Poets of the South
Part 2 out of 4
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."
[Illustration: SIDNEY LANIER.]
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
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
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,
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,
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,
"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.
[Illustration: FATHER RYAN.]
ABRAM J. RYAN
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
"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
"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
"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
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--
* * * * *
"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.
ILLUSTRATIVE SELECTIONS WITH NOTES
SELECTION FROM FRANCIS SCOTT KEY
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER 
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  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, 
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? 
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.]
* * * * *
SELECTIONS FROM RICHARD HENRY WILDE
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!
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  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!
A FAREWELL TO AMERICA 
Farewell, my more than fatherland!
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,--
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
[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
[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
* * * * *
SELECTION FROM GEORGE D. PRENTICE
THE CLOSING YEAR 
'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.
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.
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 
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
"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.]
* * * * *
SELECTIONS FROM WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS
THE LOST PLEIAD 
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!
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! 
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? 
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!
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 
We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
His friends and merry men are we;
And when the troop of Tarleton  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.
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  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  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  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
[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_
[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_.
* * * * *
SELECTIONS FROM EDWARD COATE PINKNEY
A HEALTH 
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,
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. 
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,
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
"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
"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."]
* * * * *
SELECTION FROM PHILIP PENDLETON COOKE
FLORENCE VANE 
I loved thee long and dearly,
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,
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,
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. 
Would I had loved thee never,
But fairest, coldest wonder!
Thy glorious clay
Lieth the green sod under--
Alas the day!
And it boots not to remember
To quicken love's pale ember,
The lilies of the valley
By young graves weep,
The pansies love to dally
Where maidens sleep;
May their bloom, in beauty vying,
Where thine earthly part is lying,
[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.]
* * * * *
SELECTION FROM THEODORE O'HARA
THE BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD 
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. 
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; 
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, 
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, 
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; 
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
[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
[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
[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."]
* * * * *
SELECTIONS FROM FRANCIS ORRERY TICKNOR
THE VIRGINIANS OF THE VALLEY 
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  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  keep,
Whose foes have found enchanted ground.
But not a knight asleep.
LITTLE GIFFEN 
Out of the focal and foremost fire,
Out of the hospital walls as dire;
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
(Eighteenth battle  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. 
I sometimes fancy that, were I king
Of the princely Knights of the Golden Ring, 
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
[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
With this poem should be compared Browning's _Incident of the French Camp_.
* * * * *
SELECTION FROM JOHN R. THOMPSON
MUSIC IN CAMP 
Two armies covered hill and plain,
Where Rappahannock's waters 
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,
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