Graded Poetry: Seventh Year
Part 2 out of 2
In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's fresh spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man,--
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
* * * * *
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
'Twas one of the charmed days
When the genius of God doth flow,
The wind may alter twenty ways,
A tempest cannot blow;
It may blow north, it still is warm;
Or south, it still is clear;
Or east, it smells like a clover-farm;
Or west, no thunder fear.
The musing peasant lowly great
Beside the forest water sate;
The rope-like pine roots crosswise grown
Compose the network of his throne;
The wide lake, edged with sand and grass,
Was burnished to a floor of glass,
Painted with green and proud
Of the tree and of the cloud.
He was the heart of all the scene;
On him the sun looked more serene;
To hill and cloud his face was known,--
It seemed the likeness of their own;
They knew by secret sympathy
The public child of earth and sky.
"You ask," he said, "what guide
Me through trackless thickets led,
Through thick-stemmed woodlands rough and wide.
I found the water's bed.
The watercourses were my guide;
I traveled grateful by their side,
Or through their channel dry;
They led me through the thicket damp,
Through brake and fern, the beaver's camp,
Through beds of granite cut my road,
And their resistless friendship showed:
The falling waters led me,
The foodful waters fed me,
And brought me to the lowest land,
Unerring to the ocean sand.
The moss upon the forest bark
Was pole-star when the night was dark;
The purple berries in the wood
Supplied me necessary food;
For Nature ever faithful is
To such as trust her faithfulness.
When the forest shall mislead me,
When the night and morning lie,
When sea and land refuse to feed me,
'Twill be time enough to die;
Then will yet my mother yield
A pillow in her greenest field,
Nor the June flowers scorn to cover
The clay of their departed lover."
* * * * *
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
A wind came up out of the sea,
And said, "O mists, make room for me."
It hailed the ships, and cried, "Sail on,
Ye mariners, the night is gone."
And hurried landward far away,
Crying, "Awake! it is the day."
It said unto the forest, "Shout!
Hang all your leafy banners out!"
It touched the wood-bird's folded wing,
And said, "O bird, awake and sing."
And o'er the farms, "O chanticleer,
Your clarion blow; the day is near."
It whispered to the fields of corn,
"Bow down, and hail the coming morn."
It shouted through the belfry-tower,
"Awake, O bell! proclaim the hour."
It crossed the churchyard with a sigh,
And said, "Not yet! in quiet lie."
* * * * *
THE FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY OF AGASSIZ
May 28, 1857
It was fifty years ago
In the pleasant month of May,
In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,
A child in its cradle lay.
And Nature, the old nurse, took
The child upon her knee,
Saying: "Here is a story-book
Thy Father has written for thee.
"Come, wander with me," she said,
"Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God."
And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old nurse,
Who sang to him night and day
The rhymes of the universe.
And whenever the way seemed long,
Or his heart began to fail,
She would sing a more wonderful song,
Or tell a more marvelous tale.
So she keeps him still a child,
And will not let him go,
Though at times his heart beats wild
For the beautiful Pays de Vaud;
Though at times he hears in his dreams
The Ranz des Vaches of old,
And the rush of mountain streams
From the glaciers clear and cold;
And the mother at home says, "Hark!
For his voice I listen and yearn;
It is growing late and dark,
And my boy does not return!"
* * * * *
HYMN TO THE NIGHT
I heard the trailing garments of the Night
Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
From the celestial walls!
I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
As of the one I love.
I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
Like some old poet's rhymes.
From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,--
From those deep cisterns flows.
O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,
And they complain no more.
Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
The best-beloved Night!
* * * * *
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
Of all the myriad moods of mind
That through the soul come thronging,
Which one was e'er so dear, so kind,
So beautiful as Longing?
The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment
Before the Present poor and bare
Can make its sneering comment.
Still, through our paltry stir and strife,
Glows down the wished Ideal,
And Longing molds in clay what Life
Carves in the marble Real;
To let the new life in, we know,
Desire must ope the portal;
Perhaps the longing to be so
Helps make the soul immortal.
Longing is God's fresh heavenward will
With our poor earthward striving;
We quench it that we may be still
Content with merely living:
But, would we learn that heart's full scope
Which we are hourly wronging,
Our lives must climb from hope to hope
And realize our longing.
Ah! let us hope that to our praise
Good God not only reckons
The moments when we tread His ways,
But when the spirit beckons,--
That some slight good is also wrought
When we are simply good in thought,
Howe'er we fail in action.
* * * * *
THE FINDING OF THE LYRE
There lay upon the ocean's shore
What once a tortoise served to cover.
