Select Poems of Sidney Lanier
Part 2 out of 3
to the inanimate, and contemplate its possible beneficence
in the distant future."
A comparison of the first draft of `Corn', as sent Judge Bleckley,
with the final form shows that Lanier made many minute changes in the poem,
especially in the earlier part. Still this earlier draft agrees substantially
with the later, and was so fine in conception and execution
as to call forth this commendation of Judge Bleckley, which,
despite the shortcomings of `Corn', may with greater justice be applied
to the poem in its present form: "As an artist you seem to be Italian
in the first two pictures, and Dutch or Flemish in the latter two.
In your Italian vein you paint with the utmost delicacy and finish.
The drawing is scrupulously correct and the color soft and harmonious.
When you paint in Dutch or Flemish you are clear and strong,
but sometimes hard. There is less idealization and more of
the realistic element -- your SOLIDS predominate over your fluids."
As already stated, Lanier has two other poems that indirectly treat the theme
of `Corn', namely, `Thar's More in the Man' and `Jones's Private Argyment'.
Moreover, he has `The Waving of the Corn', which, though charming,
is neither so elaborate nor artistic as `Corn'.
Among poems on corn by other writers may be mentioned the following:
1. Whittier's `The Corn-song' (before 1872), a poem of
praise and thanksgiving at the end of `The Huskers',
which tells of the gathering of the corn and of the "corn-husking",
known in the South as the "corn-shucking".
2. Woolson's (Constance F.) `Corn Fields', a description of Ohio fields,
in `Harper's Monthly', 45, 444, Aug., 1872.
3. Thompson's (Maurice) `Dropping Corn' (1877), a dainty love lyric,
in `Poems' (Boston, 1892), p. 78.
4. Cromwell's (S. C.) `Corn-shucking Song', a dialect poem,
in `Harper', 69, 807, Oct., 1884.
5. Coleman's (C. W.) `Corn', in `The Atlantic Monthly', 70, 228, Aug., 1892,
which, since it consists of but four lines and is more like Lanier's poem
than are the others, may be quoted:
"Drawn up in serried ranks across the fields
That, as we gaze, seem ever to increase,
With tasseled flags and sun-emblazoned shields,
The glorious army of earth's perfect peace."
6. Hayne's (W. H.) `Amid the Corn', a charming account of the denizens
of the corn-fields, in his `Sylvan Lyrics' (New York, 1893), p. 12.
7. Dumas's (W. T.) `Corn-shucking' and `The Last Ear of Corn',
both life-like pictures of plantation life, in his
`The Golden Day and Miscellaneous Poems' (Phila., 1893).
Other interesting articles are: `Mondamin, or the Origin of Indian Corn',
in `The Southern Literary Messenger' (Richmond, Va.), 29, 12-13, July, 1859;
`A Georgia Corn-shucking', by D. C. Barrow, Jr., in `The Century Magazine'
(New York), 2, 873-878, Oct., 1882; and `Old American Customs: A Corn-party',
an account of a corn-husking in New York, in `The Saturday Review' (London),
66, 237-238, Aug. 25, 1888.
4-9. See `Introduction', p. xxxii [Part III], and compare `The Symphony',
18. Paul Hamilton Hayne, whose love of nature rivals Lanier's,
has an interesting poem entitled `Muscadines' (`Poems', Boston, 1882,
21. Compare `The Symphony', l. 117 ff.
57. See `Introduction', p. l [Part V].
125. In her introductory note to `Corn' Mrs. Lanier thus localizes the poem:
"His `fieldward-faring eyes took harvest' `among the stately corn-ranks,'
in a portion of middle Georgia sixty miles to the north of Macon.
It is a high tract of country from which one looks across the lower reaches
to the distant Blue Ridge Mountains, whose wholesome breath,
all unobstructed, here blends with the woods-odors of the beech, the hickory,
and the muscadine: a part of a range recalled elsewhere by Mr. Lanier
as `that ample stretch of generous soil, where the Appalachian ruggednesses
calm themselves into pleasant hills before dying quite away
into the sea-board levels' -- where `a man can find
such temperances of heaven and earth -- enough of struggle with nature
to draw out manhood, with enough of bounty to sanction the struggle --
that a more exquisite co-adaptation of all blessed circumstances
for man's life need not be sought.'"
140. See `Jason' in any Dictionary of Mythology.*
* Gayley's `The Classic Myths in English Literature' (Boston, Ginn & Co.)
is an excellent book.
157. `Dives': See Appendix to Webster's `International Dictionary'.
168. `Future Sale' -- sale for future delivery.
185-6. See Shakespeare's `King Lear'.
In the heart of the Hills of Life, I know 
Two springs that with unbroken flow
Forever pour their lucent streams
Into my soul's far Lake of Dreams.
Not larger than two eyes, they lie
Beneath the many-changing sky
And mirror all of life and time,
-- Serene and dainty pantomime.
Shot through with lights of stars and dawns,
And shadowed sweet by ferns and fawns,
-- Thus heaven and earth together vie 
Their shining depths to sanctify.
Always when the large Form of Love
Is hid by storms that rage above,
I gaze in my two springs and see
Love in his very verity.
Always when Faith with stifling stress
Of grief hath died in bitterness,
I gaze in my two springs and see
A Faith that smiles immortally.
Always when Charity and Hope, 
In darkness bounden, feebly grope,
I gaze in my two springs and see
A Light that sets my captives free.
Always, when Art on perverse wing
Flies where I cannot hear him sing,
I gaze in my two springs and see
A charm that brings him back to me.
When Labor faints, and Glory fails,
And coy Reward in sighs exhales,
I gaze in my two springs and see 
Attainment full and heavenly.
O Love, O Wife, thine eyes are they,
-- My springs from out whose shining gray
Issue the sweet celestial streams
That feed my life's bright Lake of Dreams.
Oval and large and passion-pure
And gray and wise and honor-sure;
Soft as a dying violet-breath
Yet calmly unafraid of death;
Thronged, like two dove-cotes of gray doves, 
With wife's and mother's and poor-folk's loves,
And home-loves and high glory-loves
And science-loves and story-loves,
And loves for all that God and man
In art and nature make or plan,
And lady-loves for spidery lace
And broideries and supple grace
And diamonds and the whole sweet round
Of littles that large life compound,
And loves for God and God's bare truth, 
And loves for Magdalen and Ruth,
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!
Notes: My Springs
For my appreciation of this tribute to the poet's wife
see `Introduction', p. xxxv [Part III]. Mr. Lanier's estimate is given
in a letter of March, 1874, quoted in Mrs. Lanier's introductory note:
"Of course, since I have written it to print I cannot make it such
as _I_ desire in artistic design: for the forms of to-day
require a certain trim smugness and clean-shaven propriety
in the face and dress of a poem, and I must win a hearing
by conforming in some degree to these tyrannies, with a view
to overturning them in the future. Written so, it is not nearly so beautiful
as I would have it; and I therefore have another still in my heart,
which I will some day write for myself."
Other tributes to his wife are: `In Absence', `Acknowledgment',
`Laus Mariae', `Special Pleading', `Evening Song', `Thou and I',
`One in Two', and `Two in One'; while she is referred to
in `The Hard Times in Elfland' and `June Dreams in January'.
It will be interesting to compare `My Springs' with other poems on the eyes.
Among the most noteworthy* may be cited Shakespeare's
"And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn;"
"Her eyes are sapphires set in snow,
Resembling heaven by every wink;
The Gods do fear whenas they glow,
And I do tremble when I think,
Heigh ho, would she were mine!"
"Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine," etc.;
"Sweet, be not proud of those two eyes
Which starlike sparkle in their skies;"
"Oh turn away those cruel eyes,
The stars of my undoing;
Or death in such a bright disguise
May tempt a second wooing;"
"She walks in beauty, like the night,
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies;"
"She is not fair to outward view,
As many maidens be;
Her loveliness I never knew
Until she smiled on me.
O then I saw her eye was bright,
A well of love, a spring of light.
"But now her looks are coy and cold,
To mine they ne'er reply,
And yet I cease not to behold
The love-light in her eye:
Her very frowns are fairer far
Than smiles of other maidens are;"
"Her eyes are stars of twilight fair."
* These may be found either in Gosse's `English Lyrics' (D. Appleton & Co.,
New York) or in Palgrave's `Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics'
(Macmillan & Co., New York).
49-50. See `Introduction', p. xlv [Part IV].
52. There is in early English literature a most interesting play
entitled `Mary Magdalene': see Pollard's `English Miracle Plays' (New York),
where extracts are given.
55-56. See `Introduction', p. xlvi [Part IV].
"O Trade! O Trade! would thou wert dead! 
The Time needs heart -- 'tis tired of head:
We're all for love," the violins said.
"Of what avail the rigorous tale
Of bill for coin and box for bale?
Grant thee, O Trade! thine uttermost hope:
Level red gold with blue sky-slope,
And base it deep as devils grope:
When all's done, what hast thou won
Of the only sweet that's under the sun?
