Sunday, February 03, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sydney

Sydney Lanier
Today in 1842 in Macon, Georgia, Sydney Lanier was born. (My father went to Sydney Lanier High in Montgomery, where the poet lived before moving to Baltimore to teach at Johns Hopkins; they were 'The Fighting Poets'.)

I can't remember how old I was when I first learned the Song of the Chattahoochee:

    Out of the hills of Habersham,
    Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain
    Far from the hills of Habersham,
    Far from the valleys of Hall.

I can remember reciting that with my parents on long car trips... And here's another I love, The Mockingbird

Superb and sole, upon a plumed spray
That o'er the general leafage boldly grew,
He summ'd the woods in song; or typic drew
The watch of hungry hawks, the lone dismay
Of languid doves when long their lovers stray,
And all birds' passion-plays that sprinkle dew
At morn in brake or bosky avenue.
Whate'er birds did or dreamed, this bird could say.
Then down he shot, bounced airily along
Sward, twitched in a grasshopper, made song
Midflight, perched, prinked, and to his art again.
Sweet Science, this large riddle read me plain:
How may the death of that dull insect be
The life of yon trim Shakespeare on the tree?

You can find his works at Project Gutenberg.

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