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Chapter 4: the New South: Lanier

The conditions of Reconstruction were inimical to the production of literature. The life of the South, always sluggish, now became stagnant. A country of farms and plantations, there were in it few large cities to foster an intellectual life. The large planters whose travel and whose experience in government and statesmanship rendered them the natural leaders were downcast by the sudden destruction of their wealth in slaves and soil. The poor whites lived too close to mother earth and were too densely ignorant to furnish a public for literary activity. The isolation of the whole South was heart-sickening. The roads were unfit for teams. The railroads had been destroyed. Cities like Columbia, South Carolina, reputed to be the most beautiful on the continent, stood a wilderness of ruins, ‘like Tadmor alone in the desert.’ Not one of the railways that formerly entered it had so much left as the iron on its track.

The newspapers were few and ill-informed. For many years they devoted their meagre talents to vituperation of Republican acts and policies. There was, to be sure, a short-lived effort at literary activity, as if the section might make good with the pen what had been lost by the sword. But even so catholic a venture as The land we love, edited by General D. H. Hill, which was devoted to literature, military history, and agriculture, had soon to die of inanition. Journals of opinion, like De Bow's review, in New Orleans, maintaining a precarious existence in scattered centres of the region, had at length to give up the struggle. Schools and colleges were few and far between. Even the will to attend them had to be fostered with perseverance and great care. In fine, the intellectual stagnation [314] of the South made literature impossible except for those with an unquenchable longing for expression.

Worse even than stagnation was the hopelessness of the outlook. The leaders, the owners of plantations, were reduced from affluence to poverty. Many a family that had been comfortable or even rich was now thankful for a supper of cornmeal. Plantations were for sale at a song. The ‘richest estates’ of North Carolina were at first to be bought for from one to ten dollars an acre. A hundred acres four miles from Macon, Georgia, the birthplace of Lanier, was offered for fifty cents an acre. The Southerner was convinced that the negro would not work in freedom. Two books give unforgettable pictures of the efforts of the planters to meet the new industrial situation. Ten years on a Georgia plantation by the daughter of Fanny Kemble, Frances Butler Leigh, details the childishness of the negro under the novel conditions of freedom. Mrs. Leigh can hardly be claimed as a Southern author, but Susan Dabney Smedes (1840—) must take high rank as one. Her Memorials of a Southern planter is an artless but absorbing picture of a class made extinct by the war. Without any of the theatrical effectiveness common in the older Southern prose, she relates in simple, dignified words the history of her father, Thomas Dabney, a planter of Mississippi. The war brought out in him such lofty nobility as is seldom seen in actual life. On laying down the volume Gladstone exclaimed ‘Let no man say, with this book before him, that the age of chivalry is gone, or that Thomas Dabney was not worthy to sit beside Sir Perceval at the “table round” of King Arthur.’ His struggle to keep the plantation ended in its sale. A like fate awaited others. It was only slowly through the years that the large holdings were broken up into small farms and reduced to a more intense cultivation by intelligent diversification of crops.

Hopelessness of the economic outlook was deepened to despair by political and social conditions. By 1870 the seceded states were nominally reconstructed. But the Republican measures were such as poured salt and iron filings into the open wounds of civil war. Negro soldiers were set over their former masters. The intelligent voters were disqualified. The state governments were handed over to Northern carpet-baggers and [315] Southern scalawags, and the ignorant freedmen were given the right to vote. These former slaves marched through legislative halls on plush carpets, sat with their feet on mahogany desks, and spat into imported cuspidors. In one capital they resorted to a free and continuous lunch, with ample food and drink. All these luxuries were paid for out of the pockets of their former masters. This proud race, accustomed to generations of autocratic government, ground its teeth in silent rage. But by 1876 it had by fraud or violence overturned the inverted pyramid, and once more placed the state governments in the hands of responsible men, and returned many of its former leaders to the national Congress. The reins of government had been restored to the white man.

This atmosphere of turmoil was not conducive to a fine or vigorous literary product. Even so late as 1880 in Alabama ‘the assessed value of guns, dirks, and pistols was nearly twice that of the libraries and five times that of the farm implements of the state.’ For there continued the race problem to set the Southerners apart as a peculiar people. In many neighbourhoods the blacks outnumbered the whites two to one, three to one, four to one, and in the Yazoo bottom lands of Mississippi as many as fifteen to one. Their presence was viewed as a peril. It continued to be viewed as a peril during the twenty years following 1880, though the South became more and more a modem industrial community.

During that period Northern capital flowed in to draw iron and coal from the South's mines, to build factories along its streams, to spin a web of railways over its territory, to gather more and more its population into the humming hives of cities. The stagnation of the years immediately following the war gave way to an alerter life. Hopelessness and despondency waned gradually. With leisure and an interest in literature came visions of new beauty, a new-found joy in life, an impulse to share with others the creations of one's mind and spirit. Yet it was even more due to the Northern periodical and the Northen publisher that in the seventies and still more in the eighties the South found a voice in literature. That voice, in prose, spoke at first in the sonorous accents of the antebellum orator. Only as means of publication were multiplied and made more available did it take on the natural tones of everyday [316] use. Poetry in the seventies tended to give way to prose fiction.1

Of course, those who had written before the war still tried to gain a livelihood from the pen, but they continued the manner and traditions of the Old South. John Esten Cooke,2 for example, carried on in Virginia the tradition of the school of Scott and Cooper, then elsewhere becoming archaic. George William Bagby (1828-83),3 also of Virginia, renewed his newspaper productions and added the lyceum to his resources. But so intense a lover of the Old Dominion and its civilization could suffer no sea-change even in the fiery baptism of war. He tried to deliver his lecture The Virginia negro in New York, but the reception was unmistakably cool. Life ‘befoa de war’ had not yet become for the North a charming memory from a land of romance.

Richard Malcolm Johnston (1822-98)4 in his various writings evinces an equal devotion to the earlier times before the railroad came to central Georgia. They form a sympathetic record of the ways and characters of that humble but picturesque era. Johnston, though a slave-holder, was unwaveringly opposed to secession and the war. Nevertheless, reduced by the surrender at Appomattox from an estate of fifty thousand dollars to poverty, to him the situation seemed so hopeless that he removed, with the school he kept, to Baltimore. The autobiography, the eighty stories, and the three novels which he there produced, it is interesting to note, were written largely to assuage a sad longing for his boyhood home. These writings show him to have been, in spite of his political opinions, of the old school of Southern gentlemen.

More typical both in opinions and in fervour was Charles Colcock Jones, Jr. (1831-93). Born in Savannah, he graduated from Princeton in 1852 and the Harvard Law School in 1855. His Southern convictions, however, still intact, were intensified by his service in the artillery of the Confederate States. When the guns were stilled by the surrender of Lee, he, like Johnston, joined that numerous caravan which, seeing no hope in its own section, sought fortune in other regions. New York and the practice of law were his goals. [317] Although he remained North twelve years, he moved no jot nor tittle from his early point of view. On his return south in 1877 to a suburb of Augusta, Georgia, he became at once conspicuous for his devotion to the Lost Cause, and when he died in 1893, his body, wrapped in the flag of the Confederacy, was given a soldier's burial.

