poetic, allegoric as it were, suggestive of the depths and heights of being and of the delights which the earthly ear never hears and the earthly eye never sees."

Henceforth Baltimore was to be Lanier's home. In addition to music, he gave himself seriously to literature. Before this period he had written a number of poems, limited in range and somewhat labored in manner. The current of his life still set to music, and his poetic efforts seem to have been less a matter of inspiration than of deliberate choice. In literary form the influence of Poe is discernible; but in subject-matter the sounds and colors of Nature, as in the poetry of his later years, occupy a prominent place. Of the poems of this early period the songs for The Jacquerie are the best. Here is a stanza of Betrayal:—

"The sun has kissed the violet sea, And burned the violet to a rose. O sea! wouldst thou not better be More violet still? Who knows? Who knows? Well hides the violet in the wood: The dead leaf wrinkles her a hood, And winter's ill is violet's good; But the bold glory of the rose, It quickly comes and quickly goes— Red petals whirling in white snows, Ah me!"

After taking up his residence in Baltimore, Lanier entered upon a comprehensive course of reading and study, particularly in early English literature. He studied Anglo-Saxon, and familiarized himself with Langland and Chaucer. He understood that any great poetic achievement must be based on extensive knowledge. A sweet warbler may depend on momentary inspiration; but the great singer, who is to instruct and move his age, must possess the insight and breadth of vision that come alone from a profound acquaintance with Nature and human history. With keen critical discernment Lanier said that "the trouble with Poe was, he did not know enough. He needed to know a good many more things in order to be a great poet." It was to prepare himself for the highest flights possible to him that he entered, with inextinguishable ardor, upon a wide course of reading.

In 1874 he was commissioned by a railroad company to write up the scenery, climate, and history of Florida. While spending a month or two with his family in Georgia, he wrote Corn, which deservedly ranks as one of his noblest poems. The delicate forms and colors of Nature touched him to an ecstasy of delight; and at the same time they bodied forth to his imagination deep spiritual truths. As we read this poem, we feel that the poet has reached a height of which little promise is given in his earlier poems. Here are the opening lines:—

"To-day the woods are trembling through and through With shimmering forms, and flash before my view, Then melt in green as dawn-stars melt in blue. The leaves that wave against my cheek caress Like women's hands; the embracing boughs express A subtlety of mighty tenderness; The copse-depths into little noises start, That sound anon like beatings of a heart, Anon like talk 'twixt lips not far apart. The beach dreams balm, as a dreamer hums a song; Through that vague wafture, expirations strong Throb from young hickories breathing deep and long With stress and urgence bold of prisoned spring And ecstasy burgeoning."

This poem is remarkable, too, for its presentation of Lanier's conception of the poetic office. The poet should be a prophet and leader, arousing mankind to all noble truth and action:—

"Look, out of line one tall corn-captain stands Advanced beyond the foremost of his bands, And waves his blades upon the very edge And hottest thicket of the battling hedge. Thou lustrous stalk, that ne'er mayst walk nor talk, Still shalt thou type the poet-soul sublime That leads the vanward of his timid time, And sings up cowards with commanding rhyme— Soul calm, like thee, yet fain, like thee, to grow By double increment, above, below; Soul homely, as thou art, yet rich in grace like thee, Teaching the yeomen selfless chivalry That moves in gentle curves of courtesy; Soul filled like thy long veins with sweetness tense. By every godlike sense Transmuted from the four wild elements."

For a time Lanier had difficulty in finding a publisher. He made a visit to New York, but met only with rebuffs. But upheld, like Wordsworth, by a strong consciousness of the excellence of his work, he did not lose his cheerful hope and courage. "The more I am thrown against these people here, and the more reverses I suffer at their hands, the more confident I am of beating them finally. I do not mean by 'beating' that I am in opposition to them, or that I hate them or feel aggrieved with them; no, they know no better and they act up to their light with wonderful energy and consistency. I only mean that I am sure of being able, some day, to teach them better things and nobler modes of thought and conduct." Corn finally appeared in Lippincott's Magazine for February, 1875.

From this time poetry became a larger part of Lanier's life. His poetic genius had attained to fullness of power. He gave freer rein to imagination and thought and expression. Speaking of Special Pleading, which was written in 1875, he says: "In this little song, I have begun to dare to give myself some freedom in my own peculiar style, and have allowed myself to treat words, similes, and meters with such freedom as I desired. The result convinces me that I can do so now safely." In the next two or three years he produced such notable poems as The Song of the Chattahoochee, The Symphony, The Revenge of Hamish, Clover, The Bee, and The Waving of the Corn. They slowly gained recognition, and brought him the fellowship and encouragement of not a few literary people of distinction, among whom Bayard Taylor and Edmund Clarence Stedman deserve especial mention.

Perhaps none of Lanier's poems has been more popular than The Song of the Chattahoochee. It does not reach the poetic heights of a few of his other poems, but it is perfectly clear, and has a pleasant lilting movement. Moreover, it teaches the important truth that we are to be dumb to the siren voices of ease and pleasure when the stern voice of duty calls. The concluding stanza is as follows:—

"But oh, not the hills of Habersham, And oh, not the valleys of Hall, Shall hinder the rain from attaining the plain, For downward the voices of duty call— Downward to toil and be mixed with the main. The dry fields burn and the mills are to turn, And a thousand meadows mortally yearn, And the final main from beyond the plain Calls o'er the hills of Habersham, And calls through the valleys of Hall."

In 1876, upon the recommendation of Bayard Taylor, Lanier was invited to write the centennial Cantata. As a poem, not much can be said in its favor. Its thought and form fall far below its ambitious conception, in which Columbia presents a meditation on the completed century of our country's history. On its publication it was subject to a good deal of unfavorable criticism; but through it all, though it must have been a bitter disappointment, the poet never lost his faith in his genius and destiny. "The artist shall put forth, humbly and lovingly," he wrote to his father, "and without bitterness against opposition, the very best and highest that is within him, utterly regardless of contemporary criticism. What possible claim can contemporary criticism set up to respect—that criticism which crucified Jesus Christ, stoned Stephen, hooted Paul for a madman, tried Luther for a criminal, tortured Galileo, bound Columbus in chains, and drove Dante into a hell of exile?"

The need of a regular income became more and more a necessity. "My head and my heart," he wrote, "are both so full of poems, which the dreadful struggle for bread does not give me time to put on paper, that I am often driven to headache and heartache purely for want of an hour or two to hold a pen." He sought various positions—a clerkship in Washington, an assistant's place in the Peabody Library, a consulship in the south of France—all in vain. He lectured to parlor classes in literature—an enterprise from which he seems to have derived more fame than money. Finally, in 1879, he was appointed to a lectureship in English literature in Johns Hopkins University, from which dates the final period of his literary activity and of his life.

The first fruits of this appointment were a series of lectures on metrical forms, which appeared, in 1880, in a volume entitled The Science of English Verse. It is an original and suggestive work, in which, however, the author's predilections for music carry him too far. He has done well to emphasize the time element in English versification; but his attempt to reduce all forms of verse to a musical notation can hardly be regarded as successful. His work, though comprehensive in scope, was not intended to impose a new set of laws upon the poet. "For the artist in verse," he says in his brief concluding chapter, "there is no law: the perception and love of beauty constitute the whole outfit; and what is herein set forth is to be taken merely as enlarging that perception and exalting that love. In all cases, the appeal is to the ear; but the ear should, for that purpose, be educated up to the highest possible plane of culture."