A year and more, with rush and roar,
The surf had rolled it over,
Had played with it, and flung it by,
As wind and weather might decide it,
Then tossed it high where sand-drifts dry
Cheap burial might provide it.
It rested there to bleach or tan,
The rains had soaked, the suns had burned it;
With many a ban the fisherman
Had stumbled o'er and spurned it;
And there the fisher-girl would stay,
Conjecturing with her brother
How in their play the poor estray
Might serve some use or other.
So there it lay, through wet and dry,
As empty as the last new sonnet,
Till by and by came Mercury,
And, having mused upon it,
"Why, here," cried he, "the thing of things
In shape, material, and dimensions!
Give it but strings, and lo, it sings,
A wonderful invention!"
So said, so done; the chords he strained,
And, as his fingers o'er them hovered,
The shell disdained, a soul had gained,
The lyre had been discovered.
O empty world that round us lies,
Dead shell, of soul and thought forsaken,
Brought we but eyes like Mercury's,
In thee what songs should waken!
* * * * *
Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, or tide, or sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.
I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.
Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Or change the tide of destiny.
What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.
The waters know their own, and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.
The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: Used by courteous permission of the publishers,
Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., Boston.]
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind him the gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: "Now must we pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak; what shall I say?"
"Why, say: 'Sail on! sail on! and on!'"
"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak,"
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say, at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!'"
They sailed and sailed as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
"Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say--"
He said: "Sail on! sail on! and on!"
They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
"This mad sea shows his teeth to-night.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt as a leaping sword:
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"
Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck--
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its greatest lesson: "On! sail on!"
* * * * *
JOHN VANCE CHENEY
The birds have hid, the winds are low,
The brake is awake, the grass aglow:
The bat is the rover,
No bee on the clover,
The day is over,
And evening come.
The heavy beetle spreads her wings,
The toad has the road, the cricket sings:
The bat is the rover,
No bee on the clover,
The day is over,
And evening come.
It is that pale, delaying hour
When nature closes like a flower,
And on the spirit lies,
The silence of the earth and skies.
The world has thoughts she will not own
When shade and dream with night have flown;
Bright overhead, a star
Makes golden guesses what they are.
Now is Light, sweet mother, down the west,
With little Song against her breast;
She took him up, all tired with play,
And fondly bore him far away.
While he sleeps, one wanders in his stead,
A fainter glory round her head;
She follows happy waters after,
Leaving behind low, rippling laughter.
Behind the hilltop drops the sun,
The curled heat falters on the sand,
While evening's ushers, one by one,
Lead in the guests of Twilight Land.
The bird is silent overhead,
Below the beast has laid him down;
Afar, the marbles watch the dead,
The lonely steeple guards the town.
The south wind feels its amorous course
To cloistered sweet in thickets found;
The leaves obey its tender force,
And stir 'twixt silence and a sound.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: From "Poems," published by Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin,
& Co., Boston.]
A VAGABOND SONG
There is something in the Autumn that is native to my blood--
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of fame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: From "Songs from Vagabondia," by Bliss Carman. Used
by the courteous permission of the author and the publishers,
Messrs. Small, Maynard, & Co.]
JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
Old Glory! say, who,
By the ships and the crew,
And the long, blended ranks of the gray and the blue--
Who gave you, Old Glory, the name that you bear
With such pride everywhere,
As you cast yourself free to the rapturous air
And leap out full length, as we're wanting you to?--
Who gave you that name, with the ring of the same,
And the honor and fame so becoming to you?
Your stripes stroked in ripples of white and of red,
With your stars at their glittering best overhead--
By day or by night
Their delightfullest light
Laughing down from their little square heaven of blue!
Who gave you the name of Old Glory--say, who--
Who gave you the name of Old Glory?
The old banner lifted and faltering then
In vague lisps and whispers fell silent again.
Old Glory: the story we're wanting to hear
Is what the plain facts of your christening were,--
For your name--just to hear it,
Repeat it, and cheer it, 's a tang to the spirit
As salt as a tear;--
And seeing you fly, and the boys marching by,
There's a shout in the throat and a blur in the eye,
And an aching to live for you always--or die,
If, dying, we still keep you waving on high
And so, by our love
For you, floating above,
And the scars of all wars and the sorrows thereof,
Who gave you the name of Old Glory, and why
Are we thrilled at the name of Old Glory?
