James Barron Hope.

A Wreath of Virginia Bay Leaves Poems of James Barron Hope online

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To the memory of the gallant little lad who bore his grandfather's
name and image - to the dear remembrance of:

_Barron Hope Marr_

His mother dedicates whatsoever there may be of worth in her effort
to show James Barron Hope, the Poet, as Virginia's Laureate, and
James Barron Hope, the Man, as he was loved and reverenced by his
household and his friends.


It has been claimed for James Barron Hope that he was "Virginia's
Laureate." He did not deal in "abstractions, or generalized arguments,"
or vague mysticisms. He fired the imagination purely, he awoke lofty
thoughts and presented, through his noble odes that which is the soul
of "every true poem, a living succession of concrete images and

James Barron, the elder, organized the Virginia Colonial Navy, of
which he was commander-in-chief during the Revolution, and his sons,
Samuel and James, served gallantly in the United States Navy. It was
from these ancestors that James Barron Hope derived that unswerving
devotion to his native state for which he was remarkable, and it was
at the residence of his grandfather, Commodore James Barron, the
younger, who then commanded the Gosport Navy-yard, that he was born
the 23d of March, 1829.

His mother, Jane Barron, was the eldest daughter of the Commodore
and most near to his regard. An attractive gentlewoman of the old
school, generous, of quick and lively sympathies, she wielded a
clever, ready pen, and the brush and embroiderer's needle in a
manner not to be scorned in those days, and was a personage in her

Her child was the child not only of her material, but of her
spiritual being, and the two were closely knit as the years passed,
in mutual affection and confidence, in tastes and aspirations.

His father was Wilton Hope of "Bethel," Elizabeth City County, a
handsome, talented man, a landed proprietor, of a family whose acres
bordered the picturesque waters of Hampton River.

He gained his early education at Germantown, Pennsylvania, and at
the "Academy" in Hampton, Virginia, under his venerated master, John
B. Cary, Esq., - the master who declares himself proud to say,
"I taught him" - the invaluable friend of all his after years.

In 1847 he graduated from William and Mary College with the degree
of A.B.

From the "Pennsylvania," upon which man-of-war he was secretary to
his uncle, Captain Samuel Barron, he was transferred to the
"Cyane," and in 1852 made a cruise to the West Indies.

In 1856 he was elected Commonwealth's attorney to the "game-cock
town of Virginia," historic and picturesque old Hampton, which was
the centre of a charming and cultivated society and which had
already claimed him as her "bard." For as Henry Ellen he had
contributed to various southern publications, his poems in "The
Southern Literary Messenger" attracting much gratifying attention.

In 1857 Lippincott brought out "Leoni di Monota and Other Poems."
The volume was cordially noticed by the southern critics of the time,
not only for its central poem, but also for several of its minor ones,
notably, "The Charge at Balaklava," which G.P.R. James - as have
others since - declared unsurpassed by Tennyson's "Charge of the
Light Brigade."

Upon the 13th of May, 1857, he stood poet at the 250th anniversary
of the English settlement at Jamestown.

As poet, and as the youthful colleague of Henry A. Wise and John R.
Thompson, he stood at the base of Crawford's statue of Washington,
in the Capitol Square, Richmond, Virginia, the 22d of February, 1858.
That same year these recited poems, together with some miscellaneous
ones were published.

Congress chose him as poet for the Yorktown Centennial, 1881, and
his "brilliant and masterly poem was a fitting companion piece to
the splendid oration delivered upon that occasion by the renowned
orator, Robert C. Winthrop."

This metrical address "Arms and the Man," with various sonnets was
published the next year. As the flower of his genius, its noble
measures only revealed their full beauty when they fell from the
lips of him who framed them, and it was under this spell that one of
those who had thronged about him that 19th of October cried out:
"Now I understand the power by which the old Greek poets swayed the
men of their generation."

Again his State called upon him to weave among her annals the
laurels of his verse at the laying of the cornerstone of the
monument erected in Richmond to Robert E. Lee. The corner-stone was
laid October, 1887, but the poet's voice had been stilled forever.
He died September the 15th, as he had often wished to die, "in
harness," and at home, and Death came swift and painless.

His poem, save for the after softening touches, had been finished
the previous day, and was recited at the appointed time and place by
Captain William Gordon McCabe.