Ay, canst thou buy a single sigh 
Of true love's least, least ecstasy?"
Then, with a bridegroom's heart-beats trembling,
All the mightier strings assembling
Ranged them on the violins' side
As when the bridegroom leads the bride,
And, heart in voice, together cried:
"Yea, what avail the endless tale
Of gain by cunning and plus by sale?
Look up the land, look down the land,
The poor, the poor, the poor, they stand 
Wedged by the pressing of Trade's hand
Against an inward-opening door
That pressure tightens evermore:
They sigh a monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside leagues of liberty,
Where Art, sweet lark, translates the sky
Into a heavenly melody.
`Each day, all day' (these poor folks say),
`In the same old year-long, drear-long way,
We weave in the mills and heave in the kilns, 
We sieve mine-meshes under the hills,
And thieve much gold from the Devil's bank tills,
To relieve, O God, what manner of ills? --
The beasts, they hunger, and eat, and die;
And so do we, and the world's a sty;
Hush, fellow-swine: why nuzzle and cry?
"Swinehood hath no remedy"
Say many men, and hasten by,
Clamping the nose and blinking the eye.
But who said once, in the lordly tone, 
"Man shall not live by bread alone
But all that cometh from the Throne?"
Hath God said so?
But Trade saith "No":
And the kilns and the curt-tongued mills say "Go:
There's plenty that can, if you can't: we know.
Move out, if you think you're underpaid.
The poor are prolific; we're not afraid;
Trade is trade."'"
Thereat this passionate protesting 
Meekly changed, and softened till
It sank to sad requesting
And suggesting sadder still:
"And oh, if men might some time see
How piteous-false the poor decree
That trade no more than trade must be!
Does business mean, "Die, you -- live, I"?
Then `Trade is trade' but sings a lie:
'Tis only war grown miserly.
If business is battle, name it so: 
War-crimes less will shame it so,
And widows less will blame it so.
Alas, for the poor to have some part
In yon sweet living lands of Art,
Makes problem not for head, but heart.
Vainly might Plato's brain revolve it:
Plainly the heart of a child could solve it."
And then, as when from words that seem but rude
We pass to silent pain that sits abrood
Back in our heart's great dark and solitude, 
So sank the strings to gentle throbbing
Of long chords change-marked with sobbing --
Motherly sobbing, not distinctlier heard
Than half wing-openings of the sleeping bird,
Some dream of danger to her young hath stirred.
Then stirring and demurring ceased, and lo!
Every least ripple of the strings' song-flow
Died to a level with each level bow
And made a great chord tranquil-surfaced so,
As a brook beneath his curving bank doth go 
To linger in the sacred dark and green
Where many boughs the still pool overlean
And many leaves make shadow with their sheen.
A velvet flute-note fell down pleasantly
Upon the bosom of that harmony,
And sailed and sailed incessantly,
As if a petal from a wild-rose blown
Had fluttered down upon that pool of tone
And boatwise dropped o' the convex side 
And floated down the glassy tide
And clarified and glorified
The solemn spaces where the shadows bide.
From the warm concave of that fluted note
Somewhat, half song, half odor, forth did float,
As if a rose might somehow be a throat:
"When Nature from her far-off glen
Flutes her soft messages to men,
The flute can say them o'er again;
Yea, Nature, singing sweet and lone, 
Breathes through life's strident polyphone
The flute-voice in the world of tone.
Man's love ascends
To finer and diviner ends
Than man's mere thought e'er comprehends
For I, e'en I,
As here I lie,
A petal on a harmony,
Demand of Science whence and why 
Man's tender pain, man's inward cry,
When he doth gaze on earth and sky?
I am not overbold:
Full powers from Nature manifold.
I speak for each no-tongued tree
That, spring by spring, doth nobler be,
And dumbly and most wistfully
His mighty prayerful arms outspreads
Above men's oft-unheeding heads, 
And his big blessing downward sheds.
I speak for all-shaped blooms and leaves,
Lichens on stones and moss on eaves,
Grasses and grains in ranks and sheaves;
Broad-fronded ferns and keen-leaved canes,
And briery mazes bounding lanes,
And marsh-plants, thirsty-cupped for rains,
And milky stems and sugary veins;
For every long-armed woman-vine
That round a piteous tree doth twine; 
For passionate odors, and divine
Pistils, and petals crystalline;
All purities of shady springs,
All shynesses of film-winged things
That fly from tree-trunks and bark-rings;
All modesties of mountain-fawns
That leap to covert from wild lawns,
And tremble if the day but dawns;
All sparklings of small beady eyes
Of birds, and sidelong glances wise 
Wherewith the jay hints tragedies;
All piquancies of prickly burs,
And smoothnesses of downs and furs
Of eiders and of minevers;
All limpid honeys that do lie
At stamen-bases, nor deny
The humming-birds' fine roguery,
Bee-thighs, nor any butterfly;
All gracious curves of slender wings,
Bark-mottlings, fibre-spiralings, 
Fern-wavings and leaf-flickerings;
Each dial-marked leaf and flower-bell
Wherewith in every lonesome dell
Time to himself his hours doth tell;
All tree-sounds, rustlings of pine-cones,
Wind-sighings, doves' melodious moans,
And night's unearthly under-tones;
All placid lakes and waveless deeps,
All cool reposing mountain-steeps,
Vale-calms and tranquil lotos-sleeps; -- 
Yea, all fair forms, and sounds, and lights,
And warmths, and mysteries, and mights,
Of Nature's utmost depths and heights,
-- These doth my timid tongue present,
Their mouthpiece and leal instrument
And servant, all love-eloquent.
I heard, when `ALL FOR LOVE' the violins cried:
So, Nature calls through all her system wide,
`Give me thy love, O man, so long denied.'
Much time is run, and man hath changed his ways, 
Since Nature, in the antique fable-days,
Was hid from man's true love by proxy fays,
False fauns and rascal gods that stole her praise.
The nymphs, cold creatures of man's colder brain,
Chilled Nature's streams till man's warm heart was fain
Never to lave its love in them again.
Later, a sweet Voice `Love thy neighbor' said;
Then first the bounds of neighborhood outspread
Beyond all confines of old ethnic dread.
Vainly the Jew might wag his covenant head: 
`ALL MEN ARE NEIGHBORS,' so the sweet Voice said.
So, when man's arms had circled all man's race,
The liberal compass of his warm embrace
Stretched bigger yet in the dark bounds of space;
With hands a-grope he felt smooth Nature's grace,
Drew her to breast and kissed her sweetheart face:
Yea man found neighbors in great hills and trees
And streams and clouds and suns and birds and bees,
And throbbed with neighbor-loves in loving these.
But oh, the poor! the poor! the poor! 
That stand by the inward-opening door
Trade's hand doth tighten ever more,
And sigh their monstrous foul-air sigh
For the outside hills of liberty,
Where Nature spreads her wild blue sky
For Art to make into melody!
Thou Trade! thou king of the modern days!
Change thy ways,
Change thy ways;
Let the sweaty laborers file 
A little while,
A little while,
Where Art and Nature sing and smile.
Trade! is thy heart all dead, all dead?
And hast thou nothing but a head?
I'm all for heart," the flute-voice said,
And into sudden silence fled,
Like as a blush that while 'tis red
Dies to a still, still white instead.
Thereto a thrilling calm succeeds, 
Till presently the silence breeds
A little breeze among the reeds
That seems to blow by sea-marsh weeds:
Then from the gentle stir and fret
Sings out the melting clarionet,
Like as a lady sings while yet
Her eyes with salty tears are wet.
"O Trade! O Trade!" the Lady said,
"I too will wish thee utterly dead
If all thy heart is in thy head. 
For O my God! and O my God!
What shameful ways have women trod
At beckoning of Trade's golden rod!
Alas when sighs are traders' lies,
And heart's-ease eyes and violet eyes
O purchased lips that kiss with pain!
O cheeks coin-spotted with smirch and stain!
O trafficked hearts that break in twain!
-- And yet what wonder at my sisters' crime? 
So hath Trade withered up Love's sinewy prime,
Men love not women as in olden time.
Ah, not in these cold merchantable days
Deem men their life an opal gray, where plays
The one red Sweet of gracious ladies'-praise.
Now, comes a suitor with sharp prying eye --
Says, `Here, you Lady, if you'll sell I'll buy:
Come, heart for heart -- a trade? What! weeping? why?'
Shame on such wooers' dapper mercery!
I would my lover kneeling at my feet 
In humble manliness should cry, `O sweet!
I know not if thy heart my heart will greet:
I ask not if thy love my love can meet:
Whate'er thy worshipful soft tongue shall say,
I'll kiss thine answer, be it yea or nay:
I do but know I love thee, and I pray
To be thy knight until my dying day.'
Woe him that cunning trades in hearts contrives!
Base love good women to base loving drives.
If men loved larger, larger were our lives; 
And wooed they nobler, won they nobler wives."
There thrust the bold straightforward horn
To battle for that lady lorn,
With heartsome voice of mellow scorn,
Like any knight in knighthood's morn.
