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[158]

My Maryland

This famous Confederate lyric had a striking origin. While James Ryder Randall was teaching in Poydras College he became acquainted with Mr. D. C. Jenkins, editor of the New Orleans Delta, who published some of his verse. In April, 1861, he sent the young Professor a copy of the poems of James Clarence Mangan. Randall was warm in his admiration of the ‘gifted Irish poet,’ and especially enthusiastic about that passionate outburst, the Karamanian Exile. one stanza begins:
I see thee ever in my dreams,
Karaman!
thy hundred hills, thy thousand streams,
Karaman, O Karaman!

his dreamy existence at Pointe Coupee was rudely broken on April 23, 1861, by the news in the New Orleans Delta of the attack on the troops of the Sixth Massachusetts as they passed through Baltimore on April 19th. The first citizen to fall was a friend and College mate of the poet. Randall's own account of the effect of this news appears in a letter printed in Professor Brander Matthews' pen and Ink:
this account excited me greatly. I had long been absent from my native city, and the startling event there inflamed my mind. That night I could not sleep, for my nerves were all unstrung, and I could not dismiss what I had read in the paper from my mind. About midnight I rose, lit a candle, and went to my desk. Some powerful spirit appeared to possess me, and almost involuntarily I proceeded to write the song of “my Maryland.” I remember that the idea appeared to first take shape as music in the brain—some wild air that I cannot now recall. The whole poem was dashed off rapidly when once begun. It was not composed in cold blood, but under what may be called a conflagration of the senses, if not an inspiration of the intellect. I was stirred to a desire for some way linking my name with that of my native State, if not “with my land's language.” but I never expected to do this with one single supreme effort, and no one was more surprised than I was at the widespread and instantaneous popularity of the lyric I had been so strangely stimulated to write.

Randall was always free to acknowledge that Mangan's poem ‘solved the meter’ of his famous lyric. The College boys to whom he read the poem the next morning were so enthusiastic that he at once forwarded it to the Delta, in which it was printed on April 26th. Nearly every Southern journal at once copied it. Mr. Randall says: ‘I did not concern myself much about it, but very soon, from all parts of the country, there was borne to me, in my remote place of residence, evidence that I had made a great hit, and that, whatever might be the fate of the Confederacy, the song would survive it.’


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