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Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

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

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To those soft whispers of the twilight breeze !

Passion and mystery murmur through the leaves,
Passion and mystery, touched by deathless pain,

Whose monotone of long, low anguish grieves^
For something lost that shall not live again !



THE W T ILL AND THE WING

To have the will to soar, but not the wings,
Eyes fixed forever on a starry height,

Whence stately shapes of grand imaginings
Flash down the splendors of imperial light ;



406 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

And yet to lack the charm that makes them ours,
The obedient vassals of that conquering spell,

Whose omnipresent and ethereal powers
Encircle Heaven, nor fear to enter Hell ;




COPSE HILL

Paul Hamilton Hayne s unpretentious home after the war, situated
about eighteen miles from Augusta, Georgia



This is the doom of Tantalus the thirst
For beauty s balmy fount to quench the fires

Of the wild passion that our souls have nurst
In hopeless promptings unfulfilled desires.



Yet would I rather in the outward state
Of Song s immortal temple lay me down,

A beggar basking by that radiant gate,

Than bend beneath the haughtiest empire s crown !



PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE 407

For sometimes, through the bars, my ravished eyes
Have caught brief glimpses of a life divine,

And seen afar, mysterious rapture rise

Beyond the veil that guards the inmost shrine.



THE AXE AND PINE

All day, on bole and limb the axes ring,

And every stroke upon my startled brain

Falls with the power of sympathetic pain ;

I shrink to view each glorious forest king

Descend to earth, a wan, discrowne d thing.

Ah, Heaven ! beside these foliaged giants slain,

How small the human dwarfs, whose lust for gain

Hath edged their brutal steel to smite and sting !

Hark ! to those long-drawn murmurings, strange and drear !

The wail of Dryads in their last distress ;

O er ruined haunts and ravished loveliness

Still tower those brawny arms ; tones coarsely loud

Rise still beyond the greenery s waning cloud,

While falls the insatiate steel, sharp, cold, and sheer !



MIDSUMMER IN THE SOUTH

I love Queen August s stately sway,

And all her fragrant south winds say,

With vague, mysterious meanings fraught,

Of unimaginable thought ;

Those winds, mid change of gloom and gleam,

Seem wandering thro a golden dream

The rare midsummer dream that lies

In humid depths of nature s eyes,

Weighing her languid forehead down



408 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Beneath a fair but fiery crown :

Its witchery broods o er earth and skies,

Fills with divine amenities

The bland, blue spaces of the air,

And smiles with looks of drowsy cheer

Mid hollows of the brown-hued hills ;

And oft, in tongues of tinkling rills,

A softer, homelier utterance finds

Than that which haunts the lingering winds !

I love midsummer s azure deep,

Whereon the huge white clouds, asleep,

Scarce move through lengths of tranced hours ;

Some, raised in forms of giant towers

Dumb Babels, with ethereal stairs

Scaling the vast height unawares

What mocking spirit, ether-born,

Hath built those transient spires in scorn,

And reared towards the topmost sky

Their unsubstantial fantasy !

Some stretched in tenuous arcs of light

Athwart the airy infinite,

Far glittering up yon fervid dome,

And lapped by cloudland s misty foam,

Whose wreaths of fine sun-smitten spray

Melt in a burning haze away ;

Some throned in heaven s serenest smiles,

Pure-hued, and calm as fairy isles,

Girt by the tides of soundless seas

The heavens benign Hesperides.

I love midsummer uplands, free
To the bold raids of breeze and bee,
Where, nested warm in yellowing grass,



PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE 409

I hear the swift-winged partridge pass.
With whir and boom of gusty flight,
Across the broad heath s treeless height :
Or, just where, elbow-poised, I lift
Above the wild flower s careless drift
My half-closed eyes, I see and hear
The blithe field sparrow twittering clear
Quick ditties to his tiny love ;
While, from afar, the timid dove,
With faint, voluptuous murmur, wakes
The silence of the pastoral brakes.

