by Edward Simonds
Chapter 1: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 2: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 3: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 4: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 5: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 6: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | Chapter 7: I | II | III | IV |
V. POETRY, SOUTH AND NORTH. Minor Verse.
Among the minor poets whose songs have found recognition and whose names deserve some record in the history of our literature, the following at least should be included. William W. Story (1819-1895), the friend of Hawthorne and Lowell, was born in Salem. He resided for the larger part of his life in Italy, and attained considerable rank as a sculptor. He was a poet of more than ordinary gifts, and an author of several volumes, prose as well as verse, including the well-known Roba di Roma, or Walks and Talks about Rome (1862). Thomas William Parsons (1819-1892), born at Boston, is more widely known as a translator of Dante than as an original poet, although his lines On a Bust of Dante are greatly admired by scholars. Dr. Parsons, who was a dental surgeon, practiced his profession abroad, and it was during his residence in Italy that his interest in the Italian poet was aroused. His translation ranks with the best American renderings of the Commedia, although it is not complete. His version of the Inferno appeared in 1867; portions of the Purgatorio and Paradiso were published in 1893. Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813-1892), an artist living in Cambridge, a member of the transcendental group, published a translation of Virgil's AEneid in 1872. The modest verse of Alice and Phoebe Cary (Alice, 1820-71; Phoebe, 1824-71), natives of Ohio, serious in sentiment, was widely read.
New England Women.
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a lecturer and leader in reform movements, will be remembered chiefly as the author of a great war poem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Lucy Larcom (1826-1893), a worker in the mills at Lowell when her early songs attracted the notice of Whittier, and Mrs. Celia Laighton Thaxter (1836-1894), daughter of the lighthouse-keeper on the Isles of Shoals, were also typical New Englanders who found their inspiration in subjects close at hand. Of other New England women whose verse was notable for literary quality and popular appeal, the following should be mentioned: Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835-1921), Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton (1835-1908), Mrs. Julia C. R. Dorr (1825-1913), born in South Carolina, but making her home in Vermont, Mrs. Annie A. Fields (1834-1915), the wife of James T. Fields, and Edna Dean Proctor (1838- ). A larger distinction attends the literary career of Mrs. Helen Fiske Jackson (1831-1885), before her second marriage Helen Hunt, whose signature "H. H." was familiar to the readers of a generation ago. Mrs. Jackson was born at Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poems, issued in 1870, placed her at the head of the women writers of verse in America. The last ten years of Mrs. Jackson's life were spent in Colorado and California. Her interest in the Indians and her intense sympathy with them in their wrongs led to the publication of her Century of Dishonor (1881), a book which bore fruit in the official appointment of Mrs. Jackson as special examiner to the mission Indians in California; and eventually in her striking novel, Ramona (1884). A group of rather remarkable short stories by "Saxe Holm," published in two series (1873, 1878), although unacknowledged, are usually attributed to Helen Hunt Jackson. The poems of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) are remarkable productions, which have commanded recognition by our highest literary critics. Miss Dickinson was a townswoman of Helen Fiske, and her life was spent at Amherst largely in seclusion. Only a few intimate friends were aware of her poetical gift, and her verses were not published until 1890, four years after her death.
The Middle West.
John Hay (1838-1905), distinguished as a diplomatist and statesman, was born in Indiana. He began the practice of law in Illinois in 1861, and became the private secretary of President Lincoln. In collaboration with John G. Nicolay he afterward wrote the authoritative Abraham Lincoln; a History (1886-1890). His literary fame, however, is based upon a slender volume of Pike County Ballads (1871) which, strong in local color, portray the rough virtues of the Mississippi Valley in the early days. There is a finer quality of elegance and grace -- with less originality -- in the later verse of his Castilian Days (1871) and Poems (1890). A strong and successful novel, The Breadwinners (1884), attributed to John Hay, was never publicly acknowledged.
John James Piatt (1835-1917), born in Indiana, and his wife, Sarah M. Piatt (1836- ) became residents of Ohio. Mr. Piatt was associated with William Dean Howells in the publication of Poems of Two Friends (1860). Numerous volumes of his verse have since appeared, two of them in association with his wife. Mrs. Piatt's Complete Poems (two volumes) were published in 1894.
