POETS OF THE SOUTH
A SERIES OF BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL STUDIES WITH TYPICAL POEMS, ANNOTATED
F.V.N. PAINTER, A.M., D.D.
_Professor of Modern Languages in Roanoke College
Author of "A History of Education" "History of English Literature," "Introduction to American Literature" etc._
The poets of the South, who constitute a worthy galaxy of poetic talent and achievement, are not sufficiently known. Even in the South, which might naturally be expected to take pride in its gifted singers, most of them, it is to be feared, are but little read.
This has been called an age of prose. Under the sway of what are regarded as "practical interests," there is a drifting away from poetic sentiment and poetic truth. This tendency is to be regretted, for material prosperity is never at its best without the grace and refinements of true culture. At the present time, as in former ages, the gifted poet is a seer, who reveals to us what is highest and best in life.
There is at present a new interest in literature in the South. The people read more; and in recent years an encouraging number of Southern writers have achieved national distinction. With this literary renaissance, there has been a turning back to older authors.
It is hoped that this little volume will supply a real need. It is intended to call fresh attention to the poetic achievement of the South. While minor poets are not forgotten, among whose writings is found many a gem of poetry, it is the leaders of the chorus—Poe, Hayne, Timrod, Lanier, and Ryan—who receive chief consideration. It may be doubted whether several of them have been given the place in American letters to which their gifts and achievements justly entitle them. It is hoped that the following biographical and critical sketches of these men, each highly gifted in his own way, will lead to a more careful reading of their works, in which, be it said to their honor, there is no thought or sentiment unworthy of a refined and chivalrous nature.
F. V. N. PAINTER.
I. MINOR POETS OF THE SOUTH
II. EDGAR ALLAN POE
III. PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE
IV. HENRY TIMROD
V. SIDNEY LANIER
VI. ABRAM J. RYAN
* * * * *
MINOR POETS OF THE SOUTH
The first poetic writer of this country had his home at Jamestown. He was GEORGE SANDYS who came to Virginia in 1621, and succeeded his brother as treasurer of the newly established colony. Amid the hardships of pioneer colonial life, in which he proved himself a leading spirit, he had the literary zeal to complete his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which he had begun in England. After the toilsome day, spent in introducing iron works or in encouraging shipbuilding, he sat down at night, within the shadow of surrounding forests, to construct his careful, rhymed pentameters. The conditions under which he wrote were very far removed from the Golden Age which he described,—
"Which uncompelled And without rule, in faith and truth, excelled."
The promise of this bright, heroic beginning in poetry was not realized; and scarcely another voice was heard in verse in the South before the Revolution. The type of civilization developed in the South prior to the Civil War, admirable as it was in many other particulars, was hardly favorable to literature. The energies of the most intelligent portion of the population were directed to agriculture or to politics; and many of the foremost statesmen of our country—men like Washington, Jefferson, Marshall, Calhoun, Benton—were from the Southern states. The system of slavery, while building up baronial homes of wealth, culture, and boundless hospitality, checked manufacture, retarded the growth of cities, and turned the tide of immigration westward. Without a vigorous public school system, a considerable part of the non-slaveholding class remained without literary taste or culture.
The South has been chiefly an agricultural region, and has adhered to conservative habits of thought. While various movements in theology, philosophy, and literature were stirring New England, the South pursued the even tenor of its way. Of all parts of our country, it has been most tenacious of old customs and beliefs. Before the Civil War the cultivated classes of the Southern states found their intellectual nourishment in the older English classics, and Pope, Addison, and Shakespeare formed a part of every gentleman's library. There were no great publishing houses to stimulate literary production; and to this day Southern writers are dependent chiefly on Northern publishers to give their works to the public. Literature was hardly taken seriously; it was rather regarded, to use the words of Paul Hamilton Hayne, "as the choice recreation of gentlemen, as something fair and good, to be courted in a dainty, amateur fashion, and illustrated by apropos quotations from Lucretius, Virgil, or Horace." Thus it happened that before the Civil War literature in the South, whether prose or poetry, had a less vigorous development than in the Middle States and New England.
Yet it has been common to undervalue the literary work of the South. While literature was not generally encouraged there before the Civil War,—a fact lamented by gifted, representative writers,—there were at least two literary centers that exerted a notable influence. The first was Richmond, the home of Poe during his earlier years, and of the Southern Literary Messenger, in its day the most influential magazine south of the Potomac. It was founded, as set forth in its first issue, in 1834, to encourage literature in Virginia and the other states of the South; and during its career of twenty-eight years it stimulated literary activity in a remarkable degree. Among its contributors we find Poe, Simms, Hayne, Timrod, John Esten Cooke, John R. Thompson, and others—a galaxy of the best-known names in Southern literature.
The other principal literary center of the South was Charleston. "Legare's wit and scholarship," to adopt the words of Mrs. Margaret J. Preston, "brightened its social circle; Calhoun's deep shadow loomed over it from his plantation at Fort Hill; Gilmore Simms's genial culture broadened its sympathies. The latter was the Maecenas to a band of brilliant youths who used to meet for literary suppers at his beautiful home." Among these brilliant youths were Paul Hamilton Hayne and Henry Timrod, two of the best poets the South has produced. The Southern Literary Gazette, founded by Simms, and Russell's Magazine, edited by Hayne, were published at Charleston. Louisville and New Orleans were likewise literary centers of more or less influence.
Yet it is a notable fact that none of these literary centers gave rise to a distinctive group or school of writers. The influence of these centers did not consist in one great dominating principle, but in a general stimulus to literary effort. In this respect it may be fairly claimed that the South was more cosmopolitan than the North. In New England, theology and transcendentalism in turn dominated literature; and not a few of the group of writers who contributed to the Atlantic Monthly were profoundly influenced by the anti-slavery agitation. They struggled up Parnassus, to use the words of Lowell,—
"With a whole bale of isms tied together with rime."
But the leading writers of the South, as will be seen later, have been exempt, in large measure, from the narrowing influence of one-sided theological or philosophical tenets. They have not aspired to the role of social reformers; and in their loyalty to art, they have abstained from fanatical energy and extravagance.
The major poets of the South stand out in strong, isolated individuality. They were not bound together by any sympathy other than that of a common interest in art and in their Southern home. Their genius was nourished on the choicest literary productions of England and of classic antiquity; and looking, with this Old World culture, upon Southern landscape and Southern character, they pictured or interpreted them in the language of poetry.
The three leading poets of the Civil War period—Hayne, Timrod, and Ryan —keenly felt the issues involved in that great struggle. All three of them were connected, for a time at least, with the Confederate army. In the earlier stages of the conflict, the intensity of their Southern feeling flamed out in thrilling lyrics. Timrod's martial songs throb with the energy of deep emotion. But all three poets lived to accept the results of the war, and to sing a new loyalty to our great Republic.
The South has not been as unfruitful in literature as is often supposed. While there have been very few to make literature a vocation, a surprisingly large number have made it an avocation. Law and literature, as we shall have occasion to note, have frequently gone hand in hand. A recent work on Southern literature [*] enumerates more than twelve hundred writers, most of whom have published one or more volumes. There are more than two hundred poets who have been thought worthy of mention. More than fifty poets have been credited to Virginia alone; and an examination of their works reveals, among a good deal that is commonplace and imitative, many a little gem that ought to be preserved. Apart from the five major poets of the South—Poe, Hayne, Timrod, Lanier, and Ryan—who are reserved for special study, we shall now consider a few of the minor poets who have produced verse of excellent quality. [Footnote *: Manly's Southern Literature.]
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (1780-1843) is known throughout the land as the author of The Star-spangled Banner, the noblest, perhaps, of our patriotic hymns. He was born in Frederick County, Maryland, and was educated at St. John's College, Annapolis. He studied law, and after practicing with success in Frederick City, he removed to Washington, where he became district attorney.
During the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, he was detained on board a British vessel, whither he had gone to secure the release of a friend. All night long he watched the bombardment with the keenest anxiety. In the morning, when the dawn disclosed the star- spangled banner still proudly waving over the fort, he conceived the stirring song, which at once became popular and was sung all over the country. Though a volume of his poems, with a sketch by Chief-Justice Taney, was published in 1857, it is to The Star-spangled Banner that he owes his literary fame.
"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?"
Few poems written in the South have been more popular than My Life is like the Summer Rose. It has the distinction of having been praised by Byron. Its author, RICHARD HENRY WILDE (1789-1847), was born in Dublin, Ireland, but brought up and educated in Augusta, Georgia. He studied law, became attorney general of his adopted state, and later entered Congress, where he served for several terms. He was a man of scholarly tastes and poetic gifts. He spent five years abroad, chiefly in Italy, where his studies in Italian literature afterwards led to a work on Torquato Tasso. It was on the occasion of this trip abroad that he wrote A Farewell to America, which breathes a noble spirit of patriotism:—
"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!"
On his return to America, he settled in New Orleans, where he became a professor of law in the University of Louisiana. Though the author of a volume of poems of more than usual excellence, it is the melancholy lyric, My Life is like the Summer Rose, that, more than all the rest, has given him a niche in the temple of literary fame. Is it necessary to quote a stanza of a poem so well known?
"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!"