The style and the spirit of his numerous public addresses may be seen in a single sentence taken from Sons of Confederate Veterans, delivered so late as 1891:

Under the absurd guise of a New South, flaunting the banners of utilitarianism,—lifting the standards of speculation and expediency, —elevating the colors whereon are emblazoned consolidation of wealth and centralization of government,—lowering the flag of intellectual, moral, and refined supremacy in the presence of the petty guidons of ignorance, personal ambition and diabolism,— supplanting the iron cross with the golden calf,—and crooking

the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning

not a few there are who, ignoring the elevating influence of heroic impulses, manly endeavor, and virtuous sentiments, would fain convert this region into a money-worshiping domain; and, careless of the landmarks of the fathers, impatient of the restraints of a calm, enlightened, conservative civilization, viewing with indifferent eye the tokens of Confederate valor, and slighting the graves of Confederate dead, would counsel no oblation save at the shrine of Mammon.

This turgid style was much admired for the magniloquent swing of the phrases and the unending procession of lofty and sectional notions. It so well comported with his tall, stately figure and Chesterfieldian manners that he employed it even in his history of the aboriginal, colonial, and Revolutionary epochs of Georgia. The book was the product of careful research in the records then available, so that Bancroft hailed the author as ‘the Macaulay of the South.’ But he is a Macaulay muffled in a pompous dress. His Antiquities of the Southern Indians, particularly of the Georgia Tribes, which appeared so early as 1873, along with many other monographs established his reputation as an archaeologist. He was, indeed, the most fertile Southern author of the period. His publications numher [318] eighty, including fourteen books, ten pamphlets, twenty-two magazine articles, and twenty-nine addresses. His indefatigable industry demonstrated the energy and the diligence of the old order, yet his writings are characteristically aristocratic and grandiose when compared with the more scientific researches of later scholars like John Bell Henneman (1864– 1908), whose voluminous editorial labours represent very well the activity of the new generation.

Strange to say, the breath of the new era first faintly stirred those who had been in the thick of the fight. It was, perhaps, not so strange that men like Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-94) and Benjamin Harvey Hill (1823-82) should be reconciled to the outcome. Vance was not only a strong Union man but he opposed secession with all the fire of his oratory until the moment that he heard of the attack on Sumter. It seems natural, then, that after the war he should sing again the glories of the Union, one and indivisible. His Sketches of North Carolina, however, which had appeared serially in The Norfolk landmark, show much the same fond longing for the past which charms in Johnston and Bagby. Hill in Georgia fought for the preservation of national unity even in the secession convention, yet, once in the war, he was as fervent in the support of the Confederacy. This fervour was intensified by the Reconstruction policy of the National Government. His Notes on the situation in 1869 were vitriolic in their denunciation. Much of this belligerent attitude appears in his speeches in Congress. They have a narrative quality which, though less lofty, is more telling than the ringing rhetoric of some of his peers.

The case of General John Brown Gordon (1832-1904) is even more memorable. His brilliant record in the Confederate armies was closed by his generous address to his soldiers after the surrender at Appomattox, in which he exhorted them to bear their trials bravely, to go home in peace, to obey the laws, to rebuild the country, and to work for the weal and harmony of the Republic. In spite of the iniquities of Reconstruction, his political career was instinct with the same chivalrous spirit, which found its most widely echoing expression in that speech in the Senate in 1893 when he pledged the South to maintain law and order. His Reminiscences of the Civil War, with [319] its oratorical swing and fluency, diffused throughout the North that generous recognition of the foe and that proud acceptance of the result which have overcome the passions of sectionalism on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line.

The noblest example of this reconciling spirit among antebellum leaders is Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825– 93). Born and reared in Georgia, and a strict disciple of Calhoun, he removed at the age of twenty-four to Mississippi, which eventually became his home. So thoroughly imbued was he with the justice of the extreme Southern attitude that, as chairman of the Committee of Fifteen, he brought in the ordinance of secession for Mississippi. He came out of the ordeal of war with the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. But the dark years of Reconstruction fell over his soul like a pall. Pondering on the supreme necessity of getting his people into harmonious relations with the Federal Government, he saw no hope except in their going to work to restore their material prosperity and to establish their institutions of education. In 1872 he was elected a representative of Mississippi, the first Democrat of the Old South to enter the halls of Congress. To one object he was consecrated: the perfect reconciliation of the North and the South. The opportunity to remove from the North a wellnigh universal suspicion of the South and to rescue the nation from the perils of an increasing sectional hate came to him sooner than he anticipated. The death of Charles Sumner was the occasion of resolutions in both houses of Congress. On 28 April, 1874, Lamar delivered that Eulogy of Sumner which melted the distinguished audience to tears, which rang through the nation in a day, and which echoes still. Filled with the patriot's pride and faith, it revealed the Southern people to their better selves and began in the North to mitigate the estrangements of a generation. Yet the loftiness of its sentiment is not the passport to posterity which it should be. The long Southern roll of the eloquence needs the revealing tones of a voice to bring out its majesty. Frequently the sentences become for the average modern reader too far prolonged or too intricately involved to surrender their meaning at once. The same drawback may be found in Lamar's other deliverances, even the carefully prepared oration at the [320] unveiling of the Calhoun monument at Charleston. But with those who read speeches the Eulogy of Sumner will live as the noble expression of a patriot and a seer, whose gentleness and devotion will win him a bright and quiet niche in the dark and troublous vestibule of Reconstruction.

Another disciple of Calhoun, Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry (1825-1903), born in Georgia but reared in Alabama, learned at the University of Georgia to regard the Arch-Secessionist as second only to Aristotle. Going to Harvard in 1843 to study law, he was soon fired by Horace Mann with a passion for universal education. It was therefore natural, although he became a United States Congressman and a member of the Confederate Congress, that after the war he should enter educational work, in order that the youth of his section might be fitted to build worthily and helpfully in the tumble-down world that surrounded them. As agent of the Peabody and Slater Funds, he aided more than any other one man to develop an irresistible public opinion for the education of the whole people, both white and black, in the Southern States. Today the most valuable of his educational writings is the History of the Peabody education fund, which records the progress of one of the most beneficent philanthropies since the war. He is thus on the side of the constructionists as opposed to those forensic champions who revelled in the abstract notions of States' rights and liberty, but where he develops the theory of secession, as in Civil history of the government of the Confederate States or The Southern States of the American Union, there is a pugnacious reiteration of outworn arguments which will appeal chiefly to the historical student or the partisan. His numerous other writings dealing with the South, even when they utter a national spirit or retail personal experiences, lack the colour and the vigour which render Gordon's reminiscences still interesting. His life of Gladstone lacks power to portray and to analyze.

But the figures we have passed in review, revered and stately though they be, and eloquently as they avowed the new spirit of allegiance to a common country, in reality belonged to an earlier generation than that of the Reconstruction period. Those who did not, like Bagby and Johnston, sing the glories of an aristocratic civilization resting on slavery, were at least imbued, like Vance and Hill and Gordon, with the elder spirit, [321] which regarded politics as the only arena toward which ambition beckoned. Their writings are consequently concerned with lofty ideals of human rights and the limits of governmental action. They are rhythmic with the cadences of an oratory which too frequently forsook cold argument for fervid appeals to tradition and class interests. Rare was the apostle like Curry who preached the democratic necessity of developing both the black and the white races. Rarer still was the seer like Lamar who divined that the hope of the future lay in going to work to develop the material resources of the section.