A second series of lectures, composed and delivered when the anguish of mortal illness was upon him, was subsequently published under the title, The English Novel. Its aim was to trace the development of personality in literature. It contains much suggestive and sound criticism. He did not share the fear entertained by some of his contemporaries, that science would gradually abolish poetry. Many of the finest poems in our language, as he pointed out, have been written while the wonderful discoveries of recent science were being made. "Now," he continues, "if we examine the course and progress of this poetry, born thus within the very grasp and maw of this terrible science, it seems to me that we find—as to the substance of poetry—a steadily increasing confidence and joy in the mission of the poet, in the sacredness of faith and love and duty and friendship and marriage, and the sovereign fact of man's personality, while as to the form of the poetry, we find that just as science has pruned our faith (to make it more faithful), so it has pruned our poetic form and technic, cutting away much unproductive wood and effloresence, and creating finer reserves and richer yields." Among novelists he assigns the highest place to George Eliot, who "shows man what he maybe in terms of what he is."

There are two poems of this closing period that exhibit Lanier's characteristic manner at its best. They are the high-water mark of his poetic achievement. They exemplify his musical theories of meter. They show the trend forced upon him by his innate love of music; and though he might have written much more, if his life had been prolonged, it is doubtful whether he would have produced anything finer. Any further effort at musical effects would probably have resulted in a kind of ecstatic rhapsody. The first of the poems in question is the Marshes of Glynn, descriptive of the sea marshes near the city of Brunswick, Georgia.

"Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free— Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea! Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun, Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won God out of knowledge, and good out of infinite pain, And sight out of blindness, and purity out of a stain."

The other poem of his closing period, Sunrise, his greatest production, was written during the high fever of his last illness. In the poet's collected works, it is placed first in the series called Hymns of the Marshes. At times it almost reaches the point of ecstasy. His love of Nature finds supreme utterance.

"In my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main. The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep; Up-breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep, Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting, Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting, Came to the gates of sleep. Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep, Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling: The gates of sleep fell a-trembling Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter yes, Shaken with happiness: The gates of sleep stood wide.

* * * * *

"Oh, what if a sound should be made! Oh, what if a bound should be laid To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,— To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string! I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam Will break as a bubble o'erblown in a dream,— Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night, Overweighted with stars, overfreighted with light, Oversated with beauty and silence, will seem But a bubble that broke in a dream, If a bound of degree to this grace be laid, Or a sound or a motion made."

Throughout his artistic life Lanier was true to the loftiest ideals. He did not separate artistic from moral beauty. To his sensitive spirit, the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty seemed interchangeable terms. He did not make the shallow cry of "art for art's sake" a pretext or excuse for moral taint. On the contrary, he maintained that all art should be the embodiment of truth, goodness, love. "Can not one say with authority," he inquires in one of his university lectures, "to the young artist, whether working in stone, in color, in tones, or in character- forms of the novel: so far from dreading that your moral purpose will interfere with your beautiful creation, go forward in the clear conviction that, unless you are suffused—soul and body, one might say— with that moral purpose which finds its largest expression in love—that is, the love of all things in their proper relation—unless you are suffused with this love, do not dare to meddle with beauty; unless you are suffused with beauty, do not dare to meddle with truth; unless you are suffused with truth, do not dare to meddle with goodness. In a word, unless you are suffused with truth, wisdom, goodness, and love, abandon the hope that the ages will accept you as an artist."

Through these years of high aspiration and manly endeavor, the poet and musician was waging a losing fight with consumption. He was finally driven to tent life in a high, pure atmosphere as his only hope. He first went to Asheville, North Carolina, and a little later to Lynn. But his efforts to regain his health proved in vain; and on the 7th of September, 1881, the tragic struggle was brought to a close.

The time has hardly come to give a final judgment as to Lanier's place in American letters. He certainly deserves a place by the side of the very best poets of the South, and perhaps, as many believe, by the side of the greatest masters of American song. His genius had elements of originality equaled only by Poe. He had the high moral purpose of the artist- prophets; but his efforts after musical effects, as well as his untimely death, prevented the full fruitage of his admirable genius. Many of the poems that he has left us are lacking in spontaneity and artistic finish. Alliterative effects are sometimes obtrusive. His poetic theories, as presented in The Science of English Verse, often outstripped his execution. But, after all these abatements are made, it remains true that in a few pieces he has reached a trembling height of poetic and musical rapture that is unsurpassed in the whole range of American poetry.



The poems of Abram J. Ryan, better known as Father Ryan, are unambitious. The poet modestly wished to call them only verses; and, as he tells us, they "were written at random,—off and on, here, there, anywhere,—just as the mood came, with little of study and less of art, and always in a hurry." His poems do not exhibit a painstaking, polished art. They are largely emotional outpourings of a heart that readily found expression in fluent, melodious lays. The poet-priest understood their character too well to assign them a very high place in the realm of song; yet the wish he expressed, that they might echo from heart to heart, has been fulfilled in no small degree. In Sentinel Songs he says:—

"I sing with a voice too low To be heard beyond to-day, In minor keys of my people's woe, But my songs pass away.

"To-morrow hears them not— To-morrow belongs to fame— My songs, like the birds', will be forgot, And forgotten shall be my name.

"And yet who knows? Betimes The grandest songs depart, While the gentle, humble, and low-toned rhymes Will echo from heart to heart."

But few facts are recorded of Father Ryan's life. The memoir and the critique prefixed to the latest edition of his poems but poorly fulfill their design. Besides the absence of detail, there is an evident lack of taste and breadth of view. The poet's ecclesiastical relation is unduly magnified; and the invidious comparisons made and the immoderate laudation expressed are far from agreeable. But we are not left wholly at a loss. With the few recorded facts of his life as guide, the poems of Father Ryan become an interesting and instructive autobiography. He was a spontaneous singer whose inspiration came, not from distant fields of legend, history, science, but from his own experience; and it is not difficult to read there a romance, or rather a tragedy, which imparts a deep pathos to his life. His interior life, as reflected in his poems, is all of good report, in no point clashing with the moral excellence befitting the priestly office.

Abram J. Ryan was born in Norfolk, Virginia, August 15, 1839, whither his parents, natives of Ireland, had immigrated not long before. He possessed the quick sensibilities characteristic of the Celtic race; and his love for Ireland is reflected in a stout martial lyric entitled Erin's Flag:

"Lift it up! lift it up! the old Banner of Green! The blood of its sons has but brightened its sheen; What though the tyrant has trampled it down, Are its folds not emblazoned with deeds of renown?"

When he was seven or eight years old, his parents removed to St. Louis. He is said to have shown great aptitude in acquiring knowledge; and his superior intellectual gifts, associated with an unusual reverence for sacred things, early indicated the priesthood as his future vocation. In the autobiographic poem, Their Story Runneth Thus, we have a picture of his youthful character. With a warm heart, he had more than the changefulness of the Celtic temperament. In his boyhood, as throughout his maturity, he was strangely restless. As he says himself:—

"The boy was full of moods. Upon his soul and face the dark and bright Were strangely intermingled. Hours would pass Rippling with his bright prattle—and then, hours Would come and go, and never hear a word Fall from his lips, and never see a smile Upon his face. He was so like a cloud With ever-changeful hues."

When his preliminary training was ended, he entered the Roman Catholic seminary at Niagara, New York. He was moved to the priesthood by a spirit of deep consecration. The writer of his memoir dwells on the regret with which he severed the ties binding him to home. No doubt he loved and honored his parents. But there was a still stronger attachment, which, broken by his call to the priesthood, filled all his subsequent life with a consecrated sorrow. It was his love for Ethel:—

"A fair, sweet girl, with great, brown, wond'ring eyes That seemed to listen just as if they held The gift of hearing with the power of sight."