"Memoriæ Sacrum," the Lee Memorial Ode, has been pronounced by many
his masterpiece, and waked this noble echo in a brother poet's soul:

'Like those of whom the olden scriptures tell,
Who faltered not, but went on dangerous quest,
For one cool draught of water from the well
With which to cheer their exiled monarch's breast;'

'So thou to add one single laurel more
To our great chieftain's fame - heedless of pain
Didst gather up thy failing strength and pour
Out all thy soul in one last glorious strain.'

* * * * *

"And when the many pilgrims come to gaze
Upon the sculptured form of mighty Lee,
They'll not forget the bard who sang his praise
With dying breath, but deathless melody."

"For on the statue which a country rears,
Tho' graven by no hand, we'll surely see,
E'en tho' it be thro' blinding mists of tears,
Thy name forever linked with that of Lee."

- _Rev. Beverly D. Tucker_.

His genius had flowered not out of opulence, or congenial occupation,
but out of the tread-mill of newspaper life, and under such
conditions from 1870-1887 he delivered the poem at Lynchburg's
celebration of its founding; at the unveiling of the monument raised
to Annie Lee by the ladies of Warren County, North Carolina;
memorial odes in Warrenton, Virginia, in Portsmouth, and Norfolk,
and at the Virginia Military Institute. He was the first commander
of Norfolk's Camp of Confederate Veterans, the Pickett-Buchanan, but
through all his stirring lines there breaks no discordant note of
hate or rancor. He also sent into print, "Little Stories for Little
People," and his novel "Madelon," and delivered among various
masterly addresses, "Virginia - Her Past, Present and Future," and
"The Press and the Printer's Devil."

During these years he had suffered a physical agony well-nigh past
the bearing, but which he bore with a wonderful patience and
fortitude, and not only bore, but hid away from those nearest to him.
He had brought both broken health and fortunes out of the war; for
when in 1861 the people of Hampton left the town,[1] "Its men to
join the Southern army, and its women to go in exile for four long
weary years, returning thence to find their homes in ashes, James
Barron Hope was among the first who left their household gods behind
to take up arms for their native State, and he bore his part nobly
in the great conflict."

When it ended he did not return to Hampton, or to the practice of
his profession. Instead of the law he embarked in journalism in
Norfolk, Virginia, and, despite its lack of entire congeniality,
made therefrom a career as brilliant as it was fearless and unsullied.

[Footnote: A: "They themselves applying the torch to their own homes
under the patriotic, but mistaken idea that they would thus arrest
the march of the Invaders." ("Col. Cary's address at unveiling of
monument to Captain Hope.")]


He was a little under six feet in height, slender, graceful, and
finely proportioned, with hands and feet of distinctive beauty. And
his fingers were gifted with a woman's touch in the sick-room, and
an artist's grasp upon the pencil and the brush of the water-colorist.

It was said of him that his manner was as courtly as that of
"Sir Roger de Coverly." Words which though fitly applied are but as
the bare outlines of a picture, for he was the embodiment of what
was best in the Old South. He was gifted with a rare charm. There
was charm in his pale face, which in conversation flashed out of its
deep thoughtfulness into vivid animation. His fine head was crowned
with soft hair fast whitening before its time. His eyes shone under
his broad white forehead, wise and serene, until his dauntless spirit,
or his lofty enthusiasm awoke to fire their grey depths. His was a
face that women trusted and that little children looked up into with
smiles. Those whom he called friend learned the meaning of that name,
and he drew and linked men to him from all ranks and conditions of

Beloved by many, those who guard his memory coin the very fervor of
their hearts into the speech with which they link his name.
"A very Chevalier Bayard" he was called.

Of him was quoted that noble epitaph on the great Lord Fairfax:

'Both sexes' virtues in him combined,
He had the fierceness of the manliest mind,
And all the meekness too of woman kind.'

'He never knew what envy was, nor hate,
His soul was filled with worth and honesty,
And with another thing quite out of date, called modesty.'

No sketch could approach justice toward Captain Hope without at
least a brief review of his domestic life.