Not till we reach the fascinating figure of Henry Woodfin Grady (1885-89) do we find a true representative of the new generation. He is recognized by common consent as the chief latter-day orator of his section. Born in Athens, Georgia, he grew up in the turmoil of the Civil War, often visited the camp of his father's soldiers, and could never forget the scene when Major Grady's remains were brought back from one of the last battles around Petersburg. His sunny disposition and his inexhaustible flow of animal spirits made him a general favourite with the professors at the University of Georgia, where he developed that style which was later to win him fame both South and North. After graduation he became a journalist. The journalism of Georgia, like that of the whole South, was then in a deplorable state. The State governments were still in the hands of the carpet-baggers. The editors drew what comfort they could from denouncing the Republicans as the authors of all evil. Into this sullen circle came Grady with the bright, racy humour which had captivated his classmates, with a freshness and an individuality which caused many a Georgia editor to open his eyes. His own editorial ventures were brilliant in their audacity but dismal in their financial returns. By 1875 he had dissipated his fortune. Borrowing fifty dollars, he gave twenty to his wife, and with the remainder, with characteristic impetuosity, bought a ticket to New York. There, by a single article, he won the position of Southern correspondent of the New York Herald. His reports of the South Carolina riots of 1876 and of the Florida election frauds of the same year were so graphic and complete that they established his future. In 1879 he was enabled to purchase a quarter interest in The [322] Atlanta Constitution, a medium through which he impressed himself upon his state and his section.

In 1886, by reason of a speech on The New South delivered 22 December before the New England Society of New York City, he became the spokesman of the new era, and the title of that speech became the watchword of a vast movement. Though it aroused the ire of the old school, as seen above in the denunciation of ‘the banners of utilitarianism’ by Charles Colcock Jones, Jr., it expressed a new sense of the economic basis of society and of the social conditions which must obtain more and more in the regenerated South. Some of his later speeches are notable. The South and her problem, delivered in Dallas, 26 October, 1887, and The farmer and the cities, at Elberton, Georgia, in June, 1889, show him as the evangel of the new gospel to his own section. His treatment of the negro problem before the Boston Merchants' Association in December, 1889, was more cogent in argument than his other addresses, but less ardent in appeal. Yet one of the auditors characterized it as ‘a cannon-ball in full flight, fringed with flowers.’ Weakened by his exertions on this trip in the unexpected cold of the Northern winter, he returned to Atlanta to die 23 December, 1889.

One singular feature of Grady's career, and one significant of the new era, was that he never held public office. His ambition shows the change which had come over the spirit of the South:

My ambition is a simple one. I shall be satisfied with the labors of my life if, when those labors are over, my son, looking abroad upon a better and grander Georgia—a Georgia that has filled the destiny God intended her for—when her towns and cities are hives of industry, and her country-side the exhaustless fields from which their stores are drawn—when every stream dances on its way to the music of spindles, and every forest echoes back the roar of the passing train—when her valleys smile with abundant harvests, and from her hillsides come the tinkling of bells as her herds and flocks go forth from their folds—when more than two million people proclaim her perfect independence and bless her with their love—I shall be more than content, I say, if my son, looking upon such scenes as these, can stand up and say: ‘My father bore a part in this work, and his name lives in the memory of this people.’


This ambition dictated the character of his journalism and the substance of his speeches. In his newspaper he endeavoured without shadow of turning to draw attention to the material resources of the South and to develop her industries. In his speeches he displayed even greater brilliancy, fervour, and versatility in presenting the various phases of the topic. Incapable of rancour himself, he with magnanimous sincerity and a whole heart endeavoured to remove the barriers to harmony and co-operation between the sections. In short, he became the orator of the peacemakers.

This purpose in part explains the form of those addresses. He was delivering an appeal to his public, not conducting a legal argument. He was moving his auditors to a new point of view, not convincing them of a scientific truth. He threw into the effort all the ardour of a generous and enthusiastic nature. The pictures of his fancy, the constant balancing of phrases and ideas, the play of wit and humour and pathos were employed with the instinctive effectiveness of one who has learned to sway audiences. They reflect, too, in many ways the sonorous models of Southern oratory that formed the pattern and ideal for his youthful attempts. Yet there is a greater definiteness of thought, a closer linking of word and idea, on the whole a simpler and more vivid style than obtained in the old school. To the ears of the sophisticated, of course, his periods are cloying in their fluency. To thousands of untutored youths all over the South, on the other hand, his words have seemed the echoes of a silver tongue flowing like the honey of Hybla. His picture of ‘a country home, a quiet, modest house, sheltered by great trees,’ his vision of the returning Confederate soldier, ‘this hero in gray with the heart of gold,’ have been declaimed from hundreds of school and college platforms all over the South. His continued popularity proves that his sentiment was not merely a device for moving an audience but was the outpouring of Grady's real nature, full of quick sympathy and unfathomed tenderness. In character and disposition Grady belonged with the Old South; in vision and purpose he was the herald of the New.

No account of the New South in literature would be complete without notice of the life and writings of Booker T. Washington5 [324] (1859-1915). He was not only a product of Reconstruction but he contributed much to the progress and prosperity of his section in the new era. Born two or three years before the war on a Virginia plantation, his mother a slave, his father he knew not who, he a few years after the war joined in that rush for an education which seized great numbers of the freedmen. The acuteness of that struggle, the inspiring tenacity with which it was maintained, form one of the bright pages in that dark period. When he had completed his studies in Hampton, he turned aside from the opportunities for political preferment which lured many of his race to destruction, and devoted his days and his nights to the upbuilding of his fellow freedmen. In 1881 he was called to the obscure village of Tuskegee in Alabama to take charge of what was to be a normal school for coloured people. Thereafter his name and Tuskegee became synonymous for negro progress. For he there worked out with dauntless persistence a scheme for education which would fit the negro to his actual surroundings. Consecrating all of his vast energy to that cause, he became long before his death the foremost representative of his race in the world, a writer known in every section of his own country, and one of the most eloquent speakers of his generation.

Of his addresses, typical is the five-minute speech delivered at the Atlanta exposition 17 September, 1895, which made him the recognized leader of his race. Aside from the fact that it presented a platform so simple, yet so fundamental in its assumptions, that both black and white could stand thereon, it illustrates well the guiding principles of his rhetoric, that every word shall mean something. There is in it little of that fatally easy use of superlatives, that sonorous succession of periods, which so tickled the ears of old-time audiences. There is little of the habitual resort to cunning balance and alliteration which even Grady constantly introduced to secure his effects. It is simple, direct, vivid, yet sustained by a high devotion to the future of his race. Not only in its message but in its style it speaks of the New South.

His writings display the same characteristics. Of these, his autobiography, consisting of Up from slavery and Working with hands, forms one of the noblest records America has to show. Up from slavery in particular, the annals of his childhood [325] and rise to fame, with its mingled pathos and humour, its etching of the past, its modest story of a quiet but heart-stirring achievement, has already become one of the classics of its type. Of his other voluminous writings, dealing almost exclusively with the colored race, weighty is The future of the American negro, which contains his views on the enigma which ever confronts the South. Not founding his argument on those lofty conceptions of right and justice which aroused such fanatical zeal before the war, but with a sanity of outlook upon the industrial situation in the South and an unclouded vision of the progress of his race in the past and of the necessary steps in future advance, he discusses the various aspects of the problem with a dispassionate but illuminating calm. Though his contact with the more steadfast and aspiring kind of negro may have filled him with undue hope, yet no reader can fail to admire his self-forgetful devotion to his race, or refuse to accord him a high place among the prose writers of the New South.

