Biography of Sidney Lanier
"Sydney Lanier,"was born February 3, 1842, in Macon, Georgia, to parents Robert Sampson Lanier and Mary Jane Anderson; he was mostly of English ancestry, with his distant French ancestors having immigrated to England in the 16th century. He began playing the flute at an early age, and his love of that musical instrument continued throughout his life. He attended Oglethorpe University near Milledgeville, Georgia, graduating first in his class shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War.
He fought in the Civil War, primarily in the tidewater region of Virginia, where he served in the Confederate signal corps. Later, he and his brother Clifford served as pilots aboard English blockade runners. On one of these voyages, his ship was boarded. Refusing to take the advice of the British officers on board to don one of their uniforms and pretend to be one of them, he was captured. He was incarcerated in a military prison at Point Lookout in Maryland, where he contracted tuberculosis (generally known as "consumption" at the time). He suffered greatly from this affliction for the rest of his life.
In an effort to support Mary and their three sons, he also wrote poetry for magazines. His most famous poems were "Corn" (1875), "The Symphony" (1875), "Centennial Meditation" (1876), "The Song of the Chattahoochee" (1877), "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878), and "Sunrise" (1881). The latter two poems are generally considered his greatest works. They are part of an unfinished set of lyrical nature poems known as the "Hymns of the Marshes", which describe the vast, open salt marshes of Glynn County on the coast of Georgia. There is a historical marker in Brunswick commemorating the writing of "The Marshes of Glynn". The largest bridge in Georgia (as of 2005), a short distance from the marker, is named The Sidney Lanier Bridge.
Late in his life, he became a student, lecturer, and, finally, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, specializing in the works of the English novelists, Shakespeare, the Elizabethan sonneteers, Chaucer, and the Anglo-Saxon poets. He published a series of lectures entitled The English Novel (published posthumously in 1883) and a book entitled The Science of English Verse (1880), in which he developed a novel theory exploring the connections between musical notation and meter in poetry.
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Sidney Lanier Poems
A Song Of Eternity In Time
Once, at night, in the manor wood My Love and I long silent stood, Amazed that any heavens could Decree to part us, bitterly repining.
O marriage-bells, your clamor tells Two weddings in one breath. SHE marries whom her love compels: -- And I wed Goodman Death!
A Sunrise Song.
Young palmer sun, that to these shining sands Pourest thy pilgrim's tale, discoursing still Thy silver passages of sacred lands, With news of Sepulchre and Dolorous Hill,
A Ballad Of The Trees And The Master
Into the woods my Master went, Clean forspent, forspent. Into the woods my Master came, Forspent with love and shame.
A Song Of The Future.
Sail fast, sail fast, Ark of my hopes, Ark of my dreams; Sweep lordly o'er the drowned Past, Fly glittering through the sun's strange beams;
An Evening Song.
Look off, dear Love, across the sallow sands, And mark yon meeting of the sun and sea, How long they kiss in sight of all the lands. Ah! longer, longer, we.
He's fast asleep. See how, O Wife, Night's finger on the lip of life Bids whist the tongue, so prattle-rife, Of busy Baby Charley.
Souls And Rain-Drops
Light rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea, Then vanish, and die utterly. One would not know that rain-drops fell If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.
A Florida Sunday.
From cold Norse caves or buccaneer Southern seas Oft come repenting tempests here to die; Bewailing old-time wrecks and robberies, They shrive to priestly pines with many a sigh,
At First. To Charlotte Cushman.
My crippled sense fares bow'd along His uncompanioned way, And wronged by death pays life with wrong And I wake by night and dream by day.
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,
Written for the Art Autograph during the Irish Famine, 1880.
In the heart of the Hills of Life, I know Two springs that with unbroken flow Forever pour their lucent streams Into my soul's far Lake of Dreams.
The Raven Days
Our hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken, And but the ghosts of homes to us remain, And ghastly eyes and hollow sighs give token From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.
In the heart of the Hills of Life, I know
Two springs that with unbroken flow
Forever pour their lucent streams
Into my soul's far Lake of Dreams.
Not larger than two eyes, they lie
Beneath the many-changing sky
And mirror all of life and time,
-- Serene and dainty pantomime.