In 1857 he had married Miss Annie Beverly Whiting of Hampton. Hers
were the face and form to take captive his poet's fancy, and she
possessed a character as lovely as her person; a courage and
strength of will far out of proportion to her dainty shape, and an
intellect of masculine robustness. Often the editor brought his work
to the table of his library that he might avail himself of his
wife's judgment, and labor with the faces around him that he loved,
for their union was a very congenial one, and when two daughters
came to bless it, as husband and father, he poured out the treasures
of his heart, his mind and soul. To his children he was a wise
teacher, a tender guide, an unfailing friend, the most delightful of
companions. His sympathy for and his understanding of young people
never aged, and he had a circle of dear and familiar friends of
varying ages that gathered about him once a week. There, beside his
own hearth, his ready wit, his kindly humor sparkled most brightly,
and there flowed forth most evenly that speech accounted by many
well worth the hearing. For his was also the art of listening; he
not only led the expression of thought, but inspired it in others.
His own roof-tree looked down upon James Barron Hope at his best and
down upon a home in the sacred sense of the word, for he touched
with poetry the prose of daily living, and left to those who loved
him the blessed legacy of a memory which death cannot take from them.

I have said that in his early years Old Hampton claimed him. He
became the son of the city of his adoption and sleeps among her dead.

Above his ashes rises a shaft, fashioned from the stones of the
State he loved so well which proclaims that it is "The tribute of
his friends offered to the memory of the Poet, Patriot, Scholar, and
Journalist and the Knightly Virginia Gentleman."




The Charge at Balaklava
A Short Sermon
A Little Picture
A Reply to a Young Lady
A Story of the Caracas Valley
Three Summer Studies
The Washington Memorial Ode
How it Fell Calm on Summer Night
A Friend of Mine
The Jamestown Anniversary Ode
An Elegiac Ode
The Cadets at New Market
Our Heroic Dead
Mahone's Brigade
The Portsmouth Memorial Poem - The Future Historian
Arms and The Man
The Dead Statesman
The Colonies
The New England Group
The Southern Colonies
The Old Dominion
The Oaks and the Tempest
The Embattled Colonies
Welcome to France
The Allies at Yorktown
The Ravages of War
The Lines Around Yorktown
The French in the Trenches
Nelson and the Gunners
The Beleaguered Town
Storming the Redoubts
The Two Leaders
The Beginning of the End
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
Our Ancient Allies
The Continentals
The Marquis
The Ancient Enemies
The Splendid Three
The War Horse Draws the Plough
Heroes and Statesmen
Pater Patriæ
The Flag of the Republic
The South in the Union
To Alexander Galt, the Sculptor
To the Poet-Priest Ryan
Three Names
Sir Walter Raleigh
Captain John Smith
Sunset on Hampton Roads
A King's Gratitude
"The Twinses"
Under One Blanket
The Lee Memorial Ode




Nolan halted where the squadrons,
Stood impatient of delay,
Out he drew his brief dispatches,
Which their leader quickly snatches,
At a glance their meaning catches;
They are ordered to the fray!

All that morning they had waited -
As their frowning faces showed,
Horses stamping, riders fretting,
And their teeth together setting;
Not a single sword-blade wetting
As the battle ebbed and flowed.

Now the fevered spell is broken,
Every man feels twice as large,
Every heart is fiercely leaping,
As a lion roused from sleeping,
For they know they will be sweeping
In a moment to the charge.

Brightly gleam six hundred sabres,
And the brazen trumpets ring;
Steeds are gathered, spurs are driven,
And the heavens widely riven
With a mad shout upward given,
Scaring vultures on the wing.

Stern its meaning; was not Gallia
Looking down on Albion's sons?
In each mind this thought implanted,
Undismayed and all undaunted,
By the battle-fiends enchanted,
They ride down upon the guns.

Onward! On! the chargers trample;
Quicker falls each iron heel!
And the headlong pace grows faster;
Noble steed and noble master,
Rushing on to red disaster,
Where the heavy cannons peal.

In the van rides Captain Nolan;
Soldier stout he was and brave!
And his shining sabre flashes,
As upon the foe he dashes:
God! his face turns white as ashes,
He has ridden to his grave!

Down he fell, prone from his saddle,
Without motion, without breath,
Never more a trump to waken -
He the very first one taken,
From the bough so sorely shaken,
In the vintage-time of Death.

In a moment, in a twinkling,
He was gathered to his rest;
In the time for which he'd waited -
With his gallant heart elated -
Down went Nolan, decorated
With a death wound on his breast.