GEORGE D. PRENTICE (1802-1870) was a native of Connecticut. He was educated at Brown University, and studied law; but he soon gave up his profession for the more congenial pursuit of literature. In 1828 he established at Hartford the New England Weekly Review, in which a number of his poems, serious and sentimental, appeared. Two years later, at the age of twenty-eight, he turned over his paper to Whittier and removed to Louisville, where he became editor of the Journal.
He was a man of brilliant intellect, and soon made his paper a power in education, society, and politics. Apart from his own vigorous contributions, he made his paper useful to Southern letters by encouraging literary activity in others. It was chiefly through his influence that Louisville became one of the literary centers of the South. He was a stout opponent of secession; and when the Civil War came his paper, like his adopted state, suffered severely.
Among his writings is a Life of Henry Clay. A collection of his witty and pungent paragraphs has also been published under the title of Prenticeana. His poems, by which he will be longest remembered, were collected after his death. His best-known poem is The Closing Year. Though its vividness and eloquence are quite remarkable, its style is, perhaps, too declamatory for the taste of the present generation. The following lines, which express the poet's bright hopes for the political future of the world, are taken from The Flight of Years:—
"Weep not, that Time Is passing on—it will ere long reveal A brighter era to the nations. Hark! Along the vales and mountains of the earth There is a deep, portentous murmuring Like the swift rush of subterranean streams, Or like the mingled sounds of earth and air, When the fierce Tempest, with sonorous wing, Heaves his deep folds upon the rushing winds, And hurries onward with his night of clouds Against the eternal mountains. 'Tis the voice Of infant Freedom—and her stirring call Is heard and answered in a thousand tones From every hilltop of her western home—— And lo—it breaks across old Ocean's flood—— And Freedom, Freedom! is the answering shout Of nations starting from the spell of years. The dayspring!—see—'tis brightening in the heavens! The watchmen of the night have caught the sign—— From tower to tower the signal fires flash free—— And the deep watchword, like the rush of seas That heralds the volcano's bursting flame, Is sounding o'er the earth. Bright years of hope And life are on the wing.—Yon glorious bow Of Freedom, bended by the hand of God, Is spanning Time's dark surges. Its high arch, A type of love and mercy on the cloud, Tells that the many storms of human life Will pass in silence, and the sinking waves, Gathering the forms of glory and of peace, Reflect the undimmed brightness of the Heaven."
WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS (1806-1870), a native of Charleston, was a man of remarkable versatility. He made up for his lack of collegiate training by private study and wide experience. He early gave up law for literature, and during his long and tireless literary career was editor, poet, dramatist, historian, and novelist. He had something of the wideness of range of Sir Walter Scott; and one can not but think that, had he lived north of Mason and Dixon's line, he might occupy a more prominent place in the literary annals of our country. He has been styled the "Cooper of the South"; but it is hardly too much to say that in versatility, culture, and literary productiveness he surpassed his great Northern contemporary.
Simms was a poet before he became a novelist. The poetic impulse manifested itself early; and before he was twenty-five he had published three or more volumes of verse. In 1832 his imaginative poem, Atalantis, a Story of the Sea, was brought out by the Harpers; and it introduced him at once to the favorable notice of what Poe called the "Literati" of New York. His subsequent volumes of poetry were devoted chiefly to a description of Southern scenes and incidents.
As will be seen in our studies of Hayne and Timrod, Simms was an important figure in the literary circles of Charleston. His large, vigorous nature seemed incapable of jealousy, and he took delight in lending encouragement to young men of literary taste and aspiration. He was a laborious and prolific writer, the number of his various works— poetry, drama, history, fiction—reaching nearly a hundred. Had he written less rapidly, his work might have gained, perhaps, in artistic quality.
Among the best of Simms's novels is a series devoted to the Revolution. The characters and incidents of that conflict in South Carolina are graphically portrayed. The Partisan, the first of this historic series, was published in 1835. The Yemassee is an Indian story, in which the character of the red man is less idealized than in Cooper's Leather- stocking Tales. In The Damsel of Darien, the hero is Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific.
The verse of Simms is characterized by facile vigor rather than by fine poetic quality. The following lines, which represent his style at its best, bear a lesson for the American people to-day:—
"This the true sign of ruin to a race— It undertakes no march, and day by day Drowses in camp, or, with the laggard's pace, Walks sentry o'er possessions that decay; Destined, with sensible waste, to fleet away;— For the first secret of continued power Is the continued conquest;—all our sway Hath surety in the uses of the hour; If that we waste, in vain walled town and lofty tower!"
EDWARD COATE PINKNEY (1802-1828) died before his poetic gifts had reached their full maturity. He was the son of the eminent lawyer and diplomatist, William Pinkney, and was born in London, while his father was American minister at the court of St. James. At the age of nine he was brought home to America, and educated at Baltimore. He spent eight years in the United States navy, during which period he visited the classic shores of the Mediterranean. He was impressed particularly with the beauty of Italy, and in one of his poems he says:—
"It looks a dimple on the face of earth, The seal of beauty, and the shrine of mirth; Nature is delicate and graceful there, The place's genius feminine and fair: The winds are awed, nor dare to breathe aloud; The air seems never to have borne a cloud, Save where volcanoes send to heaven their curled And solemn smokes, like altars of the world."
In 1824 he resigned his place in the navy to take up the practice of law in Baltimore. His health was not good; and he seems to have occupied a part of his abundant leisure (for he was not successful in his profession) in writing poetry. A thin volume of poems was published in 1825, in which he displays, especially in his shorter pieces, an excellent lyrical gift. The following stanzas are from 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."
PHILIP PENDLETON COOKE (1816-1850), like most Southern writers before the Civil War, mingled literature with the practice of law. He was born at Martinsburg, Virginia, and educated at Princeton. He early manifested a literary bent, and wrote for the Knickerbocker Magazine, the oldest of our literary monthlies, before he was out of his teens. He was noted for his love of outdoor life, and became a thorough sportsman. In 1847 he published a volume entitled Froissart Ballads and Other Poems. The origin of the ballad portion of the volume, as explained in the preface, is found in the lines of an old Roman poet:—
"A certain freak has got into my head, Which I can't conquer for the life of me, Of taking up some history, little read, Or known, and writing it in poetry."
The best known of his lyrics is Florence Vane which has the sincerity and pathos of a real experience:—
"I loved thee long and dearly, Florence Vane; My life's bright dream, and early, Hath come again; I renew, in my fond vision, My heart's dear pain, My hope, and thy derision, Florence Vane.
"The ruin lone and hoary, The ruin old, Where thou didst hark my story, At even told,— That spot—the hues Elysian Of sky and plain— I treasure in my vision, Florence Vane.
"Thou wast lovelier than the roses In their prime; Thy voice excelled the closes Of sweetest rhyme; Thy heart was as a river Without a main. Would I had loved thee never, Florence Vane!"
THEODORE O'HARA (1820-1867) is chiefly remembered for a single poem that has touched the national heart. He was born in Danville, Kentucky. After taking a course in law, he accepted a clerkship in the Treasury Department at Washington. On the outbreak of the Mexican War he enlisted as a private soldier, and by his gallant service rose to the rank of captain and major. After the close of the war he returned to Washington and engaged for a time in the practice of his profession. Later he became editor of the Mobile Register, and Frankfort Yeoman in Kentucky. In the Civil War he served as colonel in the Confederate army.
The poem on which his fame largely rests is The Bivouac of the Dead. It was written to commemorate the Kentuckians who fell in the battle of Buena Vista. Its well-known lines have furnished an apt inscription for several military cemeteries:—
"The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier's last tattoo; No more on 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."
O'Hara died in Alabama in 1867. The legislature of Kentucky paid him a fitting tribute in having his body removed to Frankfort and placed by the side of the heroes whom he so worthily commemorated in his famous poem.
FRANCIS ORRERY TICKNOR (1822-1874) was a physician living near Columbus, Georgia. He led a busy, useful, humble life, and his merits as a poet have not been fully recognized. In the opinion of Paul Hamilton Hayne, who edited a volume of Ticknor's poems, he was "one of the truest and sweetest lyric poets this country has yet produced." The Virginians of the Valley was written after the soldiers of the Old Dominion, many of whom bore the names of the knights of the "Golden Horseshoe," had obtained a temporary advantage over the invading forces of the North:—
"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."
But a martial lyric of greater force is Little Giffen, written in honor of a blue-eyed lad of East Tennessee. He was terribly wounded in some engagement, and after being taken to the hospital at Columbus, Georgia, was finally nursed back to life in the home of Dr. Ticknor. Beneath the thin, insignificant exterior of the lad, the poet discerned the incarnate courage of the hero:—
"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!
* * * * *
"Word of gloom from the war, one day; Johnson 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."
But Ticknor did not confine himself to war themes. He was a lover of Nature; and its forms, and colors, and sounds—as seen in April Morning, Twilight, The Hills, Among the Birds—appealed to his sensitive nature. Shut out from literary centers and literary companionship, he sang, like Burns, from the strong impulse awakened by the presence of the heroic and the beautiful.