I love midsummer sunsets, rolled
Down the rich west in waves of gold,
With blazing crests of billowy fire.
But when those crimson floods retire,
In noiseless ebb, slow r -surging, grand,
By pensive twilight s flickering strand,
In gentler mood I love to mark
The slow gradations of the dark ;
Till, lo ! from Orient s mists withdrawn,
Hail ! to the moon s resplendent dawn ;
On dusky vale and haunted plain
Her effluence falls like balmy rain ;
Gaunt gulfs of shadow own her might ;
She bathes the rescued world in light,
So that, albeit my summer s day
Erewhile did breathe its life away,
Methinks, whate er its hours had won
Of beauty, born from shade and sun,
Hath not perchance so wholly died,
But o er the moonlight s silver)- tide
Comes back, sublimed and purified 1



410 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE



IRWIN RUSSELL

[Irwin Russell was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, in 1853.
After graduating from the St. Louis University in 1869 he chose

the profession of law, but the
young lawyer never had a case
in court because his interests
were turning steadily to litera
ture. His first contribution to
Scribner s Monthly appeared
in 1876. During the yellow-
fever epidemic of 1878 he lost
his father, and, thrown on his
own resources, he started to
New York, intending to make
a livelihood through writing.
Soon after arriving there he
was stricken with a dangerous
fever. When he recovered he
shipped on a vessel for New
Orleans and worked his pas
sage by coal heaving. In New
IRWIN RUSSELL Orleans he spent several months

of poverty and distress, attempt
ing to earn a living by writing for newspapers. His life of promise
was ended in 1879 under pitiable circumstances. Nine years later
his poems were collected into a small volume.]




NEBUCHADNEZZAR *

You, Nebuchadnezzah, whoa, sah !
Whar is you tryin to go, sah ?
I d nab you fur to know, sah,
Ps a-holdin ob de lines.



1 The selections from Russell are reprinted through the kind permission of
the holder of the copyright, the Century Company.



IRWIN RUSSELL 411

You better stop dat prancin ;
You s pow ful fond ob dancin ,
But I 11 bet my yeah s advancin
Dat I 11 cure you ob yo shines.

Look heah, mule ! Better min out ;
Fus t ing you know you 11 fin out
How quick I 11 wear dis line out

On yo ugly, stubbo n back.
You need n t try to steal up
An lif dat precious heel up ;
You s got to plow dis fiel up ;

You has, sah, fur a fac .

Dar, dafs de way to do it !
He s comin right down to it ;
Jes watch him plowin troo it !

Dis nigger ain t no fool.
Some folks dey would a beat him ;
Now, dat would only heat him
I know jes how to treat him :

You mus reason wid a mule.

He minds me like a nigger.

If he wuz only bigger

He d fotch a mighty figger.

He would, I tell you ! Yes, sah !
See how he keeps a-clickin !
He s as gentle as a chickin,
An nebber thinks o kickin
Whoa dar ! Nebuchadnezzah !



412 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Is dis heah me, or not me ?
Or is de debbil got me ?
Wuz dat a cannon shot me ?

Hab I laid heah more n a week ?
Dat mule do kick amazin !
De beast wuz sp iled in raisin
But now I spect he s grazin

On de oder side de creek.



SELLING A DOG

H yar, Pot-liquor ! What you at ? You heah me callin you ?
H yar, sah ! Come an tell dis little gemmen howdy-do !
Dar, sah, ain t dat puppy, jes as fat as he kin roll ?
Maybe you won t b liebe it, but he s only six mon s ol !



Coon dog ? Lord ! young marster, he s jes at em all de while

/ b liebe dat he kin smell a coon fur half a mile.

I don like to sell him, fur he s wuf his weight in goP ;

If you did n t want him, sah, he nebber should be sol .



If you takes him off wid you, I 11 feel like I wuz lost.

He s de bes young fightin dog I ebber come acrost.

Jes look at dem eyes, young marster ; what a sabbage face !

He won t let no stranger nigger come about de place.

You know Henry Wilson s Bob, dat whipped your fader s Dan ?
Pot-liquor jes chucked dat dog so bad he could n t stan !
Well, sah, if you wants him, now I 11 tell you what I 11 do,
You kin hab him fur a dollar, seein s how it s you.



IRWIN RUSSELL 413

Now, Marster Will, you knows it he s wuf mo n dat, a heap ;
R al y, I s a-doin wrong to let him go so cheap.
Don t you tell nobody, now, what wuz de price you paid
My ol oman s gwine to gib me fits, sah, I s afraid !