The two lovers, forgetting the sacredness of true human affection, had, with equal self-abnegation, resolved to give themselves to the church, she as a nun and he as a priest. He has given a touching picture of their last meeting:—

"One night in mid of May their faces met As pure as all the stars that gazed on them. They met to part from themselves and the world. Their hearts just touched to separate and bleed; Their eyes were linked in look, while saddest tears Fell down, like rain, upon the cheeks of each: They were to meet no more. Their hands were clasped To tear the clasp in twain; and all the stars Looked proudly down on them, while shadows knelt, Or seemed to kneel, around them with the awe Evoked from any heart by sacrifice. And in the heart of that last parting hour Eternity was beating. And he said: 'We part to go to Calvary and to God— This is our garden of Gethsemane; And here we bow our heads and breathe His prayer Whose heart was bleeding, while the angels heard: Not my will, Father! but Thine be done!'"

The Roman Catholic training and faith of Father Ryan exerted a deep influence upon his poetry. His ardent studies in the ancient languages and in scholastic theology naturally withdrew his mind, to a greater or less degree, from intimate communion with Nature. His poetry is principally subjective. Nature enters it only in a subordinate way; its forms and sounds and colors do not inspire in him the rapture found in Hayne and Lanier. He not only treats of Scripture themes, as in St. Stephen, The Masters Voice, and A Christmas Chant, but he also finds subjects, not always happily, in distinctive Roman Catholic dogma. The Feast of the Assumption and The Last of May, both in honor of the Virgin Mary, are sufficiently poetic; but The Feast of the Sacred Heart is, in parts, too prosaically literal in its treatment of transubstantiation for any but the most believing and devout of Roman Catholics.

On the breaking out of the Civil War, Father Ryan entered the Confederate army as a chaplain, though he sometimes served in the ranks. In 1863 he ministered to the inmates of a prison in New Orleans during an epidemic of smallpox. His martial songs, The Sword of Robert Lee, The Conquered Banner, and March of the Deathless Dead, have been dear to many Southern hearts. He reverenced Lee as a peerless leader.

"Forth from its scabbard! How we prayed That sword might victor be; And when our triumph was delayed, And many a heart grew sore afraid, We still hoped on while gleamed the blade Of noble Robert Lee.

"Forth from its scabbard all in vain Bright flashed the sword of Lee; 'Tis shrouded now in its sheath again, It sleeps the sleep of our noble slain, Defeated, yet without a stain, Proudly and peacefully."

After four years of brave, bitter sacrifice beneath the Confederate flag, words like the following appealed strongly to the men and women who loved The Conquered Banner:—

"Take that Banner down! 'tis tattered; Broken is its staff and shattered; And the valiant hosts are scattered Over whom it floated high. Oh! 'tis hard for us to fold it; Hard to think there's none to hold it; Hard that those who once unrolled it Now must furl it with a sigh.

"Furl that Banner! True, 'tis gory, Yet 'tis wreathed around with glory. And 'twill live in song and story, Though its folds are in the dust: For its fame on brightest pages, Penned by poets and by sages, Shall go sounding down the ages— Furl its folds though now we must."

Father Ryan's devotion to the South was intense. He long refused to accept the results of the war. The wrongs of the so-called Reconstruction period aroused his ardent indignation, and found expression in his song. In The Land We Love he says, with evident reference to those days:—

"Land where the victor's flag waves, Where only the dead are the free! Each link of the chain that enslaves, But binds us to them and to thee."

But during the epidemic of yellow fever in 1878, his heart was touched by the splendid generosity of the North; and, surrendering his sectional prejudice and animosity, he wrote Reunited:—

"Purer than thy own white snow, Nobler than thy mountains' height; Deeper than the ocean's flow, Stronger than thy own proud might; O Northland! to thy sister land, Was late thy mercy's generous deed and grand."

After the close of the Civil War, the restless temperament of the poet- priest asserted itself in numerous changes of residence. He was successively in Biloxi, Mississippi, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Augusta, Georgia. In the latter place he published for some three years the Banner of the South, a periodical that exerted no small influence on the thought of the state. In 1870 he became pastor of St. Mary's church in Mobile. Two years later he made a trip to Europe, of which we find interesting reminiscences in his poems. His visit to Rome was the realization of a long-cherished desire. He was honored with an audience by Pope Pius IX, of whom he has given a graphic sketch:—

"I saw his face to-day; he looks a chief Who fears nor human rage, nor human guile; Upon his cheeks the twilight of a grief, But in that grief the starlight of a smile. Deep, gentle eyes, with drooping lids that tell They are the homes where tears of sorrow dwell; A low voice—strangely sweet—whose very tone Tells how these lips speak oft with God alone."

In Milan he was seriously ill. In his poem, After Sickness, we find an expression of his world-weariness and his longing for death:—

"I nearly died, I almost touched the door That swings between forever and no more; I think I heard the awful hinges grate, Hour after hour, while I did weary wait Death's coming; but alas! 'twas all in vain: The door half opened and then closed again."

As a priest Father Ryan was faithful to his duties. But whether ministering at the altar or making the rounds of his parish, his spirit frequently found utterance in song. In 1880 he published a volume of poems, to which only a few additions were subsequently made. The keynote of his poetry is struck in the opening piece, Song of the Mystic. He dwelt much in the "Valley of Silence."

"Do you ask me the place of the Valley, Ye hearts that are harrowed by care? It lieth afar between mountains, And God and His angels are there: And one is the dark mount of Sorrow, And one the bright mountain of Prayer."

The prevailing tone of Father Ryan's poems is one of sadness. His harp rarely vibrated to cheerful strains. What was the cause of this sadness? It may have been his keen sense of the tragic side of human life; it may have been the enduring anguish that came from the crucified love of his youth. The poet himself refused to tell. In Lines—1875, he says:—

"Go list to the voices of air, earth, and sea, And the voices that sound in the sky; Their songs may be joyful to some, but to me There's a sigh in each chord and a sigh in each key, And thousands of sighs swell their grand melody. Ask them what ails them: they will not reply. They sigh—sigh forever—but never tell why. Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? Their lips will not answer you; neither shall I."

Yet, in spite of the prevailing tone of sorrow and weariness, Father Ryan was no pessimist. He held that life has "more of sweet than gall"—

"For every one: no matter who— Or what their lot—or high or low; All hearts have clouds—but heaven's blue Wraps robes of bright around each woe; And this is truest of the true:

"That joy is stronger here than grief, Fills more of life, far more of years, And makes the reign of sorrow brief; Gives more of smiles for less of tears. Joy is life's tree—grief but its leaves."

Father Ryan conceived of the poet's office as something seerlike or prophetic. With him, as with all great poets, the message counted for more than do rhythm and rhyme. Divorced from truth, art seemed to him but a skeleton masque. He preferred those melodies that rise on the wings of thought, and come to human hearts with an inspiration of faith and hope. He regarded genuine poets as the high priests of Nature. Their sensitive spirits, holding themselves aloof from common things, habitually dwell upon the deeper mysteries of life in something of a morbid loneliness. In Poets he says:—

"They are all dreamers; in the day and night Ever across their souls The wondrous mystery of the dark or bright In mystic rhythm rolls.

"They live within themselves—they may not tell What lieth deepest there; Within their breast a heaven or a hell, Joy or tormenting care.

"They are the loneliest men that walk men's ways, No matter what they seem; The stars and sunlight of their nights and days Move over them in dream."

With Wordsworth, or rather with the great Apostle to the Gentiles, he held that Nature is but the vesture of God, beneath which may be discerned the divine glory and love. The visible seemed to him but an expression of the invisible.

"For God is everywhere—and he doth find In every atom which His hand hath made A shrine to hide His presence, and reveal His name, love, power, to those who kneel In holy faith upon this bright below, And lift their eyes, thro' all this mystery, To catch the vision of the great beyond."

With this view of Nature, it was but natural that its sounds and forms— its birds and flowers—should inspire devotion. In St. Mary's, speaking of the songs and silences of Nature, he says:—

"God comes close to me here— Back of ev'ry roseleaf there He is hiding—and the air Thrills with calls to holy prayer; Earth grows far, and heaven near.