JOHN R. THOMPSON (1823-1873) has deserved well of the South both as editor and author. He was born in Richmond, and educated at the University of Virginia, where he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1845. Two years later he became editor of the Southern Literary Messenger; and during the twelve years of his editorial management, he not only maintained a high degree of literary excellence, but took pains to lend encouragement to Southern letters. It is a misfortune to our literature that his writings, particularly his poetry, have never been collected.
The incidents of the Civil War called forth many a stirring lyric, the best of which is his well-known 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 band had played "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle," which in turn had been greeted with shouts by "Rebels" and "Yanks."
"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."
On account of failing health, Thompson made a visit to Europe, where he spent several years, contributing from time to time to Blackwood's Magazine and other English periodicals. On his return to America, he was engaged on the editorial staff of the New York Evening Post, with which he was connected till his death, in 1873. He is buried in Hollywood cemetery at Richmond.
"The city's hum drifts o'er his grave, And green above the hollies wave Their jagged leaves, as when a boy, On blissful summer afternoons, He came to sing the birds his runes, And tell the river of his joy."
The verse of Mrs. MARGARET J. PRESTON (1820-1897) rises above the commonplace both in sentiment and craftsmanship. She belongs, as some critic has said, to the school of Mrs. Browning; and in range of subject and purity of sentiment she is scarcely inferior to her great English contemporary. She was the daughter of the Rev. George Junkin, D.D., the founder of Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, and for many years president of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia. In 1857 she married Colonel J. T. L. Preston of the Virginia Military Institute.
For many years she was a contributor to the Southern Literary Messenger, in which her earlier poems first made their appearance. Though a native of Philadelphia, she was loyal to the South during the Civil War, and found inspiration in its deeds of heroism. Beechenbrook is a rhyme of the war; and though well-nigh forgotten now, it was read, on its publication in 1865, from the Potomac to the Gulf. Among her other writings are Old Songs and New and Cartoons. Her poetry is pervaded by a deeply religious spirit, and she repeatedly urges the lesson of supreme resignation and trust, as in the following lines:—
"What will it matter by-and-by Whether my path below was bright, Whether it wound through dark or light, Under a gray or golden sky, When I look back on it, by-and-by?
"What will it matter by-and-by Whether, unhelped, I toiled alone, Dashing my foot against a stone, Missing the charge of the angel nigh, Bidding me think of the by-and-by?
* * * * *
"What will it matter? Naught, if I Only am sure the way I've trod, Gloomy or gladdened, leads to God, Questioning not of the how, the why, If I but reach Him by-and-by.
"What will I care for the unshared sigh, If in my fear of lapse or fall, Close I have clung to Christ through all, Mindless how rough the road might lie, Sure He will smoothen it by-and-by.
"What will it matter by-and-by? Nothing but this: that Joy or Pain Lifted me skyward,—helped me to gain, Whether through rack, or smile, or sigh, Heaven, home, all in all, by-and-by."
In this rapid sketch of the minor singers of the South, it has been necessary to omit many names worthy of mention. It is beyond our scope to speak of the newer race of poets. Here and there delicate notes are heard, but there is no evidence that a great singer is present among us. Yet there is no ground for discouragement; the changed conditions and the new spirit that has come upon our people may reasonably be expected to lead to higher poetic achievement.
In some respects the South affords a more promising field for literature than any other part of our country. There is evident decadence in New England. But the climate and scenery, the history and traditions, and the chivalrous spirit and unexhausted intellectual energies of the South contain the promise of an Augustan age in literature. In no insignificant degree its rich-ored veins have been worked in prose. JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS has successfully wrought in the mine of negro folk-lore; GEORGE W. CABLE has portrayed the Creole life of Louisiana; CHARLES EGBERT CRADDOCK has pictured the types of character found among the Tennessee mountains; THOMAS NELSON PAGE has shown us the trials and triumphs of Reconstruction days; and Miss MARY JOHNSTON has revived the picturesque scenes of colonial times. There has been an obvious literary awakening in the South; and sooner or later it will find utterance, let us hope, in some strong-voiced, great-souled singer.
It is true that there are obstacles to be overcome. There are no literary magazines in the South to encourage and develop our native talent as in the days of the Southern Literary Messenger. Southern writers are still dependent upon Northern periodicals, in which they can hardly be said to find a cordial welcome. It seems that the South in a measure suffers the obloquy that rested of old upon Nazareth, from which the Pharisees of the metropolis maintained that no good thing could come.
But the most serious drawback of all is the disfavor into which poetry has fallen, or rather which it has brought upon itself. In the remoteness of its themes and sentiments, in its over-anxiety for a faultless or striking technique, it has erected a barrier between itself and the sanity of a practical, truth-loving people. Let us hope that this aberration is not permanent. When poetry returns to simplicity, sincerity, and truth; when it shall voice, as in the great English singers, Tennyson and Browning, the deepest thought and aspirations of our race; when once more, as in the prophetic days of old, it shall resume its lofty, seer-like office,—then will it be restored to its place of honor by a delighted and grateful people.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Poe occupies a peculiar place in American literature. He has been called our most interesting literary man. He stands alone for his intellectual brilliancy and his lamentable failure to use it wisely. No one can read his works intelligently without being impressed with his extraordinary ability. Whether poetry, criticism, or fiction, he shows extraordinary power in them all. But the moral element in life is the most important, and in this Poe was lacking. With him truth was not the first necessity. He allowed his judgment to be warped by friendship, and apparently sacrificed sincerity to the vulgar desire of gaining popular applause. Through intemperate habits, he was unable for any considerable length of time to maintain himself in a responsible or lucrative position. Fortune repeatedly opened to him an inviting door; but he constantly and ruthlessly abused her kindness.
Edgar Allan Poe descended from an honorable ancestry. His grandfather, David Poe, was a Revolutionary hero, over whose grave, as he kissed the sod, Lafayette pronounced the words, "Ici repose un coeur noble." His father, an impulsive and wayward youth, fell in love with an English actress, and forsook the bar for the stage. The couple were duly married, and acted with moderate success in the principal towns and cities of the country. It was during an engagement at Boston that the future poet was born, January 19, 1809. Two years later the wandering pair were again in Richmond, where within a few weeks of each other they died in poverty. They left three children, the second of whom, Edgar, was kindly received into the home of Mr. John Allan, a wealthy merchant of the city.
The early training of Poe was misguided and unfortunate. The boy was remarkably pretty and precocious, and his foster-parents allowed no opportunity to pass without showing him off. After dinner in this elegant and hospitable home, he was frequently placed upon the table to drink to the health of the guests, and to deliver short declamations, for which he had inherited a decided talent. He was flattered and fondled and indulged in every way. Is it strange that under this training he acquired a taste for strong drink, and became opinionated and perverse?
In 1815 Mr. Allan went to England with his family to spend several years, and there placed the young Edgar at school in an ancient and historic town, which has since been swallowed up in the overflow of the great metropolis. The venerable appearance and associations of the town, as may be learned from the autobiographic tale of William Wilson, made a deep and lasting impression on the imaginative boy.
After five years spent in this English school, where he learned to read Latin and to speak French, he was brought back to America, and placed in a Richmond academy. Without much diligence in study, his brilliancy enabled him to take high rank in his classes. His skill in verse-making and in debate made him prominent in the school. He excelled in athletic exercises, but was not generally popular among his fellow-students. Conscious of his superior intellectual endowments, he was disposed to live apart and indulge in moody reverie. According to the testimony of one who knew him well at this time, he was "self-willed, capricious, inclined to be imperious, and though of generous impulses, not steadily kind, or even amiable."
In 1826, at the age of seventeen, Poe matriculated at the University of Virginia, and entered the schools of ancient and modern languages. Though he attended his classes with a fair degree of regularity, he was not slow in joining the fast set. Gambling seems to have become a passion with him, and he lost heavily. His reckless expenditures led Mr. Allan to visit Charlottesville for the purpose of inquiring into his habits. The result appears not to have been satisfactory; and though his adopted son won high honors in Latin and French, Mr. Allan refused to allow him to return to the university after the close of his first session, and placed him in his own counting-room.
It is not difficult to foresee the next step in the drama before us. Many a genius of far greater self-restraint and moral earnestness has found the routine of business almost intolerably irksome. With high notions of his own ability, and with a temper rebellious to all restraint, Poe soon broke away from his new duties, and started out to seek his fortune. He went to Boston; and, in eager search for fame and money, he resorted to the rather unpromising expedient of publishing, in 1827, a small volume of poems. Viewed in the light of his subsequent career, the volume gives here and there an intimation of the author's genius; but, as was to be expected, it attracted but little attention. He was soon reduced to financial straits, and in his pressing need he enlisted, under an assumed name, in the United States army. He served at Fort Moultrie, and afterward at Fortress Monroe. He rose to the rank of sergeant major; and, according to the testimony of his superiors, he was "exemplary in his deportment, prompt and faithful in the discharge of his duties."
