Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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Virginians and South Carolinians stood for political and social
ideals before which the rest of the South and the Southwest
bowed until the advent of Jackson and his frontier Democrats
to power. The Virginian fell before the storm, but the South
Carolinian bent and rose again. Slavery, not Tennessee de
mocracy, represented the aspirations of the Southern people
during the three momentous decades before the Civil War, and
slavery s banner Calhoun and his South Carolinians were ob
viously best fitted to bear. So it has come about that the early
prestige of Virginia and the later prestige of South Carolina
have invested the " low country " inhabitants of those states
for it is " low country " ideals that have prevailed with an
importance in the eyes of their fellow Southerners and of the
rest of the world that is only just beginning to be shaken by
the progress of commonwealths that have learned better how
to utilize their material resources. But what now can one say
of these two types of Southerners ?

In the first place, they are nearer to the type of Englishmen
that originally settled in the two colonies than might be ex
pected, when the lapse of time is considered. They are distinctly
less American in their habits of thought and action than are
Georgians or Tennesseeans, New Yorkers, or lowans. In the
cities one naturally finds all sorts and conditions of people, but


in the country and in the bosom of indigenous families one
finds oneself continually confronted with some survival or
recrudescence of English trait or custom. There is a certain
colonialism in the attitude assumed by many of these good folks
toward all things modern and American that strikes one as odd
in people who gave Washington and the Pinckneys to the cause
of independence. There is a persistence in customs, a loyalty
to beliefs and traditions, a naivete of self-satisfaction that canm^L
be called conceit, a clannTshness, an attachment to the soil,
that are radically English and thoroughly picturesque, but are
certainly not American.

These and similar traits the tidewater inhabitants of the two
states have in common. And yet they differ to such a degree
that even the superficial observer has no difficulty in dis
tinguishing them without having recourse to such external
peculiarities as dialect or physical appearance. The Virginian
is more democratic than the South Carolinian ; he has more
bonhomie ; he is not nearly so punctilious, or stern, or fiery.
A true South Carolinian gentleman would never have sat in the
White House with slippers worn down at the heels, as Jefferson
did. Many Virginian gentlemen would not have done it, either,
but they would have comprehended how it was possible to
do it. In some way or other, the Virginian developed from a
seventeenth-century into an eighteenth-century English squire.
He became more or less an easy-going optimist, fond of good
company and good living, never so vulgar as Squire Western,
but likely to fall into careless, slipshod habits unless upheld,
as was often the case, by the refined women about him. With
the South Carolinian it seems to have been different. What
with the infusion of sober Huguenot blood, what with the mas
terful qualities necessitated by his isolated position among great
masses of black barbarians, he took himself and life more seri
ously than the Virginian did, and he does so to this day. He


has the earnestness and much of the courtly charm of the best
type of seventeenth-century Englishman. If the Virginian gen
tleman is a Squire Airworthy, the South Carolinian is, if it can
be conceived, a Colonel Hutchinson fighting on the Royalist
side. One even finds that a Virginian boy of the better classes
has more bonhomie and less dignity than a South Carolinian of
similar age and breeding. The Virginian loves his state and is
proud of her history, but on alien soil, amid a pleasant com
pany, he can forget her. The South Carolinian is rarely so
unbending, and is, unintentionally no doubt, supercilious toward
all other peoples and states. He is not merely glad to hail
from his native state, he is not merely anxious to return thither
to die, he is miserable whenever and as long as he is not living
there. Nay, he actually wishes to be rooted to a particular
parish or town. The genius loci is the god he worships, and he
stands for everything that is not cosmopolitan. Hence he is
par excellence the Southern conservative, so thoroughgoing in
his provincialism that it ceases to appear narrow and small,
and reaches the infinite if not the sublime. On this side, as
indeed in general intensity of nature, he goes far beyond the
Virginian. The latter is conservative and slow to move, yet
after all he is a disciple of Jefferson, and he cannot help re
membering that his kinsfolk peopled Kentucky and that there
are men of Virginian stock thriving in all parts of the country.
But even on him the waves of progress have had to dash and
dash in order to produce any effect, and he stands to-day, with
the South Carolinian, like a promontory jutting out into a
rising sea. His promontory is, however, a little greener than
that of his neighbor.