"Now comfort thee," said he,
For God shall right thy grievous wrong,
And man shall sing thee a true-love song,
Voiced in act his whole life long, 
Yea, all thy sweet life long,
Where's he that craftily hath said,
The day of chivalry is dead?
I'll prove that lie upon his head,
Or I will die instead,
Is Honor gone into his grave?
Hath Faith become a caitiff knave,
And Selfhood turned into a slave 
To work in Mammon's cave,
Will Truth's long blade ne'er gleam again?
Hath Giant Trade in dungeons slain
All great contempts of mean-got gain
And hates of inward stain,
For aye shall name and fame be sold,
And place be hugged for the sake of gold,
And smirch-robed Justice feebly scold 
At Crime all money-bold,
Shall self-wrapt husbands aye forget
Kiss-pardons for the daily fret
Wherewith sweet wifely eyes are wet --
Blind to lips kiss-wise set --
Shall lovers higgle, heart for heart,
Till wooing grows a trading mart
Where much for little, and all for part, 
Make love a cheapening art,
Shall woman scorch for a single sin
That her betrayer may revel in,
And she be burnt, and he but grin
When that the flames begin,
Shall ne'er prevail the woman's plea,
`We maids would far, far whiter be
If that our eyes might sometimes see 
Men maids in purity,'
Shall Trade aye salve his conscience-aches
With jibes at Chivalry's old mistakes --
The wars that o'erhot knighthood makes
For Christ's and ladies' sakes,
Now by each knight that e'er hath prayed
To fight like a man and love like a maid,
Since Pembroke's life, as Pembroke's blade, 
I' the scabbard, death, was laid,
I dare avouch my faith is bright
That God doth right and God hath might.
Nor time hath changed His hair to white,
Nor His dear love to spite,
I doubt no doubts: I strive, and shrive my clay,
And fight my fight in the patient modern way
For true love and for thee -- ah me! and pray 
To be thy knight until my dying day,
Made end that knightly horn, and spurred away
Into the thick of the melodious fray.
And then the hautboy played and smiled,
And sang like any large-eyed child,
Cool-hearted and all undefiled.
"Huge Trade!" he said,
"Would thou wouldst lift me on thy head
And run where'er my finger led! 
Once said a Man -- and wise was He --
`Never shalt thou the heavens see,
Save as a little child thou be.'"
Then o'er sea-lashings of commingling tunes
The ancient wise bassoons,
Old harpers sitting on the high sea-dunes,
"Bright-waved gain, gray-waved loss, 
The sea of all doth lash and toss,
One wave forward and one across:
But now 'twas trough, now 'tis crest,
And worst doth foam and flash to best,
And curst to blest.
"Life! Life! thou sea-fugue, writ from east to west,
Love, Love alone can pore
On thy dissolving score
Of harsh half-phrasings,
Blotted ere writ, 
And double erasings
Of chords most fit.
Yea, Love, sole music-master blest,
May read thy weltering palimpsest.
To follow Time's dying melodies through,
And never to lose the old in the new,
And ever to solve the discords true --
Love alone can do.
And ever Love hears the poor-folks' crying,
And ever Love hears the women's sighing, 
And ever sweet knighthood's death-defying,
And ever wise childhood's deep implying,
But never a trader's glozing and lying.
"And yet shall Love himself be heard,
Though long deferred, though long deferred:
O'er the modern waste a dove hath whirred:
Music is Love in search of a word."
Notes: The Symphony
The `Introduction' (pp. xxviii f., xxxiii ff. [Part III], xlvii [Part IV])
gives, besides the plan of `The Symphony', a detailed statement
of its two themes, -- the evils of the trade-spirit
in the commercial and social world and the need in each of the love-spirit.
These questions preyed on the poet's mind and were to be treated at length
in `The Jacquerie' also, which he expected to make his great work,
but which he was unable to complete. This he tells us in a noble passage
to Judge Bleckley, in his letter of November 15, 1874. After deploring
the lack of time for literary labor (see quotation in `Introduction',
p. xlvi [Part IV]), he continues: "I manage to get a little time tho'
to work on what is to be my first `magnum opus', a long poem,
founded on that strange uprising in the middle of the fourteenth century
in France, called `The Jacquerie'. It was the first time
that the big hungers of `the People' appear in our modern civilization;
and it is full of significance. The peasants learned
from the merchant potentates of Flanders that a man who could not be
a lord by birth, might be one by wealth; and so Trade arose,
and overthrew Chivalry. Trade has now had possession of the civilized world
for four hundred years: it controls all things, it interprets the Bible,
it guides our national and almost all our individual life with its maxims;
and its oppressions upon the moral existence of man have come to be
ten thousand times more grievous than the worst tyrannies of the Feudal System
ever were. Thus in the reversals of time, it is NOW the GENTLEMAN
who must rise and overthrow Trade. That chivalry which every man has,
in some degree, in his heart; which does not depend upon birth,
but which is a revelation from God of justice, of fair dealing,
of scorn of mean advantages; which contemns the selling of stock which
one KNOWS is going to fall, to a man who BELIEVES it is going to rise,
as much as it would contemn any other form of rascality or of injustice
or of meanness; -- it is this which must in these latter days
organize its insurrections and burn up every one of the cunning moral castles
from which Trade sends out its forays upon the conscience of modern society.
-- This is about the plan which is to run through my book:
though I conceal it under the form of a pure novel."
Mr. F. F. Browne is doubtless right in saying that `The Symphony' recalls
parts of Tennyson's `Maud', but the closest congeners of `The Symphony'
in English are, I think, Langland's `Piers The Plowman' in poetry
and Ruskin's `Unto This Last' in prose. Widely as these two works
differ from `The Symphony' in form, they are one with it
in purpose and in spirit. All three voice the outcry of the poor
against the hardness of their lot and their longing for a larger life;
all three show that the only hope of relief lies in a broader and deeper
love for humanity. Analogues to individual verses of `The Symphony'
are cited below.
1-2. See `Introduction', p. xxviii [Part III].
31-61. See `Introduction', p. xxix [Part III].
42-43. See St. Matthew 4:4.
55-60. It is precisely this evil that Ruskin has in mind, I take it,
when he condemns the commercial text, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell
in the dearest," and when he declares that "Competition is the law of death"
(`Unto This Last', pp. 40, 59).
117. Compare `Corn', l. 21 ff.
161. For `lotos-sleeps' see Tennyson's `The Lotos-eaters',
which almost lulls one to sleep, and `The Odyssey' ix. 80-104.
178. See St. Matthew 19:19.
182. See St. Luke 10:29, ff.
183-190. Compare `Corn', ll. 4-9, and see `Introduction',
p. xxxii [Part III].
232-248. See `Introduction', p. xxxiv f., and Peacock's
`Lady Clarinda's Song' (Gosse's `English Lyrics').
294-298. See `Tiger-lilies', p. 49, and `Betrayal' in Lanier's
complete `Poems', p. 213. These lines of `The Symphony' show clearly that
Lanier did not believe that God made one law for man and another for woman,
or that one very grievous sin should forever blight a woman's life.
What Christ himself thought is clear from St. Luke 7:36-50,
and St. John 8:1-11.
302. See `Introduction', p. liv [Part VI].
326. For a full account of the `hautboy' and other musical instruments
mentioned in the poem see Lanier's `The Orchestra of To-day',
cited in the `Bibliography'.
359. See `Introduction', p. xxxvi [Part III]. Compare 1 Corinthians 13;
Drummond's `The Greatest Thing in the World'; William Morris's
`Love Is Enough'; `Aurora Leigh', Book ix.:
"Art is much, but Love is more!
O Art, my Art, thou'rt much, but Love is more!
Art symbolizes Heaven, but Love is God
And makes Heaven;"
and Langland's `Piers the Plowman' (ed. by Skeat, i. 202-3):
"Love is leche of lyf and nexte oure Lorde selve,
And also the graith gate that goth into hevene."*
* The two lines may be translated: "Love is the physician of life
and next to our Lord himself; moreover, it is the way that goes
straight to Heaven."
368. See `Introduction', p. xxxii [Part III].
The Power of Prayer; or, The First Steamboat up the Alabama
By Sidney and Clifford Lanier
You, Dinah! Come and set me whar de ribber-roads does meet. 
De Lord, HE made dese black-jack roots to twis' into a seat.
Umph dar! De Lord have mussy on dis blin' old nigger's feet.
It 'pear to me dis mornin' I kin smell de fust o' June.
I 'clar', I b'lieve dat mockin'-bird could play de fiddle soon!
Dem yonder town-bells sounds like dey was ringin' in de moon.
Well, ef dis nigger IS been blind for fo'ty year or mo',
Dese ears, DEY sees de world, like, th'u' de cracks dat's in de do'.
For de Lord has built dis body wid de windows 'hind and 'fo'.
I know my front ones IS stopped up, and things is sort o' dim,
But den, th'u' DEM, temptation's rain won't leak in on ole Jim! 
De back ones show me earth enough, aldo' dey's mons'ous slim.