"Every single flower is fraught With the very sweetest dreams, Under clouds or under gleams Changeful ever—yet meseems On each leaf I read God's thought."

It can hardly be said that Father Ryan ever reaches far poetic heights. Neither in thought nor expression does he often rise above cultured commonplace. Fine artistic quality is supplanted by a sort of melodious fluency. Yet the form and tone of his poetry, nearly always in one pensive key, make a distinct impression, unlike that of any other American singer. "Religious feeling," it has been well said, "is dominant. The reader seems to be moving about in cathedral glooms, by dimly lighted altars, with sad procession of ghostly penitents and mourners fading into the darkness to the sad music of lamenting choirs. But the light which falls upon the gloom is the light of heaven, and amid tears and sighs, over farewells and crushed happiness, hope sings a vigorous though subdued strain." Having once caught his distinctive note of weary melancholy, we can recognize it among a chorus of a thousand singers. It is to his honor that he has achieved a distinctive place in American poetry.

His poetic craftsmanship is far from perfect. His artistic sense did not aspire to exquisite achievements. He delighted unduly in alliteration, assonance, and rhyming effects, all which he sometimes carried to excess. In the first stanza, for example, of The Conquered Banner, popular as it is, the rhyme effect seems somewhat overdone:—

"Furl that Banner, for 'tis weary; Round its staff 'tis drooping dreary; Furl it, fold it, it is best; For there's not a man to wave it, And there's not a sword to save it, And there's not one left to lave it In the blood which heroes gave it; And its foes now scorn and brave it; Furl it, hide it—let it rest."

Here and there, too, are unmistakable echoes of Poe, as in the following stanza from At Last:

"Into a temple vast and dim, Solemn and vast and dim, Just when the last sweet Vesper Hymn Was floating far away, With eyes that tabernacled tears— Her heart the home of tears— And cheeks wan with the woes of years, A woman went one day."

But in spite of these obvious defects, Father Ryan has been for years the most popular of Southern poets. His poems have passed through many editions, and there is still a large demand for them. They have something that outweighs their faults, and appeals strongly to the popular mind and heart. What is it? Perhaps it is impossible to answer this question fully. But in addition to the merits already pointed out, the work of Father Ryan is for the most part simple, spontaneous, and clear. It generally consists of brief lyrics devoted to the expression of a single mood or reflection. There is nothing in thought or style beyond the ready comprehension of the average reader. It does not require, as does the poetry of Browning, repeated and careful reading to render its meaning clear. It does not offend sensible people with its empty, overdone refinement. From beginning to end Father Ryan's poetry is a transparent casket, into which he has poured the richest treasures of a deeply sorrowing but noble Christian spirit.

Again, the pensive, moral tone of his poetry renders it attractive to many persons. He gives expression to the sad, reflective moods that are apt, especially in time of suffering or disappointment, to come to most of us. The moral sense of the American people is strong; and sometimes a comforting though commonplace truth from Nature is more pleasing than the most exquisite but superficial description of her beauties. How many have found solace in poems like A Thought:

"The waving rose, with every breath Scents carelessly the summer air; The wounded rose bleeds forth in death A sweetness far more rich and rare.

"It is a truth beyond our ken— And yet a truth that all may read— It is with roses as with men, The sweetest hearts are those that bleed.

"The flower which Bethlehem saw bloom Out of a heart all full of grace, Gave never forth its full perfume Until the cross became its vase."

Then again, the poet-priest, as was becoming his character, deals with the mysteries of life. Much of our recent poetry is as trifling in theme as it is polished in workmanship. But Father Ryan habitually brings before us the profounder and sadder aspects of life. The truths of religion, the vicissitudes of human destiny, the tragedy of death—these are the themes in which he finds his inspiration, and to which we all turn in our most serious moments. And though the strain in which he sings is attuned to tears, it is still illumined by a strength-giving faith and hope. When we feel weighed down with a sense of pitiless law, when fate seems to cross our holiest aspirations with a ruthless hand, he bids us be of good cheer.

"There is no fate—God's love Is law beneath each law, And law all laws above Fore'er, without a flaw."

In 1883 Father Ryan, whose reputation had been established by his volume of poems, undertook a lecturing tour through the North in the interest of some charitable enterprise. At his best he was an eloquent speaker. But during the later years of his life impaired health interfered with prolonged mental effort. His mission had only a moderate degree of success. His sense of weariness deepened, and his eyes turned longingly to the life to come. In one of his later productions he said:—

"My feet are wearied, and my hands are tired, My soul oppressed— And I desire, what I have long desired— Rest—only rest.

* * * * *

"And so I cry a weak and human cry, So heart oppressed; And so I sigh a weak and human sigh For rest—for rest."

At length, April 22, 1886, in a Franciscan monastery at Louisville, came the rest for which he had prayed. And in that higher life to which he passed, we may believe that he was welcomed by her to whom in youth he had given the tender name of Ullainee, and for whom, through all the years of a great sacrifice, his faithful heart had yearned with an inextinguishable human longing.




O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts [2] we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep, Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, [3] What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines on the stream; 'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a country should leave us no more? [4] Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave; And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto—"In God is our trust:" And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

[Footnote 1: For a brief statement of the circumstances that gave rise to the poem, see sketch of Key, page 12.]

[Footnote 2: Fort McHenry, on the north bank of the Patapsco, below Baltimore, was attacked by the British fleet, September 13, 1814.]

[Footnote 3: The attack being unsuccessful, the British became disheartened and withdrew.]

[Footnote 4: Before the attack upon Baltimore, the British had taken Washington and burned the capitol and other public buildings.

With this poem may be compared other martial lyrics, such as Hopkinson's Hail Columbia, Mrs. Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic, Campbell's Ye Mariners of England and Battle of the Baltic, Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade, etc.]

* * * * *



My life is like the summer rose, That opens to the morning sky, But, ere the shades of evening close, Is scattered on the ground—to die![2] Yet on the rose's humble bed The sweetest dews of night are shed, As if she wept the waste to see— But none shall weep a tear for me!

My life is like the autumn leaf That trembles in the moon's pale ray: Its hold is frail—its date is brief, Restless—and soon to pass away! Yet, ere that leaf shall fall and fade, The parent tree will mourn its shade, The winds bewail the leafless tree— But none shall breathe a sigh for me!

My life is like the prints, which feet Have left on Tampa's [3] desert strand; Soon as the rising tide shall beat, All trace will vanish from the sand; Yet, as if grieving to efface All vestige of the human race, On that lone shore loud moans the sea— But none, alas! shall mourn for me!


Farewell, my more than fatherland![5] Home of my heart and friends, adieu! Lingering beside some foreign strand, How oft shall I remember you! How often, o'er the waters blue, Send back a sigh to those I leave, The loving and beloved few, Who grieve for me,—for whom I grieve!

We part!—no matter how we part, There are some thoughts we utter not, Deep treasured in our inmost heart, Never revealed, and ne'er forgot! Why murmur at the common lot? We part!—I speak not of the pain,— But when shall I each lovely spot, And each loved face behold again? It must be months,—it may be years,—[6] It may—but no!—I will not fill Fond hearts with gloom,—fond eyes with tears, "Curious to shape uncertain ill." Though humble,—few and far,—yet, still Those hearts and eyes are ever dear; Theirs is the love no time can chill, The truth no chance or change can sear!

All I have seen, and all I see, Only endears them more and more; Friends cool, hopes fade, and hours flee, Affection lives when all is o'er! Farewell, my more than native shore! I do not seek or hope to find, Roam where I will, what I deplore To leave with them and thee behind!

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Wilde, page 13. This song was translated into Greek by Anthony Barclay and announced as a newly discovered ode by Alcaeus. The trick, however, was soon detected by scholars, and the author of the poem received a due meed of praise.]