Such, in the main, is the material on which the Zeitgeist has
had to work in the two Southern states that were in the lead
before the Civil War practically leveled everything. Very differ
ent, as we have seen, is the material in the state lying between


the Old Dominion and the commonwealth that had a philoso
pher for godfather. The North Carolinian is, and has always
been, the typical Southern democrat. If he has not progressed
rapidly, it is not because he has been unwilling to give up his
traditions, though he has them, but because he has always been
more or less hampered by physical difficulties, and more or less
cast in the shade by his greater neighbors. He has ever been
unpretending, but his virtues have been many and solid. He
has had his history miswritten, but instead of uttering bitter
complaints has set to work to rewrite it. He has labored in-
defatigably, although with small success as yet, to obtain a good
system of public instruction, seeing that large portions of his
state would without this remain unexploited for generations.
He is still backward in many respects, and still has to bide
taunts about not having produced many great men, about smell
ing of turpentine, and about allowing the practice of " dipping "
to continue within his borders. But like the patient, thorough
going democrat he is, he takes it all good-naturedly, and has
determined not to be last in the race of progress that he is
running with his neighbors, though he does at times stop to
listen, open-mouthed, to a quack proclaiming the virtues of
some political nostrum.

The South Carolinian has always arrogated to himself the
name " Carolinian," and he has never been on very familiar
terms with his northern neighbor. His feeling for his southern
neighbor, the Georgian, is also one of mere tolerance, for the
latter has long been called the Southern Yankee, and fairly de
serves the appellation. He has much of the shrewdness and
push that mark the typical " Down-Easter," and he has a con
siderable share of that worthy s moral earnestness. In addition
he has a good deal of the Virginian s geniality and love of com
fort, of the North Carolinian s unpretending democracy, and of
the South Carolinian s tendency to exhibitions of fiery temper.


But over and above everything else he has an honest and
hearty and not unfounded pride in Georgia, and a sort of ma
sonic affiliation with every person, animal, institution, custom
in short, thing that can be called Georgian. He may not
always stand for culture, but he does always stand for patriot
ism, state and national. He loves success, strength, straight
forwardness, and the solid virtues generally, neither is he
averse to the showy ones, but above all he loves virtue in
action. Though possessed of a strong, clear intellect, he is more
particularly a man of five senses, of which he makes as good
use as he can. He may not always taste the sweetness or see
the light of the highest civilization, but he has a good healthy
appetite for life. In fine, the Georgian is the Southerner of all
others who comes nearest to being a normal American. There
are, to be sure, varieties of Georgians, and different phases of
civilization are represented in different sections of the state, but
the features of character that make for uniformity are more
numerous and important than those that make for divergence.
The various elements that compose the population original
settlers, incomers from Virginia and the two Carolinas seem
to have been fused, save perhaps on the coast about Savannah,
rather than to have preserved their individuality, and the result
is the typical Georgian, energetic, shrewd, thrifty, brave, reli
gious, patriotic, tending in the extremes of society to become
narrow and hard, or self-assertive and pushing.

The Floridian on the one hand, and the Alabamian on the
other, may be fairly described as modified Georgians. Florida,
being a comparatively new state, settled under great difficulties
and by various stocks, has not until recent years played any
great part in Southern history, and even now represents little
that is suggestive of an indigenous civilization. This is not true
of Alabama, save of the mineral region in the northern part of
the state ; but the Alabamian, while a distinct personality, has