Comrades still are onward charging,
He is lying on the sod:
Onward still their steeds are rushing
Where the shot and shell are crushing;
From his corpse the blood is gushing,
And his soul is with his God.

As they spur on, what strange visions
Flit across each rider's brain!
Thoughts of maidens fair, of mothers,
Friends and sisters, wives and brothers,
Blent with images of others,
Whom they ne'er shall see again.

Onward still the squadrons thunder -
Knightly hearts were their's and brave,
Men and horses without number
All the furrowed ground encumber -
Falling fast to their last slumber -
Bloody slumber! bloody grave!

Of that charge at Balaklava -
In its chivalry sublime -
Vivid, grand, historic pages
Shall descend to future ages;
Poets, painters, hoary sages
Shall record it for all time;

Telling how those English horsemen
Rode the Russian gunners down;
How with ranks all torn and shattered;
How with helmets hacked and battered;
How with sword arms blood-bespattered;
They won honor and renown.

'Twas "not war," but it was splendid
As a dream of old romance;
Thinking which their Gallic neighbors
Thrilled to watch them at their labors,
Hewing red graves with their sabres
In that wonderful advance.

Down went many a gallant soldier;
Down went many a stout dragoon;
Lying grim, and stark, and gory,
On the crimson field of glory,
Leaving us a noble story
And their white-cliffed home a boon.

Full of hopes and aspirations
Were their hearts at dawn of day;
Now, with forms all rent and broken,
Bearing each some frightful token
Of a scene ne'er to be spoken,
In their silent sleep they lay.

Here a noble charger stiffens,
There his rider grasps the hilt
Of his sabre lying bloody
By his side, upon the muddy,
Trampled ground, which darkly ruddy
Shows the blood that he has spilt.

And to-night the moon shall shudder
As she looks down on the moor,
Where the dead of hostile races
Slumber, slaughtered in their places;
All their rigid ghastly faces
Spattered hideously with gore.

And the sleepers! ah, the sleepers
Make a Westminster that day;
'Mid the seething battle's lava!
And each man who fell shall have a
Proud inscription - BALAKLAVA,
Which shall never fade away.


"He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord."

The night-wind comes in sudden squalls:
The ruddy fire-light starts and falls
Fantastically on the walls.

The bare trees all their branches wave;
The frantic wind doth howl and rave,
Like prairie-wolf above a grave.

The moon looks out; but cold and pale,
And seeming scar'd at this wild gale
Draws o'er her pallid face a veil.

In vain I turn the poet's page -
In vain consult some ancient sage -
I hear alone the tempest rage.

The shutters tug at hinge and bar -
The windows clash with frosty jar -
The child creeps closer to "Papa."

And now, I almost start aghast,
The clamor rises thick and fast,
Surely a troop of fiends drove past!

That last shock shook the oaken door.
Sounding like billows on the shore,
On such a night God shield the poor!

God shield the poor to-night, who stay
In piteous homes! who, if they pray,
Ask thee, oh God! for bread and day!

Think! think! ye men who daily wear
"Purple and linen" - ye whose hair
Flings perfume on the temper'd air.

Think! think! I say, aye! start and think
That many tremble on death's brink -
Dying for want of meat and drink.

When tatter'd poor folk meet your eyes,
Think, friend, like Christian, in this wise,
Each one is Christ hid in disguise.

Then when you hear the tempest's roar
That thunders at your carvéd door,
Know that, it knocketh for the poor.


Oft when pacing thro' the long and dim
Dark gallery of the Past, I pause before
A picture of which this is a copy -
Wretched at best.

How fair she look'd, standing a-tiptoe there,
Pois'd daintily upon her little feet!
The slanting sunset falling thro' the leaves
In golden glory on her smiling face,
Upturn'd towards the blushing roses; while
The breeze that came up from the river's brink,
Shook all their clusters over her fair face;
And sported with her robe, until methought,
That she stood there clad wondrously indeed!
In perfume and in music: for her dress
Made a low, rippling sound, like little waves
That break at midnight on the tawny sands -
While all the evening air of roses whisper'd.
Over her face a rich, warm blush spread slowly,
And she laughed, a low, sweet, mellow laugh
To see the branches still evade her hands -
Her small white hands which seem'd indeed as if
Made only thus to gather roses.
Then with face
All flushed and smiling she did nod to me
Asking my help to gather them for her:
And so, I bent the heavy clusters down,
Show'ring the rose-leaves o'er her neck and face;
Then carefully she plucked the very fairest one,
And court'seying playfully gave it to me -
Show'd me her finger-tip, pricked by a thorn,
And when I would have kiss'd it, shook her head,
Kiss'd it herself, and mock'd me with a smile!
The rose she gave me sleeps between the leaves
Of an old poet where its sight oft brings
That summer evening back again to me.