Joaquin Miller (1841-1913), another son of Indiana, whose name before the poet changed it was Cincinnatus Heine Miller, removed with his parents to Oregon and afterward to California. His first volume, Songs of the Sierras (1871) was published in London while the author was a visitor in England. Miller's lyrical romances have not maintained their original popularity, but the fine stanzas of his Columbus may find a place among the unforgettable poems of our literature.
J. Maurice Thompson (1844-1901), a literary critic and author of several popular romances, also deserves recognition as a lyric poet. A disciple of Theocritus, he was an enthusiast for nature, a lover of outdoor life and sports. He revived interest in archery, and sang of birds and woods. Thompson was born in Indiana, but lived as a boy in Kentucky and Georgia. He served in the Confederate army during the war, and at its close returned to his native state.
Will Carleton (1845-1912), born in Michigan, became a journalist, and acquired prodigious fame in the seventies with his ballads "Betsy and I Are Out," "Over the Hills to the Poor House," and many others. His appeal was entirely to the sentiments and emotions of the common people. Farm Ballads (1873) was followed by numerous volumes of verse, humorous and pathetic, often in dialect.
Another poet whose field has been that of sentiment and whose popularity was widely established was Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855-1919), a native of Wisconsin. Her Poems of Passion (1883) first drew attention to her work. The verse of Carleton and that of Mrs. Wilcox received extended circulation through the newspaper press; both writers were journalists.
Eugene Field (1850-1895), for a number of years a journalist in Chicago, will long be remembered, not only for the whimsical humor of his prose, but for the tender pathos of a few poems of child life, like Little Boy Blue and Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Field was a lover of the Latin poet Horace, and the author of some happy versions of his odes. A Little Book of Western Verse (1890), With Trumpet and Drum (1892), and A Second Book of Verse (1893) contain his familiar poems.
Widely known as a writer of poems in the homely dialect of the Indiana farmer, James Whitcomb Riley (1853-1916) attained a popularity second to that of none of his contemporaries. Filled with a genial optimism, a universal sympathy, and a kindly sense of humor, Mr. Riley's verse has won the hearts of the people. His nature lyrics are vivid with rural charm and the simple joys of country life. He has written many songs for children which have long since become classics among child readers. Mr. Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana. In 1873, he began newspaper work in Indianapolis, his home thereafter, contributing occasional poems in dialect to Indiana papers, using the pen-name "Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone." He soon became known as "the Hoosier Poet." The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems was published in 1883, and numerous collections have since followed. Among his bestknown poems are: Griggsby's Station, Knee-Deep in June, An Old Sweetheart of Mine, Old Aunt Mary's, Little Orphant Annie, When the Frost is on the Punkin, The Old Swimmin' Hole, Thoughts for the Discouraged Farmer -- with its cheery strain, --
"Fer the world is full of roses, and the roses full of dew,
And the dew is full of heavenly love that drips fer me and you,"--
and many others, so marked by homely sense and a democratic simplicity of style that their humanness has commended them to readers of all ranks. Poets of the South.
Since the death of Poe, the South has not been represented by any poet of equal rank, yet it has been by no means without its representatives in verse, of whom one or two may be said to have attained national prominence. William G. Simms (1806-1870), whose contributions to American fiction have been described, was the author of several volumes of verse which enjoyed local popularity but which does not rise above mediocrity. Albert Pike (1809-1891), born in Boston, a settler in Arkansas, a soldier in the Confederate army, published in 1831 his ambitious Hymns to the Gods. Better known to-day is his charming ode To the Mocking-Bird; and best known of all his verse is the stirring war-song Dixie. In this connection mention should be made of Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867) of Kentucky, who, in 1847, wrote The Bivouac of the Dead. This martial elegy, upon which the reputation of its author rests, commemorates the death of Kentuckians who fell at the battle of Buena Vista. Another famous song of the South in wartime, Maryland, my Maryland, was the composition of James Ryder Randall (1839-1908), a native of Baltimore. Three Southern poets belonging to the generation which followed Poe have risen to more than minor rank. These are Henry Timrod, Paul H. Hayne, and Sidney Lanier. There is a pathetic resemblance in the circumstances and experiences of all. Each suffered personally the distressing effects of the war which interrupted the literary achievement and shortened the life of each. Both Timrod and Lanier died under forty; while Hayne, although surviving to the age of fifty-five, was an invalid for many years before his death.