And as for Hebben, -- bless de Lord, and praise His holy name --
DAT shines in all de co'ners of dis cabin jes' de same
As ef dat cabin hadn't nar' a plank upon de frame!
Who CALL me? Listen down de ribber, Dinah! Don't you hyar
Somebody holl'in' "HOO, JIM, HOO?" My Sarah died las' y'ar;
IS dat black angel done come back to call ole Jim f'om hyar?
My stars, dat cain't be Sarah, shuh! Jes' listen, Dinah, NOW!
What KIN be comin' up dat bend, a-makin' sich a row?
Fus' bellerin' like a pawin' bull, den squealin' like a sow? 
De Lord 'a' mussy sakes alive, jes' hear, -- ker-woof, ker-woof --
De Debble's comin' round dat bend, he's comin' shuh enuff,
A-splashin' up de water wid his tail and wid his hoof!
I'se pow'ful skeered; but neversomeless I ain't gwine run away:
I'm gwine to stand stiff-legged for de Lord dis blessed day.
YOU screech, and swish de water, Satan! I'se a gwine to pray.
O hebbenly Marster, what thou willest, dat mus' be jes' so,
And ef Thou hast bespoke de word, some nigger's bound to go.
Den, Lord, please take ole Jim, and lef young Dinah hyar below!
'Scuse Dinah, 'scuse her, Marster; for she's sich a little chile, 
She hardly jes' begin to scramble up de homeyard stile,
But dis ole traveller's feet been tired dis many a many a mile.
I'se wufless as de rotten pole of las' year's fodder-stack.
De rheumatiz done bit my bones; you hear 'em crack and crack?
I cain'st sit down 'dout gruntin' like 'twas breakin' o' my back.
What use de wheel, when hub and spokes is warped and split, and rotten?
What use dis dried-up cotton-stalk, when Life done picked my cotton?
I'se like a word dat somebody said, and den done been forgotten.
But, Dinah! Shuh dat gal jes' like dis little hick'ry tree,
De sap's jes' risin' in her; she do grow owdaciouslee -- 
Lord, ef you's clarin' de underbrush, don't cut her down, cut me!
I would not proud persume -- but I'll boldly make reques';
Sence Jacob had dat wrastlin'-match, I, too, gwine do my bes';
When Jacob got all underholt, de Lord he answered Yes!
And what for waste de vittles, now, and th'ow away de bread,
Jes' for to strength dese idle hands to scratch dis ole bald head?
T'ink of de 'conomy, Marster, ef dis ole Jim was dead!
Stop; -- ef I don't believe de Debble's gone on up de stream!
Jes' now he squealed down dar; -- hush; dat's a mighty weakly scream!
Yas, sir, he's gone, he's gone; -- he snort way off, like in a dream! 
O glory hallelujah to de Lord dat reigns on high!
De Debble's fai'ly skeered to def, he done gone flyin' by;
I know'd he couldn't stand dat pra'r, I felt my Marster nigh!
You, Dinah; ain't you 'shamed, now, dat you didn' trust to grace?
I heerd you thrashin' th'u' de bushes when he showed his face!
You fool, you think de Debble couldn't beat YOU in a race?
I tell you, Dinah, jes' as shuh as you is standin' dar,
When folks starts prayin', answer-angels drops down th'u' de a'r.
YAS, DINAH, WHAR 'OULD YOU BE NOW, JES' 'CEPTIN' FUR DAT PRA'R?
Notes: The Power of Prayer; or, The First Steamboat up the Alabama
As the title-page shows, `The Power of Prayer' is the joint production
of Sidney and Clifford Lanier. The latter gentleman informs me
that once he read a newspaper scrap of about ten lines stating that a Negro
on first seeing a steamboat coming down the river was greatly frightened.
Mr. Lanier then wrote out in metrical form the plot of `The Power of Prayer',
substantially as we now have it, and sent it to his brother Sidney,
who polished it up and published it under their joint names.
Mr. Clifford Lanier had not seen the piece mentioned in the next paragraph,
nor had his brother; but on being shown the piece, the former
was of the opinion that his newspaper clipping must have been based
on the work to which I turn, as it had already appeared and the incidents
were so much alike.
In the third chapter of `The Gilded Age' (Hartford, Conn., 1873)
by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, there is a piece,
`Uncle Daniel's Apparition and Prayer', so similar to `The Power of Prayer'
that I quote it almost entire. Uncle Dan'l (a Negro), his wife,
his young mistress, and his two young masters were sitting on a log
by the Mississippi River one moonlight night a-talking.
"Suddenly Uncle Dan'l exclaimed: `Chil'en, dah's sumfin a comin'!'
"All crowded close together and every heart beat faster.
Uncle Dan'l pointed down the river with his bony finger.
"A deep coughing sound troubled the stillness, way toward a wooded cape
that jutted into the stream a mile distant. All in an instant
a fierce eye of fire shot out from behind the cape and sent
a long brilliant pathway quivering athwart the dusky water. The coughing
grew louder and louder, the glaring eye grew larger and still larger,
glared wilder and still wilder. A huge shape developed itself
out of the gloom, and from its tall duplicate horns dense volumes of smoke,
starred and spangled with sparks, poured out and went tumbling away
into the farther darkness. Nearer and nearer the thing came,
till its long sides began to glow with spots of light
which mirrored themselves in the river and attended the monster
like a torch-light procession.
"`What is it? Oh! what is it, Uncle Dan'l?'
"With deep solemnity the answer came:
"`It's de Almighty! Git down on yo' knees!'
"It was not necessary to say it twice. They were all kneeling in a moment.
And then while the mysterious coughing rose stronger and stronger
and the threatening glare reached farther and wider, the negro's voice
lifted up its supplications.
"`O Lord, we's ben mighty wicked, an' we knows dat we 'zerve to go
to de bad place, but, good Lord, deah Lord, we ain't ready yit,
we ain't ready -- let dese po' chil'en hab one mo' chance,
jes' one mo' chance. Take de ole niggah if you's got to hab somebody. --
Good Lord, good deah Lord, we don't know whah you's a gwine to,
we don't know who you's got yo' eye on, but we knows by de way you's a comin',
we know by de way you's a tiltin' along in yo' charyot o' fiah
dat some po' sinner's a gwine to ketch it. But, good Lord, dese chil'en
don't 'blong heah, dey's f'm Obedstown whah dey don't know nuffin,
an' you knows, yo' own sef, dat dey ain't 'sponsible. An' deah Lord,
good Lord, it ain't like yo' mercy, it ain't like yo' pity, it ain't like
yo' long-sufferin' lovin'-kindness for to take dis kind o' 'vantage
o' sich little chil'en as dese is when dey's so many ornery grown folks
chuck full o' cussedness dat wants roastin' down dah. O Lord,
spah de little chil'en, don't tar de little chil'en away f'm dey frens,
jes' let 'em off jes' dis once, and take it out'n de ole niggah.
HEAH I IS, LORD, HEAH I IS! De ole niggah's ready, Lord, de ole ----'
"The flaming and churning steamer was right abreast the party,
and not twenty steps away. The awful thunder of a mud-valve
suddenly burst forth, drowning the prayer, and as suddenly
Uncle Dan'l snatched a child under each arm and scoured into the woods
with the rest of the pack at his heels. And then, ashamed of himself,
he halted in the deep darkness and shouted (but rather feebly):
"`Heah I is, Lord, heah I is!'
"There was a moment of throbbing suspense, and then,
to the surprise and comfort of the party, it was plain
that the august presence had gone by, for its dreadful noises were receding.
Uncle Dan'l headed a cautious reconnoissance in the direction of the log.
Sure enough `The Lord' was just turning a point a short distance up the river,
and while they looked, the lights winked out and the coughing
diminished by degrees and presently ceased altogether.
"`H'wsh! Well now dey's some folks says dey ain't no 'ficiency in prah.
Dis chile would like to know whah we'd a ben now if it warn't fo' dat prah?
Dat's it. Dat's it!'"
There follows a discussion as to whether or not the prayer caused
the apparition to go by, of which of course Uncle Dan'l has no doubt.
The apparition reappears and Uncle Dan'l betakes himself to prayer again,
this time a long way off.
I wrote the authors of `The Gilded Age' and asked the source
of `Uncle Daniel's Apparition and Prayer'. Mr. Clemens kindly replied
that he is the author of the piece, and that it is pure fiction
without either history or tradition back of it.
A comparison of the two stories shows some differences.
The scene in the one case is the Alabama River, in the other the Mississippi.
Moreover, the PERSONNEL is different. The Negro man in Twain's story
is about forty, in Lanier's he is old and has been blind for forty years.
Another difference Mr. Sidney Lanier points out to his wife
in his letter of October 1, 1874: "Cliff's and my `Power of Prayer'
will come out in the Scribner's; probably in the `Etchings'
at the end of the Magazine. I wrote thee what Dr. Holland said
anent its resemblance to something of Mark Twain's in plot.