The poets, also, represent the effects of Reconstruction on literature in the South. They belonged to a younger generation. They felt in their own persons the wreck of their section. Their outlook upon life and their practice of their art were formed or deeply changed by the hopeless struggles of reconstruction and restoration. Their more sensitive souls felt and recorded the underlying attitudes of their generation. Both their lives and their writings merit close attention.

The first voices were proud and defiant. They echoed in more poignant phrases the Berserker rage of the Southern editorial columns. Most notable of these myriad voices of the press was Carlyle McKinley (1847-1904), of the Charleston News and Courier. At fifteen he forsook the quiet campus of the University of Georgia and distinguished himself by bravery in the trenches before Sherman at Atlanta. Like most Southern youths after the war, he drifted about for a time between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born. In 1875 he joined the staff of the News and Courier, and after a brief excursion into commercial life in New York he returned in 1881 as associate editor, where in failing health he remained the rest of his days.

His prose was greatly admired, especially his An appeal to Pharaoh (1889), an argument for deportation, a solution of the [326] negro problem to which thousands of Southerners in the early despair of Reconstruction turned with hope, until the enthusiasm of Grady and the doctrine of Booker T. Washington brought to light a more adequate economic and sociological basis.

Nevertheless, it is in poetry that the man and the period are revealed. Not only did McKinley love the South with his whole heart, but the Lost Cause was dear to him in a passionate degree. Early in Reconstruction his At Timrod's grave voiced the complaint of Southern poets:

For singing, Fate hath given sighs,
For music, we make moan.

His undaunted demeanour under the manifold injustices of Reconstruction speaks for his state and his section. Typical is his South Carolina;1876:
They've wasted all her royal dower;
They've wrought her wrong with evil power;
And is she faint, or doth she cower?
—She scorns them in her weakest hour!

She bides her time—a patient Fate!
Her sons are gathering in the gate!
She knows to counsel and to wait,
And vengeance knoweth no ‘too late.’

In later years he came to take refuge in poetry from the distresses of life, to find in it an anodyne. Probably the best example of this mood, Sapelo, illustrates not only the finish of his verse, which lifts him above the rhymesters of his section, but at the same time the lack of that inspiration or individual power which would give him a secure place in the poetical annals of our country.

It is individuality of style that strikingly distinguishes another Reconstruction poet who could never forget the Lost Cause and who sought solace in the realms of poesy. John Banister Tabb (1845-1909) was born and reared at The Forest, a plantation near Richmond. The only blemish on the bright untroubled period of his boyhood with a loved mother and kind tutors was weakness of the eyes, which at the age of twelve an occulist pronounced incurable. His youthful passions were [327] poetry and music, yet when the conflict came he soon forsook these nymphs to fly to arms and war. In 1862 he entered the navy as a captain's clerk and after two years of service was captured on a blockade runner and confined to Point Lookout Prison. There Sidney Lanier's flute-playing made the two men firm friends for life. Unlike Lanier, however, Tabb could not forget the prison and the victorious Northern armies which dispersed his wealth. In the blank years following the war he first studied music and then resigned himself to teaching. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1884, but remained in St. Charles College at Ellicott City, Maryland, till his death, for as teacher of literature, especially of his favourite poets, Poe, Keats, and Shelley, he was eminently successful. His total blindness in 1906 he bore with equanimity until his death in 1909.

His career reveals the character of his mind. He was detached from life and sought to pierce below its aspects to the soul beneath. Nature, to be sure, he loved. His memory dwelt fondly on the Virginia scenery of his boyhood, the rolling slopes and ‘smooth-sliding’ streams, the kildee and the wood-robin of that Utopian period. In Maryland he liked to take walks and come back with flowers and leaves. More than thirty birds are celebrated in his poems. Yet even when they stir the deepest emotion these voices of nature speak to him of some facet of human life. The call of the robin in the waning daylight reminds him of the shadowy but inevitable approach of Death:

Come, ere oblivion speed to me, flying
Swifter than thou.

It is his underlying philosophy that God speaks to man through the multiform aspects of nature; that

Love, of sweet Nature the Lord,
Hath fashioned each manifold chord
To utter His visible Word;

that the poet acts merely as interpreter. Indeed, so intent is Tabb on the thought symbolized that he comes to find loveliness in nature only as its aspects may be interpreted. More [328] than that, everywhere in his unformulated but profoundly-felt philosophy,—and not in mere figure of speech,—all the outwardly beautiful objects in nature live and breathe and have their being in God as much as we. Almost might St. Francis of Assisi have written Brotherhood:
Knew not the Sun, sweet Violet,
The while he gleaned the snow,
That thou in darkness sepulchred,
Wast slumbering below?
Or spun a splendor of surprise
Around him to behold thee rise?

Saw not the Star, sweet Violet,
What time a drop of dew
Let fall his image from the sky
Into thy deeper blue?
Nor waxed he tremulous and dim
When rival Dawn supplanted him?

And dreamest thou, sweet Violet,
That I, the vanished Star,
The Dewdrop, and the morning Sun,
Thy closest kinsmen are—
So near that, waking or asleep,
We each and all thine image keep?

Quite in keeping with this detachment from mundane affairs, this preoccupation with the abstract relationships of life, is Tabb's absorption in the dogmas of the Church. That they should have engaged his imagination so deeply reveals the strength of his other-worldliness, the extent to which he fled from the ordinary interests of men. One human feeling, however, he displayed in a beautiful degree—friendship. His affection for Sidney Lanier in particular was one of the bright strands in his life. Their few months together in prison reveal an affinity between them that was not dimmed by the lapse of years.

Yet, as we shall see, their poetic styles were in sharp contrast. An English critic has compared ‘the long, voluminous, rushing flow of Lanier with the minute, delicately carved work’ of Tabb rather to the credit of Tabb, who, he says, ‘piping on [329] his flute can do things which Lanier's great four-manual organ could never accomplish.’ It surely will be conceded that Tabb's poetic manner is as individual as Lanier's. Yet his first poems in 1883, some nineteen lyrics and a few sonnets, reveal little of this originality or indeed of poetical promise. The shortest poems were in ten lines, whereas his later style tends to quatrains. Working in such small compass, he has polished his technique to a point near perfection. The diction is of extreme simplicity. The measures flow on without a ripple. The figures are suggested in the most concise phrasing. In short, his poems are a series of the most delicate cameos. Contrast and endless comparison are the basis of his style, which is largely coloured by the frequency of scriptural allusions, the constant introduction and personification of abstract ideas, and the subtle intermixture of symbolism. He was so wrapped up in his poetic fancies that his figures often pass over into conceits. Who else could give to the spiritual inquiry ‘Is thy servant a dog?’ such a turn as this:

So must he be who, in the crowded street,
Where shameless Sin and flaunting Pleasure meet,
Amid the noisome footprints finds the sweet
Faint vestiges of Thy feet.

In his Child's verse the effect is natural enough, for his puns, no matter how far fetched they appear to the sober eye, there strike one as flashes of wit. But in serious poetry the effect is different. The mind hardly has time to link the symbol and the interpretation. The compression does not permit full grasp of the significance.