Henry Timrod, 1829-1867.
The poet Timrod was born at Charleston, South Carolina. He studied at the University of Georgia, and began the reading of law. He had already won recognition as a poet and had formed a lifelong friendship with young Hayne, who was also a native of Charleston. Together the poet-friends entered on their literary career, and under the encouragement of William G. Simms they were associated in an editorial venture which proved short-lived. Timrod's poems, which filled but a slender volume, were published at Boston in 1860, his most elaborate composition being A Vision of Poesie, the statement of his poetical creed. Then came the war. Timrod's health was too delicate to permit of military service, but he went upon the field as correspondent for a Charleston paper. But this experience proved too strenuous, and in 1864 he became associate-editor of the South Carolinian, at Columbia, the state capital. When that city was destroyed at the entrance of Sherman's army, his home was burned, and everything that he possessed was lost. His poverty was so great that his family was on the verge of starvation. The last three years of the poet's life were years of acute suffering. A visit to the rustic home of his friend Hayne failed to benefit him; his health rapidly declined, and he died at thirty-eight. A complete edition of Timrod's poems was edited by his brother poet in 1873. Much of Timrod's verse is nature poetry, serious in spirit like that of Wordsworth, elevated and musical. His best-known poem, The Cotton Boll, is no less notable for its patriotic fervor than for its fine description of the snowy cotton-fields of the South. His highest achievement is seen in the beautiful ode At Magnolia Cemetery (1867), which closes with these lines:--
"Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!Paul Hamilton Hayne, 1830-1886.
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned."
Hayne was reared in the cultured and wealthy Charleston home of his uncle, Robert Y. Hayne, Webster's great opponent in the United States Senate. Previous to the war, he had filled two or three editorial positions, including the editorship of Russell's Magazine, the publication promoted by the novelist William Gilmore Simms; and, since the publication of his early poems in 1855, had been regarded as the representative poet of the South. Hayne served with the rank of colonel in the Confederate army. In the bombardment of Charleston he lost all his possessions, and found himself at the close of the war in the deepest poverty and a confirmed invalid. He then went to the barren pine-lands of Georgia, where he built for himself and his family a rude cottage on a piece of land known as Copse Hill; this was the poet's home until his death. He published a volume, Legends and Lyrics, in 1872, and The Mountain of the Lovers and Other Poems, in 1875. A complete edition of his Poems appeared in 1882. Hayne was essentially a poet of romance, and succeeded admirably in his longer narrative poems and his ballads. Yet he, too, wrote, like a true nature-lover, of the pines, and the mockingbirds, and the warmth of the Southland. In spite of loneliness and poverty, his poems contain none of the sadness or melancholy so characteristic of Poe; they were tender and cheerful to the last. Sidney Lanier, 1842-1881.
More successful than any other Southern poet except Poe in the impression of his genius on readers of verse, Sidney Lanier is gradually coming to be recognized as entitled to a place with our chief American poets. The story of his life is as pathetic as those just rehearsed, for his life, too, was colored by the shadows of ill-health and straitened circumstances which followed in the wake of war. Born in Macon, Georgia, February 3, 1842, Lanier had just completed his college course in Oglethorpe when the war broke. He flung himself into the struggle with the same ardor that sent Timrod and Hayne to the support of the Southern cause. Sidney and his brother Clifford -- two slender, gray-eyed youths, inseparable in their service of danger and hardship -- extracted all the romance to be derived from their experience. In 1863, they were on scout duty along the James; Lanier wrote later with enthusiasm of this period in their army life:--
"We had a flute and a guitar, good horses, a beautiful country, splendid residences inhabited by friends who loved us, and plenty of hair-breadth escapes from the roving bands of Federals. Cliff and I never cease to talk of the beautiful women, the serenades, the moonlight dashes on the beach of fair Burwell's Bay, and the spirited brushes of our little force with the enemy."