T anks you, sah ! Good-mornin , sah ! You tell yo ma, fur me,

I has got de fines turkeys dat she ebber see ;

Dey is jes as good as any pusson ebber eat.

If she wants a gobbler, let her sen to Uncle Pete.



Dar ! I s done got rid ob dat ar wretched dog at las !
Drownin time wuz comin fur him mighty precious fas !
Sol him fur a dollar Well ! An goodness knows de pup
Is n t wuf de powder it d take to blow him up !



DAT PETER

I se been a-watchin people an deir doings all my life,

An sometimes I obsarves to Sophonisby dat s my wife

Dat nuffin seldom happens what I does n t spect to see :

But Peter,

Dat Peter !

He gits away wid me.



You see he s been to Oakland, an his larnin is profound ;
I heered him sayin yes day dat the yearth kep turnin round !
Dat pears to me ridiculous but I nebber wuz to school

And Peter,

Dat Peter !

He lows dat I se a fool.



414 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Well, mebbe so ; I mout be, but I does n t think it s true ;
I aint so wise as Peter, but I knows a ting or two :
Ef I kain t run as fast as some, I manages to crawl

But Peter,

Dat Peter !

He thinks he knows it all.



He wears a suit ob store-clo es, an a fine fibe dollar hat !
Who eber heard de like afore ob sich gwine on as dat ?
He iles his har, he do ; an goes a-sparkin eb ry night ;

Why Peter,

Dat Peter !

I guess he thinks he s white.

I really think ef Peter would rent a leetle patch ob land,
An settle down to crappin , dat he d hold a better hand ;
De debbil s gwine to set him back afore his game is done ;

But Peter,

Dat Peter !

He say he s twenty-one.

Well, let de nigger slide I could say suffin ef I mout,

But I has oder matters to be projeckin about.

I se jubious how he 11 come out hab to wait a while an see.

But Peter,

Dat Peter !

He s most too much for me.



SIDNEY LANIER



415



SIDNEY LANIER

[Sidney Lanier was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1 842. His ancestors
had been for generations musicians. At fourteen he entered the
sophomore class of Oglethorpe College at Midway. Georgia, and
graduated in 1860. He was at once appointed a tutor in the col
lege, but the war broke out
shortly and he joined the Con
federate army. He saw sendee
in Virginia, and toward the
close of the war was put in
charge of a blockade-running
vessel. His vessel was captured
in 1864, and he was confined
for five months in Point Look
out prison. The exposure and
hardships of this experience
germinated the seeds of con
sumption, against which he had
to fight the rest of his life and
to which he finally succumbed.
After the war Lanier lived in
Georgia and Alabama, earning
a living as teacher, hotel clerk,

and lawyer. But finding that his health grew no better and feeling
that he was wasting his genius in uncongenial pursuits, he decided
to devote himself to literature and music. In 1873 he went to Balti
more and found employment as first flutist in the Peabody Symphony
Orchestra. In Baltimore he found musicians, literary people, and
libraries, and his genius would undoubtedly have blossomed rapidly
had it not been for ill health. Recurring attacks of his malady com
pelled him to seek health in visits to the mountains of North Carolina
and the mild climate of Florida. In 1879 he was appointed lecturer
on English literature at Johns Hopkins University, a position which
assured an income and which was entirely congenial. His health, how
ever, was rapidly failing, and finally the sufferer was obliged to quit
work and go to the mountains of North Carolina. There in the little
village of Lynn his brave fight closed in the early autumn of 1881.]




SIDNEY LANIER



4l6 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

THE TOURNAMENT
JOUST FIRST

Bright shone the lists, blue bent the skies,

And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies eyes,

Where the j ousters were Heart and Brain.

Flourished the trumpets : entered Heart,

A youth in crimson and gold.
Flourished again : Brain stood apart,

Steel-armored, dark and cold.

Heart s palfrey caracoled gayly round,

Heart tra-li-ra d merrily ;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound,

So cynical-calm was he.

Heart s helmet-crest bore favors three

From his lady s hand caught ;
While Brain wore a plumeless casque ; not he

Or favor gave or sought.

The herald blew ; Heart shot a glance

To find his lady s eye,
But Brain gazed straight ahead his lance

To aim more faithfully.

They charged, they struck ; both fell, both bled.

Brain rose again, ungloved,
Heart, dying, smiled and faintly said,

" My love to my beloved."