In spite of these shortcomings, however, we must concede that Father Tabb, though he lived constantly in a rarefied religious atmosphere, far removed from the daily interests of man, yet was endowed with an ear sensitive to those overtones which escape most men and that he was often visited with those intuitions which reveal nooks of beauty, aspects of cheer. Though his lute was of few strings, he played it with exquisite tone.

Another class of Reconstruction poets felt less keenly the sting of defeat. Some in fact came to catch the new national spirit and have even expressed in poetry their devotion to the [330] common flag. Verse was for them not so much an avenue of escape from the cares and tribulation of this life as a means of self-expression. A humble and rather negative representative is John Henry Boner (1845-1903), whom North Carolina now claims as her chief poet of the period, although in Reconstruction times she drove him from her borders. Coming from a quite different class of society from that of Tabb or McKinley, he found it easy to become a Republican after the war. Not till his demise did his fellow citizens forgive him. In 1870, when, after a campaign that approached civil war, a Democratic governor was elected, the Republicans took care of Boner by placing him in the Government Printing Office in Washington, for which he was fitted by his earlier trade as printer; but when the Democrats again gained control of the national government, Boner was dismissed on the ground of offensive partisanship. Fortunately his poetry had won him the ear of Edmund Clarence Stedman, who obtained for him in New York various tasks of compilation. He eventually became editor of The literary Digest, which he conducted with ability until his resignation in 1897.

All this time, however, he cherished memories of the South and the scenes of his boyhood. In particular, the theme that pleased Stedman, the music of the pines as the wind sighed through them or the moon rose beyond them, haunted him with a gentle yearning. The Light'ood fire lightens his memory with fond pictures. Crismus times is come is an unusually faithful representation of the negro character and religion. These effusions are carefully finished. The versification is smooth, often liquid. The descriptive passages are clear and sometimes vivid. The tone of melancholy that pervades his best efforts casts the charm of subdued light over both the measures and the man. Nevertheless, Boner is deficient in imagination, and adds no new note, no original element, to American verse. He will consequently live as a poet of one poem—Poe's cottage at Fordham. The subject enlisted a deeper interest than even the events of Boner's own life and much deeper than the swirling progress of his adopted section. The lines well up from a sympathy that interprets and enshrines. They flow with a haunting melody worthy of the magician in metre whom they celebrate. [331]

Less sectional, more completely national in spirit, was Robert Burns Wilson (1850-1916). He was endowed with a double gift—the gifts of painting and poetry, each of them genuine. It must be conceded that he did not have to break the shackles of sectionalism. Born in Pennsylvania and moving early to Virginia, he looked back, not on memories of conflict, but on scenes of quiet peace. He early studied art. At barely twenty he received further impetus while on a canoe trip with John W. Alexander. Much of his later success may be attributed to Alexander's influence and assistance. In painting he sought ‘to catch the passing and elusive things in nature, which do not sit for their pictures.’ It is just the mood and feeling of these evanescent aspects of nature which form the substance of his poetry. Visions of Kentucky woods and fields float by on the wings of music, but there is usually some melancholy cadence or echo in the strain. The most famous, and probably the best of his poems, When evening Cometh on, is characteristic of his method of presenting pictures suffused with emotion in order to create a dominant mood. In spite of the variety of measures which he employs, there is a weakness in his repetition of similar themes in successive volumes.

During the Spanish-American War Wilson made clear how truly the South had become national. His Remember the Maine not only occupied the front page of the New York Herald but was reprinted all over the country. His Such is the death the soldier dies, which appeared originally in The Atlantic monthly, was at once welcomed for the gentle pathos of its picture and its sentiment. Many stirring and martial poems by other Southerners attest the genuineness of the national spirit which had followed the dark and bitter days of Reconstruction. Not by any surcease of sorrow but by the genuine fire of a new vision did Southern poetry bud forth into a patriotic cry. The days of McKinley and his South Carolina—1876 had given way to the new conception of a united country and eager, confident prospects for the future.

The most salient figure in this change, in fact the most distinguished man of letters of the New South, is Sidney Lanier, who, like Wilson, was endowed with a double gift—music and poetry. He was born in Macon, Georgia, 3 February, 1846. [332] His father was a lawyer of undistinguished abilities but of cultured and literary tastes. His mother was devotedly religious, and reared her family in the strict Presbyterian faith. His grandfather's hotel, the Lanier House, was the centre of a cordial, hospitable social life. The city of Macon, a prosperous commercial centre, counted among its citizens many wealthy plantation owners but few who aspired to higher education or intellectual achievement. Even his father's literary interests seem to have been confined to Shakespeare and Addison and Sir Walter Scott—to the items of that self-sufficient culture which reigned everywhere in the South before the Civil War.

Although Scott and Froissart fired Lanier's young mind with ideals of chivalry, the thing which set him apart from the Macon school boys was his remarkable musical ability. At seven he had made himself a reed flageolet, and on receiving a flute at Christmas he soon organized quartets and bands among his playfellows. Indeed, it was because of his leadership in serenading parties at Oglethorpe, which he had entered shortly before his fifteenth birthday, that his father brought him home to spend a year in the Macon post office. When he returned to Oglethorpe as a junior he began to play the violin with such effect that he would at times lose consciousness for hours. His father, fearing this stimulation, induced him to return to the flute and discouraged him as much as possible from devotion to music. The result is seen in the boy's journal:

The prime inclination—that is, natural bent (which I have checked, though) of my nature is to music, and for that I have the greatest talent; indeed, not boasting, for God gave it me, I have an extraordinary musical talent, and feel it within me plainly that I could rise as high as any composer. But I cannot bring myself to believe that I was intended for a musician, because it seems so small a business in comparison with other things which, it seems to me, I might do.

His later life seems to bear out the assumption that America, by his father's solicitude and the social pressure of Southern opinion at the time, was deprived of another distinguished name in music. [333]

The life at Oglethorpe was a period of intellectual advance for Lanier. The major influence was exerted by James Woodrow of the department of science, who took the boy on long rambles, or on long drives, when the two of them would talk about everything either of them was interested in. Woodrow thought so much of Lanier that he secured for him an appointment as tutor. Better still, he gave the future poet a zest for science that remained with him to the end, and a vision of the intellectual life which shaped his aspirations and his future conduct. Giving up music as a possible career, Lanier resolved to spend two years in Heidelberg and to return to a professorship in some American college.

Then came the cataclysm of Civil War, and with it for Lanier a period of storm and stress that tossed him this way and that for a dozen years. At the outbreak he was enthusiastic at the prospect of a South more wealthy than history had yet seen. Macon, he thought, was to become a great art centre whose streets were to be lined with marble statues like unto Athens of old. At the close of the college year he, like nearly all the other teachers and the students of Oglethorpe, enlisted for service. The war itself was not an unmixed evil to Lanier. Although he saw some exciting service as a signalman along the James River, he was for three years allowed ample time for study and for cherishing that passion for the very highest which grew with his years. He now began to contemplate a literary life as his vocation. To his father he wrote in 1864, ‘Gradually I find that my whole soul is merging itself into this business of writing, and especially of writing poetry.’ He began his novel, Tiger Lilies, and sent several poems to his father for criticism. In 1864, however, he was transferred to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he served as signal officer on the blockade runners. In November he was captured in the Gulf Stream and sent to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland. There he continued to play the flute, which won him the friendship of Tabb. He busied himself with German poetry, but the prison conditions were so loathsome as to induce a breakdown in health. He came out emaciated to a skeleton, and when he finally reached Macon in March he fell ill and lingered near death for two months. Thereafter his life was an unavailing search for health. [334]

The fact that members of his family ‘who used to roll in wealth are, everyday, with their own hands ploughing the little patch of ground which the war has left them, while their wives do the cooking and washing,’ did not disturb him. What he felt most keenly was the intellectual stagnation of the South. Already in 1866 he was, with characteristic breadth and lack of prejudice, writing thus to a Northern friend:

You are all so alive up there, and we are all so dead down here! I begin to have serious thoughts of emigrating to your country, so that I may live a little. There is not enough attrition of mind on mind here to bring out any sparks from a man.