In 1864, the brothers were transferred to Wilmington and placed as signal officers upon the blockade-runners. Here Sidney Lanier was captured and for five months was confined in the Federal prison at Camp Lookout; it well-nigh became his tomb. With emaciated frame and shattered physique the young soldier finally went home, like so many other youthful veterans, south and north, to fight for life in the coming years. With Lanier, the struggle was for both life and livelihood. He was twenty-three years old, unsettled as to his future, and under the gloom of those "raven days" of the desolated and demoralized South.
"Our hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken,"
he sang plaintively; yet he turned the plaint into a song of cheer; and he still found the romance. In 1867, he was married to Miss Mary Day, of Macon, and the poems of his wooing-time and of his wedded life are as graceful and tender as the lyrics Lowell sang to Maria White.
For five years Lanier tried to follow the law, and then, in 1873, gave himself to art. He went to Baltimore alone, except for his flute. Lanier's flute is as famous as Lanier; it is a part of his personality. Its mellow notes had cheered the soldier and his comrades by camp-fire and in prison; it had been softly played in many a surreptitious serenade. And it was widely known; for Lanier was a remarkable musician, and was called by many the finest flute-player in America if not in the world. Lanier's musical genius must be taken in account by the student of his verse.
So far as he could trace his ancestry, it disclosed this talent as a family possession. In the Restoration period, there were five Laniers in England who were musicians; in Charles I's time, Nicholas Lanier, who was painted by Van Dyck, wrote music for the masques of Jonson and the lyrics of Herrick; the father of this Nicholas was a musician in the household of Queen Elizabeth. Thus Sidney Lanier came naturally by his gift. In Baltimore, his flute secured him a position in the Peabody Orchestra, and furnished the means of living for several years. Theodore Thomas is said to have been on the point of making the artist first flute-player in his orchestra, when Lanier's health finally failed and he was compelled to give up the struggle.
Literature and Poetry.
But Sidney Lanier found also in Baltimore the first opportunity to gratify what had been the ambition of the years since his college course, -- the opportunity to study literature and the scientific principles of verse. The unfulfilled dream of his youth had been a systematic course in the German universities; this was not to be realized, but in the richly equipped Peabody Library he found his university. Never was there a more assiduous student. Especially did he devote himself to the field of Old English poetry. Soon there were invitations to lecture, and in the city he came to have an established reputation as a fascinating lecturer on English literature. In 1875, he first won recognition as a poet of more than ordinary power by the publication of Corn, in Lippincott's Magazine; four months later his remarkable poem, The Symphony, appeared in the same magazine. His new friendship with Bayard Taylor produced the invitation to write the words for the Centennial cantata. The first collection of his poems was published in 1877. In rapid succession he wrote three remarkable poems, The Revenge of Hamish, How Love looked for Hell, and The Marshes of Glynn. In 1879, the poet was appointed to a lectureship in the Johns Hopkins University. The fruit of this professional connection we have in two volumes, neither of which is characterized by scientific precision or minutely accurate scholarship; nevertheless The Science of English Verse and The English Novel are recognized as valuable contributions to the study of literature. The first of these volumes is an essay on the technical side of versification, embodying Lanier's theory of rhythm and tone color; it was his belief that the laws of verse are identical with those of music. A series of books for boys -- The Boy's King Arthur, The Boy's Froissart, etc. -- were the by-products from his studies of the ancient chronicles, put forth to enlarge the scanty income.
During the last two years of the poet's life the struggle for poetical achievement grew tragic. In November, 1880, he wrote his friend, Paul Hamilton Hayne:-- Ambitions unfulfilled.
"For six months past a ghastly fever has taken possession of me each day at about 12 M., and holding my head under the surface of indescribable distress for the next twenty hours, subsiding only enough each morning to let me get on my working harness, but never intermitting.... I have myself been disposed to think it arose purely from the bitterness of having to spend my time in making academic lectures and boys' books -- pot-boilers all -- when a thousand songs are singing in my heart that will certainly kill me if I do not utter them soon."