Day before yesterday I called and asked Dr. Holland what work of Mark Twain's
he referred to. `Well,' said he, `I know nothing about it myself:
I read the poem to a friend, and he suggested that the plot
was like something of Mark Twain's. But yesterday I read him your note,
and he then recollected that in Twain's version it is God Almighty
that is coming up the bend. In yours it is the Devil: -- which certainly
makes a little difference!' and here he broke into a great laugh.
`Yes,' I rejoined, `a difference toto coelo,' whereat he laughed again,
and told me he had already ordered a check to be sent me for the poem."
Mr. Clifford Lanier was born at Griffin, Ga., April 24, 1844, entered business
in Montgomery, Ala., at fourteen, subsequently attended college
for a year and a half, and in May, 1862, joined his brother
in the Confederate Army. His soldier life has been detailed
in connection with that of the poet. In October, 1864, Mr. Clifford Lanier
was assigned as signal officer to the blockade-runner `Talisman',
which, after two successful runs to the Bermuda Islands,
was wrecked in December, 1864. He escaped, however,
and surrendered to the Federal authorities at the end of April, 1865.
He has been successively lawyer, hotel manager, and superintendent of schools
in Montgomery, Ala. For several years past he has been a director
of the Bank of Montgomery and other corporations. All the while, however,
he has been deeply interested in literature and has written
some graceful sketches and poems, among which may be mentioned the following:
`Thorn-fruit' (1867), `Love and Loyalty at War' (1893),
`Biding Tryst' (1894), prose; `Greatest of These is Love',
`The American Philomel', `Keats and Fanny B----', `The Spirit of Art',
`Antinous to Hadrian', `Time', `Tireless', `Tramp' (in Stedman
and Hutchinson's `Library of American Literature'), `Love and Life',
`Edgar Allan Poe', etc. As stated in the `Introduction',
the Chautauquans of 1898 have named themselves "The Laniers"
in honor of Messrs. Sidney and Clifford Lanier. The motto of the class
is the first line of Mr. Clifford Lanier's `Transformation'
(`Sunday-school Times', Phila., June 30, 1894):
"The humblest life that lives may be divine."
8. The complete `Poems' has `the' before `world', but Mrs. Lanier
thinks the poet must have used `de' here as elsewhere.
I. -- Red
Would that my songs might be 
What roses make by day and night --
Distillments of my clod of misery
Soul, could'st thou bare thy breast
As yon red rose, and dare the day,
All clean, and large, and calm with velvet rest?
Say yea -- say yea!
Ah, dear my Rose, good-bye;
The wind is up; so; drift away.
That songs from me as leaves from thee may fly, 
I strive, I pray.
II. -- White
Soul, get thee to the heart
Of yonder tuberose: hide thee there --
There breathe the meditations of thine art
Suffused with prayer.
Of spirit grave yet light,
How fervent fragrances uprise
Pure-born from these most rich and yet most white
Mulched with unsavory death, 
Grow, Soul! unto such white estate,
That virginal-prayerful art shall be thy breath,
Thy work, thy fate.
Rose-morals in English literature probably begin with
Sir John Mandeville in the fourteenth century. At any rate,
in the eighteenth chapter of his `Voyage and Travels' he professes
to tell us the origin of red and white roses. A fair maid had been
unjustly accused of wrong-doing and doomed to die by fire.
"And as the woode began to brenne (burn) about hir, she made hir prayer
to our Lorde as she was not gyltie of that thing, that he would helpe hir
that it might be knowne to all men. And whan (when) she had thus sayde,
she entered the fyre and anone the fyre went out, and those braunches
that were brenninge (burning) became red Roses and those braunches
that were not kindled became white Rosiers (rose bushes) full of white roses,
and those were the fyrst roses and rosyers that any man sawe,
and so was the mayden saved through the grace of God."
Thomas Carew has several rose-moralities, as `The True Beauty',
beginning "He that loves a rosy cheek," and his exquisite
`Red and White Roses':
"Read in these roses the sad story
Of my hard fate and your own glory:
In the white you may discover
The paleness of a fainting lover;
In the red, the flames still feeding
On my heart with fresh wounds bleeding.
The white will tell you how I languish,
And the red express my anguish:
The white my innocence displaying,
The red my martyrdom betraying.
The frowns that on your brow resided
Have those roses thus divided;
Oh! let your smiles but clear the weather,
And then they both shall grow together."*
* See Saintsbury's `Elizabethan Literature' (Macmillan & Co., New York, 1887),
Rollicking Robert Herrick, too, draws his morals, now advising the virgins
to make much of time, as in his `Gather ye rose-buds while ye may',
now preaching a rarely pathetic sermon, as in `To Blossoms':
"Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
Why do ye fall so fast?
Your date is not so past,
But you may stay yet here awhile
To blush and gently smile,
And go at last.
"What, were ye born to be
An hour or half's delight,
And so to bid good-night?
'Twas pity Nature brought ye forth
Merely to show your worth,
And lose you quite.
"But you are lovely leaves, where we
May read how soon things have
Their end, though ne'er so brave:
And after they have shown their pride
Like you, awhile, they glide
Into the grave."*
* `Palgrave', p. 89.
Much like this last piece in import, and scarcely inferior to it in execution,
is `My life is like the summer rose' of Richard Henry Wilde,
which is familiar to every one.
Paul Hamilton Hayne's `The Red and the White Rose' (`Poems', pp. 231-232)
is an interesting dialogue, which the author concludes by making the former
an "earthly queen" and the latter a "heaven-bound votaress".
Mrs. Browning's `A Lay of the Early Rose' shows that we are not to strive
"for the dole of praise."
To ----, with a Rose
I asked my heart to say 
Some word whose worth my love's devoir might pay
Upon my Lady's natal day.
Then said my heart to me:
`Learn from the rhyme that now shall come to thee
What fits thy Love most lovingly.'
This gift that learning shows;
For, as a rhyme unto its rhyme-twin goes,
I send a rose unto a Rose.
Notes: To ----, with a Rose
This poem was sent to Mrs. Gibson Peacock, of Philadelphia,
who was one of Mr. Lanier's kindest and most appreciative friends.
The poet's letters to Mr. and Mrs. Peacock have recently been published
in `The Atlantic' (see `Thayer' in `Bibliography').
Of the numerous rose-compliments in English I can here specify but a few.
One of the prettiest is that by Henry Constable (`Saintsbury', p. 113):
"My Lady's presence makes the Roses red,
Because to see her lips they blush for shame."
Carew's compliment is hardly equal to his morals (`Gosse', p. 101):
"Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose;
For in your beauty's orient deep
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep."
Few better things have been written than this, the second stanza of Jonson's
`Drink to me only with thine eyes' (`Gosse', p. 80):
"I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon did'st only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee."*
Even more felicitous, perhaps, is Waller's `Go, lovely rose!' which is at once
a compliment and a moral (`Gosse', p. 134):
"Go, lovely rose
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
"Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
"Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired;
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
"Then die! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share
That are so wond'rous sweet and fair."
Browning's `Women and Roses' should also be mentioned,
and Mrs. Browning's translation of Sappho's lovely `Song of the Rose'.
* The fact that Jonson here translates a prose love-letter of Philostratus,
the Greek sophist, may detract from the originality but not the beauty
of his poem.
Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn
By Sidney and Clifford Lanier
SOLO. -- Sin's rooster's crowed, Ole Mahster's riz, 
De sleepin'-time is pas';
Wake up dem lazy Baptissis,
CHORUS. -- Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
Ole Mahster's blowed de mornin' horn,
He's blowed a powerful blas';
O Baptis' come, come hoe de corn,
You's mightily in de grass, grass,
You's mightily in de grass.
De Meth'dis team's done hitched; O fool, 
De day's a-breakin' fas';
Gear up dat lean ole Baptis' mule,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
De workmen's few an' mons'rous slow,
De cotton's sheddin' fas';
Whoop, look, jes' look at de Baptis' row,
Hit's mightily in de grass, grass,
Hit's mightily in de grass.
De jay-bird squeal to de mockin'-bird: "Stop! 
Don' gimme none o' yo' sass;
Better sing one song for de Baptis' crop,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass."
And de ole crow croak: "Don' work, no, no;"
But de fiel'-lark say, "Yaas, yaas,
An' I spec' you mighty glad, you debblish crow,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass, grass,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass!"
Lord, thunder us up to de plowin'-match, 
Lord, peerten de hoein' fas',
Yea, Lord, hab mussy on de Baptis' patch,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
Notes: Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn
I think that the following note, prefixed by the authors to their poem,
sufficiently explains what is to me one of their best humorous pieces:
"Not long ago a certain Georgia cotton-planter, driven to desperation
by awaking each morning to find that the grass had quite outgrown
the cotton overnight, and was likely to choke it, in defiance of
his lazy freedmen's hoes and ploughs, set the whole State in a laugh
by exclaiming to a group of fellow-sufferers: `It's all stuff
about Cincinnatus leaving the plough to go into politics "for patriotism";
he was just a-runnin' from grass!'