Even among these untoward surroundings he continued to foster his literary ambitions. In another letter he continues:
We have no newspapers here with circulation enough to excite our ambition, and, of course, the Northern papers are beyond our reach. Our literary life, too, is a lonely and somewhat cheerless one; for beyond our father, a man of considerable literary acquirements and exquisite taste, we have not been able to find a single individual who sympathized in such pursuits enough to warrant showing him our little productions—so scarce is ‘general cultivation’ here.

I am thirsty to know what is going on in the great art world up there; you have no idea how benighted we all are. I have only recently begun to get into the doings of literary men through ‘The Round Table’ which I have just commenced taking.

That journal not only satisfied his thirst for the doings of the great world but helped to foster the national spirit which he was to voice more clearly than other poets of his section, and to fire his own ambition for a literary career. Several of his earlier poems appeared in its pages.

To the same inspiration may be traced his visit to New York in 1867 to find a publisher for Tiger Lilies. Possibly it was the reputation he gained from its publication which caused him to marry in the face of the precarious future. The setting up of the state governments under the Reconstruction Act of 1867 made the prospect for him, as for hundreds of others, even darker and more discouraging. Despairing [335] of earning a living by his pen, and seeing that Southern colleges were so poor as ‘to hold out absolutely no inducement in the way of support to a professor,’ he yielded in January, 1869, to his father's solicitation and betook himself to the study of law.

The work in the law office kept him very busy. He did indeed write a few humorous dialect poems, published in various local papers, but in general his resignation was that expressed in a letter to Paul Hamilton Hayne in 1870:

I've not put pen to paper, in the literary way, for a long time. How I thirst to do so, how I long to sing a thousand various songs that oppress me, unsung,—is inexpressible. Yet, the mere work that brings bread gives me no time. I know not, after all, if this is a sorrowful thing. Nobody likes my poems, except two or three friends,—who are themselves poets, and can supply themselves!

But music regained its ascendancy over him. Letters to his wife written in 1869, 1870, and 1871, on visits to New York, reveal the intensity of his pleasure in a violin solo, or the singing of Nilsson, or Theodore Thomas's orchestra, where he plunged into an amber sea of music and came away from what he felt might have been heaven.

The turning point of his life came in San Antonio, Texas, whither he went in the winter of 1872-3 for his health. He filled in part of his time there with literary projects, but the inspiration of his stay was found in a group of German musicians, who received ‘amid a storm of applause’ his flute-playing before the Maennerchor. In February, 1873, he played before ‘a very elegant-looking company of ladies and gentlemen.’ He reported:

I had not played three seconds before a profound silence reigned among the people. ... When I allowed the last note to die, a simultaneous cry of pleasure broke forth from men and women that almost amounted to a shout, and I stood and received the congratulations that thereupon came in, so wrought up by my own playing with (hidden) thoughts, that I could but smile mechanically, and make stereotyped returns to the pleasant sayings, what time my heart worked falteringly, like a mouth that is about to cry.

[336] Two weeks later he wrote:
I have writ the most beautiful piece ‘Field-larks and Blackbirds,’ wherein I have mirrored Mr. Field-lark's pretty eloquence so that I doubt he would know the difference betwixt the flute and his own voice.

In the summer he confessed to Hayne:
Are you, by the way, a musician? Strange, that I have never before asked this question,—when so much of my own life consists of music. I don't know that I've ever told you, that whatever turn I have for art is purely musical; poetry being, with me, a mere tangent into which I shoot sometimes. I could play passably on several instruments before I could write legibly; and since then, the very deepest of my life has been filled with music, which I have studied and cultivated far more than poetry.

Inspired with this new faith, he again repaired to New York, this time determined to settle his future. He revelled in the musical associations which he quickly formed. By November he had been engaged by Asger Hamerik for the position of first flute in the new Peabody Orchestra forming in Baltimore. On 29 November he wrote his declaration of independence to his father:

Why should I, nay, how can I, settle myself down to be a third-rate struggling lawyer for the balance of my little life as long as there is a certainty almost absolute that I can do some other thing so much better. Several persons, from whose judgment there can be no appeal, have told me, for instance, that I am the greatest flute-player in the world; and several others, of equally authoritative judgment, have given me an almost equal encouragement to work with my pen. . . . My dear father, think how for twenty years, through poverty, through pain, through weariness, through sickness, through the uncongenial atmosphere of a farcical college and of a bare army and then of an exacting business life, through all the discouragements of being wholly unacquainted with literary people and literary ways—I say, think how, in spite of all these depressing circumstances, and of a thousand more which I could enumerate, those two figures of music and poetry have steadily kept in my heart so that I could not banish them. Does it not seem to you as to me, that I begin to have a right to enroll myself among the [337] devotees of those two sublime arts, after having followed them so long and so humbly, and through so much bitterness.

Thus he entered upon the third and final period of his life, one of feverish activity. During the winter succeeding his great resolution he grew rapidly in the intellectual grasp of music. He had the soul of an artist, and gradually acquired the technical skill to bring the most out of his instrument. Still the strength of his renderings always resided in the emotion he imparted. His conductor testifies:

His conception of music was not reached by any analytical study of note by note, was intuitive, spontaneous; like a woman's reason: he felt it so, because he felt it so, and his delicate perception required no more logical form of reasoning. His playing appealed to the musically learned and unlearned—for he would mesmerize the listener; but the artist felt in his performance the superiority of the momentary living inspiration to all the rules and shifts of mere technical scholarship.

The next year he still yearned for a musical career. He told Dr. Leopold Damrosch, then conductor of the Philharmonic Society of New York, that music ‘is not a matter of mere preference, it is a spiritual necessity. I must be a musician, I cannot help it.’ But the conference with Damrosch impressed Lanier with the great handicap he suffered in lack of thorough technical training. Though he continued to gain intense joy from music, literature more and more occupied his thoughts and monopolized his time.

In February, 1875, Corn, which he had conceived the preceding summer and had rewritten during the winter, appeared in Lippincott's magazine. It was one of the earliest Southern poems to receive publication in a Northern periodical. Notable, too, is the fact that the verses are not an effort to escape into some dreamland but the presentation of a widespread problem of Georgia agriculture.

Corn attracted favourable attention, notably from Gibson Peacock, editor of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Within a month Lanier was at work on a second ambitious poem, The Symphony, which appeared in June, and which brought him the friendship of Bayard Taylor. The firm of Lippincott [338] was able to fill Lanier's time with hackwork. The whole summer was spent in preparing ‘a sort of spiritualized guidebook’ to Florida. Yet he was happy. He wrote of himself as one

who, after many days and nights of tribulation and bloody sweat, has finally emerged from all doubt into the quiet and yet joyful activity of one who knows exactly what his Great passion is and what his God desires him to do. As for me, life has resolved simply into a time during which I must get upon paper as many as possible of the poems with which my heart is stuffed like a schoolboy's pocket.