"I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done
Than to be one of the twenty to follow my own teaching,"
- _Merchant of Venice_.

"Do as I tell you, and not as I do."
- _Old Saying_.

You say, a "moral sign-post" I
Point out the road towards the sky;
And then with glance so very shy
You archly ask me, lady, why
I hesitate myself to go
In the direction which I show?

To answer is an easy task,
If you allow me but to ask
One little question, sweet, of you: -
'Tis this: should sign-posts travel too
What would bewildered pilgrims do -
Celestial pilgrims, such as you?


High-perch'd upon the rocky way,
Stands a Posada stern and grey;
Which from the valley, seems as if,
A condor there had paus'd to 'light
And rest upon that lonely cliff,
From some stupendous flight;
But when the road you gain at length,
It seems a ruin'd hold of strength,
With archway dark, and bridge of stone,
By waving shrubs all overgrown,
Which clings 'round that ruin'd gate,
Making it look less desolate;
For here and there, a wild flower's bloom
With brilliant hue relieves the gloom,
Which clings 'round that Posada's wall -
A sort of misty funeral pall.

The gulf spann'd by that olden arch
Might stop an army's onward march,
For dark and dim - far down below -
'Tis lost amid a torrent's flow;
And blending with the eagle's scream
Sounds dismally that mountain-stream,
That rushes foaming down a fall
Which Chamois hunter might appal,
Nor shame his manhood, did he shrink
In treading on its dizzy brink.
In years long past, ere bridge or wall
Had spann'd that gulf and water-fall,
'Tis said - perhaps, an idle tale -
That on the road above the vale
Occurred as strange and wild a scene,
As ever ballad told, I ween. -
Yes, on this road which seems to be
Suspended o'er eternity;
So dim - so shadow-like - the vale
O'er which it hangs: but to my tale:
Once, 'tis well-known, this sunny land
Was ravag'd by full many a band
Of reckless buccaneers.
Cities were captur'd [2] - old men slain;
Trampled the fields of waving cane;
Or scatter'd wide the garner'd grain;
An hour wrought wreck of years!

Where'er these stern freebooters trod,
In hacienda - church of God -
Or, on the green-enamell'd sod -
They left foot-prints so deep,
That but their simple names would start
The blood back to each Spanish heart,
And make the children weep.

E'en to this day, their many crimes
The peasants sing in drowsy rhymes -
On mountain, or on plain;
And as they sing, the plaintive song
Tells many a deed of guilt and wrong -
Each has a doleful strain!

* * * * *

One glorious morn, it so befell,
I heard the tale which I shall tell,
At that Posada dark and grey
Which stands upon the mountain way,
Between Caracas and the sea;
So grim - so dark - it seem'd to me
Fit place for deed of guilt or sin -
Tho' peaceful peasants dwelt therein.

At midnight we, (my friends and I,)
Beneath a tranquil tropic sky,
Bestrode our mules and onward rode,
Behind the guide who swiftly strode
Up the dark mountain side; while we
With many a jest and repartee -
With jingling swords, and spurs, and bits -
Made trial of our youthful wits.
Ah! we were gay, for we were young
And care had never on us flung -
But, to my tale: the purple sky
Was thick overlaid with burning stars,
And oft the breeze that murmur'd by,
Brought dreamy tones from soft guitars,
Until we sank in silence deep.
It was a night for thought not sleep -
It was a night for song and love -
The burning planets shone above -
The Southern Cross was all ablaze -
'Tis long since it then met my gaze! -
Above us, whisp'ring in the breeze,
Were many strange, gigantic trees,
And in their shadow, deep and dark,

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Online LibraryJames Barron HopeA Wreath of Virginia Bay Leaves Poems of James Barron Hope → online text (page 1 of 7)