"This state of things -- when the delicate young rootlets of the cotton
are struggling against the hardier multitudes of the grass-suckers --
is universally described in plantation parlance by the phrase `in the grass';
and Uncle Jim appears to have found in it so much similarity
to the condition of his own (`Baptis'') church, overrun, as it was,
by the cares of this world, that he has embodied it in the refrain
of a revival hymn such as the colored improvisator of the South
not infrequently constructs from his daily surroundings.
He has drawn all the ideas of his stanzas from the early morning phenomena
of those critical weeks when the loud plantation-horn is blown
before daylight, in order to rouse all hands for a long day's fight
against the common enemy of cotton-planting mankind.
"In addition to these exegetical commentaries the Northern reader
probably needs to be informed that the phrase `peerten up' means substantially
`to spur up', and is an active form of the adjective `peert'
(probably a corruption of `pert'), which is so common in the South,
and which has much the signification of `smart' in New England, as e.g.,
a `peert' horse, in antithesis to a `sorry' -- i.e., poor, mean, lazy one."
Superb and sole, upon a plumed spray 
That o'er the general leafage boldly grew,
He summ'd the woods in song; or typic drew
The watch of hungry hawks, the lone dismay
Of languid doves when long their lovers stray,
And all birds' passion-plays that sprinkle dew
At morn in brake or bosky avenue.
What e'er birds did or dreamed, this bird could say.
Then down he shot, bounced airily along
The sward, twitched in a grasshopper, made song
Midflight, perched, prinked, and to his art again. 
Sweet Science, this large riddle read me plain:
How may the death of that dull insect be
The life of yon trim Shakspere on the tree?
Notes: The Mocking-bird
Besides this sonnet Mr. Lanier wrote a longer `To Our Mocking-bird',
consisting of three sonnets, and `Bob', a charming account, in prose,
of the life and death of the bird apostrophized.
In his `Birds and Poets' (Boston, 1877), Mr. John Burroughs says
that he knows of only two noteworthy poetical tributes to the mocking-bird,
those by Whitman and by Wilde, both of which he quotes.
But since the appearance of his book many poems have been written
to the mocking-bird, several of which are of enduring worth.
Indeed, several noteworthy poems had been published
before the appearance of Mr. Burroughs's essay, as will appear
from the list below. In a search of two days I found
thirty-two different authors paying tribute to our marvelous singer:
Julia Bacon (see J. W. Davidson's `Living Writers of the South'.
New York: Carleton, 1869), St. L. L. Carter (ib.), Edna P. Clarke
(`Century', 24. 391, July, 1893), Fortunatus Crosby (`Davidson', l.c.),
J. R. Drake (Duyckinck's `Cyclopaedia of American Literature'.
New York, 1855), R. T. W. Duke, Jr. (`Southern Bivouac', 2. 631, March, 1887),
W. T. Dumas (`The Golden Day and Miscellaneous Poems', Philadelphia, 1893),
F. (`Southern Literary Messenger', Richmond, Va., 5. 523, August, 1839),
H. L. Flash (`Davidson', l.c.), Va. Gentleman (`Harper's Magazine',
15. 566, September, 1857), Caroline Gilman (May's `American Female Poets',
Philadelphia, 1865), Hannah F. Gould (`Davidson', l.c.),
Paul Granald (`So. Lit. Mes.', 8, 508, August, 1842),
P. H. Hayne (`Poems', Boston, 1882: two), W. H. Hayne (`Century', 24. 676,
September, 1893), C. W. Hubner (`Poems and Essays', New York, 1881),
C. Lanier (`Sunday-school Times', Phila., July 8, 1893),
S. Lanier (two, as above cited), Gen. Edwin G. Lee (`Southern Metropolis',
Baltimore, 1869), A. B. Meek (in his `Songs and Poems of the South',
New York, 1857), W. Mitchell (`Scribner's Magazine', 11. 171, December, 1875),
Nugator (`So. Lit. Mes.', 4. 356, June, 1838), C. J. O'Malley
(`So. Bivouac', 2. 698, April, 1887), Albert Pike (Stedman & Hutchinson's
`Amer. Lit.', New York, 1891, vol. 6), D. Robinson (`Century', 24. 480,
July, 1893), Clinton Scollard (`Pictures in Song', New York, 1884),
H. J. Stockard (`The Century', xlviii. 898, Oct., 1894),
T (`So. Lit. Mes.', 11. 117, February, 1845), Maurice Thompson
(`Poems', Boston, 1892: several; also `Lippincott's Magazine', 32. 624,
December, 1883), L. V. (`So. Lit. Mes.', 10. 414, July, 1844),
Walt Whitman (`Burroughs', l.c., also in Whitman's `Poems'), R. H. Wilde
(`Burroughs', l.c., and Stedman & Hutchinson's `Am. Lit.', vol. 5).
Roughly speaking, the poems may be divided into two classes --
first those that, as in the Indian legend cited below,
make out the mocking-bird only or chiefly a thief and thing of evil,
and second those that find him, though a borrower, original and great.
The former view, fortunately upheld by few, is strikingly set forth
in Granald's `The Mock-bird and the Sparrow'. After describing minutely
the various songs of the mocking-bird and emphasizing
that they all come from other birds, the author gives the dialogue
between the mock-bird and the sparrow. The former taunted the latter
and insisted on his singing; and
"The sparrow cock'd a knowing eye,
And made him this most tart reply --
`You steal from all and call it wit,
But I prefer my simple "twit".'"
But the latter view is espoused by most of the writers mentioned,
notably and nobly by Drake, the Haynes, the Laniers, Lee, Meek, and Thompson,
the poet-laureate of the mocking-bird, whose poems should be read
by every lover of nature and especially of the mocking-bird.
As Thompson's tributes are all too long for quotation, I give here Meek's,
in the hope that I may rescue it from the long oblivion of an out-of-print.
My attention was called to it by my friend, Dr. C. H. Ross,
to whom every reader will be indebted along with myself. It runs as follows:
"From the vale, what music ringing,
Fills the bosom of the night;
On the sense, entranced, flinging
Spells of witchery and delight!
O'er magnolia, lime and cedar,
From yon locust-top, it swells,
Like the chant of serenader,
Or the rhymes of silver bells!
Listen! dearest, listen to it!
Sweeter sounds were never heard!
'Tis the song of that wild poet --
Mime and minstrel -- Mocking-bird.
"See him, swinging in his glory,
On yon topmost bending limb!
Carolling his amorous story,
Like some wild crusader's hymn!
Now it faints in tones delicious
As the first low vow of love!
Now it bursts in swells capricious,
All the moonlit vale above!
Listen! dearest, etc.
"Why is't thus, this sylvan Petrarch
Pours all night his serenade?
'Tis for some proud woodland Laura,
His sad sonnets all are made!
But he changes now his measure --
Gladness bubbling from his mouth --
Jest and gibe, and mimic pleasure --
Winged Anacreon of the South!
Listen! dearest, etc.
"Bird of music, wit and gladness,
Troubadour of sunny climes,
Disenchanter of all sadness, --
Would thine art were in my rhymes.
O'er the heart that's beating by me,
I would weave a spell divine;
Is there aught she could deny me,
Drinking in such strains as thine?
Listen! dearest, etc."
As is well known, the mocking-bird is often called the American nightingale.
As to their relative merits as singers, here is the judgment of one
that has heard both birds, Professor James A. Harrison (`The Critic',
New York, 2. 284, December 13, 1884): "Well, it is my honest opinion
that philomel will not compare with the singer of the South
in sweetness, versatility, passion, or lyrical beauty. The mocking-bird
-- better the echo-bird, with a voice compounded of all sweet sounds,
as the blossom of the Chinese olive is compounded of all sweet scents --
is a pure lyrist; its throat is a lyre -- Aeolian, capricious, many-stringed;
as its name suggests, it is a polyglot mime, a bird linguist,
a feathered Mezzofanti singing all the bird languages; yet over and above
all this, with a something of its own that cannot be described."
The mocking-bird speaks for himself in Thompson's `To an English Nightingale':
"What do you think of me?
Do I sing by rote?
Or by note?
Have I a parrot's echo-throat?
Oh no! I caught my strains
From Nature's freshest veins.
. . . . .
A match for me!
No more than a wren or a chickadee!
Mine is the voice of the young and strong,
Mine the soul of the brave and free!"
This self-appreciation is confirmed by the greatest authority on birds,
Audubon: "There is probably no bird in the world that possesses
all the musical qualifications of this king of song, who has derived all
from Nature's self. Yes, reader, all!"
It will be interesting and instructive to compare the tributes
to the mocking-bird with Keats's `Ode to a Nightingale',
Shelley's `To a Skylark', and Wordsworth's `To the Skylark'.
Aside from Audubon's `Birds of America' and Ridgway's
`Manual of North American Birds', the student may consult with profit
Burroughs's `Birds and Poets', Thompson's `In the Haunts of the Mocking-bird'
(`The Atlantic', 54. 620, November, 1884), various articles
by Olive Thorne Miller in `The Atlantic' (vol. 54 on), and Winterfield's
`The Mocking-bird, an Indian Legend' (`The American Whig Review',
New York, 1. 497, May, 1845).