Three years earlier he had written bravely in The Stirrup-Cup:--
"Death, thou'rt a cordial old and rare:
Look how compounded, with what care!
Time got his wrinkles reaping thee
Sweet herbs from all antiquity.
"David to thy distillage went,
Keats, and Gotama excellent,
Omar Khayyám, and Chaucer bright,
And Shakspere for a king-delight.
"Then, Time, let not a drop be spilt:
Hand me the cup whene'er thou wilt,
'T is thy rich stirrup-cup to me;
I'll drink it down right smilingly."
And now, in his greatest poem, Sunrise, completed soon after the date of his letter to Hayne, he could write in the same jubilant strain:--
"-- manifold One,
I must pass from thy face, I must pass from the face of the Sun:
Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown;
The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town:
But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done;
I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
I am lit with the Sun."
In 1881, Lanier was taken to the pine-lands in the mountains of North Carolina; and there in the September following he died. His grave is in Baltimore. A bronze bust of the poet is fittingly placed in one of the halls of the university where, for so brief a term, he taught.
In spite of the limitations set by fate upon Lanier's poetical work, its high quality is evident. It is poetry that charms the ear with its rich melodies and stirs the spirit by its own spiritual power. A Ballad of Trees and the Master is a familiar example of this quality. How broad might have been the scope of Lanier's eventual achievement can only be inferred from the pathetically small amount actually produced. He had a vivid imagination and a masterly command of expression. His descriptive skill, evidenced in the blithe Song of the Chattahoochee and the Hymns of the Marshes, was very fine. The Revenge of Hamish is an intensely dramatic narrative. A deep moral purpose is easily felt in lyrics like Tampa Robins, The Stirrup-Cup, and At Sunset, poems which quite escape the didactic tone. But it is in the longer compositions, Corn, The Symphony, Psalm of the West, Sunrise, and The Marshes of Glynn, that the poet's genius is exhibited at his highest reach. In Lanier's scanty bequest of verse we recognize the beauty and perfection of consummate art; but the true source of his distinction lies for most of his readers in the cheery optimism of his message; in the splendid faith, the hearty sympathy and unconquerable courage of his own brave and loving soul. The strength of his appeal is itself an evidence of the truth expressed by the poet in the second line of The Symphony,--
"The Time needs heart -- 't is tired of head."References.
In general, read Stedman's Poets of America, and refer to that critic's American Anthology for selections from the poets cited. Lanier is represented at length in Page's The Chief American Poets. Hayne's Complete Poems, with Life, were published in 1882. A Life of Timrod was included in the edition of Timrod's poems edited by Hayne. An admirable Life of Sidney Lanier has been written by Edwin Mims (Houghton Mifflin Company). Consult also Holliday's History of Southern Literature. Aldrich and Stedman.
Representative of a generation younger than that of our chief American poets, yet closely associated with them in personal companionship and in the spirit of their work, are the two distinguished writers, Aldrich and Stedman. They form an interesting link between the present and the past. Holding more than a minor rank as poets, both are prominent among American men of letters; both achieved distinction in other fields than that of verse.
T. B. Aldrich, 1836-1907.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, November 11, 1836. On account of business connections in the South, the family were for a time accustomed to spend the winter at New Orleans; but it is the New Hampshire seaport town which figures as Rivermouth, the home of Tom Bailey, in that most attractive romance of youth, The Story of a Bad Boy (1870). His father's death in 1849 put an end to plans for a college education; and in his seventeenth year, young Aldrich went to New York and entered the banking house of his uncle. He soon began, however, contributing to the literary journals and made acquaintance with N. P. Willis, Bayard Taylor, Stoddard, and Stedman -- the last named being only three years older than himself.
The publication of his beautiful Ballad of Baby Bell (1856) first brought popularity, although a volume of verse, The Bells, had appeared in the previous year, when its author was but nineteen.
After three years of commercial life, Aldrich abandoned the counting-room for the editor's office, and for the next ten years was associated with one or other of the New York magazines, his principal engagement being upon Willis's Home Journal. In 1865, he removed to Boston and took editorial charge of the publication Every Saturday. In 1881, he succeeded Mr. Howells as editor of the Atlantic Monthly, retaining this position until 1890.