When at the instance of Bayard Taylor he was appointed to write the cantata for the Centennial Exposition to be held in Philadelphia, he was jubilant. His patriotic fervour produced also The Psalm of the West. A place among American poets he challenged by bringing out a slender volume of poems late in the same year.

Because of a severe illness he was ordered South for the winter of 1876-7, but there he continued to throw off ‘a sort of spray of little songs’ and to hope for ‘that repose which ought to fill the artist's firmament while he is creating.’

The four remaining years of his life were spent in an unavailing search for that repose. He endeavoured to make sure where next week's dinners were coming from before carrying out his ambitions for creative work. He continued his connection with the Peabody Orchestra, but his chief endeavour turned him aside, this time into the field of scholarship. He wandered about in Old and Middle English, and ranged far in the Elizabethan period. These enthusiastic studies resulted in lectures at the Peabody Institute, and in 1879 in his appointment as lecturer in Johns Hopkins University. The science of English verse and The English novel are the products of those two years, besides some books for boys and many poems. But consumption had made such advances that it was feared that he would not live to complete his last series of lectures. Indeed, those who listened to him momentarily feared that he would not survive to the end of the hour. In May, 1881, he was taken to the mountains of North Carolina, where he died 7 September. [339]

What shall be said of the product of this eager and varied effort? Shall we lament the incompleteness and immaturity of a life fourteen years longer than Keats's and ten years longer than Shelley's? Shall we bemoan the constant battle with disease, which yet left to Stevenson the energy for an exquisitely wrought style? Shall we bewail the hard necessity of winning his daily bread in a land devastated by civil war and depressed by corrupt government, and the consequent removal to a more congenial and invigorating clime far from friends and family? Or shall we endeavour merely to disengage the essential characteristics and achievements of this troublous activity, so that his contribution to our American heritage may stand out clear?

He did, of course, engage in too much hackwork for his own good or his reputation. Yet so exuberant was his activity that he dispatched all of these tasks with zest. His ‘sort of spiritualized guide-book’ to Florida contains many descriptions over which he must have lingered and which bear witness to a quick eye and a rich humour. He puts into the whole book, too, much of himself, his love of music, his over-refining intellect, his relish of local tradition. His boys' books, the Froissart and King Arthur and the rest, reveal even more of the man. He had from early youth cherished a recurring interest in the deeds and heroes of chivalry. They answered to an innate knightliness of spirit which was fostered by his Southern up-bringing. He would pick up the volume as it came fresh from the printers, familiar though it was by reason of the preparation and the proof-reading, and con page after page with pure delight. In his introductions he never learned to address his young readers, but through the mature style gleams his absorption in this fresh new world of romance.

The same personal reaction appears in his critical writings. The zeal with which he pursued these researches during the last years of his life astonishes one who remembers the meagre initiation he had received at college into the methods of scholar. ship. The attainments, too, of those few years are considerable. He read with an assiduity that helped to shorten his days and with a whole-souled enthusiasm and moral earnestness that lent to his utterances much of the fluency and high seriousness of Ruskin. But even greater than Ruskin's is his tendency to wander. He did not keep the goal in view. [340] He did not sift and arrange and clarify with a dominant impression in mind. He sauntered along the broad highway, frequently wandering off into the leafy woods and lingering there intent on the strange foliage. Consequently his critical writings are an amazing collection of individual vagaries and intuitive insights. Shakespeare and his Forerunners contains such surprising pronouncements as that Drummond of Hawthornden is ‘one of the chief glories of the English tongue.’ Yet he could often divine an essential quality, as in his remark on Chaucer's works as ‘full of cunning hints and twinkle-eyed suggestions which peep between the lines like the comely faces of country children between the fence-bars as one rides by.’

The same want of the perspective and balance that come from broad and profound knowledge characterizes his lectures on The English novel. His effort to trace the conception of personality from the time of the Greeks was a perilous undertaking for one who knew so little of Greek life and was so little acquainted with the sociological implications of any such investigation. The limitations of his upbringing also militated against success. The strict Presbyterian training of his childhood as well as an inherent moral bias conspired to give him a strongly ethical view of literature:

Indeed, we may say that he who has not yet perceived how artistic beauty and moral beauty are convergent lines which run back into a common ideal origin, and who is therefore not afire with moral beauty just as with artistic beauty; that he, in short, who has not come to that state of quiet and eternal frenzy in which the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty mean one thing, burn as one fire, shine as one light within him, he is not the great artist.

Consequently he fervently wished that the novels of Fielding and Richardson might be ‘blotted from the face of the earth.’ Consequently, too, ‘in some particulars Silas Marner is the most remarkable novel in our language,’ and its author the greatest of English novelists. The preachments in which he again reminds one of Ruskin are the most interesting portions, because in them the man Lanier shines out and his cherished and innate convictions lie bare.

The most valuable critical work of Lanier is undoubtedly [341] his Science of English Verse. For the consideration of the structure of English verse he was peculiarly well prepared. His own unusually sensitive organism enabled him to respond very delicately to musical effects in verse. Besides, the early impulse to science given by Professor Woodrow in that ‘farcical college’ of his boyhood stimulated him to an investigation of the physics of sound and to a desire for reducing to law the apparent chaos of English versification. The result was pioneer work which appealed to many as the most sensible treatment of the subject which had then appeared. What differentiates this treatment from preceding ones is the insistence that the laws of music and verse are identical, that every foot represents a mathematically equal time interval. Length of interval, and not accent, is therefore the determining element in prosody. The valuable feature of this theory is that it emphasizes the relation of music and poetry and the fundamental importance of rhythm in poetry. Its unfortunate feature is that it insists too strongly on law. No such mathematical relation exists. Accent normally appears at equal time intervals and an accented syllable tends to acquire length. But Lanier wrote long before the psychological investigation of rhythm had begun. He therefore could not see the impossibility of trying to reduce to one rule all the innumerable individual senses of rhythm. Not only no two poets but no two readers would exactly coincide in their sense of rhythm. Lanier was on the right road. He merely made the mistake of taking his own sense of rhythm for a universal law.

Of his other prose writings the letters are the most important. They reveal the man with unusual fullness—the pulsating sea of emotion in which he lived, his exuberance, his passionate love of music, his wavering literary ambition, his buoyancy and humour and occasional despondency, together with his intellectual interests and preferences. Few letters written in America are more interesting. Yet on first dipping into them one is repelled by the same qualities which frequently give one pause in his other writings. The style seems highly artificial, fanciful in its imagery, strained and rhetorical in its phrasing, bookish and precious in its diction. Even in his last years he was rarely simple and direct, for he had from boyhood so steeped himself in the older writers of our tongue, Shakespeare [342] in particular, that a plain and natural way of putting things would have seemed to him insipid, inane, and inartistic. The literary glamour which he casts over his writings, which draws attention from the thought itself to some supposed felicity of expression, never entirely left him. Yet some of his later books, particularly where he is pouring forth his convictions on music, literature, and life, possess all the fluency of the Old South, without ceasing to be strong, luminous, and eloquent.

