amused themselves and the town by facile and often pointed skits on contemporary politics, people, and events, under the title Croaker and Co., after the manner of English wits of the time, as Moore and the Smith brothers. Halleck is said to have written the last four lines of Drake's American Flag, a lyric full of the old-fashioned expansive and defiant Americanism, and, with its flare of imagery and blare of sound, still sure to stir the blood of any one but a professional critic. And it was on Drake, dead at twenty-five, that Halleck wrote what is the tenderest, the manliest little elegy of personal loss in American literature, beginning with the familiar lines:
Green be the turf above thee,Yet they are remembered no less for achievements more noteworthy than those of the other minor men in this sketch. Drake's Culprit Fay is the best and in fact the one fairy story in American verse, if we except Bryant's Sella and The little people of the snow, which are indeed rather stories of mortals in fairyland than of the tiny, tricksy creatures themselves. Though in a sense exotic, for it roots in no folklore despite the setting on the Hudson, The Culprit Fay reports quite as well as Drayton's Nimphidia, its nearest analogue, the antic characteristics of the elfland of man's universal fancy. But it is most remarkable for its reading of nature. The Culprit Fay's adventures take him through woods, waters, and air, on to the stars above, amid the iridescent, elusive, darting, rended, prickly little objects of the real universe that heavy-lidded folk seldom observe. There are also-and this before Bryant's first volume — the American plant, bird, and insect: the chickweed and sassafras, the whippoorwill, the katydid and woodtick. The music, though perhaps influenced by Coleridge, sang itself under the unconscious guidance of a delicate and independent ear — the most striking creative act in American versification up to that time and for some time to come. Of the obvious faults of The Culprit Fay it were ungracious to speak; it was the two days diversion of a very young man, and published posthumously (1835).
Friend of my better days!
None knew thee but to love thee;
Nor named thee but to praise.