Then the old banner leaped like a sail in the blast,
And fluttered an audible answer at last
And it spake with a shake of the voice, and it said:
By the driven snow-white and the living blood-red
Of my bars and their heaven of stars overhead--
By the symbol conjoined of them all, skyward cast,
As I float from the steeple or flap at the mast,
Or droop o'er the sod where the long grasses nod,--
My name is as old as the glory of God
So I came by the name of Old Glory.
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: This and the following poems are used by the courteous
permission of the publishers, Messrs. Bobbs, Merrill, & Co.,
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Ah, how wonderful is the advent of the spring!--
the great annual miracle of the blossoming of Aaron's
rod, repeated on myriads and myriads of branches!
--the gentle progression and growth of herbs,
flowers, trees,--gentle, and yet irrepressible,--
which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like
love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by
any human power, because itself is divine power. If
spring came but once a century, instead of once a
year, or burst forth with a sound of an earthquake
and not in silence, what wonder and expectation
would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous
But now the silent succession suggests nothing
but necessity. To most men, only the cessation of
the miracle would be miraculous, and the perpetual
exercise of God's power seems less wonderful than
its withdrawal would be. We are like children who
are astonished and delighted only by the second-hand
of the clock, not by the hour-hand.
In the fields and woods, meanwhile, there were
other signs and signals of the summer. The darkening
foliage; the embrowning grain; the golden dragonfly
haunting the blackberry bushes; the cawing
crows, that looked down from the mountain on the
cornfield, and waited day after day for the scarecrow
to finish his work and depart; and the smoke of far-off
burning woods, that pervaded the air and hung
in purple haze about the summits of the mountains,
--these were the vaunt-couriers and attendants of
the hot August.
The brown autumn came. Out of doors, it brought
to the fields the prodigality of the golden harvest,--
to the forest, revelations of light,--and to the sky,
the sharp air, the morning mist, the red clouds at
evening. Within doors, the sense of seclusion, the
stillness of closed and curtained windows, musings by
the fireside, books, friends, conversation, and the long,
meditative evenings. To the farmer, it brought surcease
of toil,--to the scholar, that sweet delirium of
the brain which changes toil to pleasure. It brought
the wild duck back to the reedy marshes of the south;
it brought the wild song back to the fervid brain of the
poet. Without, the village street was paved with gold;
the river ran red with the reflection of the leaves.
Within, the faces of friends brightened the gloomy
walls; the returning footsteps of the long-absent
gladdened the threshold; and all the sweet amenities
of social life again resumed their interrupted reign.
The first snow came. How beautiful it was, falling
so silently, all day long, all night long, on the
mountains, on the meadows, on the roofs of the
living, on the graves of the dead! All white save
the river, that marked its course by a winding black
line across the landscape; and the leafless trees, that
against the leaden sky now revealed more fully the
wonderful beauty and intricacy of their branches!
What silence, too, came with the snow, and what
seclusion! Every sound was muffled, every noise
changed to something soft and musical. No more
trampling hoofs,--no more rattling wheels! Only
the chiming sleigh bells, beating as swift and merrily
as the hearts of children.
* * * * *
APPENDIX: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
GEOFFREY CHAUCER, the father of English poetry, was born in
London in 1340. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge both claim him
as a student. He enjoyed the favor of King Edward the Third, and
passed much of his time at court. In 1386 he was made a knight, and
during the latter part of his life he received an annual pension.
He died in 1400. His writings are in a language so different from
modern English that many persons cannot enjoy their beauties. His
principal poems are "Canterbury Tales," "The Legend of Good Women,"
"The Court of Love," and "Troilus and Cressida."
EDMUND SPENSER was born in London about 1553. He was
graduated at Cambridge in 1576, and soon after wrote "The Shepherd's
Calendar." Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh were his friends
and patrons. In 1598 Spenser was appointed a sheriff in Ireland, and
not long afterward in a rebellion his property was destroyed and his
child killed. He did not long survive this calamity. His best-known
poem is "The Faery Queen."
THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH is often called the Golden Age of
English literature. Not only did Spenser and Shakespeare live then,
but a large number of minor poets also rendered the period
illustrious. Among the dramatic poets Christopher Marlowe, Beaumont
and Fletcher, who wrote together, and Ben Jonson hold an honorable
position. The most noted lyric poets of the day were George Herbert,
Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Philip Sidney. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE,
the greatest of English poets, was born at Stratford-on-Avon in
April, 1564. He is supposed to have been educated at the free school
of Stratford. When he was about twenty-two, he went to London, and
after a hard struggle with poverty, he became first an actor, then a
successful playwright and theater manager. Having gained not only
fame but a modest fortune, he retired in 1611 to live at ease in
Stratford until his death in 1616. Besides the two long poems,
"Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece," which first won popularity for
him, he has written thirty-seven plays, ranging from the lightest
comedy, through romance and historical narrative, to the darkest
tragedy. Whatever form his verse takes,--sonnet, song, or dramatic
poetry,--it shows the touch of the master hand, the inspiration of
the master mind. Of his plays those which are still most frequently
acted are the tragedies "Hamlet," "Macbeth," "King Lear," and
"Othello," the comedies "Midsummer-night's Dream," "The Merchant of
Venice," "As You Like It," and "The Comedy of Errors," and the
historical plays "Julius Caesar," "King Henry IV," "King Henry V,"
and "Richard III."
BEN JONSON was born at Westminster, England, about 1573. He
was the friend of Shakespeare and a famous dramatist in his day, but
his plays no longer hold the stage. His best play is "Every Man in
his Humour." His songs and short poems are beautiful. He died in
1637. His tomb in Westminster Abbey is inscribed "O Rare Ben Jonson!"
GEORGE HERBERT was born in Montgomery Castle, Wales, April 3,
1593. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Later he
studied for the ministry and was appointed vicar of Bremerton. His
"Sacred Poems" are noted for their purity and beauty of sentiment.
He died in 1633.
JOHN MILTON was born in London, December 9, 1608. He was
educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. Later he spent a year in
travel, meeting the great Galileo while in Italy. He was an ardent
advocate of freedom, and under the Protectorate he was the secretary
of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell. When only forty-six, he became
totally blind, yet his greatest work was done after this misfortune
overtook him. As a poet he stands second only to Shakespeare. His
early poems, "Comus," "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso," and "Lycidas,"
are very beautiful, and his "Paradise Lost" is the finest epic poem
in the English language. He died in 1674.
THE MINOR POETS of the age of Milton were Edmund Waller,
Robert Herrick, George Wither, Sir John Suckling, and Sir Richard
JOHN DRYDEN was born August 9, 1631. He was educated at
Trinity College, Cambridge. His poem in honor of the restoration
of Charles II won him the position of Poet Laureate. His best-known
works are the poetic "Translation of Virgil's Aeneid," "Alexander's
Feast," "The Hind and the Panther," and the drama "The Indian
Emperor." He died in 1700.
THE REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE was rendered brilliant by the writings
of Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Edward Young, James Thompson,
William Collins, Sir Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, and Daniel
Defoe. Not only were the poems of this period beautiful, but prose
also reached a high development.
JOSEPH ADDISON was born at Milston, England, May 1, 1672. He
completed his education at Queen's and Magdalen colleges, Oxford. He
entered the diplomatic service and rose steadily, becoming one of the
two principal secretaries of state two years before his death. He
attained a higher political position than any other writer has ever
achieved through his literary ability. With Steele he published
_The Tatler_, and later _The Spectator_, at first a daily paper and
afterward a tri-weekly one. He was a master of English prose, and his
poems are elevated and serious in style. He died in 1719.
ISAAC WATTS was born at Southampton, July 17, 1674. He studied
for the ministry. He wrote nearly five hundred hymns besides his
"Divine and Moral Songs for Children." Many of his hymns are still
favorites. He died in 1748.
ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 21, 1688. Sickly and
deformed, he was unable to attend school, but he was nevertheless
a great student. His writings are witty and satirical. His best-known
poems are "Essay on Man," "Translation of the Iliad," "Essay on
Criticism," and "The Rape of the Lock." He died in 1744.
THOMAS GRAY was born in London in 1716. He was educated at
Eton, and Peter-House College, Cambridge. He lived all his life at
Cambridge, ultimately being appointed professor of Modern History.
His most famous poem is the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."
He died in 1771.
WILLIAM COWPER was born at Great Berkhamstead, England,
November 26, 1731. He was educated at Westminster School, and studied
law at the Middle Temple, being called to the bar in 1754. He was
very delicate and afflicted with nervousness that amounted to
insanity at times. Not until 1780 did he seriously begin his literary
career. Then for a period of a little more than ten years he worked
with success and was happy. His most famous poems are "John Gilpin,"
"The Task," "Hope," and "Lines on my Mother's Portrait." In the
latter part of his life his nervous melancholy again affected him.
He died in 1800.
ROBERT BURNS was born at Ayr in Scotland, January 25, 1759.
He was the son of a poor farmer, and he himself followed the plow
in his earlier days. He was about to seek his fortune in America
when his first volume of poems was published and won him fame at
once. His style is simple and sincere, with a fire of intensity.