[Footnote 2: The brevity of life has been a favorite theme of poets ever since Job (vii. 6) declared, "Our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle."]

[Footnote 3: The reference seems to be to the shore about the Bay of Tampa on the west coast of Florida.]

[Footnote 4: See page 13.]

[Footnote 5: It will be remembered that the poet was a native of Ireland.]

[Footnote 6: The years 1834-1840 were spent in Europe, chiefly in Italy.

Compare with this Byron's farewell to England, in Canto I of Childe Harold.]

* * * * *



'Tis midnight's holy hour, and silence now Is brooding like a gentle spirit o'er The still and pulseless world. Hark! on the winds The bell's deep tones are swelling,—'tis the knell Of the departed year.

No funeral train Is sweeping past; yet on the stream and wood, With melancholy light, the moonbeams rest Like a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirred, As by a mourner's sigh; and on yon cloud That floats so still and placidly through heaven, The spirits of the seasons seem to stand— Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn form, And Winter with his aged locks—and breathe, In mournful cadences that come abroad Like the far wind-harp's wild and touching wail, A melancholy dirge o'er the dead year, Gone from the earth forever.

'Tis a time For memory and for tears. Within the deep, Still chambers of the heart a specter dim, Whose tones are like the wizard voice of Time, Heard from the tomb of ages, points its cold And solemn finger to the beautiful And holy visions that have passed away, And left no shadow of their loveliness On the dead waste of life. That specter lifts The coffin lid of Hope, and Joy, and Love, And, bending mournfully above the pale, Sweet forms that slumber there, scatters dead flowers O'er what has passed to nothingness.

The year Has gone, and with it many a glorious throng Of happy dreams. Its mark is on each brow, Its shadow in each heart. In its swift course It waved its scepter o'er the beautiful,— And they are not. It laid its pallid hand Upon the strong man,—and the haughty form Is fallen, and the flashing eye is dim. It trod the hall of revelry, where thronged The bright and joyous, and the tearful wail Of stricken ones is heard, where erst the song And reckless shout resounded. It passed o'er The battle plain, where sword, and spear, and shield Flashed in the light of midday—and the strength Of serried hosts is shivered, and the grass, Green from the soil of carnage, waves above The crushed and mouldering skeleton. It came And faded like a wreath of mist at eve; Yet, ere it melted in the viewless air, It heralded its millions to their home In the dim land of dreams.

Remorseless Time! Fierce spirit of the glass and scythe!—what power Can stay him in his silent course, or melt His iron heart to pity? On, still on He presses, and forever. The proud bird, The condor of the Andes, that can soar Through heaven's unfathomable depths, or brave The fury of the northern hurricane, And bathe his plumage in the thunder's home, Furls his broad wings at nightfall and sinks down To rest upon his mountain crag—but Time Knows not the weight of sleep or weariness, And night's deep darkness has no chain to bind His rushing pinions. Revolutions sweep O'er earth, like troubled visions o'er the breast Of dreaming sorrow,—cities rise and sink Like bubbles on the water,—fiery isles Spring blazing from the ocean, and go back To their mysterious caverns,—mountains rear To heaven their bald and blackened cliffs, and bow Their tall heads to the plain,—new empires rise, Gathering the strength of hoary centuries, And rush down like the Alpine avalanche, Startling the nations,—and the very stars, Yon bright and burning blazonry of God, Glitter a while in their eternal depths, And, like the Pleiad, loveliest of their train, Shoot from their glorious spheres, and pass away [2] To darkle in the trackless void,—yet Time, Time, the tomb-builder, holds his fierce career, Dark, stern, all-pitiless, and pauses not Amid the mighty wrecks that strew his path To sit and muse, like other conquerors, Upon the fearful ruin he has wrought.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Prentice, page 14. The flight of time is another favorite theme with poets. The Closing Year should be compared with Bryant's The Flood of Years; similar in theme, the two poems have much in common. The closing lines of Bryant's poem express a sweet faith that relieves the somber tone of the preceding reflections:—

"In the room Of this grief-shadowed present, there shall be A Present in whose reign no grief shall gnaw The heart, and never shall a tender tie Be broken; in whose reign the eternal Change That waits on growth and action shall proceed With everlasting Concord hand in hand."]

[Footnote 2. This is a reference to the belief that one of the seven stars originally supposed to form the Pleiades has disappeared. Such a phenomenon is not unknown; modern astronomers record several such disappearances. See Simms's The Lost Pleiad, following.]

* * * * *



Not in the sky, Where it was seen So long in eminence of light serene,— Nor on the white tops of the glistering wave, Nor down in mansions of the hidden deep, Though beautiful in green And crystal, its great caves of mystery,— Shall the bright watcher have Her place, and, as of old, high station keep!

Gone! gone! Oh! nevermore, to cheer The mariner, who holds his course alone On the Atlantic, through the weary night, When the stars turn to watchers, and do sleep, Shall it again appear, With the sweet-loving certainty of light, Down shining on the shut eyes of the deep!

The upward-looking shepherd on the hills Of Chaldea, night-returning with his flocks, He wonders why her beauty doth not blaze, Gladding his gaze,— And, from his dreary watch along the rocks, Guiding him homeward o'er the perilous ways! How stands he waiting still, in a sad maze, Much wondering, while the drowsy silence fills The sorrowful vault!—how lingers, in the hope that night May yet renew the expected and sweet light, So natural to his sight! [2]

And lone, Where, at the first, in smiling love she shone, Brood the once happy circle of bright stars: How should they dream, until her fate was known, That they were ever confiscate to death? [3] That dark oblivion the pure beauty mars, And, like the earth, its common bloom and breath, That they should fall from high; Their lights grow blasted by a touch, and die, All their concerted springs of harmony Snapt rudely, and the generous music gone![4]

Ah! still the strain Of wailing sweetness fills the saddening sky; The sister stars, lamenting in their pain That one of the selected ones must die,— Must vanish, when most lovely, from the rest! Alas! 'tis ever thus the destiny. Even Rapture's song hath evermore a tone Of wailing, as for bliss too quickly gone. The hope most precious is the soonest lost, The flower most sweet is first to feel the frost. Are not all short-lived things the loveliest? And, like the pale star, shooting down the sky, Look they not ever brightest, as they fly From the lone sphere they blest!

THE SWAMP FOX [5] We follow where the Swamp Fox guides, His friends and merry men are we; And when the troop of Tarleton [6] rides, We burrow in the cypress tree. The turfy hammock is our bed, Our home is in the red deer's den, Our roof, the tree-top overhead, For we are wild and hunted men.

We fly by day and shun its light, But, prompt to strike the sudden blow, We mount and start with early night, And through the forest track our foe.[7] And soon he hears our chargers leap, The flashing saber blinds his eyes, And ere he drives away his sleep, And rushes from his camp, he dies.

Free bridle bit, good gallant steed, That will not ask a kind caress To swim the Santee [8] at our need, When on his heels the foemen press,— The true heart and the ready hand, The spirit stubborn to be free, The twisted bore, the smiting brand,— And we are Marion's men, you see.

Now light the fire and cook the meal, The last, perhaps, that we shall taste; I hear the Swamp Fox round us steal, And that's a sign we move in haste. He whistles to the scouts, and hark! You hear his order calm and low. Come, wave your torch across the dark, And let us see the boys that go.

We may not see their forms again, God help 'em, should they find the strife! For they are strong and fearless men, And make no coward terms for life; They'll fight as long as Marion bids, And when he speaks the word to shy, Then, not till then, they turn their steeds, Through thickening shade and swamp to fly.