never impressed himself upon the South as his neighbors on
the Atlantic coast have done. He seems to hold partly by the
Georgian and partly by the Virginian (with whom he is often
connected by ties of blood), and has many of the best qualities
of both. He is either a " limbered-up " Virginian or a mellowed
Georgian. He is also a much less strenuous type of man than
his neighbor to the west of him, although in their dates of
settlement and in their physiographical features the two states
do not present striking points of difference, As for the Missis-
sippian, he too possesses well-defined but mixed characteristics.
He seems to hold by the South Carolinian on the one hand,
and by the Tennesseean on the other, which is another way of
saying that he is a Southwesterner whose natural democratic
proclivities have been somewhat modified by institutions and
customs of an aristocratic cast. On his large plantation, amid
his hundreds of slaves, it was a matter of course that he should
develop some of the South Carolinian s masterful traits, while
his position as a frontiersman and pioneer necessarily gave him
a basis of character not dissimilar to that of the hardy settler
on the Watauga or the Cumberland. To understand the Mis-
sissippian, then, or indeed any Southwesterner as far as the
Rio Grande, we must know something about the Tennesseean.
This stalwart citizen of a state which has already played an
important part in our history, and which from its position and
resources ought to play a still more important part in the future,
naturally holds by the North Carolinian in many of his charac
teristics. He can generally point to Scotch-Irish ancestors from
whom he has inherited the love of independence and the sturdy
democratic virtues that characterize the people of the mountain
sections of the states on his eastern border, but he owes to
these ancestors something that differentiates him from his kins-
people east of the Alleghenies. The latter have been somewhat
abashed, somewhat kept in check, by their contact with the


civilization of the tidewater, but he wears upon his forehead,
whether he dwell on hill or plain, that " freedom of the moun
taineer " of which Wordsworth sang. His fathers, whether they
owned slaves or not, never ceased to be democrats, and so he
is a democrat through and through, of a less unpretending type
than the North Carolinian. Through the valor and the exer
tions of those fathers he has a wide and fair domain in which
to choose his dwelling place, but w r hether he has his abode
among the mineral treasures of his mountains, or in the blue-
grass plains, or amid the low-lying fields that whiten with the
cotton boll, he is always and everywhere the open-handed, self-
reliant, easily excited son of equality and freedom that Welling
ton s regulars went down before in the fatal trenches of New
Orleans. In fact, the Tennesseean is not, strictly speaking, a
Southerner at all. The basis of his character is Western, and
though his sympathies were divided in the Civil War, and
though he helps to make up the " Solid South," he has really
as little affiliation with the Southerners of the Atlantic coast as
Andrew Jackson had with John C. Calhoun. He has not, in
deed, the murderous intentions of his great hero and idol, but
when he counts himself as being of the Southern people he
ought to change his preposition and say that he is with them.

The other Southwestern states naturally have more distinc
tively Southern features than Tennessee, but we need hardly
go into particulars. Arkansas and Texas are as yet too new to
have stood for much in the history of Southern culture, and
save in certain localities they are still in the transition stage
common to pioneer states. When their various strains of pop
ulation have been fused and their immense territory has been
really settled, the emerging civilization will be almost inevitably
Western in tone. It will not be Western in exactly the same
way that the civilization of Wisconsin and Illinois is Western,
but then the civilization of the latter states differs from that of


Nebraska, or Colorado, or the Dakotas. Yet it will most assur
edly not be Southern in any true sense of the term, for in this
country the meridians of longitude have on the whole prevailed
over the parallels of latitude.

In Louisiana a Southern civilization has been developed in
the lower part of the state, and will probably always dominate
it. The Louisianian of this section is quite different from his
Western compatriots of the towns on the Texas and Arkansas
borders, and he possibly comes nearer to the foreigner s idea of
what a Southerner is than any other of the types that have
been described. Perhaps this is because most foreigners get
their ideas of the South from " Uncle Tom s Cabin." Be this
as it may, the typical Louisianian seems to understand the dolce
far niente better than the Virginian ; he keeps social life going
with less trouble than the South Carolinian ; he would never
think of bustling and working like a Georgian ; he would die of
the blues if he had to exchange the picturesque contrasts of his
chief city and the lower half of his state with the gray-colored
uniformity of the life that the North Carolinian has led for
generations. But if the Louisianian has enjoyed life, he has
not had the wisdom to develop all portions of his interesting
commonwealth, and he has never taken a commanding position
among his Southern brethren. With him, however, our modest
efforts at portraiture must cease.