In 1829, when his heart was softened by the death of his wife, Mr. Allan became reconciled to his adopted but wayward son. Through his influence, young Poe secured a discharge from the army, and obtained an appointment as cadet at West Point. He entered the military academy July 1, 1830, and, as usual, established a reputation for brilliancy and folly. He was reserved, exclusive, discontented, and censorious. As described by a classmate, "He was an accomplished French scholar, and had a wonderful aptitude for mathematics, so that he had no difficulty in preparing his recitations in his class, and in obtaining the highest marks in these departments. He was a devourer of books; but his great fault was his neglect of and apparent contempt for military duties. His wayward and capricious temper made him at times utterly oblivious or indifferent to the ordinary routine of roll call, drills, and guard duties. These habits subjected him often to arrest and punishment, and effectually prevented his learning or discharging the duties of a soldier." The final result may be easily anticipated: at the end of six months, he was summoned before a court-martial, tried, and expelled.
Before leaving West Point, Poe arranged for the publication of a volume of poetry, which appeared in New York in 1831. This volume, to which the students of the academy subscribed liberally in advance, is noteworthy in several particulars. In a prefatory letter Poe lays down the poetic principle to which he endeavored to conform his productions. It throws much light on his poetry by exhibiting the ideal at which he aimed. "A poem, in my opinion," he says, "is opposed to a work of science by having for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with in definite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definiteness." Music embodied in a golden mist of thought and sentiment— this is Poe's poetic ideal.
As illustrative of his musical rhythm, the following lines from Al Aaraaf may be given:—
"Ligeia! Ligeia! My beautiful one! Whose harshest idea Will to melody run, O! is it thy will On the breezes to toss? Or, capriciously still, Like the lone Albatross, Incumbent on night (As she on the air) To keep watch with delight On the harmony there?"
Or take the last stanza of Israfel:—
"If I could dwell Where Israfel Hath dwelt, and he where I, He might not sing so wildly well A mortal melody, While a bolder note than this might swell From my lyre within the sky."
The two principal poems in the volume under consideration—Al Aaraaf and Tamerlane—are obvious imitations of Moore and Byron. The beginning of Al Aaraaf, for example, might easily be mistaken for an extract from Lalla Rookh, so similar are the rhythm and rhyme:—
"O! nothing earthly save the ray (Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's eye, As in those gardens where the day Springs from the gems of Circassy— O! nothing earthly save the thrill Of melody in woodland rill— Or (music of the passion-hearted) Joy's voice so peacefully departed That, like the murmur in the shell, Its echo dwelleth and will dwell— Oh, nothing of the dross of ours— Yet all the beauty—all the flowers That list our Love, and deck our bowers— Adorn yon world afar, afar— The wandering star."
After his expulsion from West Point, Poe appears to have gone to Richmond; but the long-suffering of Mr. Allan, who had married again after the death of his first wife, was at length exhausted. He refused to extend any further recognition to one whom he had too much reason to regard as unappreciative and undeserving. Accordingly Poe was thrown upon his own resources for a livelihood. He settled in Baltimore, where he had a few acquaintances and friends, and entered upon that literary career which is without parallel in American literature for its achievements, its vicissitudes, and its sorrows. With no qualification for the struggle of life other than intellectual brilliancy, he bitterly atoned, through disappointment and suffering, for his defects of temper, lack of judgment, and habits of intemperance.
In 1833 the Baltimore Saturday Visitor offered a prize of one hundred dollars for the best prose story. This prize Poe won by his tale, A Ms. Found in a Bottle. This success may be regarded as the first step in his literary career. The ability displayed in this fantastic tale brought him to the notice of John P. Kennedy, Esq., who at once befriended him in his distress, and aided him in his literary projects. He gave Poe, whom he found in extreme poverty, free access to his home and, to use his own words, "brought him up from the very verge of despair."
After a year or more of hack work in Baltimore, Poe, through the influence of his kindly patron, obtained employment on the Southern Literary Messenger, and removed to Richmond in 1835. Here he made a brilliant start; life seemed to open before him full of promise. In a short time he was promoted to the editorship of the Messenger, and by his tales, poems, and especially his reviews, he made that periodical very popular. In a twelve-month he increased its subscription list from seven hundred to nearly five thousand, and made the magazine a rival of the Knickerbocker and the New Englander. He was loudly praised by the Southern press, and was generally regarded as one of the foremost writers of the day.
In the Messenger Poe began his work as a critic. It is hardly necessary to say that his criticism was of the slashing kind. He became little short of a terror. With a great deal of critical acumen and a fine artistic sense, he made relentless war on pretentious mediocrity, and rendered good service to American letters by enforcing higher literary standards. He was lavish in his charges of plagiarism; and he made use of cheap, second-hand learning in order to ridicule the pretended scholarship of others. He often affected an irritating and contemptuous superiority. But with all his humbug and superciliousness, his critical estimates, in the main, have been sustained.
The bright prospects before Poe were in a few months ruthlessly blighted. Perhaps he relied too much on his genius and reputation. It is easy for men of ability to overrate their importance. Regarding himself, perhaps, as indispensable to the Messenger, he may have relaxed in vigilant self-restraint. It has been claimed that he resigned the editorship in order to accept a more lucrative offer in New York; but the sad truth seems to be that he was dismissed on account of his irregular habits.
After eighteen months in Richmond, during which he had established a brilliant literary reputation, Poe was again turned adrift. He went to New York, where his story, The Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym, was published by the Harpers in 1838. It is a tale of the sea, written with the simplicity of style and circumstantiality of detail that give such charm to the works of Defoe. In spite of the fact that Cooper and Marryat had created a taste for sea-tales, this story never became popular. It is superabundant in horrors—a vein that had a fatal fascination for the morbid genius of Poe.
The same year in which this story appeared, Poe removed to Philadelphia, where he soon found work on the Gentleman's Magazine, recently established by the comedian Burton. He soon rose to the position of editor-in-chief, and his talents proved of great value to the magazine. His tales and critiques rapidly increased its circulation. But the actor, whose love of justice does him great credit, could not approve of his editor's sensational criticism. In a letter written when their cordial relations were interrupted for a time, Burton speaks very plainly and positively: "I cannot permit the magazine to be made a vehicle for that sort of severity which you think is so 'successful with the mob. I am truly much less anxious about making a monthly 'sensation' than I am upon the point of fairness.... You say the people love havoc. I think they love justice." Poe did not profit by his experience at Richmond, and after a few months he was dismissed for neglect of duty.
He was out of employment but a short time. In November, 1840, Graham's Magazine was established, and Poe appointed editor. At no other period of his life did his genius appear to better advantage. Thrilling stories and trenchant criticisms followed one another in rapid succession. His articles on autography and cryptology attracted widespread attention. In the former he attempted to illustrate character by the handwriting; and in the latter he maintained that human ingenuity cannot invent a cipher that human ingenuity cannot resolve. In the course of a few months the circulation of the magazine (if its own statements may be trusted) increased from eight thousand to forty thousand—a remarkable circulation for that time.
His criticism was based on the rather violent assumption "that, as a literary people, we are one vast perambulating humbug." In most cases, he asserted, literary prominence was achieved "by the sole means of a blustering arrogance, or of a busy wriggling conceit, or of the most bare-faced plagiarism, or even through the simple immensity of its assumptions." These fraudulent reputations he undertook, "with the help of a hearty good will" (which no one will doubt) "to tumble down." He admitted that there were a few who rose above absolute "idiocy." "Mr. Bryant is not all a fool. Mr. Willis is not quite an ass. Mr. Longfellow will steal but, perhaps, he cannot help it (for we have heard of such things), and then it must not be denied that nil tetigit quod non ornavit." But, in spite of such reckless and extravagant assertion, there was still too much acumen and force in his reviews for them to be treated with indifference or contempt.
In about eighteen months Poe's connection with Graham was dissolved. The reason has not been made perfectly clear; but from what we already know, it is safe to charge it to Poe's infirmity of temper or of habit. His protracted sojourn in Philadelphia was now drawing to a close. It had been the most richly productive, as well as the happiest, period of his life. For a time, sustained by appreciation and hope, he in a measure overcame his intemperate habits. Griswold, his much-abused biographer, has given us an interesting description of him and his home at this time: "His manner, except during his fits of intoxication, was very quiet and gentlemanly; he was usually dressed with simplicity and elegance; and when once he sent for me to visit him, during a period of illness caused by protracted and anxious watching at the side of his sick wife, I was impressed by the singular neatness and the air of refinement in his home. It was in a small house, in one of the pleasant and silent neighborhoods far from the center of the town; and, though slightly and cheaply furnished, everything in it was so tasteful and so fitly disposed that it seemed altogether suitable for a man of genius."
It was during his residence in Philadelphia that Poe wrote his choicest stories. Among the masterpieces of this period are to be mentioned The Fall of the House of Usher, Ligeia, which he regarded as his best tale The Descent into the Maelstrom, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and The Mystery of Marie Roget. The general character of his tales may be inferred from their titles. Poe delighted in the weird, fantastic, dismal, horrible. There is no warmth of human sympathy, no moral consciousness, no lessons of practical wisdom. His tales are the product of a morbid but powerful imagination. His style is in perfect keeping with his peculiar gifts. He had a highly developed artistic sense. By his air of perfect candor, his minuteness of detail, and his power of graphic description, he gains complete mastery over the soul, and leads us almost to believe the impossible. Within the limited range of his imagination (for he was by no means the universal genius he fancied himself to be) he is unsurpassed, perhaps, by any other American writer.