Now stir the fire and lie at ease,— The scouts are gone, and on the brush I see the Colonel [9] bend his knees, To take his slumbers too. But hush! He's praying, comrades; 'tis not strange; The man that's fighting day by day May well, when night comes, take a change, And down upon his knees to pray.

Break up that hoecake, boys, and hand The sly and silent jug that's there; I love not it should idly stand When Marion's men have need of cheer. 'Tis seldom that our luck affords A stuff like this we just have quaffed, And dry potatoes on our boards May always call for such a draught.

Now pile the brush and roll the log; Hard pillow, but a soldier's head That's half the time in brake and bog Must never think of softer bed. The owl is hooting to the night, The cooter [10] crawling o'er the bank, And in that pond the flashing light Tells where the alligator sank.

What! 'tis the signal! start so soon, And through the Santee swamp so deep, Without the aid of friendly moon, And we, Heaven help us! half asleep! But courage, comrades! Marion leads, The Swamp Fox takes us out to-night; So clear your swords and spur your steeds, There's goodly chance, I think, of fight.

We follow where the Swamp Fox guides, We leave the swamp and cypress tree, Our spurs are in our coursers' sides, And ready for the strife are we. The Tory camp is now in sight, And there he cowers within his den; He hears our shouts, he dreads the fight, He fears, and flies from Marion's men.

[Footnote 1: See note above. There is a peculiar fitness in the reference to the sea in this poem; for the constellation of the Pleiades was named by the Greeks from their word plein, to sail, because the Mediterranean was navigable with safety during the months these stars were visible.]

[Footnote 2: The poet seems to associate the Chaldean shepherd with the Magi, who, as astrologers, observed the stars with profound interest. The hope expressed for the return of the star cannot be regarded, in the light of modern astronomy, as entirely fanciful. Only recently a new star has flamed forth in the constellation Perseus.]

[Footnote 3: The fixed stars, continually giving forth immeasurable quantities of heat, are in a process of cooling. Sooner or later they will become dark bodies. Astronomers tell us that there is reason to believe that the dark bodies or burned-out suns of the universe are more numerous than the bright ones, though the number of the latter exceeds 125 millions. The existence of such dark bodies has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.]

[Footnote 4: A reference to the old belief that the stars make music in their courses. In Job (xxxviii. 7) we read: "When the morning stars sang together." According to the Platonic philosophy, this music of the spheres, too faint for mortal ears, was heard only by the gods. Shakespeare has given beautiful expression to this belief:—

"There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins; Such harmony is in immortal souls; But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it." —Merchant of Venice, Act V., Sc. 1.]

[Footnote 5: See sketch of Simms, page 16. This poem is found in The Partisan, the first of three novels descriptive of the Revolution. Read a biographical sketch of General Francis Marion (1732-1795), whose shrewdness in attack and escape earned for him the sobriquet "Swamp Fox."]

[Footnote 6: Sir Banastre Tarleton (1754-1833) was a lieutenant colonel in the army of Cornwallis. He was a brilliant and successful officer, but was defeated by General Morgan in the battle of Cowpens in 1781.]

[Footnote 7: "Sumter, Marion, and other South Carolina leaders found places of refuge in the great swamps which are found in parts of the state; and from these they kept up an active warfare with the British. Their desperate battles, night marches, surprises, and hairbreadth escapes make this the most exciting and interesting period of the Revolution."—Johnston's History of the United States.]

[Footnote 8: Marion's principal field of operations lay between the Santee and Pedee rivers.]

[Footnote 9: Marion held the rank of captain at the outbreak of the Revolution, and was made lieutenant colonel for gallant conduct in the defence of Fort Moultrie, June 28, 1776. Later he was made general.]

[Footnote 10: A water tortoise or snapping turtle.]

Compare Bryant's Song of Marion's Men.

* * * * *



I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman, of her gentle sex The seeming paragon; To whom the better elements And kindly stars have given A form so fair, that, like the air, 'Tis less of earth than heaven.

Her every tone is music's own, Like those of morning birds, And something more than melody Dwells ever in her words; The coinage of her heart are they, And from her lips each flows As one may see the burdened bee Forth issue from the rose.

Affections are as thoughts to her,[2] The measures of her hours; Her feelings have the fragrancy, The freshness of young flowers; And lovely passions, changing oft, So fill her, she appears The image of themselves by turns,— The idol of past years!

Of her bright face one glance will trace A picture on the brain, And of her voice in echoing hearts A sound must long remain; But memory, such as mine of her, So very much endears, When death is nigh my latest sigh Will not be life's, but hers.

I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman, of her gentle sex The seeming paragon— Her health! and would on earth there stood Some more of such a frame, That life might be all poetry, And weariness a name. [3]


We break the glass, whose sacred wine To some beloved health we drain, Lest future pledges, less divine, Should e'er the hallowed toy profane; And thus I broke a heart that poured Its tide of feelings out for thee, In draught, by after-times deplored, Yet dear to memory.

But still the old, impassioned ways And habits of my mind remain, And still unhappy light displays Thine image chambered in my brain; And still it looks as when the hours Went by like flights of singing birds,[4] Or that soft chain of spoken flowers and airy gems,—thy words.


I burn no incense, hang no wreath, On this thine early tomb: Such can not cheer the place of death, But only mock its gloom. Here odorous smoke and breathing flower No grateful influence shed; They lose their perfume and their power, When offered to the dead.

And if, as is the Afghaun's creed, The spirit may return, A disembodied sense to feed On fragrance, near its urn,— It is enough that she, whom thou Didst love in living years, Sits desolate beside it now, And fall these heavy tears.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Pinkney, page 18. The flowing or lilting melody of this and the following songs is quite remarkable. It is traceable to the skillful use of liquid consonants and short vowels, and the avoidance of harsh consonant combinations.]

[Footnote 2: The irregularities of this stanza are remarkable. The middle rhyme used in the first and seventh lines of the other stanzas is here lacking. It seems to have been an oversight on the part of the poet.]

[Footnote 3: With this drinking song we may compare the well-known one of Ben Jonson:—

"Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I'll not look for wine. The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine; But might I of Jove's nectar sup, I would not change for thine.

"I sent thee late a rosy wreath, Not so much honoring thee As giving it a hope that there It could not withered be; But thou thereon didst only breathe And sent'st it back to me; Since when it grows, and smells, I swear, Not of itself, but thee."]

[Footnote 4: This same simile occurs in a beautiful poem by Amelia C. Welby (1819-1852), a Southern poet of no mean gifts, entitled Twilight at Sea:—

"The twilight hours like birds flew by, As lightly and as free; Ten thousand stars were in the sky, Ten thousand on the sea; For every wave with dimpled face, That leaped upon the air, Had caught a star in its embrace, And held it trembling there."]

* * * * *



I loved thee long and dearly, Florence Vane; My life's bright dream, and early, Hath come again; I renew, in my fond vision, My heart's dear pain; My hope, and thy derision, Florence Vane.

The ruin lone and hoary, The ruin old, Where thou didst hark my story, At even told,— That spot—the hues Elysian Of sky and plain— I treasure in my vision, Florence Vane.

Thou wast lovelier than the roses In their prime; Thy voice excelled the closes Of sweetest rhyme; Thy heart was as a river Without a main. [2] Would I had loved thee never, Florence Vane.

But fairest, coldest wonder! Thy glorious clay Lieth the green sod under— Alas the day! And it boots not to remember Thy disdain— To quicken love's pale ember, Florence Vane.

The lilies of the valley By young graves weep, The pansies love to dally Where maidens sleep; May their bloom, in beauty vying, Never wane, Where thine earthly part is lying, Florence Vane!

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Cooke, page 19. In the preface to the volume from which this poem is taken, the author tells us that Florence Vane and Rosalie Lee, another brief lyric, had "met with more favor than I could ever perceive their just claim to." Hence he was kept from "venturing upon the correction of some faults." Rosalie Lee is more than usually defective in meter and rhyme, but Florence Vane cannot easily be improved.]