[Paul Hamilton Hayne was born in Charleston, South Carolina,
in 1830. His family belonged to the wealthy and aristocratic circle of
that city. After graduat
ing from Charleston Col
lege, Hayne studied law,
but his love of literature
proved too strong for the
practice of his profession.
In 1857 he became editor
of RusseWs Magazine,
which he made a decided
success. Before the war
Hayne had published three
volumes of poetry, made
up chiefly of pieces which
he had contributed to va
rious periodicals. At the
outbreak of hostilities he
became an aide on Gover
nor Pickens s staff, but

after a brief service he PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE

was forced to resign on

account of ill health. Finding himself impoverished at the close
of the war, he moved to the pine barrens of Georgia and about
eighteen miles from Augusta built a very plain cottage, which he
called tf Copse Hill." Here he struggled bravely with poverty as
best he could, through his contributions of poetry and other kinds
of writing to the magazines. Gradually his genius gained recogni
tion throughout the country at large and he came to have the title



of "the Laureate of the South." In 1882 a complete edition of his
poems was published in Boston. Shortly after the publication of this
volume, Hayne s health began to give way, and he died in 1886.]


O fresh, how fresh and fair

Through the crystal gulfs of air,
The fairy South Wind floateth on her subtle wings of balm !

And the green earth lapped in bliss,

To the magic of her kiss
Seems yearning upward fondly through the golden-crested calm !

From the distant Tropic strand,

Where the billows, bright and bland,
Go creeping, curling round the palms with sweet, faint undertune,

From its fields of purpling flowers

Still wet with fragrant showers,
The happy South Wind lingering sweeps the royal blooms of June.

All heavenly fancies rise

On the perfume of her sighs,
Which steep the inmost spirit in a languor rare and fine,

And a peace more pure than sleep s

Unto dim, half-conscious deeps,
Transports me, lulled and dreaming, on its twilight tides divine.

Those dreams ! ah me ! the splendor,

So mystical and tender,
Wherewith like soft heat-lightnings they gird their meaning round,

And those waters, calling, calling,

With a nameless charm enthralling,
Like the ghost of music melting on a rainbow spray of sound !

1 The selections from Hayne are reprinted by permission of the holder of the
copyright, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.


Touch, touch me not, nor wake me,

Lest grosser thoughts o ertake me,
From earth receding faintly with her dreary din and jars,

What viewless arms caress me ?

What whispered voices bless me,

With welcomes dropping dewlike from the weird and wondrous

Alas ! dim, dim, and dimmer

Grows the preternatural glimmer

Of that trance the South Wind brought me on her subtle wings of

For behold ! its spirit flieth,

And its fairy murmur dieth,
And the silence closing round me is a dull and soulless calm !


Tall, somber, grim, against the morning sky
They rise, scarce touched by melancholy airs,

Which stir the fadeless foliage dreamfully,
As if from realms of mystical despairs.

Tall, somber, grim, they stand with dusky gleams
Brightening to gold within the woodland s core,

Beneath the gracious noontide s tranquil beams
But the weird w r inds of morning sigh no more.

A stillness, strange, divine, ineffable,

Broods round and o er them in the wind s surcease,
And on each tinted copse and shimmering dell

Rests the mute rapture of deep-hearted peace.


Last, sunset comes the solemn joy and might

Borne from the West when cloudless day declines

Low, flutelike breezes sweep the waves of light,
And lifting dark green tresses of the pines,

Till every lock is luminous gently float,
Fraught with hale odors up the heavens afar

To faint when twilight on her virginal throat
Wears for a gem the tremulous vesper star.


I remember it well ; t was a morn dull and gray,

And the legion lay idle and listless that day,

A thin drizzle of rain piercing chill to the soul,

And with not a spare bumper to brighten the bowl,

When Macdonald arose, and unsheathing his blade,

Cried, " Who 11 back me, brave comrades ? I m hot for a raid.

Let the carbines be loaded, the war harness ring,

Then swift death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

We leaped up at his summons, all eager and bright,

To our finger tips thrilling to join him in fight ;

Yet he chose from our numbers four men and no more.