Poe's career had now reached its climax, and after a time began its rapid descent. In 1844 he moved to New York, where for a year or two his life did not differ materially from what it had been in Philadelphia. He continued to write his fantastic tales, for which he was poorly paid, and to do editorial work, by which he eked out a scanty livelihood. He was employed by N. P. Willis for a few months on the Evening Mirror as sub-editor and critic, and was regularly "at his desk from nine in the morning till the paper went to press."
It was in this paper, January 29, 1845, that his greatest poem, The Raven, was published with a flattering commendation by Willis. It laid hold of the popular fancy; and, copied throughout the length and breadth of the land, it met a reception never before accorded to an American poem. Abroad its success was scarcely less remarkable and decisive. "This vivid writing," wrote Mrs. Browning, "this power which is felt, has produced a sensation here in England. Some of my friends are taken by the fear of it, and some by the music. I hear of persons who are haunted by the 'Nevermore'; and an acquaintance of mine, who has the misfortune of possessing a bust of Pallas, cannot bear to look at it in the twilight."
In 1845 Poe was associated with the management of the Broadway Journal, which in a few months passed entirely into his hands. He had long desired to control a periodical of his own, and in Philadelphia had tried to establish a magazine. But, however brilliant as an editor, he was not a man of administrative ability; and in three months he was forced to suspend publication for want of means. Shortly afterward he published in Godey's Lady's Book a series of critical papers entitled Literati of New York. The papers, usually brief, are gossipy, interesting, sensational, with an occasional lapse into contemptuous and exasperating severity.
In the same year he published a tolerably complete edition of his poems in the revised form in which they now appear in his works. The volume contained nearly all the poems upon which his poetic fame justly rests. Among those that may be regarded as embodying his highest poetic achievement are The Raven, Lenore, Ulalume, The Bells, Annabel Lee, The Haunted Palace, The Conqueror Worm, The City in the Sea, Eulalie, and Israfel. Rarely has so large a fame rested on so small a number of poems, and rested so securely. His range of themes, it will be noticed, is very narrow. As in his tales, he dwells in a weird, fantastic, or desolate region—usually under the shadow of death. He conjures up unearthly landscapes as a setting for his gloomy and morbid fancies. In The City in the Sea, for example:—
"There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!) Resemble nothing that is ours. Around, by lifting winds forgot, Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie."
He conformed his poetic efforts to his theory that a poem should be short. He maintained that the phrase "'a long poem' is simply a flat contradiction in terms." His strong artistic sense gave him a firm mastery over form. He constantly uses alliteration, assonance, repetition, and refrain. These artifices form an essential part of The Raven, Lenore, and The Bells. In his poems, as in his tales, Poe was less anxious to set forth an experience or a truth than to make an impression. His poetry aims at beauty in a purely artistic sense, unassociated with truth or morals. It is, for the most part, singularly vague, unsubstantial, and melodious. Some of his poems—and precisely those in which his genius finds its highest expression—defy complete analysis. Ulalume, for instance, remains obscure after the twentieth perusal—its meaning lost in a haze of mist and music. Yet these poems, when read in a sympathetic mood, never fail of their effect. They are genuine creations; and, as a fitting expression of certain mental states, they possess an indescribable charm, something like the spell of the finest instrumental music. There is no mistaking Poe's poetic genius. Though not the greatest, he is still the most original, of our poets, and has fairly earned the high esteem in which his gifts are held in America and Europe.
During his stay in New York, Poe was often present in the literary gatherings of the metropolis. He was sometimes accompanied by his sweet, affectionate, invalid wife, whom in her fourteenth year he had married in Richmond. According to Griswold, "His conversation was at times almost supramortal in its eloquence. His voice was modulated with astonishing skill; and his large and variably expressive eyes looked repose or shot fiery tumult into theirs who listened, while his own face glowed, or was changeless in pallor, as his imagination quickened his blood or drew it back frozen to his heart." His writings are unstained by a single immoral sentiment.
Toward the latter part of his sojourn in New York, the hand of poverty and want pressed upon him sorely. The failing health of his wife, to whom his tender devotion is beyond all praise, was a source of deep and constant anxiety. For a time he became an object of charity—a humiliation that was exceedingly galling to his delicately sensitive nature. To a sympathetic friend, who lent her kindly aid in this time of need, we owe a graphic but pathetic picture of Poe's home shortly before the death of his almost angelic wife: "There was no clothing on the bed, which was only straw, but a snow-white counterpane and sheets. The weather was cold, and the sick lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever of consumption. She lay on the straw bed, wrapped in her husband's great-coat, with a large tortoise-shell cat in her bosom. The wonderful cat seemed conscious of her great usefulness. The coat and the cat were the sufferer's only means of warmth, except as her husband held her hands, and her mother her feet." She died January 30, 1847.
After this event Poe was never entirely himself again. The immediate effect of his bereavement was complete physical and mental prostration, from which he recovered only with difficulty. His subsequent literary work deserves scarcely more than mere mention. His Eureka, an ambitious treatise, the immortality of which he confidently predicted, was a disappointment and failure. He tried lecturing, but with only moderate success. His correspondence at this time reveals a broken, hysterical, hopeless man. In his weakness, loneliness, and sorrow, he resorted to stimulants with increasing frequency. Their terrible work was soon done. On his return from a visit to Richmond, he stopped in Baltimore, where he died from the effects of drinking, October 7, 1849.
Thus ended the tragedy of his life. It is as depressing as one of his own morbid, fantastic tales. His career leaves a painful sense of incompleteness and loss. With greater self-discipline, how much more he might have accomplished for himself and for others! Gifted, self-willed, proud, passionate, with meager moral sense, he forfeited success by his perversity and his vices. From his own character and experience he drew the unhealthy and pessimistic views to which he has given expression in the maddening poem, The Conqueror Worm. And if there were not happier and nobler lives, we might well say with him, as we stand by his grave:—
"Out—out are the lights—out all! And, over each quivering form, The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm, And the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirm That the play is the tragedy 'Man,' And its hero the Conqueror Worm."
PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE
The poetry of Paul Hamilton Hayne is characterized by a singular delicacy of sentiment and expression. There is an utter absence of what is gross or commonplace. His poetry, as a whole, carries with it an atmosphere of high-bred refinement. We recognize at once fineness of fiber and of culture. It could not well be otherwise; for the poet traced the line of his ancestors to the cultured nobility of England, and, surrounded by wealth, was brought up in the home of Southern chivalry.
The aristocratic lineage of the Hayne family was not reflected in its political feelings and affiliations in this country. They were not Tories; on the contrary, from the colonial days down to the Civil War they showed themselves stoutly democratic. The Haynes were, in a measure, to South Carolina what the Adamses and Quincys were to Massachusetts. A chivalrous uncle of the poet, Colonel Arthur P. Hayne, fought in three wars, and afterwards entered the United States Senate. Another uncle, Governor Robert Y. Hayne, was a distinguished statesman, who did not fear to cross swords with Webster in the most famous debate, perhaps, of our national history. The poet's father was a lieutenant in the United States navy, and died at sea when his gifted son was still an infant. These patriotic antecedents were not without influence on the life and writings of the poet.
In the existing biographical sketches of Hayne we find little or no mention of his mother. This neglect is undeserved. She was a cultured woman of good English and Scotch ancestry. It was her hand that had the chief fashioning of the young poet's mind and heart. She transmitted to him his poetic temperament; and when his muse began its earliest flights, she encouraged him with appreciative words and ambitious hopes. Hayne's poems are full of autobiographic elements; and in one, entitled To My Mother, he says:—
"To thee my earliest verse I brought, All wreathed in loves and roses, Some glowing boyish fancy, fraught With tender May-wind closes; Thou didst not taunt my fledgling song, Nor view its flight with scorning: 'The bird,' thou saidst, 'grown fleet and strong, Might yet outsoar the morning!'"
Paul Hamilton Hayne was born in Charleston, South Carolina, January 1, 1830. At that time Charleston was the literary center of the South. Among its wealthy and aristocratic circles there, was a literary group of unusual gifts. Calhoun and Legare were there; and William Gilmore Simms, a man of great versatility, gathered about him a congenial literary circle, in which we find Hayne and his scarcely less distinguished friend, Henry Timrod.
Hayne was graduated with distinction from Charleston College in 1850, receiving a prize for superiority in English composition and elocution. He then studied law; but, like many other authors both North and South, the love of letters proved too strong for the practice of his profession. His literary bent, as with most of our gifted authors, manifested itself early, and even in his college days he became a devotee of the poetic muse. The ardor of his devotion found expression in one of his early poems, first called Aspirations, but in his later works appearing under the title of The Will and the Wing:—
"Yet would I rather in the outward state Of Song's immortal temple lay me down, A beggar basking by that radiant gate, Than bend beneath the haughtiest empire's crown.
"For sometimes, through the bars, my ravished eyes Have caught brief glimpses of a life divine, And seen a far, mysterious rapture rise Beyond the veil that guards the inmost shrine."