His best poems are "Tam o'Shanter" and "The Cottar's Saturday Night."
He died July 21, 1796.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland,
England, on April 7, 1770. He completed his education at St John's
College, Cambridge, taking his degree of B A in 1791. He was
appointed Poet Laureate in 1843, succeeding Robert Southey. He is
the poet of nature and of simple life. Among his best known poems
are "The Ode to Immortality," "The Excursion," and "Yarrow
Revisited." He died April 23, 1850.
SIR WALTER SCOTT was born in Edinburgh, August 15, 1771. He
was educated at Edinburgh University and afterward studied law in
his father's office. His energy and tireless work were marvelous.
He followed the practice of his profession until he was appointed
Clerk of Session. His official duties were scrupulously performed,
yet his literary work surpasses in volume and ability that of any of
his contemporaries. Novelist, historian, poet, he excelled in whatever
style of literature he attempted. His best-known poems are "The Lady
of the Lake," "Marmion," and "The Lay of the Last Minstrel." He died
ROBERT SOUTHEY was born at Bristol, August 12, 1774. He was
expelled from Westminster School for writing an article against
school flogging. Later he studied at Balliol College, Oxford. He was
an incessant worker, laboring at all branches of literature, from
his famous nursery story, "The Three Bears," to "The Life of Nelson."
He was appointed Laureate in 1813. His most successful long poems are
"Thalaba," and "The Curse of Kehama." He died in 1843.
THOMAS CAMPBELL was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1777. He was
educated at the university of his native town, and he was regarded as
its most brilliant scholar, in his later life he was elected Lord
Rector of the university. His best known poems are "The Pleasures of
Hope," "Gertrude of Wyoming," and "Ye Mariners of England." He died
THOMAS MOORE was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1779. He was
educated at Trinity College, and afterward studied law at the Middle
Temple, London. "Lalla Rookh," and his "Irish Melodies" have won for
him a lasting fame as a poet. He died February 26, 1852.
JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT was born near London in 1784. He left
school when only fifteen to become a clerk in the War Office, where
he remained until 1808, when he and his brother published _The
Examiner_. From that time he was occupied as an editor and writer,
being connected with different periodicals. He was the intimate
friend of Byron, Moore, Shelley, and Keats. One of his best poems,
"Rimini," was written in prison, where he was condemned to remain for
two years because he had published a satirical article about the
prince regent. In his later years a pension of two hundred pounds
was granted him. He died August 28, 1859.
GEORGE GORDON NOEL, LORD BYRON, was born in London, January
22, 1788. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, but did not
remain to take his degree. While at the university he published a
volume of poems, "Hours of Idleness," which he followed shortly by
the satirical poem "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," which won
him immediate recognition. He wrote many dramatic poems, but his most
beautiful work is "Childe Harold." He was the friend of Shelley and
Leigh Hunt, and together they published _The Liberal_. In 1823
he joined the Greeks in their struggle for freedom, and the exposure
and exertion that he suffered in this war brought on the fever of
which he died in April, 1824.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY was born at Field Place, England, August
4, 1792. He was entered at University College, Oxford, but was
shortly expelled as an atheist. His life was a sad one, his first
marriage was unhappy, and he was drowned when only thirty years old,
in July, 1822. His longest and best works are "The Cenci,"
"Prometheus Unbound," "The Revolt of Islam," and "Adonais," an elegy
on the death of his friend, the poet Keats, near whom he was buried.
JOHN KEATS was born in London, England, in 1795 or 1796. His
poem "Endymion" was criticised severely in the _Quarterly
Review_. Keats was so sensitive that this criticism is supposed to
have aggravated his malady, and thus to be responsible for his early
death. Among his other poems may be noted "Hyperion," "Lamia," and
"The Eve of St Agnes." He died at Rome in 1821.
THOMAS HOOD was born in London, England, May 23, 1799. His
humorous verses first attracted attention, but his serious poems have
given him a lasting place in literature. Among these are "The Song of
the Shirt," "The Bridge of Sighs," "Eugene Aram," and "Ode to
Melancholy." He died in 1845.
THOMAS BABINGTON, LORD MACAULAY, was born in Leicestershire,
October 25, 1800. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and
studied law. He disliked his profession, greatly preferring
literature. In 1830 he entered Parliament and was made Secretary of
War in 1839. He was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University and
was raised to the peerage in 1857. He died in 1859. His best-known
poems are "Ivry" and "The Lays of Ancient Rome."