These shortcomings have been explained away on the ground that his prose is the prose of a poet. Certainly it is as a poet that he jumps to the front rank among Southern writers. The single volume of his verse, gathered with loving care by his wife three years after his death, is paramount among his writings. Upon that corer-stone must be reared whatever reputation he may attain in American letters. Yet his poetry too suffers from defects similar to those in his prose. His verse in general betrays a lack of spontaneity without obtaining that finish, that technical polish, that wedding of word and thought which Tabb achieved. There are, to be sure, moments of fine phrasing, intermittent flashes from the heaven of song:

Music is love in search of a word
For when God frowns, 'tis then ye shine.

But the general impression is of an elaborated verse, not a gush of words from the heart. Indeed, it seems to have been Lanier's practice to write out the ideas of his poems in prose before turning them into verse. Not many of his poems sang themselves over in his soul before he committed them to paper. He was, on the other hand, forever haunted by ideas for poems. As an obscure lawyer in Georgia he complained to Paul Hamilton Hayne of the ‘thousand various songs that oppress me, unsung.’ Even after he had won the ear of the nation, he wrote to Gibson Peacock:
I'm taken with a poem pretty nearly every day, and have to content myself with making a note of its train of thought on the back of whatever letter is in my pocket. I don't write it out, because I find my poetry now wholly unsatisfactory.

[343] Sometimes a poem, like The Symphony, would shake him like a James River ague until he had finished it. Sometimes he would revise patiently, as in Corn. In general it is true that he did not work in that calm serenity which might have brought him closer to perfection of form. There is one blemish, however, that no amount of revision would have eliminated. His exuberant fancy betrayed him into conceits as far fetched as ever disfigured Donne or Crashaw or Tabb. An ox in a clover field becomes ‘the Course-of-Things,’ and the rising sun is ‘the Build-fire Bee.’ He did not see the grotesqueness of such comparisons, but cultivated them as original adornments to his verse.

Some of the dissatisfaction with the form of his verse is due to his theory that the principles of music and of metrics are identical. His sense of rhythm did not allow sufficient emphasis for accent as marking the equal intervals of time. But he was, naturally, enamoured of his own theory and felt happier when he put it into practice. Of Special pleading, composed in 1875, he wrote: ‘I have allowed myself to treat words, similes, and metres with such freedom as I desired. The result convinces me I can do so safely.’ Thereafter he developed his own peculiar style more courageously, sometimes with beautiful effect, but often with the resulting impression of a straining for form. In Sunrise, for example, there is a passage descriptive of approaching dawn, beginning,

Oh, what if a sound should be made!

which is unsurpassed in American poetry for its rendering of the ecstasy in the poet's heart. Yet only a few lines above this marvellous description is a section beginning,

Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,

which illustrates how far his attention wandered from the thought in his elaboration of form, how he forgot that words are primarily symbolic, and that beauty of verse depends on poetic and beautiful thoughts.

Indeed, it must be confessed that Lanier's thought is liable on analysis to be found commonplace and prosaic. This quality is partly due to a didacticism that issued from an unswerving [344] devotion to the ideal. From his youth he cherished a longing for the very highest. How amid the uninspiring surroundings of his boyhood he should have developed this allegiance to the ‘sweet, living lands of Art’ is another of those mysteries with which the history of literature abounds. Yet there is no mystery about the moral purpose which led him to employ poetry to combat intolerance, brutality, and commercialism. It was bred into him at his mother's knee. There is no cynicism in his verse. There is a very strong religious strain. Not only does he curiously eschew all mythological allusions as being pagan in spirit, but he expresses a deeply religious view of life in many poems, as in The Crystal and that quaint but unsurpassed Ballad of trees and the master.

His idealism is also revealed in his eager intellectual interests. Here too he triumphed over his untoward surroundings, as the brief sketch of his life has indicated. Pathetic witness to this inherent bent is found in a letter to Bayard Taylor:

I could never describe to you what a mere drought and famine my life has been, as regards that multitude of matters which I fancy one absorbs when one is in an atmosphere of art, or when one is in conversational relationship with men of letters, with travellers, with persons who have either seen, or written, or done large things. Perhaps you know that, with us of the younger generation in the South since the war, pretty much the whole of life has been merely not dying.

Such complaints did not remain topics of conversation or correspondence. He sought in poetry no refuge from the hard conditions of life. Rather is he one of the leaders of the New South because he grasped at the intellectual and social problems of the time. He dealt with the necessity of planting corn for cotton, with the nascent oppression of labour by capital, with the mission of music and art. His reading of Emerson in the winter of 1876-7 revived an earlier penchant for metaphysics and led to such poems as A Florida Sunday and Individuality. If these abstruse problems are not handled with power, they at least do honour to the author's lofty purpose and sincerity of execution.

It must be conceded, too, that the profound and abiding interests of his life—love and nature—are peculiarly Southern [345] in their colouring and substance. It is characteristic that love is for him not that fleshly passion which has thrilled and burned in verse since Sappho. It is a kneeling adoration, an ideal emotion, the only love which one of his purity of life would avow. He has been well called the Sir Galahad of American literature. My springs shows how deep and sincere was the inspiration he received from his dearest partner in misfortune and ill-health. But there was mingled with the personal devotion to one woman a chivalric devotion to women which came partly from the Southern ideals of his day. There is in his poetry no better expression of this than in The Symphony.

Nature was to him almost equally dear, and even more Southern in its appeal. He found nothing within to answer to the wild and rugged majesty of the mountains. He felt no expansion of the soul in viewing the limitless plains of Texas. The broad sand-flats of Florida roused only a longing for the Georgia hills. Indeed, the only scene which called forth a love of broad, free places was the long and often viewed marshes at Brunswick, Georgia, which will go down in American literature in the eloquent and musical Marshes of Glynn. It remains true, however, that his love for nature was a delicate and passionate love, the love of an attentive and scrupulous observer of leaves and plants and the thousand minute details of the summer woods. So personal was the solace and uplifting of nature that he addressed her various forms with terms of endearment, more warm than Tabb, yet precisely like St. Francis of Assisi. He sings of the ‘fair cousin Cloud,’ the ‘friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves.’ Of himself it was true that,

With hands agrope he felt smooth nature's grace,
Drew her to breast and kissed her sweetheart face.

The Southern aspect of nature lives again in his verse.

Though his abiding interests were Southern, he was not narrowly Southern in his outlook. On the contrary, it has already been indicated that much of Lanier's distinction among Reconstruction poets lies not only in his interest in the problems of his own time but likewise his sympathy and comprehension in voicing the new idea of nationality. The [346] freedom from prejudice which led him to resume relations with a Northern friend at the close of the war, fitted him to sing the meditations of Columbia at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. There was nothing mean or narrow in his make-up. The breadth of his own soul and the exalted purpose of his life responded quickly to the new outlook before the nation. He leaped far ahead of his section in grasping and appropriating what he might of the new quickening spirit, but he was largely influential, with Lamar and Grady, in bringing the South to share in that quickening influence. He likewise revealed to the North, even before Grady, the possibilities of the recently vanquished section, and thereby hastened that spiritual rapprochement which went on steadily increasing to the end of the century, as we have seen in the patriotic glow of Wilson's poems. If Lanier had only had for poetic expression that genius which he apparently possessed for music, what position might he not have attained? With what full-throated ease then would the South at the Reconstruction period have sung out its inmost heart!

1 See Book III, Chaps. VI and XI.

2 See also Book III, Chap. XI.

3 See also Book II, Chap. XIX.

4 See also Beck III. Chap. VI.

5 See also Book III, Chap. V.

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