Hayne served his literary apprenticeship in connection with several periodicals. He was a favorite contributor to the Southern Literary Messenger, for many years published in Richmond, Virginia, and deservedly ranking as the best monthly issued in the South before the Civil War. He was one of the editors of the Southern Literary Gazette, a weekly published in his native city. Afterwards, as a result of a plan devised at one of Simms's literary dinners, Russell's Magazine, with Hayne as editor, was established, to use the language of the first number, as "another depository for Southern genius, and a new incentive, as we hope, for its active exercise." It was a monthly of high excellence for the time; but for lack of adequate support it suspended publication after an honorable career of two years.
An article in Russell's Magazine for August, 1857, elaborately discusses the ante-bellum discouragements to authorship in the South. Indifference, ignorance, and prejudice, the article asserted, were encountered on every hand. "It may happen to be only a volume of noble poetry, full of those universal thoughts and feelings which speak, not to a particular people, but to all mankind. It is censured, at the South, as not sufficiently Southern in spirit, while at the North it is pronounced a very fair specimen of Southern commonplace. Both North and South agree with one mind to condemn the author and forget his book."
Hayne's critical work as editor of Russell's Magazine is worthy of note. In manly independence of judgment, though not in ferocity of style, he resembled Poe. He prided himself on conscientious loyalty to literary art. He disclaimed all sympathy with that sectional spirit which has sometimes lauded a work merely for geographical reasons; and in the critical reviews of his magazine he did not hesitate to point out and censure crudeness in Southern writers. But, at the same time, it was a more pleasing task to his generous nature to recognize and praise artistic excellence wherever he found it.
As a critic Hayne was, perhaps, severest to himself. His poetic standards were high. In his maturer years he blamed the precipitancy with which, as a youth, he had rushed into print. There is an interesting marginal note, as his son tells us, in a copy of his first volume of verse, in which The Cataract is pronounced "the poorest piece in the volume. Boyish and bombastic! Should have been whipped for publishing it!" It is needless to say that the piece does not appear in his Complete Poems. This severity of self-criticism, which exacted sincerity of utterance, has imparted a rare average excellence to his work.
In 1852 he married Miss Mary Middleton Michel, of Charleston, the daughter of a distinguished French physician. Rarely has a union been more happy. In the days of his prosperity she was an inspiration; and in the long years of poverty and sickness that came later she was his comfort and stay. In his poem, The Bonny Brown Hand, there is a reflection of the love that glorified the toil and ills of this later period:—
"Oh, drearily, how drearily, the sombre eve comes down! And wearily, how wearily, the seaboard breezes blow! But place your little hand in mine—so dainty, yet so brown! For household toil hath worn away its rosy-tinted snow; But I fold it, wife, the nearer, And I feel, my love, 'tis dearer Than all dear things of earth, As I watch the pensive gloaming, And my wild thoughts cease from roaming, And birdlike furl their pinions close beside our peaceful hearth; Then rest your little hand in mine, while twilight shimmers down, That little hand, that fervent hand, that hand of bonny brown— The hand that holds an honest heart, and rules a happy hearth."
Two small volumes of Hayne's poetry appeared before the Civil War from the press of Ticknor & Co., Boston. They were made up chiefly of pieces contributed to the Southern Literary Messenger, Russsell's Magazine, and other periodicals in the South. The first volume appeared in 1855, and the second in 1859. These volumes were well worthy of the favorable reception they met with, and encouraged the poet to dedicate himself more fully to his art. In the fullness of this dedication, he reminds us of Longfellow, Tennyson, and Wordsworth, all of whom he admired and loved.
Few first volumes of greater excellence have ever appeared in this country. The judicious critic was at once able to recognize the presence of a genuine singer. The poet rises above the obvious imitation that was a common vice among Southern singers before the Civil War. We may indeed perceive the influence of Tennyson in the delicacy of the craftsmanship, and the influence of Wordsworth in the deep and sympathetic treatment of Nature; but Hayne's study of these great bards had been transmuted into poetic culture, and is reflected only in the superior quality of his work. There is no case of conscious or obvious imitation.
The volume of 1859, which bears the title Avolio and Other Poems, exhibits the poet's fondness for the sonnet and his admirable skill in its use. Throughout his subsequent poetical career, he frequently chose the sonnet as the medium for expressing his choicest thought. It is hardly too much to claim that Hayne is the prince of American sonneteers. The late Maurice Thompson said that he could pick out twenty of Hayne's sonnets equal to almost any others in our language. In the following sonnet, which is quoted by way of illustration, the poet gives us the key to a large part of his work. He was a worshiper of beauty; and the singleness of this devotion gives him his distinctive place in our poetic annals.
"Pent in this common sphere of sensual shows, I pine for beauty; beauty of fresh mien, And gentle utterance, and the charm serene, Wherewith the hue of mystic dreamland glows; I pine for lulling music, the repose Of low-voiced waters, in some realm between The perfect Adenne, and this clouded scene Of love's sad loss, and passion's mournful throes; A pleasant country, girt with twilight calm, In whose fair heaven a moon of shadowy round Wades through a fading fall of sunset rain; Where drooping lotos-flowers, distilling balm, Gleam by the drowsy streamlets sleep hath crown'd, While Care forgets to sigh, and Peace hath balsamed pain."
The great civil conflict of '61-'65 naturally stirred the poet's heart. He was a patriotic son of the South. On the breaking out of hostilities, he became a member of Governor Pickens's staff, and was stationed for a time in Fort Sumter; but after a brief service he was forced to resign on account of failing health. His principal service to the Southern cause was rendered in his martial songs, which breathe a lofty, patriotic spirit. They are remarkable at once for their dignity of manner and refinement of utterance. There is an entire absence of the fierceness that is to be found in some of Whittier's and Timrod's sectional lyrics. Hayne lacked the fierce energy of a great reformer or partisan leader. But nowhere else do we find a heart more sensitive to grandeur of achievement or pathos of incident. He recognized the unsurpassed heroism of sentiment and achievement displayed in the war; and in an admirable sonnet, he exclaims:—
"Ah, foolish souls and false! who loudly cried 'True chivalry no longer breathes in time.' Look round us now; how wondrous, how sublime The heroic lives we witness; far and wide Stern vows by sterner deeds are justified; Self-abnegation, calmness, courage, power, Sway, with a rule august, our stormy hour, Wherein the loftiest hearts have wrought and died— Wrought grandly, and died smiling. Thus, O God, From tears, and blood, and anguish, thou hast brought The ennobling act, the faith-sustaining thought— Till, in the marvelous present, one may see A mighty stage, by knights and patriots trod, Who had not shunned earth's haughtiest chivalry."
The war brought the poet disaster. His beautiful home and the library he has celebrated in a noble sonnet were destroyed in the bombardment of Charleston. The family silver, which had been stored in Columbia for safe-keeping, was lost in Sherman's famous "march to the sea." His native state was in desolation; his friends, warm and true with the fidelity which a common disaster brings, were generally as destitute and helpless as himself. Under these disheartening circumstances, rendered still more gloomy by the ruthless deeds of reconstruction, he withdrew to the pine barrens of Georgia, where, eighteen miles from Augusta, he built a very plain and humble cottage. He christened it Copse Hill; and it was here, on a desk fashioned out of a workbench left by the carpenters, that many of his choicest pieces, reflecting credit on American letters, and earning for him a high place among American poets, were written.
This modest home, which from its steep hillside—
"Catches morn's earliest and eve's latest glow,"—
the poet has commemorated in a sonnet, which gives us a glimpse of the quiet, rural scenes that were dear to his heart:—
"Here, far from worldly strife, and pompous show, The peaceful seasons glide serenely by, Fulfill their missions, and as calmly die, As waves on quiet shores when winds are low. Fields, lonely paths, the one small glimmering rill That twinkles like a wood-fay's mirthful eye, Under moist bay leaves, clouds fantastical That float and change at the light breeze's will,— To me, thus lapped in sylvan luxury, Are more than death of kings, or empires' fall."
His son, Mr. W. H. Hayne, has thrown an interesting light upon the poet's methods of composition. Physical movement seemed favorable to his poetic faculty; and many of his pieces were composed as he paced to and fro in his study, or walked with stooping shoulders beneath the trees surrounding Copse Hill. He was not mechanical or systematic in his poetic work, but followed the impulse of inspiration. "The poetic impulse," his son tells us, "frequently came to him so spontaneously as to demand immediate utterance, and he would turn to the fly leaf of the book in hand or on a neighboring shelf, and his pencil would soon record the lines, or fragments of lines, that claimed release from his brain. The labor of revision usually followed,—sometimes promptly, but not infrequently after the fervor of conception had passed away." The painstaking care with which the revising was done is revealed in the artistic finish of almost every poem.
Hayne's life at this time was truly heroic. With uncomplaining fortitude he met the hardships of poverty and bore the increasing ills of failing health. He never lost hope and courage. He lived the poetry that he sang:—
"Still smiles the brave soul, undivorced from hope; And, with unwavering eye and warrior mien, Walks in the shadow dauntless and serene, To test, through hostile years, the utmost scope Of man's endurance—constant, to essay All heights of patience free to feet of clay."
And in the end he was not disappointed. Gradually his genius gained general recognition. The leading magazines of the country were opened to him; and, as Stedman remarks, "his people regarded him with a tenderness which, if a commensurate largess had been added, would have made him feel less solitary among his pines."