Meanwhile Aldrich's poems had been appearing in successive volumes: Cloth of Gold (1874), filled with the rich color of oriental fantasy, Flower and Thorn (1876), Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book (1881). In the long narrative poem Wyndham Towers (1889) the poet's work does not appear to such advantage as in the dainty lyrics of sentiment and romance which were the fruit of earlier years. No American poet has written with a more delicate or graceful touch. His technique is faultless in such brilliant pieces as When the Sultan goes to Ispahan, The Lunch, Nocturne, Identity, and Baby Bell, the tender pathos of which still retains its grasp on the emotions of its readers. Aldrich was his own severest critic, and his lines were frequently revised. Nothing short of perfection satisfied his keen sense of artistic expression. It is his own ideal that is embodied in this splendid sonnet: --
"Enamored architect of airy rhyme,
Build as thou wilt; heed not what each man says.
Good souls, but innocent of dreamers' ways,
Will come, and marvel why thou wastest time;
Others, beholding how thy turrets climb
'Twixt theirs and heaven, will hate thee all their days;
But most beware of those who come to praise.
O Wondersmith, O worker in sublime
And heaven-sent dreams, let art be all in all;
Build as thou wilt, unspoiled by praise or blame,
Build as thou wilt, and as thy light is given:
Then, if at last the airy structure fall,
Dissolve, and vanish -- take thyself no shame.
They fail, and they alone, who have not striven."
The Sisters' Tragedy (1891) and Unguarded Gates (1895) were the titles of the volumes which contained his later verse.
Like his poems, Aldrich's prose works are characterized by the qualities of vivacity, brilliance, and delicate workmanship. Nothing pleases him better than to surprise his reader by some unexpected turn. This is the case in his first successful story, -- in some respects his best, -- Marjorie Daw (1873), and in some of his later tales. The novels Prudence Palfrey (1874) and The Queen of Sheba (1877) were followed, in 1880, by an admirable detective story, The Stillwater Tragedy. It is, however, in the field of the short story that we most clearly recognize Aldrich's power as a writer of fiction, -- a field for which his art was exceedingly apt.
Mercedes, a drama (1883), and Judith of Bethulîa, prepared for the stage in 1905, have not proved dramatically successful. It is upon the best of his short stories and his earlier lyrics, with their exquisite technique, that Aldrich's literary fame must rest.
E. C. Stedman, 1833-1908.
Edmund Clarence Stedman was born at Hartford, Connecticut, October 8, 1833. His mother, Elizabeth Dodge Stedman, was a writer of verse, published several volumes of poems, and, through a long residence in Italy, was an intimate friend of the Brownings. During his undergraduate course at Yale, young Stedman received a first prize for a poem on Westminster Abbey. In 1855, he entered the journalistic profession in New York and was one of the many talented men who became at various times protégés of Horace Greeley, upon the staff of the Tribune. It was at this period that Stedman was thrown into intimate association with Stoddard, Taylor, and Aldrich. The first literary success came with the publication of The Diamond Wedding, a satirical poem, inspired by a real incident in fashionable New York society. His Poems, Lyric and Idyllic, were published in 1860; and in that year the poet went to the front as a war-correspondent for the World.
At the close of the war, Stedman became a banker and remained a member of the Stock Exchange until 1890. While thus engaged in active business, he nevertheless found leisure to practice the art of letters to good purpose. Some of his poems, like Kearney at Seven Pines, How Old Brown took Harper's Ferry, Wanted -- A Man, and Pan in Wall Street, hold a high place in American literature. Yet Stedman is in no sense a popular poet and not many of his compositions appeal to the public taste. He was not subjective, nor is there much intensity or passion in his verse. His themes were the immediate suggestions of the hour.
The Literary Critic.