THE REIGN OF QUEEN VICTORIA from a literary standpoint is
second only to that of Elizabeth in brilliancy. The Victorian Age is
usually applied to the whole century, during the better part of which
Victoria reigned. The literature of this age is rich with the writings
of Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Algernon Charles Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister
Christina, William Morris, Matthew Arnold, Edwin Arnold, Jean
Ingelow, Owen Meredith, Arthur Hugh Clough, Adelaide Procter, and a
host of minor poets.
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, was born at Somersby, August 6, 1809.
He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His first book of
poems, written with his brother Charles, was published two years
before he entered college; from that time until his death his literary
work was continuous. In 1850 he succeeded Wordsworth as Poet Laureate,
and thirty-four years later was raised to the peerage. His poems
cover a wide range--lyrics, ballads, idyls, and dramas. His most
important works are "The Princess," "In Memoriam," "Maud," and "The
Idylls of the King." He died in 1892.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING was born at Durham, England, March
6, 1809. She was highly educated and was proficient in both Greek and
Latin. She wrote her first verses at the age of ten, and her first
volume of poems was published when she was but seventeen years old.
In 1846 she was married to the poet Robert Browning. Her first known
works are "Aurora Leigh," a novel in verse, "The Portuguese Sonnets,"
"Casa Guidi Windows," and "The Cry of the Children," a poem written
to show the wretchedness of the little children employed in the mines
and factories of England. She died at Florence, Italy, in June, 1861.
ROBERT BROWNING was born in Camberwell, England, in 1812. He
was educated at the University of London. He married Elizabeth
Barrett, the poet, and together they lived much of their time in
Italy. They were deeply interested in the struggle of Italy for
freedom, and both wrote on this subject. In his long life Browning
wrote many volumes of poems, and it is difficult to choose among
them. "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is always a favorite with the young
people, as are "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,"
"Herve Riel," and "Ratisbon." His most popular poems are "Pippa
Passes," "The Ring and the Book," "A Blot on the 'Scutcheon," and
"Saul." He died in 1889.
MARIAN EVANS, who wrote under the name of George Eliot, was
born at Aubury Farm, near Nuneaton, England, November 22, 1819. She
was carefully educated and was a most earnest student. While her
poems are beautiful, her best work is in prose, and she ranks as one
of England's greatest novelists. Her most famous novels are "Adam
Bede," "The Mill on the Floss," "Silas Marner," and "Middlemarch."
She married Mr John Cross, in May, 1880, and died December 22 of the
JEAN INGELOW was born at Boston, England, in 1820. She is
known both as a poet and novelist. Her best-known poems are "Songs
of Seven" and "The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire." She died
MATTHEW ARNOLD, son of Thomas Arnold of Rugby, was born at
Laleham, England, December 24, 1822. He was educated at Rugby and
Oxford. In 1857 he was elected professor of Poetry at Oxford. He is
chiefly noted for his essays, though his poems are lofty in sentiment
and polished in diction. "Sohrab and Rustum" is his most important
poem. He died in 1888.
DINAH MARIA MULOCK CRAIK was born in Staffordshire, England,
in 1826. She won her fame as a writer of novels, of which the best
is "John Halifax, Gentleman." She died in 1887.
WILLIAM MORRIS was born in Walthamstow, March 24, 1834. He
was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. Before he was thirty years
old he founded an establishment for the manufacture of artistic
materials for household decoration. His work in this direction has
improved the beauty of all household fabrics, and has affected the
taste in household art in both England and America. Nevertheless
he is best known as a poet. His finest poems are "The Earthly
Paradise," a series of Norse legends, "Three Northern Stones,"
translated from Icelandic poems, and his translations of "The
Odyssey." He died in 1896.
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE was born in London, April 5, 1837.
He was educated partly in France, at Eton, and at Balliol College,
Oxford. He left the University without a degree to spend several
years in travel. He is a master of English, using a wider vocabulary
than any of his contemporaries, and the musical effects of his many
varied meters have won for him a unique position in poetry. He has
been called "the greatest metrical inventor in English literature."
His works in French and Latin show him to be a poet in three
languages. His best-known works are "Poems and Ballads," "Songs
before Sunrise," and "Mary Stuart." He is the greatest living
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI was born in London, May 12, 1828. He
studied art in the antique school of the Royal Academy, and became
known as an artist before he won fame as a poet. His most widely
known poem is "The Blessed Damozel." He died in 1882.
CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI, the sister of D.G. Rossetti, was
born in London, December 5, 1830. She ranks as one of the greatest
and most spiritual of English poetesses.