[Footnote 2: "My meaning, I suppose," the poet wrote an inquiring friend, "was that Florence did not want the capacity to love, but directed her love to no object. Her passions went flowing like a lost river. Byron has a kindred idea expressed by the same figure. Perhaps his verses were in my mind when I wrote my own:—

'She was the ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all.'—The Dream.

But no verse ought to require to be interpreted, and if I were composing Florence Vane now, I would avoid the over concentrated expression in the two lines, and make the idea clearer."—Southern Literary Messenger, 1850, p. 370.]

* * * * *



The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier's last tattoo: No more op Life's parade shall meet That brave and fallen few. On Fame's eternal camping-ground Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance Now swells upon the wind; No troubled thought at midnight haunts Of loved ones left behind; No vision of the morrow's strife The warrior's dream alarms; No braying horn nor screaming fife At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust, Their plumed heads are bowed; Their haughty banner, trailed in dust, Is now their martial shroud. And plenteous funeral tears have washed The red stains from each brow, And the proud forms, by battle gashed, Are free from anguish now.

The neighboring troop, the flashing blade, The bugle's stirring blast, The charge, the dreadful cannonade, The din and shout, are past; Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal Shall thrill with fierce delight Those breasts that nevermore may feel The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane That sweeps his great plateau, Flushed with the triumph yet to gain, Came down the serried foe. [2] Who heard the thunder of the fray Break o'er the field beneath, Knew well the watchword of that day Was "Victory or Death."

Long had the doubtful conflict raged O'er all that stricken plain, For never fiercer fight had waged The vengeful blood of Spain; [3] And still the storm of battle blew, Still swelled the gory tide; Not long, our stout old chieftain knew, Such odds his strength could bide.

'Twas in that hour his stern command Called to a martyr's grave The flower of his beloved land, The nation's flag to save. By rivers of their fathers' gore His first-born laurels grew, [4] And well he deemed the sons would pour Their lives for glory too.

Full many a norther's breath has swept O'er Angostura's plain, [5] And long the pitying sky has wept Above its moldered slain. The raven's scream, or eagle's flight, Or shepherd's pensive lay, Alone awakes each sullen height That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Ye must not slumber there, Where stranger steps and tongues resound Along the heedless air. Your own proud land's heroic soil Shall be your fitter grave: She claims from war his richest spoil— The ashes of her brave.

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest, Far from the gory field, Borne to a Spartan mother's breast On many a bloody shield; [6] The sunshine of their native sky Smiles sadly on them here, And kindred eyes and hearts watch by The heroes' sepulcher.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead! Dear as the blood ye gave; No impious footstep here shall tread The herbage of your grave; Nor shall your glory be forgot While Fame her record keeps, Or Honor points the hallowed spot Where valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone In deathless song shall tell, When many a vanished age hath flown, The story how ye fell; Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight, Nor Time's remorseless doom, Shall dim one ray of glory's light That gilds your deathless tomb.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of O'Hara, page 21, for the occasion of this poem.]

[Footnote 2: The American force numbered 4769 men; the Mexican force under Santa Anna, 21,000. The latter was confident of victory, and sent a flag of truce to demand surrender. "You are surrounded by 20,000 men," wrote the Mexican general, "and cannot, in any human probability, avoid suffering a rout, and being cut to pieces with your troops." Gen. Taylor replied, "I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request."]

[Footnote 3: The battle raged for ten hours with varying success. There was great determination on both sides, as is shown by the heavy losses. The Americans lost 267 killed and 456 wounded; Santa Anna stated his loss at 1500, which was probably an underestimate. He left 500 dead on the field. The battle was a decisive one, and left northeastern Mexico in the hands of the Americans.]

[Footnote 4: The reference is to Zachary Taylor, who was in command of the American forces. Though born in Virginia, he was brought up in Kentucky, and won his first laurels in command of Kentuckians in the War of 1812, during which he was engaged in fighting the Indian allies of Great Britain. His victory at Buena Vista aroused great enthusiasm in the United States, and more than any other event led to his election as President.]

[Footnote 5: The plateau on which the battle was fought, so called from the mountain pass of Angostura (the narrows) leading to it from the South.]

[Footnote 6: Kentucky is here beautifully likened to a Spartan mother who was accustomed to say, as she handed a shield to her son departing for war, "Come back with this or upon this."]

* * * * *



The knightliest of the knightly race That, since the days of old, Have kept the lamp of chivalry Alight in hearts of gold; The kindliest of the kindly band That, rarely hating ease, Yet rode with Spotswood [2] round the land, With Raleigh round the seas;

Who climbed the blue Virginian hills Against embattled foes, And planted there, in valleys fair, The lily and the rose; Whose fragrance lives in many lands, Whose beauty stars the earth, And lights the hearths of happy homes With loveliness and worth.

We thought they slept!—the sons who kept The names of noble sires, And slumbered while the darkness crept Around their vigil fires; But aye the "Golden Horseshoe" knights Their Old Dominion [3] keep, Whose foes have found enchanted ground. But not a knight asleep.


Out of the focal and foremost fire, Out of the hospital walls as dire; Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene, (Eighteenth battle [5] and he sixteen!) Specter! such as you seldom see, Little Giffen, of Tennessee!

"Take him and welcome!" the surgeons said; Little the doctor can help the dead! So we took him; and brought him where The balm was sweet in the summer air; And we laid him down on a wholesome bed,— Utter Lazarus, heel to head!

And we watched the war with abated breath,— Skeleton Boy against skeleton Death. Months of torture, how many such? Weary weeks of the stick and crutch; And still a glint of the steel-blue eye Told of a spirit that wouldn't die,

And didn't. Nay, more! in death's despite The crippled skeleton "learned to write." "Dear Mother," at first, of course; and then "Dear captain," inquiring about the men. Captain's answer: "Of eighty-and-five, Giffen and I are left alive."

Word of gloom from the war, one day; Johnston pressed at the front, they say. Little Giffen was up and away; A tear—his first—as he bade good-by, Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye. "I'll write, if spared!" There was news of the fight; But none of Giffen.—He did not write. [6]

I sometimes fancy that, were I king Of the princely Knights of the Golden Ring, [7] With the song of the minstrel in mine ear, And the tender legend that trembles here, I'd give the best on his bended knee, The whitest soul of my chivalry, For "Little Giffen," of Tennessee.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Ticknor, page 22, for the occasion of this poem. In this poem the exact meaning and sequence of thought do not appear till after repeated readings.]

[Footnote 2: Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740) was governor of Virginia 1710-1723. He led an exploring expedition across the Blue Ridge and took possession of the Valley of Virginia "in the name of his Majesty King George of England." On his return to Williamsburg he presented to each of his companions a miniature golden horseshoe to be worn upon the breast. Those who took part in the expedition, which was then regarded as a formidable undertaking, were subsequently known as the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe."]

[Footnote 3: "The Old Dominion" is a popular name for Virginia. Its origin may be traced to acts of Parliament, in which it is designated as "the colony and dominion of Virginia." In his History of Virginia (1629) Captain John Smith calls this colony and dominion Old Virginia in contradistinction to New England.]

[Footnote 4: See page 23. Of this poem Maurice Thompson said: "If there is a finer lyric than this in the whole realm of poetry, I should be glad to read it."]

[Footnote 5: Probably the battle of Murfreesboro, which opened December 31, 1862, and lasted three days. Union loss 14,000; Confederate, 11,000.]

[Footnote 6: He was killed in some battle near Atlanta early in 1864.]

[Footnote 7: A reference to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.]

With this poem should be compared Browning's Incident of the French Camp.

* * * * *



Two armies covered hill and plain, Where Rappahannock's waters [2] Ran deeply crimsoned with the stain Of battle's recent slaughters.