Stedman ranks as our ablest critic of poetic literature. He lectured upon Poetry at Johns Hopkins University in 1892, and afterward repeated the selectures at other institutions. It was at this time that he formulated his suggestive definition of poetry -- as "rhythmical, imaginative language, expressing the invention, taste, thought, passion, and insight of the human soul." His critical volumes are: The Victorian Poets (1875), Poets of America (1885), and The Nature and Elements of Poetry (1892). These works are almost indispensable to the literary student. Mr. Stedman published A Victorian Anthology in 1895, and An American Anthology in 1900. In collaboration with G. E. Woodberry he edited The Works of Edgar Allan Poe in 1895, and, with Ellen M. Hutchinson, completed the monumental Library of American Literature (11 volumes), in 1889.
At the funeral of his brother-poet, Aldrich, in March, 1907, Stedman was a conspicuous figure, feeble and tottering with the weakness of advancing age. Yet death came upon him suddenly as he sat among his books, at work, January 18, 1908, -- such a death as he had craved in Mors Benefica, --
"Give me to die unwitting of the dayMinor Poets of this Generation.
And stricken in Life's brave heat, with senses clear."
Of the minor poets contemporary with Aldrich and Stedman, the most prominent was Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909). Classic in taste, he wrote with infallible correctness but lacked the inspiration that gives distinction. In 1870 he became the first editor of Scribner's Monthly, and in 1881 of The Century -- a position which he held until his death. His first volume of verse, The New Day, appeared in 1875. A complete edition of his Poems was published in 1908. Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887), a native of New England but compelled by ill health to seek a residence in California, a teacher, wrote seriously of life in poems strongly personal, notable for their spiritual insight and lyric power. John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890), an Irish patriot with a romantic history, a gifted orator and an influential editor in Boston, was the author of excellent songs and ballads. The lyric gift was shared also by John Banister Tabb (1845-1909), a Catholic priest, professor of English literature in St. Charles College, in Maryland; John Vance Cheney (born in New York in 1848), later a resident of California, whose earlier volumes of verse, Thistle-Drift and Wood Blooms, appeared in 1887 and 1888; and Lloyd Mifflin (born 1846), a Pennsylvanian, who has won distinction through his sonnets, a collected edition of which was published in 1905. Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896), editor of the humorous journal, Puck, was a writer of light and graceful verse in which humor and sentiment are delicately blended. His Airs from Arcady and Elsewhere appeared in 1884.
A Later Group.
Some of the poets, identified with this generation both by date of birth and the spirit of their verse, continue well into the twentieth century. Samuel Minturn Peck (born 1854) and Frank Lebby Stanton (born 1857) are poets of the South; the first a native of Alabama, the second, of South Carolina.
Peck's first volume, Cap and Bells, appeared in 1886. Stanton, on the staff of the Atlanta Constitution, published Songs of the Soil in 1894. Frank Dempster Sherman (1860-1916) published a first volume, Madrigals and Catches, in 1887. A Southern Flight (1906) was published in association with Clinton Scollard (1860-1932), whose earliest volume, Pictures in Song, had appeared in 1884. Both poets were natives of New York. Scollard was professor of English literature at Hamilton College (1889-1896) and Sherman was in the Faculty of Columbia University (1904-1916). Madison J. Cawein (1865-1914), a Kentuckian, published his first book of poems under the title, Bloom of the Berry, in 1887. The name of Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906), a negro, living in Ohio, may well be added to the list. His songs in dialect were widely read and sung.
There were many women who contributed to the current poetry of these years, of whom the more prominent, perhaps, are: Edith M. Thomas (1854-1925), whose first volume, A New Year's Masque and Other Poems, appeared in 1885; Helen Gray Cone (born 1859), professor of English literature in Hunter College, New York, who published her early poems under the title, Oberon and Puck, in 1885; Katharine Lee Bates (born, 1859), professor of English in Wellesley College, author of the hymn, America the Beautiful, which has attained the dignity of a national anthem; and Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920) in whose verse the presence of a mystical element adds to its appeal.
William Dean Howells, Silas Weir Mitchell, George Edward Woodberry, and Henry van Dyke, although classified as prose writers, have all written occasional verse which merits more than passing recognition.
Chapter 1: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 2: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 3: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 4: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 5: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 6: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | Chapter 7: I | II | III | IV |