SIR EDWIN ARNOLD was born in Sussex, June 10, 1832. He was
educated at King's College, London, and at University College,
Oxford. He was appointed principal of the Government Sanscrit
College at Poonah, India, and Fellow of the University of Bombay, and
held these posts through the Sepoy Rebellion. Returning to London in
1861, he was one of the editors of the _Daily Telegraph_, and
through his influence Henry M. Stanley undertook his first expedition
into Africa to find Livingstone. Nearly all of his poetry deals with
Oriental legends, and much of his time was spent in India and Japan.
His principal works are "The Light of Asia," "Pearls of the Faith,"
"Indian Song of Songs," "Japonica," and "The Light of the World."
RUDYARD KIPLING was born in Bombay, India, December 30, 1865.
He was educated partly in England, but returned to India when he was
only fifteen, and there began his literary work and first won fame.
His writings are mainly in prose, and he is at his best when writing
of India. His poems are all short, and "The Recessional" and "The
Dove of Dacca" are especially fine. In prose the "Jungle Books,"
"The Naulakha," and "Kim" are the most popular.
AMONG THE MINOR POETS of the Victorian Age may be mentioned
John Henry, Cardinal Newman, 1801-1890. Author of many volumes of
sermons and the hymn "Lead Kindly Light."
Henry Francis Lyte, 1763-1847. Author of many hymns, the most
popular of which is "Abide with Me."
Alfred Domett, 1811-1887. Author of "Christmas Hymn."
Arthur Hugh Clough, 1810-1861. Author of "Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich."
Charles Mackay, 1814-1889. Author of many songs, among them "There is
a Good Time Coming" and "Cheer, Boys, Cheer!"
In the early days of this country the time and thought of the
settlers were taken up in struggling with the difficulties of their
surroundings, so that there was little opportunity for the
establishment of an American literature. For art, poetry, and the
beautiful in life, the colonists naturally turned to the mother
country--to the home which they had so lately left. During the period
before the French and Indian War the subject of religion and nice
points of doctrine filled the minds of the Americans, hence we find
that the first American writer who attained to a European reputation
was the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a distinguished divine and president
of Princeton College. His books on "The Religious Affections" and
"The Freedom of the Will" are still studied.
After the French and Indian War, politics became the absorbing topic
of the day, and Benjamin Franklin was the first to achieve fame in
this field of letters. His writings in "Poor Richard's Almanac,"
honest and wholesome in tone, exercised a marked influence upon the
literature of his time. Among the orators who won distinction in the
discussion of civil liberty are James Otis, John and Samuel Adams,
and Patrick Henry. The writings of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and
James Madison in _The Federalist_ secured the adoption of the
Constitution and survive to this day as brilliant examples of
political essays, while the state papers of George Washington and
Thomas Jefferson are models of clearness and elegance of style.
With the peace and prosperity that followed the establishment of our
republic came the opportunity to cultivate the broader fields of
literature. Relieved of the strain of the struggle for civil and
religious liberty, the people could satisfy their inclinations toward
the beautiful in art and life, and from that time until the present
day the writers of America have held their own in the front ranks
of the authors of the English-speaking peoples.
JOSEPH RODMAN DRAKE, the first American poet to win
distinction, was born in New York City in 1795. He was educated in
Columbia College. He died prematurely when only twenty-five years old.
His best-known poems are "The Culprit Fay" and "The American Flag."
He was the intimate friend of Fitz-Greene Halleck, the Connecticut
poet, author of "Marco Bozzaris." The last four lines of Drake's
"American Flag" were written by Fitz-Greene Halleck.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT was born in Cummington, Massachusetts,
November 3, 1794. He was educated at Williams College. He studied
law and was admitted to the bar. His first poem was published when
he was thirteen. His best-known poem, "Thanatopsis," was written
when he was only nineteen and delivered at his college commencement.