" Stalwart brothers," quoth he, " you 11 be strong as fourscore,

If you follow me fast wheresoever I lead,

With keen sword and true pistol, stanch heart and bold steed.

Let the weapons be loaded, the bridle bits ring,

Then swift death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

In a trice we were mounted ; Macdonald s tall form
Seated firm in the saddle, his face like a storm
When the clouds on Ben Lomond hang heavy and stark,
And the red veins of lightning pulse hot through the dark ;


His left hand on his sword belt, his right lifted free,

With a prick from the spurred heel, a touch from the knee,

His lithe Arab was off like an eagle on wing

" Ha ! death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

T.was three leagues to the town, where, in insolent pride

Of their disciplined numbers, their works strong and wide,

The big Britons, oblivious of warfare and arms,

A soft dolce were wrapped in, not dreaming of harms,

When fierce yells, as if borne on some fiend-ridden rout,

With strange cheer after cheer, are heard echoing without,

Over which, like the blast of ten trumpeters, ring,

" Death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

Such a tumult we raised with steel, hoof-stroke, and shout,

That the foemen made straight for their inmost redoubt,

And therein, with pale lips and cowed spirits, quoth they,

" Lord, the whole rebel army assaults us to-day.

Are the works, think you, strong ? God of heaven, what a din !

T is the front wall besieged have the rebels rushed in ?

It must be ; for, hark ! hark to that jubilant ring

Of Death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

Meanwhile, through the town like whirlwind we sped,

And ere long be assured that our broadswords were red ;

And the ground here and there by an ominous stain

Showed how the stark soldier beside it was slain :

A fat sergeant-major, who yawed like a goose,

With his waddling bowlegs, and his trappings all loose,

By one back-handed blow the Macdonald cuts down,

To the shoulder-blade, cleaving him sheer through the crown,

And the last words that greet his dim consciousness ring

With " Death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "


Having cleared all the streets, not an enemy left
Whose heart was unpierced, or whose headpiece uncleft,
What should we do next, but as careless and calm
As if we were scenting a summer morn s balm
Mid a land of pure peace just serenely drop down
On a few constant friends who still stopped in the town.
What a welcome they gave us ! One dear little thing,
As I kissed her sweet lips, did I dream of the King ?

Of the King or his minions ? No ; war and its scars

Seemed as distant just then as the fierce front of Mars

From a love-girdled earth ; but, alack ! on our bliss,

On the close clasp of arms and kiss showering on kiss,

Broke the rude bruit of battle, the rush thick and fast

Of the Britons made ware of our rash ruse at last ;

So we haste to our coursers, yet flying, we fling

The old watchwords abroad, " Down with Redcoats and King ! "

As we scampered pell-mell o er the hard-beaten track
We had traversed that morn, we glanced momently back,
And beheld their long earthworks all compassed in flame ;
With a vile plunge and hiss the huge musket balls came,
And the soil was plowed up, and the space twixt the trees
Seemed to hum with the war song of Brobdingnag bees ;
Yet above them, beyond them, victoriously ring
The shouts, " Death to the Redcoats, and down with the King ! "

Ah I that was a feat, lads, to boast of ! What men
Like you weaklings to-day had durst cope with us then ?
Though I say it who should not, I am ready to vow
I d o ermatch a half score of your fops even now


The poor puny prigs, mincing up, mincing down,
Through the whole wasted day the thronged streets of the town :
Why, their dainty white necks t were but pastime to wring
Ay ! my muscles are firm still ; / fought gainst the King !

Dare you doubt it ? well, give me the weightiest of all
The sheathed sabers that hang there, uplooped on the wall ;
Hurl the scabbard aside ; yield the blade to my clasp ;
Do you see, with one hand how I poise it and grasp
The rough iron-bound hilt ? With this long hissing sweep
I have smitten full many a foeman with sleep
That forlorn, final sleep ! God ! what memories cling
To those gallant old times when we fought gainst the King.


Listen ! the somber foliage of the Pine
A swart Gitana of the woodland trees,

In answering what we may but half divine

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 27 of 35)