SIDNEY LANIER 417

JOUST SECOND

A-many sweet eyes wept and wept,

A-many bosoms heaved again ;
A-many dainty dead hopes slept

With yonder Heart-knight prone o er the plain.

Yet stars will burn through any mists,

And the ladies eyes, through rains of fate,

Still beamed upon the bloody lists
And lit the joust of Love and Hate.

O strange ! or ere a trumpet blew,

Or ere a challenge-word was given,
A knight leapt down i the lists ; none knew

Whether he sprang from earth or heaven.

His cheek was soft as a lily-bud,

His gray eyes calmed his youth s alarm ;

Nor helm nor hauberk nor even a hood
Had he to shield his life from harm.

No falchion from his baldric swung,

He wore a white rose in its place.
No dagger at his girdle hung,

But only an olive branch, for grace.

And, " Come, thou poor mistaken knight,"
Cried Love, unarmed, yet dauntless there,

" Come on, God pity thee ! I fight

Sans sword, sans shield ; yet, Hate, beware ! "



418 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Spurred furious Hate ; he foamed at mouth,

His breath was hot upon the air,
His breath scorched souls, as a dry drought

Withers green trees and burns them bare.



Straight drives he at his enemy,

His hairy hands grip lance in rest,
His lance it gleams full bitterly,

God ! gleams, true-point, on Love s bare breast !



Love s gray eyes glow with a heaven-heat,
Love lifts his hand in a saintly prayer ;

Look ! Hate hath fallen at his feet !
Look ! Hate hath vanished in the air !



Then all the throng looked kind on all ;

Eyes yearned, lips kissed, dumb souls were freed j
Two magic maids hands lifted a pall

And the dead knight, Heart, sprang on his steed.



Then Love cried, " Break me his lance, each knight !

Ye shall fight for blood-athirst Fame no more."
And the knights all doffed their mailed might

And dealt out dole on dole to the poor.



Then dove-lights sanctified the plain,
And hawk and sparrow shared a nest.

And the great sea opened and swallowed Pain,
And out of this water-grave floated Rest !



SIDNEY LAMER 419

SONG OF THE CHATTAHOOCHEE 1

Out of the hills of Habersham,

Down the valleys of Hall,
The hurrying rain, to reach the plain.

Has run 6 the rapid and leapt*" the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accepted his rf bed, or narrow or wide,
And fled* from folly on ever) side,
With a lover s pain to attain the plain,
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the vallevs of Hall.



All down the hills of Habersham,
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried, Abide, abide ;

The willful water weeds held me thrall.
The laurel, slow-laving, turned my tide/
The ferns and the fondling grass said stay,
The dewberry dipped for to win* delay,
And the little reeds sighed, Abide, abide,
Here in the hills of Habersham,
Here in the valleys of Hall.



1 First published in Scott s Magazine, from which it is here taken. Laniers
later revisions are given in footnotes, and the study of these will show the devel
opment of the poet s artistic sense.

a. Changed to " I hurry amain."

b. Changed to n I run."

c. Changed to " leap."

d. Changed to " accept my."
f. Changed to " flee. ?J

f. Changed to " The laving laurel turned my tide/

g. Changed to " work."



420 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

High over the hills of Habersham,

Veiling the valleys of Hall,
The hickory told me manifold

Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall
Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,
The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine,
Overleaning, with flickering meaning and sign,
Said, Pass not so cold these manifold

Deep shades of the hills of Habersham,

These glades in the valleys of Hall.

And oft in the hills of Habersham,

And oft in the valleys of Hall,
The white quartz shone, and the smooth brookstone

Barred^ me of passage with friendly brawl,
And many a metal lay sad, alone, 2
And the diamond, the garnet, the amethyst,
And the crystal that prisons a purple mist,

Showed lights like my own from each cordial stone

In the clefts of the hills of Habersham,

In the beds of the valleys of Hall.

But oh, not the hills of Habersham,

And oh, not the valleys of Hall,
Shall hinder the rain from attaining the plain/

For downward the voices of duty call
Downward to toil and be mixed with the main.

h. Changed to " did bar."

i. This and the three following lines changed to

And many a luminous jewel lone
Crystals clear or a-cloud with mist,
Ruby, garnet, and amethyst

Made lures with the lightnings of streaming stone.