After practicing law for a short time, he became editor of _The
Evening Post_ and continued this work until his death. When he was
seventy-two, he began his translation of Homer, which occupied him
for six years. He died in 1878.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON was born in Boston, May 20, 1803. He
studied at Harvard College, and after a period of teaching, became
pastor of a Unitarian church in Boston for a short time. Later he
settled in Concord, spending his time in writing and lecturing in
this country and England. He was the founder of what has been called
"The Concord School of Philosophy." His best-known poems are "The
Concord Hymn," "Rhodora," "The Snow Storm," "Each and All," "The
Days," and "The Humble Bee." He died in 1882.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW was born in Portland, Maine,
February 27, 1807. He was educated at Bowdoin College and, after a
period of study abroad, was appointed professor of Foreign Languages
there. This position he gave up to become professor of Modern
Languages and Literature at Harvard College. At Cambridge he was a
friend of Hawthorne, Holmes, Emerson, Lowell, and Alcott. His
best-known long poems are "Evangeline," "Hiawatha," "The Building
of the Ship," and "The Courtship of Miles Standish." He made a fine
translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy." Among his many short poems,
"Excelsior," "The Psalm of Life," "The Wreck of the Hesperus," "The
Village Blacksmith," and "Paul Revere's Ride" are continuously
popular. He died in 1882. He was the first American writer who was
honored by a memorial in Westminster Abbey.
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER was born near Haverhill, Massachusetts,
December 17, 1807. He was educated in the public school, working at
the same time on his father's farm or at making shoes. Having left
the academy, he devoted himself to literature. He was an ardent
abolitionist, and many of his poems are written to aid the cause of
freedom in which he was so deeply interested. His best-known poems
are "Snow-Bound," "Barbara Frietchie," "Maude Muller," and "Voices of
Freedom." He died in 1892.
EDGAR ALLAN POE was born in Boston, Massachusetts, January 19,
1809. The story of his life is as melancholy as was his genius.
Wild, dissipated, reckless, he was dismissed from West Point. He
alienated his best friends and lived the greatest part of his life in
the deepest poverty, dying in 1849 from the effects of dissipation
and exposure. His best poems are "The Raven," "The Bells," and
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
August 29, 1809. He was educated at Harvard College and studied
medicine, spending two years in the hospitals of Europe. He was
successively professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth
College, a physician in regular practice in Boston, and professor of
anatomy at Harvard College--this position he held from 1847 to 1882.
He was nearly fifty before he became widely known as a writer, when
"The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" was published. He was successful
as essayist, novelist, poet, a kindly wit playing through much of his
work. His best-known poems are "Old Ironsides," "The Chambered
Nautilus," "The One-hoss Shay," "The Last Leaf," and "The Boys." He
died in 1894.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
February 22, 1819. He was educated at Harvard College. He succeeded
Longfellow as professor of Modern Languages and Literature at
Harvard. He was also editor of the _Atlantic Monthly_ and of
the _North American Review_. He was appointed minister to Spain
and later to England, where he was our ambassador for five years. His
best-known poems are "The Vision of Sir Launfal," "Commemoration Ode,"
"The Biglow Papers," "The Present Crisis," and "The First Snowfall."
He died in 1891.
WALT WHITMAN was born in West Hills, Long Island, May 31, 1819.
He was unable to go to college. He served in various occupations,
teacher, printer, writer, until in the great Civil War he volunteered
as a war nurse. His exertions and exposure in this work destroyed his
health, so that most of his remaining years he was dependent upon his
friends. His most beautiful poem is "O Captain, My Captain," written
after the assassination of Lincoln. He died in 1892.
CINCINNATUS HEINE MILLER, who wrote under the name of Joaquin
Miller, was born in Indiana in 1841. While yet a boy he went to Oregon
and later to California, where he led a wild life among the miners,
fighting the Indians, practicing law, and becoming a county judge.
After several years in Europe and New York, he settled down as a
fruit grower in California. He wrote "Songs of the Sierras," "Songs
of the Sun-Lands," and "The Ship in the Desert."
AMONG THE MINOR AMERICAN POETS the following are worthy of
Francis Scott Key, 1779-1843. "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Emma Hart Willard, 1787-1870. "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep."
John Howard Payne, 1792-1852. "Home Sweet Home."
Josiah Gilbert Holland, 1819-1881. "Bittersweet."
Julia Ward Howe, 1819-. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Alice Cary, 1820-1871. Phoebe Cary, 1824-1871. Joint authors of
several volumes of poems. "Order for a Picture," A.C. "Nearer Home," P.C.
Thomas Buchanan Read, 1822-1872. "Drifting," "Sheridan's Ride."
John Burroughs, naturalist, 1837-. "Waiting."
Edward Rowland Sill, 1841-1887. "The Fool's Prayer," "Opportunity."
Sidney Lanier, 1842-1881. "The Song of the Chattahoochee," "The
Marshes of Glynn," "A Song of the Future."
John Vance Cheney, 1848-. "Thistle Drift," "Wood Blooms," "Evening
James Whitcomb Riley, 1853-. "Rhymes of Childhood."
Eugene Field, 1850-1895. "With Trumpet and Drum," and "Love Songs of
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