In 1872 a volume of Legends and Lyrics was issued by Lippincott & Co. It shows the poet's genius in the full power of maturity. His legends are admirably told, and Aethra is a gem of its kind. But the richness of Hayne's imagination was better suited to lyric than to narrative or dramatic poetry. The latter, indeed, abounds in rare beauty of thought and expression; but somehow this luxuriance seems to retard or obscure the movement. The lyric pieces of this volume are full of self- revelation, autobiography, and Southern landscape. Hayne was not an apostle of the strenuous life; he preferred to dream among the beauties or sublimities of Nature. Thus, in Dolce far Niente, he says:—
"Let the world roll blindly on! Give me shadow, give me sun, And a perfumed eve as this is: Let me lie Dreamfully, Where the last quick sunbeams shiver Spears of light athwart the river, And a breeze, which seems the sigh Of a fairy floating by, Coyly kisses Tender leaf and feathered grasses; Yet so soft its breathing passes, These tall ferns, just glimmering o'er me, Blending goldenly before me, Hardly quiver!"
The well-known friendship existing between Hayne and his brother poet Timrod was a beautiful one. As schoolboys they had encouraged each other in poetic efforts. As editor of Russell's Magazine, Hayne had welcomed and praised Timrod's contributions. For the edition of Timrod's poems published in 1873, Hayne prepared a generous and beautiful memoir, in which he quoted the opinion of some Northern writers who assigned the highest place to his friend among the poets of the South. In the Legends and Lyrics there is a fine poem, Under the Pine, commemorative of Timrod's visit to Copse Hill shortly before his death:—
"O Tree! against thy mighty trunk he laid His weary head; thy shade Stole o'er him like the first cool spell of sleep: It brought a peace so deep, The unquiet passion died from out his eyes, As lightnings from stilled skies.
"And in that calm he loved to rest, and hear The soft wind-angels, clear And sweet, among the uppermost branches sighing: Voices he heard replying (Or so he dreamed) far up the mystic height, And pinions rustling light."
As illustrating his rich fancy and graphic power of diction, a few stanzas are given from Cloud Pictures. They are not unworthy of Tennyson in his happiest moments.
"At calm length I lie Fronting the broad blue spaces of the sky, Covered with cloud-groups, softly journeying by:
"An hundred shapes, fantastic, beauteous, strange, Are theirs, as o'er yon airy waves they range At the wind's will, from marvelous change to change:
"Castles, with guarded roof, and turret tall, Great sloping archway, and majestic wall, Sapped by the breezes to their noiseless fall!
"Pagodas vague! above whose towers outstream Banners that wave with motions of a dream— Rising or drooping in the noontide gleam;
"Gray lines of Orient pilgrims: a gaunt band On famished camels, o'er the desert sand Plodding towards their prophet's Holy Land;
"Mid-ocean,—and a shoal of whales at play, Lifting their monstrous frontlets to the day, Through rainbow arches of sun-smitten spray;
"Followed by splintered icebergs, vast and lone, Set in swift currents of some arctic zone, Like fragments of a Titan world o'erthrown."
In 1882 a complete edition of Hayne's poems was published by D. Lothrop & Co. Except a few poems written after that date and still uncollected, this edition contains his later productions, in which we discover an increasing seriousness, richness, and depth. The general range of subjects, as in his earlier volumes, is limited to his Southern environment and individual experience. This limitation is the severest charge that can be brought against his poetry, but, at the same time, it is an evidence of his sincerity and truth. He did not aspire, as did some of his great Northern contemporaries, to the office of moralist, philosopher, or reformer. He was content to dwell in the quiet realm of beauty as it appears, to use the words of Margaret J. Preston, in the "aromatic freshness of the woods, the swaying incense of the cathedral- like isles of pines, the sough of dying summer winds, the glint of lonely pools, and the brooding notes of leaf-hidden mocking-birds." But the beauty and pathos of human life were not forgotten; and now and then he touched upon the great spiritual truths on which the splendid heroism of his life was built. For delicacy of feeling and perfection of form, his meditative and religious poems deserve to rank among the best in our language. They contain what is so often lacking in poetry of this class, genuine poetic feeling and artistic expression.
The steps of death approached gradually; for, like two other great poets of the South, Timrod and Lanier, he was not physically strong. Though sustained through his declining years by "the ultimate trust"—
"That love and mercy, Father, still are thine,"—
he felt a pathetic desire to linger awhile in the love of his tender, patient, helpful wife:—
"A little while I fain would linger here; Behold! who knows what soul-dividing bars Earth's faithful loves may part in other stars? Nor can love deem the face of death is fair: A little while I still would linger here."
Paul Hamilton Hayne passed away July 6, 1886. As already brought out in the course of this sketch, he was not only a gifted singer, but also a noble man. His extraordinary poetic gifts have not yet been fully recognized. Less gifted singers have been placed above him. No biography has been written to record with fond minuteness the story of his admirable life and achievement. His writings in prose, and a few of his choicest lyrics, still remain unpublished. Let us hope that this reproach to Southern letters may soon be removed, and that this laureate of the South may yet come to the full inheritance of fame to which the children of genius are inalienably entitled.
In some respects there is a striking similarity in the lives of the three Southern poets, Hayne, Timrod, and Lanier. They were alike victims of misfortune, and in their greatest tribulations they exhibited the same heroic patience and fortitude.
"They knew alike what suffering starts From fettering need and ceaseless pain; But still with brave and cheerful hearts, Whose message hope and joy imparts, They sang their deathless strain."
The fate of Timrod was the saddest of them all. Gifted with uncommon genius, he never saw its full fruitage; and over and over again, when some precious hope seemed about to be realized, it was cruelly dashed to the ground. There is, perhaps, no sadder story in the annals of literature.
Henry Timrod was born in Charleston, South Carolina, December 28, 1829. He was older than his friend Hayne by twenty-three days. The law of heredity seems to find exemplification in his genius. The Timrods, a family of German descent, were long identified with the history of South Carolina. The poet's grandfather belonged to the German Fusiliers of Charleston, a volunteer company organized in 1775, after the battle of Lexington, for the defense of the American colonies. In the Seminole War, the poet's father, Captain William Henry Timrod, commanded the German Fusiliers in Florida. He was a gifted man, whose talents attracted an admiring circle of friends. "By the simple mastery of genius," says Hayne, "he gained no trifling influence among the highest intellectual and social circles of a city noted at that period for aristocratic exclusiveness."
Timrod's father was not only an eloquent talker, but also a poet. A strong intellect was associated with delicate feelings. He had the gift of musical utterance; and the following verses from his poem, To Time —the Old Traveler, were pronounced by Washington Irving equal to any lyric written by Tom Moore:—
"They slander thee, Old Traveler, Who say that thy delight Is to scatter ruin far and wide, In thy wantonness of might: For not a leaf that falleth Before thy restless wings, But in thy flight, thou changest it To a thousand brighter things.
* * * * *
"'Tis true thy progress layeth Full many a loved one low, And for the brave and beautiful Thou hast caused our tears to flow; But always near the couch of death Nor thou, nor we can stay; And the breath of thy departing wings Dries all our tears away!"
On his mother's side the poet was scarcely less fortunate in his parentage. She was as beautiful in form and face as in character. From her more than from his father the poet derived his love of Nature. She delighted in flowers and trees and stars; she caught the glintings of the sunshine through the leaves; she felt a thrill of joy at the music of singing birds and of murmuring waters. With admirable maternal tenderness she taught her children to discern and appreciate the lovely sights and sounds of nature.
Timrod received his early education in a Charleston school, where he sat next to Hayne. He was an ambitious boy, insatiable in his desire for knowledge; at the same time, he was fond of outdoor sports, and enjoyed the respect and confidence of his companions. His poetic activity dates from this period. "I well remember," says Hayne, "the exultation with which he showed me one morning his earliest consecutive attempt at verse- making. Our down-East schoolmaster, however, could boast of no turn for sentiment, and having remarked us hobnobbing, meanly assaulted us in the rear, effectually quenching for the time all aesthetic enthusiasm."
When sixteen or seventeen years of age he entered the University of Georgia. He was cramped for lack of means; sickness interfered with his studies, and at length he was forced to leave the university without his degree. But his interrupted course was not in vain. His fondness for literature led him, not only to an intelligent study of Virgil, Horace, and Catullus, but also to an unusual acquaintance with the leading poets of England. His pen was not inactive, and some of his college verse, published over a fictitious signature in a Charleston paper, attracted local attention.
After leaving college Timrod returned to Charleston, and entered upon the study of law in the office of the Hon. J. L. Petigru. But the law was not adapted to his tastes and talents, and, like Hayne, he early abandoned it to devote himself to literature. He was timid and retiring in disposition. "His walk was quick and nervous," says Dr. J. Dickson Bruns, "with an energy in it that betokened decision of character, but ill sustained by the stammering speech; for in society he was the shyest and most undemonstrative of men. To a single friend whom he trusted, he would pour out his inmost heart; but let two or three be gathered together, above all, introduce a stranger, and he instantly became a quiet, unobtrusive listener, though never a moody or uncongenial one."
