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Sobbing: “O, Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
25 “Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
30 Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”
Sidney Lanier is a poet of the South who year by year appeals
to a larger number of lovers of good literature.
He was born in
Georgia of Huguenot and Scotch ancestry and when only a small
lad showed great talent and love for music.
His mother encour
aged him in this, and from beginning with clapping bones it was not long before he learned to play on the guitar, banjo, violin, and flute. On the Christmas when he was seven years old he was given a small one-keyed flute, and from that time on the flute became his favorite instrument. When he grew to manhood he became first flutist in the Baltimore orchestra. So passionately fond was he of music that he could scarcely decide between that and poetry as his choice for a profession. He was graduated from a Georgia college at the age of eighteen, and in the following year, 1861, he enlisted in the Southern army. His younger brother, Clifford, of whom he was very fond, also enlisted, and when opportunities for promotion came to both they declined rather than be separated. They engaged in many battles, but Sidney Lanier found time, even during the war, to continue his study. In 1864 he was taken prisoner, while doing duty as a signal officer, and spent five months in Point Lookout prison. He came home from the hardships of war broken in health, so that from that time on his life was one fierce struggle against disease. From the time when as a boy he spent hours in his father's library reading the tales of King Arthur, the stories of romantic chivalry were of absorbing interest to him. He understood and loved boys, for he had four of his own, and for these he has written “The Boy’s Froissart,” “The Boy’s King Arthur” and the “Knightly Legends of Wales.” In 1879 he was appointed lecturer on English literature at the Johns Hopkins University, and his prospects were at last brightening when two years later he died. During the last seven years of his life, struggling ever with poverty and pain, he wrote his one volume of poetry. His poems show his great faith—indeed, his poem, “The Marshes of Glynn,” is religion set to music.
THE MARSHES OF GIYNN
O braided dusks of the oak and woven shades of the vine,
Free By a world of marsh, that borders a world of sea. Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band Of the sand beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land. Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight, Softly the sand beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light. And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high: The world lies east: how ample the marsh and the sea and the sky! A league and a league of marsh grass, waist-high, broad in the blade, - Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade, Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain, To the terminal blue of the main. Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea? Somehow my soul seems suddenly free From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin, By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn. Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea! Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun, Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain And sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain. As the marsh hen secretly builds on the watery sod, Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God! I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh hen flies In the freedom that fills all the space 'twixt the marsh and the skies: By so many roots as the marsh grass sends in the sod I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God: Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within
The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.
And the marsh is meshed with a million veins,
In the rose-and-silver evening glow.
farewell, my lord Sun!
The creeks overflow: a thousand rivulets run
Passeth a hurrying sound of wings that westward whir;
Passeth, and all is still; and the currents cease to run;
HELPS TO STUDY Notes and Questions What can you tell of the coastal At sunset what appealed more plain in Georgia? strongly to him? What effect on the poet had the How does the poet account for his ‘‘dusks of the oak” at noon? lack of fear of the marshes now?