14. Wilde compares the mocking-bird to Yorick and to Jacques;
Meek, to Petrarch; Lanier, to Keats, in `To Our Mocking-bird',
as does Wm. H. Hayne:
"Each golden note of music greets
The listening leaves divinely stirred,
As if the vanished soul of Keats
Had found its new birth in a bird."
Song of the Chattahoochee
Out of the hills of Habersham, 
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.
All down the hills of Habersham, 
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried `Abide, abide,'
The willful waterweeds held me thrall,
The laving laurel turned my tide,
The ferns and the fondling grass said `Stay,'
The dewberry dipped for to work delay,
And the little reeds sighed `Abide, abide,
Here in the hills of Habersham,
Here in the valleys of Hall.'
High o'er the hills of Habersham, 
Veiling the valleys of Hall,
The hickory told me manifold
Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall
Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,
The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine,
Overleaning, with flickering meaning and sign,
Said, `Pass not, so cold, these manifold
Deep shades of the hills of Habersham,
These glades in the valleys of Hall.'
And oft in the hills of Habersham, 
And oft in the valleys of Hall,
The white quartz shone, and the smooth brook-stone
Did bar me of passage with friendly brawl,
And many a luminous jewel lone
-- Crystals clear or a-cloud with mist,
Ruby, garnet, and amethyst --
Made lures with the lights of streaming stone
In the clefts of the hills of Habersham,
In the beds of the valleys of Hall.
But oh, not the hills of Habersham, 
And oh, not the valleys of Hall
Avail: I am fain for to water the plain.
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 myriad flowers mortally yearn,
And the lordly main from beyond the plain
Calls o'er the hills of Habersham,
Calls through the valleys of Hall.
Notes: Song of the Chattahoochee
The Chattahoochee River rises in Habersham County, in northeast Georgia,
and, intersecting Hall County, flows southwestward to West Point,
then southward until it unites with the Flint River
at the southwestern extremity of Georgia. The Chattahoochee
is about five hundred miles long, and small steamboats can ascend it
to Columbus, Ga. Hon. Henry R. Jackson, of Savannah, Ga.,
late Minister to Mexico, has an interesting poem `To the Chattahoochee River',
in his `Tallulah and Other Poems' (Savannah, Ga., 1850);
and Mr. M. V. Moore, in his poem, `Southern Rivers' (`Harper', 66. 464,
February, 1883), has a paragraph on the rivers of Georgia,
in which he speaks of "the sandy Chattahoochee".
In the `Introduction' (pp. xxxi [Part III], xliv, xlvii [Part IV])
I have spoken of this `Song' as Lanier's most finished nature poem,
as the most musical of his productions. "The music of a song
easily eludes all analysis and may be dissipated by a critic's breath,
but let us try to catch the means by which the effect is in part produced.
In five stanzas, of ten lines each, alliteration occurs in all
save twelve lines. In eleven of these twelve lines internal rhyme occurs,
sometimes joining the parts of a line, sometimes uniting successive lines.
Syzygy is used for the same purpose. Of the letters occurring in the poem
about one-fifth are liquids and about one-twelfth are sibilants.
The effect of the whole is musical beyond description.
It sings itself and yet nowhere sacrifices the thought" (Kent).
Another way to test the beauty of `The Song of the Chattahoochee'
is to compare it with other kindred poems. There are many stream-songs
in English, several of which are very pretty, but there is, I think,
but one rival to our `Song', and that is Tennyson's `The Brook'.
Even so careful a critic as Mr. Ward says that `The Song of the Chattahoochee'
"strikes a higher key, and is scarcely less musical." It will be instructive,
too, to compare Lanier's poem with Southey's `The Cataract of Lodore'
(see `Gates', p. 25), which exhibits considerable talent, if not inspiration;
with P. H. Hayne's `The Meadow Brook', which is simple and sweet;
and with Wordsworth's `Brook! whose society the Poet seeks',
which is grave and elevated. Professor Kent suggests as interesting analogues
Poe's `Ulalume' and Buchanan Read's `Bay of Naples'; and, if the student
cares to extend his list, he should read the stream-songs by Bryant,
Mary Ainge De Vere (`Century', 21. 283, December, 1891),
Longfellow, Weir Mitchell (`Atlantic', 65. 629, May, 1890),
Clinton Scollard (`Lippincott', 50. 226, August, 1892), etc., etc.
The Revenge of Hamish
It was three slim does and a ten-tined buck in the bracken lay; 
And all of a sudden the sinister smell of a man,
Awaft on a wind-shift, wavered and ran
Down the hill-side and sifted along through the bracken and passed that way.
Then Nan got a-tremble at nostril; she was the daintiest doe;
In the print of her velvet flank on the velvet fern
She reared, and rounded her ears in turn.
Then the buck leapt up, and his head as a king's to a crown did go
Full high in the breeze, and he stood as if Death had the form of a deer;
And the two slim does long lazily stretching arose,
For their day-dream slowlier came to a close, 
Till they woke and were still, breath-bound with waiting and wonder and fear.
Then Alan the huntsman sprang over the hillock, the hounds shot by,
The does and the ten-tined buck made a marvelous bound,
The hounds swept after with never a sound,
But Alan loud winded his horn in sign that the quarry was nigh.
For at dawn of that day proud Maclean of Lochbuy to the hunt had waxed wild,
And he cursed at old Alan till Alan fared off with the hounds
For to drive him the deer to the lower glen-grounds:
"I will kill a red deer," quoth Maclean, "in the sight of the wife
and the child."
So gayly he paced with the wife and the child to his chosen stand; 
But he hurried tall Hamish the henchman ahead: "Go turn," --
Cried Maclean -- "if the deer seek to cross to the burn,
Do thou turn them to me: nor fail, lest thy back be red as thy hand."
Now hard-fortuned Hamish, half blown of his breath with the height
of the hill,
Was white in the face when the ten-tined buck and the does
Drew leaping to burn-ward; huskily rose
His shouts, and his nether lip twitched, and his legs were o'er-weak
for his will.
So the deer darted lightly by Hamish and bounded away to the burn.
But Maclean never bating his watch tarried waiting below.
Still Hamish hung heavy with fear for to go 
All the space of an hour; then he went, and his face was greenish and stern,
And his eye sat back in the socket, and shrunken the eyeballs shone,
As withdrawn from a vision of deeds it were shame to see.
"Now, now, grim henchman, what is't with thee?"
Brake Maclean, and his wrath rose red as a beacon the wind hath upblown.
"Three does and a ten-tined buck made out," spoke Hamish, full mild,
"And I ran for to turn, but my breath it was blown, and they passed;
I was weak, for ye called ere I broke me my fast."
Cried Maclean: "Now a ten-tined buck in the sight of the wife and the child
I had killed if the gluttonous kern had not wrought me
a snail's own wrong!" 
Then he sounded, and down came kinsmen and clansmen all:
"Ten blows, for ten tine, on his back let fall,
And reckon no stroke if the blood follow not at the bite of thong!"
So Hamish made bare, and took him his strokes; at the last he smiled.
"Now I'll to the burn," quoth Maclean, "for it still may be,
If a slimmer-paunched henchman will hurry with me,
I shall kill me the ten-tined buck for a gift to the wife and the child!"
Then the clansmen departed, by this path and that; and over the hill
Sped Maclean with an outward wrath for an inward shame;
And that place of the lashing full quiet became; 
And the wife and the child stood sad; and bloody-backed Hamish sat still.
But look! red Hamish has risen; quick about and about turns he.
"There is none betwixt me and the crag-top!" he screams under breath.
Then, livid as Lazarus lately from death,
He snatches the child from the mother, and clambers the crag toward the sea.
Now the mother drops breath; she is dumb, and her heart goes dead for a space,
Till the motherhood, mistress of death, shrieks, shrieks through the glen,
And that place of the lashing is live with men,
And Maclean, and the gillie that told him, dash up in a desperate race.
Not a breath's time for asking; an eye-glance reveals
all the tale untold. 
They follow mad Hamish afar up the crag toward the sea,
And the lady cries: "Clansmen, run for a fee! --
Yon castle and lands to the two first hands that shall hook him and hold
Fast Hamish back from the brink!" -- and ever she flies up the steep,
And the clansmen pant, and they sweat, and they jostle and strain.
But, mother, 'tis vain; but, father, 'tis vain;
Stern Hamish stands bold on the brink, and dangles the child o'er the deep.
Now a faintness falls on the men that run, and they all stand still.
And the wife prays Hamish as if he were God, on her knees,
Crying: "Hamish! O Hamish! but please, but please 
For to spare him!" and Hamish still dangles the child, with a wavering will.
On a sudden he turns; with a sea-hawk scream, and a gibe, and a song,
Cries: "So; I will spare ye the child if, in sight of ye all,
Ten blows on Maclean's bare back shall fall,
And ye reckon no stroke if the blood follow not at the bite of the thong!"