/. Changed to " Avail ! I am fain for to water the plain."



SIDNEY LANIER 421

The dry fields burn and the mills are to turn,
And a thousand meadows* mortally yearn.
And the final main from beyond the plain
Calls o er the hills of Habersham,
And calls through the valleys of Hall.

THE CRYSTAL 1

At midnight, death s and truth s unlocking time,

When far within the spirit s hearing rolls

The great soft rumble of the course of things

A bulk of silence in a mask of sound

When darkness clears our vision that by day

Is sun-blind, and the soul s a ravening owl

For truth, and flitteth here and there about

Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft

Is minded for to sit upon a bough,

Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree

And muse in that gaunt place, t was then my heart,

Deep in the meditative dark, cried out :

Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-walled heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars ;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total luster blazeth, no, not one

k. Changed to " myriad of flowers."

/. Changed to " lordly."

1 This poem appeared in the Independent, July 15, 1880, from which it is taken.
The passage in which Lanier reviews the world s great names, Shakespeare,
Homer, Socrates, Buddha, Dante, Milton, JEschylus, Lucretius, etc., only tq
find some flaw in each, is here omitted.



422 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect ; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largess so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities. . . .

But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time,

But Thee, O poet s Poet, Wisdom s Tongue,

But Thee, O man s best Man, O love s best Love,

O perfect life in perfect labor writ,

O all men s Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest,

What if or _> <?/, what mole, what flaw, what lapse,

What least defect or shadow of defect,

What rumor, tattled by an enemy,

Of inference loose, what lack of grace

Even in torture s grasp, or sleep s, or death s,

Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,

Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ t

SUNRISE 1

In my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep ;
Up breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep,
Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting,
Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting,
Came to the gates of sleep.

1 First published in the Independent, December 14, 1882, from which it is
here taken,



SIDNEY LANIER 423

Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep
Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep,
Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling :
The gates of sleep fell a-trembling
Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter yes,

Shaken with happiness :

The gates of sleep stood wide.

I have waked, I have come, my beloved ! I might not abide :
I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide

In your gospeling glooms, to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea.

Tell me, sweet burly-barked, man-bodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow ?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.

Reason s not one that weeps.

What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes ?

O cunning green leaves, little masters ! like as ye gloss

All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss

The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan,

So,

(But would I could know, but would I could know,)
With your question embroid ring the dark of the question of

man,

So, with your silences purfling this silence of man
While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is under the ban,
Under the ban,

So, ye have wrought me



424 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Designs on the night of our knowledge, yea, ye have taught me,

So,
That haply we know somewhat more than we know.

Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,
Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms,
Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves,
Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,
Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me,
Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet
That advise me of more than they bring, repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death,
Teach me the terms of silence, preach me
The passion of patience, sift me, impeach me,

And there, oh there

As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.

My gossip, the owl, is it thou

That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,

As I pass to the beach, art stirred ?

Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird ?

Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,
Old chemist, rapt in alchemy,

Distilling silence, lo,

That which our father-age had died to know
The menstruum that dissolves all matter thou
Hast found it : for this silence, filling now
The globed clarity of receiving space,
This solves us all : man, matter, doubt, disgrace,



SIDNEY LANIER 425

Death, love, sin, sanity,

Must in yon silence clear solution lie.

Too clear ! That crystal nothing who 11 peruse ?

The blackest night could bring us brighter news.

Yet precious qualities of silence haunt

Round these vast margins, ministrant.

Oh, if thy soul s at latter gasp for space,

With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race

Just to be fellowed, when that thou hast found

No man with room, or grace enough of bound

To entertain that New thou tell st, thou art,

T is here, t is here, thou canst unhand thy heart

And breathe it free, and breathe it free,

By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.

The tide s at full : the marsh with flooded streams

Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.

Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies

A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies

Shine scant with one forked galaxy,

The marsh brags ten : looped on his breast they lie.

Oh, what if a sound should be made !

Oh, what if a bound should be laid

To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,

To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string !

I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam

Will break as a bubble o erblown in a dream,

Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night,

Overweighted with stars, overfreighted with light,

Oversated with beauty and silence, will seem

But a bubble that broke in a dream,
If a bound of degree to this grace be laid,

Or a sound or a motion made.



426 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE



Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 28 of 35)