The summer clouds lay pitched like tents In meads of heavenly azure; And each dread gun of the elements Slept in its hid embrasure.

The breeze so softly blew, it made No forest leaf to quiver, And the smoke of the random cannonade Rolled slowly from the river.

And now, where circling hills looked down With cannon grimly planted, O'er listless camp and silent town The golden sunset slanted.

When on the fervid air there came A strain—now rich, now tender; The music seemed itself aflame With day's departing splendor.

A Federal band, which, eve and morn, Played measures brave and nimble, Had just struck up, with flute and horn And lively clash of cymbal.

Down flocked the soldiers to the banks, Till, margined by its pebbles, One wooded shore was blue with "Yanks," And one was gray with "Rebels."

Then all was still, and then the band, With movement light and tricksy, Made stream and forest, hill and strand, Reverberate with "Dixie."

The conscious stream with burnished glow Went proudly o'er its pebbles, But thrilled throughout its deepest flow With yelling of the Rebels.

Again a pause, and then again The trumpets pealed sonorous, And "Yankee Doodle" was the strain To which the shore gave chorus.

The laughing ripple shoreward flew, To kiss the shining pebbles; Loud shrieked the swarming Boys in Blue Defiance to the Rebels.

And yet once more the bugles sang Above the stormy riot; No shout upon the evening rang— There reigned a holy quiet.

The sad, slow stream its noiseless flood Poured o'er the glistening pebbles; All silent now the Yankees stood, And silent stood the Rebels.

No unresponsive soul had heard That plaintive note's appealing, So deeply "Home, Sweet Home" had stirred The hidden founts of feeling.

Or Blue or Gray the soldier sees, As by the wand of fairy, The cottage 'neath the live-oak trees, The cabin by the prairie.

Or cold or warm, his native skies Bend in their beauty o'er him; Seen through the tear-mist in his eyes, His loved ones stand before him.

As fades the iris after rain In April's tearful weather, The vision vanished, as the strain And daylight died together.

And memory, waked by music's art, Expressed in simplest numbers, Subdued the sternest Yankee's heart, Made light the Rebel's slumbers.

And fair the form of music shines, That bright celestial creature, Who still, 'mid war's embattled lines, Gave this one touch of Nature.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of John R. Thompson, page 23.]

[Footnote 2: The incident on which the poem is based may have occurred in 1862 or 1863. In both years the Union and Confederate forces occupied opposite banks of the Rappahannock.]

* * * * *


Grateful acknowledgment is here made to Dr. George J. Preston of Baltimore, for permission to use the two following poems.


The autumn air sweeps faint and chill Across the maple-crested hill; And on my ear Falls, tingling clear, A strange, mysterious, woodland thrill.

From utmost twig, from scarlet crown Untouched with yet a tinct of brown, Reluctant, slow, As loath to go, The loosened leaves come wavering down;

And not a hectic trembler there, In its decadence, doomed to share The fate of all,— But in its fall Flings something sob-like on the air.

No drift or dream of passing bell, Dying afar in twilight dell, Hath any heard, Whose chimes have stirred More yearning pathos of farewell.

A silent shiver as of pain, Goes quivering through each sapless vein; And there are moans, Whose undertones Are sad as midnight autumn rain.

Ah, if without its dirge-like sigh, No lightest, clinging leaf can die,— Let him who saith Decay and death Should bring no heart-break, tell me why.

Each graveyard gives the answer: there I read Resurgam[2] everywhere, So easy said Above the dead— So weak to anodyne despair.


We mean to do it. Some day, some day, We mean to slacken this feverish rush That is wearing our very souls away, And grant to our hearts a hush That is only enough to let them hear The footsteps of angels drawing near.

We mean to do it. Oh, never doubt, When the burden of daytime broil is o'er, We'll sit and muse while the stars come out, As the patriarchs sat in the door [3] Of their tents with a heavenward-gazing eye, To watch for angels passing by.

We've seen them afar at high noontide, When fiercely the world's hot flashings beat; Yet never have bidden them turn aside, To tarry in converse sweet; Nor prayed them to hallow the cheer we spread, To drink of our wine and break our bread.

We promise our hearts that when the stress Of the life work reaches the longed-for close, When the weight that we groan with hinders less, We'll welcome such calm repose As banishes care's disturbing din, And then—we'll call the angels in.

The day that we dreamed of comes at length, When tired of every mocking guest, And broken in spirit and shorn of strength, We drop at the door of rest, And wait and watch as the day wanes on— But the angels we meant to call are gone!

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Mrs. Preston, page 25. This and the following poem are good examples of her poetic art, and exhibit, at the same time, her reflective religious temperament.]

[Footnote 2: Resurgam (Latin), I shall rise again.]

[Footnote 3: "And Abraham sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant."—Genesis xviii. 1-3.]

* * * * *



Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicaean [2] barks of yore, That gently, o'er a perfumed sea, The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, Thy Naiad airs, have brought me home To the glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome.[3]

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche How statue-like I see thee stand, The agate lamp within thy hand! Ah, Psyche, [4] from the regions which Are Holy Land! [5]


It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, [7] That a maiden there lived whom you may know By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child, In this kingdom by the sea: But we loved with a love that was more than love, I and my Annabel Lee; With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven Coveted her and me.[8]

And this was the reason that, long ago, In this kingdom by the sea, A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling My beautiful Annabel Lee; So that her highborn kinsmen [9] came And bore her away from me, To shut her up in a sepulcher In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven, Went envying her and me; Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea) That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we, Of many far wiser than we; And neither the angels in heaven above, Nor the demons down under the sea, Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee: For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side [10] Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, In her sepulcher there by the sea, In her tomb by the sounding sea.


In the greenest of our valleys By good angels tenanted, Once a fair and stately palace— Radiant palace—reared its head. In the monarch Thought's dominion, It stood there; Never seraph spread a pinion Over fabric half so fair.

Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow (This—all this—was in the olden Time long ago), And every gentle air that dallied, In that sweet day, Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, A winged odor went away. Wanderers in that happy valley Through two luminous windows saw Spirits moving musically, To a lute's well-tuned law, Round about a throne where, sitting, Porphyrogene, In state his glory well befitting, The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing Was the fair palace door, Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, And sparkling evermore, A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty Was but to sing, In voices of surpassing beauty, The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's high estate; (Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow Shall dawn upon him desolate!) And round about his home the glory That blushed and bloomed, Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed.

And travelers now within that valley Through the red-litten windows see Vast forms that move fantastically To a discordant melody; While like a ghastly rapid river, Through the pale door A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh—but smile no more.


Lo! 'tis a gala night Within the lonesome latter years. An angel throng, bewinged, bedight In veils, and drowned in tears, Sit in a theater to see A play of hopes and fears, While the orchestra breathes fitfully The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high, Mutter and mumble low, And hither and thither fly; Mere puppets they, who come and go At bidding of vast formless things That shift the scenery to and fro, Flapping from out their condor wings Invisible woe.

That motley drama—oh, be sure It shall not be forgot! With its Phantom chased for evermore By a crowd that seize it not, Through a circle that ever returneth in To the self-same spot; And much of Madness, and more of Sin, And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see amid the mimic rout A crawling shape intrude: A blood-red thing that writhes from out The scenic solitude! It writhes—it writhes!—with mortal pangs The mimes become its food, And seraphs sob at vermin fangs In human gore imbued.

Out—out are the lights—out all! And over each quivering form The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm, While the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirm That the play is the tragedy "Man," And its hero the Conqueror Worm.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,— While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore, For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore: Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door— Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door: This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, "Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;— Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word "Lenore?" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word "Lenore:" Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before. "Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore— Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore: 'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore. Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door: Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,— "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore: Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door— Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore."

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