Then Maclean he set hardly his tooth to his lip that his tooth was red,
Breathed short for a space, said: "Nay, but it never shall be!
Let me hurl off the damnable hound in the sea!"
But the wife: "Can Hamish go fish us the child from the sea, if dead?
"Say yea! -- Let them lash ME, Hamish?" -- "Nay!" --
"Husband, the lashing will heal; 
But, oh, who will heal me the bonny sweet bairn in his grave?
Could ye cure me my heart with the death of a knave?
Quick! Love! I will bare thee -- so -- kneel!" Then Maclean 'gan slowly
With never a word, till presently downward he jerked to the earth.
Then the henchman -- he that smote Hamish -- would tremble and lag;
"Strike, hard!" quoth Hamish, full stern, from the crag;
Then he struck him, and "One!" sang Hamish, and danced with the child
in his mirth.
And no man spake beside Hamish; he counted each stroke with a song.
When the last stroke fell, then he moved him a pace down the height,
And he held forth the child in the heartaching sight 
Of the mother, and looked all pitiful grave, as repenting a wrong.
And there as the motherly arms stretched out with the thanksgiving prayer --
And there as the mother crept up with a fearful swift pace,
Till her finger nigh felt of the bairnie's face --
In a flash fierce Hamish turned round and lifted the child in the air,
And sprang with the child in his arms from the horrible height in the sea,
Shrill screeching, "Revenge!" in the wind-rush; and pallid Maclean,
Age-feeble with anger and impotent pain,
Crawled up on the crag, and lay flat, and locked hold of dead roots
of a tree --
And gazed hungrily o'er, and the blood from his back
drip-dripped in the brine, 
And a sea-hawk flung down a skeleton fish as he flew,
And the mother stared white on the waste of blue,
And the wind drove a cloud to seaward, and the sun began to shine.
Notes: The Revenge of Hamish
For an appreciation of this fine poem see `Introduction',
pp. xlv, xlvii [Part IV], Mr. J. R. Tait, a friend with whom Mr. Lanier
discussed `The Revenge of Hamish', kindly writes me that the author
took the plot from William Black's novel, `Macleod of Dare'.
In chapter iii. Macleod, of Castle Dare, Mull, tells the story
to his London entertainer; but, as the story of the novel
is identical with that of the poem, it need not be given here.
The novel, I should add, gives the name of the chieftain only,
though, as it has a Hamish in another connection, it doubtless gave Lanier
this name for the henchman. Previous to the reception of Mr. Tait's letter
I supposed that Lanier had borrowed his plot from a poem by Charles Mackay,
`Maclaine's Child, A Legend of Lochbuy, Mull', which in plot
is identical with Lanier's poem, except that the former begins
with the speech of the flogged henchman, here named Evan,
and ends by telling us that the bodies were found and that of Evan was hanged
on a gallows-tree. The poem is too long for quotation, but may be found
in any edition of Mackay or in Garrett's `One Hundred Choice Selections:
Number Nine' (Phila., 1887).
17. The Macleans, for centuries one of the most powerful of Scottish clans,
have since the fourteenth century lived in Mull, one of the largest
of the Hebrides Islands. The two leading branches of the clan
were the Macleans of Dowart and the Macleans of Lochbuy,
both taking their names from the seats of their castles. The Lochbuy family
now spells its name MacLAINE. For a detailed history of the clan
see Keltie's `History of the Scottish Highlands, Highland Clans', etc.
(London, 1885). Interesting books about Mull and the Hebrides are:
Johnson's `A Journey to the Hebrides' and Robert Buchanan's `The Hebrid Isles'
(London, 1883). Instructive, too, is Cummin's `Around Mull'
(`The Atlantic Monthly', 16. 11-19, 167-176, July, August, 1865).
The Marshes of Glynn
Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven 
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs, --
Emerald twilights, --
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn; -- 
Beautiful glooms, soft dusks in the noon-day fire, --
Wildwood privacies, closets of lone desire,
Chamber from chamber parted with wavering arras of leaves, --
Cells for the passionate pleasure of prayer to the soul that grieves,
Pure with a sense of the passing of saints through the wood,
Cool for the dutiful weighing of ill with good; --
O braided dusks of the oak and woven shades of the vine,
While the riotous noon-day sun of the June-day long did shine
Ye held me fast in your heart and I held you fast in mine;
But now when the noon is no more, and riot is rest, 
And the sun is a-wait at the ponderous gate of the West,
And the slant yellow beam down the wood-aisle doth seem
Like a lane into heaven that leads from a dream, --
Ay, now, when my soul all day hath drunken the soul of the oak,
And my heart is at ease from men, and the wearisome sound of the stroke
Of the scythe of time and the trowel of trade is low,
And belief overmasters doubt, and I know that I know,
And my spirit is grown to a lordly great compass within,
That the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn
Will work me no fear like the fear they have wrought me of yore 
When length was fatigue, and when breadth was but bitterness sore,
And when terror and shrinking and dreary unnamable pain
Drew over me out of the merciless miles of the plain, --
Oh, now, unafraid, I am fain to face
The vast sweet visage of space.
To the edge of the wood I am drawn, I am drawn,
Where the gray beach glimmering runs, as a belt of the dawn,
For a mete and a mark
To the forest-dark: --
Affable live-oak, leaning low, --
Thus -- with your favor -- soft, with a reverent hand,
(Not lightly touching your person, Lord of the land!)
Bending your beauty aside, with a step I stand
On the firm-packed sand,
By a world of marsh that borders a world of sea.
Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band
Of the sand-beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land.
Inward and outward to northward and southward the beach-lines
linger and curl 
As a silver-wrought garment that clings to and follows
the firm sweet limbs of a girl.
Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight,
Softly the sand-beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light.
And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high?
The world lies east: how ample, the marsh and the sea and the sky!
A league and a league of marsh-grass, waist-high, broad in the blade,
Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade,
Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain,
To the terminal blue of the main.
Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea? 
Somehow my soul seems suddenly free
From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,
By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.
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.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, 
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space 'twixt the marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within
The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.
And the sea lends large, as the marsh: lo, out of his plenty the sea
Pours fast: full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:
Look how the grace of the sea doth go 
About and about through the intricate channels that flow
Here and there,
Till his waters have flooded the uttermost creeks and the low-lying lanes,
And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,
That like as with rosy and silvery essences flow
In the rose-and-silver evening glow.
Farewell, my lord Sun!
The creeks overflow: a thousand rivulets run
'Twixt the roots of the sod; the blades of the marsh-grass stir; 
Passeth a hurrying sound of wings that westward whirr;
Passeth, and all is still; and the currents cease to run;
And the sea and the marsh are one.
How still the plains of the waters be!
The tide is in his ecstasy.
The tide is at his highest height:
And it is night.
And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep
Roll in on the souls of men,
But who will reveal to our waking ken 
The forms that swim and the shapes that creep
Under the waters of sleep?
And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in
On the length and the breadth of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.
Notes: The Marshes of Glynn
Although Dr. Callaway noted in his preface the importance of this poem,
he did not include it for lack of space. This would seem to indicate
that when he published these "Selected Poems" in 1895,
"The Marshes of Glynn" had not yet achieved its later prominence
as the greatest of Sidney Lanier's poems -- as now seems to be the opinion.
The setting of the poem is the salt marshes surrounding
the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia, which is in Glynn County -- an area
well deserving of the fame Lanier has given it -- and it was intended
as one installment in a series of "Hymns of the Marshes", of which four poems
The text is taken from the 1916 edition of "Poems of Sidney Lanier".
William Hayes Ward wrote of this poem: "How naturally his large faith in God
finds expression in his `Marshes of Glynn'."
Edwin Mims, in his biography of Sidney Lanier, concludes by quoting this poem.
"His best poems move to the cadence of a tune. . . . Sometimes, as in
the `Marshes of Glynn' and in the best parts of `Sunrise', there is
a cosmic rhythm that is like unto the rhythmic beating of the heart of God,
of which Poe and Lanier have written eloquently."
And later continues:
"Indeed, if one had to rely upon one poem to keep alive the fame of Lanier,
he could single out `The Marshes of Glynn' with assurance
that there is something so individual and original about it,
and that, at the same time, there is such a roll and range of verse in it,
that it will surely live not only in American poetry but in English.
Here the imagination has taken the place of fancy, the effort
to do great things ends in victory, and the melody of the poem corresponds
to the exalted thought. It has all the strong points of `Sunrise',
with but few of its limitations. There is something of
Whitman's virile imagination and Emerson's high spirituality
combined with the haunting melody of Poe's best work. Written in 1878,
when Lanier was in the full exercise of all his powers,
it is the best expression of his genius and one of the few
great American poems.
"The background of the poem -- as of `Sunrise' -- is the forest,
the coast and the marshes near Brunswick, Georgia. Early in life
Lanier had been thrilled by this wonderful natural scenery,
and later visits had the more powerfully impressed his imagination.
He is the poet of the marshes as surely as Bryant is of the forests,
or Wordsworth of the mountains.
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