He aspired to a college professorship, for which he made diligent preparation in the classics; but in spite of his native abilities and excellent attainments, he never secured this object of his ambition. Leaving Charleston, he became a tutor in private families; but on holiday occasions he was accustomed to return to the city, where he was cordially welcomed by his friends. Among these was William Gilmore Simms, a sort of Maecenas to aspiring genius, who gathered about him the younger literary men of his acquaintance. At the little dinners he was accustomed to give, no one manifested a keener enjoyment than Timrod, when, in the words of Hayne:—
"Around the social board The impetuous flood tide poured Of curbless mirth, and keen sparkling jest Vanished like wine-foam on its golden crest."
During all these years of toil and waiting the poetic muse was not idle. Under the pseudonym "Aglaus," the name of a minor pastoral poet of Greece, he became a frequent and favorite contributor to the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, Virginia. Later he became one of the principal contributors, both in prose and poetry, to Russell's Magazine in Charleston. It was in these periodicals that the foundation of his fame was laid.
Timrod's first volume of poetry, made up of pieces taken chiefly from these magazines, appeared in 1860, from the press of Ticknor & Fields, Boston. It was Hayne's judgment that "a better first volume of the kind has seldom appeared anywhere." It contains most of the pieces found in subsequent editions of his works. Here and there, both North and South, a discerning critic recognized in the poet "a lively, delicate fancy, and a graceful beauty of expression." But, upon the whole, the book attracted little attention—a fact that came to the poet as a deep disappointment. In the words of Dr. Bruns, who was familiar with the circumstances of the poet, "success was to him a bitter need, for not his living merely, but his life was staked upon it."
When this volume appeared, Timrod was more than a poetic tyro. Apart from native inspiration, in which he was surpassed by few of his contemporaries, he had reflected profoundly on his art, and nursed his genius on the masterpieces of English song. In addition to Shakespeare he had carefully pondered Milton, Wordsworth, and Tennyson. From Wordsworth especially he learned to appreciate the poetry of common things, and to discern the mystic presence of that spirit,—
"Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man."
Timrod, like Poe, formulated a theory of poetry which it is interesting to study, as it throws light on his own work. It reveals to us the ideal at which he aimed. In a famous essay Poe made beauty the sole realm and end of poetry. To Timrod belongs the credit of setting forth a larger and juster conception of the poetic art. To beauty he adds power and truth as legitimate sources of poetry. "I think," he says, "when we recall the many and varied sources of poetry, we must, perforce, confess that it is wholly impossible to reduce them all to the simple element of beauty. Two other elements, at least, must be added, and these are power, when it is developed in some noble shape, and truth, whether abstract or not, when it affects the common heart of mankind."
Timrod regarded a poem as a work of art. He justly held that a poem should have "one purpose, and that the materials of which it is composed should be so selected and arranged as to help enforce it." He distinguished between the moment of inspiration, "when the great thought strikes for the first time along the brain and flushes the cheek with the sudden revelation of beauty or grandeur, and the hour of patient, elaborate execution." Accordingly he quoted with approval the lines of Matthew Arnold:—
"We cannot kindle when we will The fire that in the heart resides; The spirit bloweth and is still; In mystery our soul abides; But tasks in hours of insight willed, May be through hours of gloom fulfilled."
Timrod's poetry is characterized by clearness, simplicity, and force. He was not a mystic; his thoughts and emotions are not obscured in voluble melody. To him poetry is more than rhythmic harmony. Beneath his delicate imagery and rhythmical sweetness are poured treasures of thought and truth. In diction he belongs to the school of Wordsworth; his language is not strained or farfetched, but such as is natural to cultured men in a state of emotion. "Poetry," he says in an early volume of Russell's Magazine, "does not deal in abstractions. However abstract be his thought, the poet is compelled, by his passion-fused imagination, to give it life, form, or color. Hence the necessity of employing the sensuous or concrete words of the language, and hence the exclusion of long words, which in English are nearly all purely and austerely abstract, from the poetic vocabulary."
He defends the use of the sonnet, in which, like Hayne, he excelled. He admits that the sonnet is artificial in structure; but, as already pointed out, he distinguishes the moment of inspiration, from the subsequent labor of composition. In the act of writing, the poet passes into the artist. And "the very restriction so much complained of in the sonnet," he says, "the artist knows to be an advantage. It forces him to condensation." His sonnets are characterized by a rare lucidity of thought and expression.
The principal piece in Timrod's first volume, to which we now return, and the longest poem he ever wrote, is entitled A Vision of Poesy. In the experience of the imaginative hero, who seems an idealized portrait of the poet himself, we find an almost unequaled presentation of the nature and uses of poetry. The spirit of Poesy, "the angel of the earth," thus explains her lofty mission:—
"And ever since that immemorial hour When the glad morning stars together sung, My task hath been, beneath a mightier Power, To keep the world forever fresh and young; I give it not its fruitage and its green, But clothe it with a glory all unseen."
And what are the objects on which this angel of Poesy loves to dwell? Truth, freedom, passion, she answers, and—
"All lovely things, and gentle—the sweet laugh Of children, girlhood's kiss, and friendship's clasp, The boy that sporteth with the old man's staff, The baby, and the breast its fingers grasp— All that exalts the grounds of happiness, All griefs that hallow, and all joys that bless,
"To me are sacred; at my holy shrine Love breathes its latest dreams, its earliest hints; I turn life's tasteless waters into wine, And flush them through and through with purple tints. Wherever earth is fair, and heaven looks down, I rear my altars, and I wear my crown."
Many of the poems in this first volume are worthy of note, as revealing some phase of the poet's versatile gifts—delicate fancy, simplicity and truth, lucid force, or finished art. The Lily Confidante, is a light, lilting fancy, the moral of which is:—
"Love's the lover's only magic, Truth the very subtlest art; Love that feigns, and lips that flatter, Win no modest heart."
The Past was first published in the Southern Literary Messenger, and afterwards went the rounds of the press. It teaches the important truth that we are the sum of all we have lived through. The past forms the atmosphere which we breathe today; it is—
"A shadowy land, where joy and sorrow kiss, Each still to each corrective and relief, Where dim delights are brightened into bliss, And nothing wholly perishes but grief.
"Ah me!—not dies—no more than spirit dies; But in a change like death is clothed with wings; A serious angel, with entranced eyes, Looking to far-off and celestial things."
Timrod possessed an ardent spirit that was stirred to its depths by the Civil War. His martial songs, with their fierce intensity, better voiced the feelings of the South at that time than those of Hayne or any other Southern singer. In his Ethnogenesis—the birth of a nation—he celebrates in a lofty strain the rise of the Confederacy, of which he cherished large and generous hopes:—
"The type Whereby we shall be known in every land Is that vast gulf which lips our Southern strand, And through the cold, untempered ocean pours Its genial streams, that far off Arctic shores May sometimes catch upon the softened breeze Strange tropic warmth and hints of summer seas."
But his most stirring lyrics are Carolina and A Cry to Arms, which in the exciting days of '61 deeply moved the Southern heart, but which today serve as melancholy mementos of a long-past sectional bitterness. Of the vigorous lines of the former, Hayne says in an interesting autobiographic touch, "I read them first, and was thrilled by their power and pathos, upon a stormy March evening in Fort Sumter! Walking along the battlements, under the red lights of a tempestuous sunset, the wind steadily and loudly blowing from off the bar across the tossing and moaning waste of waters, driven inland; with scores of gulls and white sea-birds flying and shrieking round me,—those wild voices of Nature mingled strangely with the rhythmic roll and beat of the poet's impassioned music. The very spirit, or dark genius, of the troubled scene appeared to take up, and to repeat such verses as:—
"'I hear a murmur as of waves That grope their way through sunless caves, Like bodies struggling in their graves, Carolina!
"'And now it deepens; slow and grand It swells, as rolling to the land, An ocean broke upon the strand, Carolina!'"
These impassioned war lyrics brought the poet speedy popularity. For a time his hopes were lifted up to a roseate future. In 1862 some of his influential friends formed the project of bringing out a handsome edition of his poems in London. The war correspondent of the London Illustrated News, himself an artist, volunteered to furnish original illustrations. The scheme, at which the poet was elated, promised at once bread and fame. But, as in so many other instances, he was doomed to bitter disappointment. The increasing stress of the great conflict absorbed the energies of the South; and the promising plan, notwithstanding the poet's popularity, was buried beneath the noise and tumult of battle.
Disqualified by feeble health from serving in the ranks, Timrod, shortly after the battle of Shiloh, went to Tennessee as the war correspondent of the Charleston Mercury. To his retiring and sympathetic nature the scenes of war were painful. "One can scarcely conceive," says Dr. Bruns, "of a situation more hopelessly wretched than that of a mere child in the world's ways suddenly flung down into the heart of that strong retreat, and tossed like a straw on the crest of those refluent waves, from which he escaped as by a miracle."
In 1863 he went to Columbia as associate editor of the South Carolinian. He was scarcely less happy and vigorous in prose than in verse. A period of prosperity seemed at last to be dawning; and, in the cheerful prospect, he ventured to marry Miss Kate Goodwin of Charleston, "Katie, the fair Saxon," whom he had long loved and of whom he had sung in one of his longest and sweetest poems. But his happiness was of brief duration. In a twelvemonth the army of General Sherman entered Columbia, demolished his office, and sent him adrift as a helpless fugitive.