Poetry, South and North


Minor Verse.

Among the minor poets whose songs have found recognition and whose names deserve some record in the history of our literature, the following at least should be included. William W. Story (1819-1895), the friend of Hawthorne and Lowell, was born in Salem. He resided for the larger part of his life in Italy, and attained considerable rank as a sculptor. He was a poet of more than ordinary gifts, and an author of several volumes, prose as well as verse, including the well-known Roba di Roma, or Walks and Talks about Rome (1862). Thomas William Parsons (1819-1892), born at Boston, is more widely known as a translator of Dante than as an original poet, although his lines On a Bust of Dante are greatly admired by scholars. Dr. Parsons, who was a dental surgeon, practiced his profession abroad, and it was during his residence in Italy that his interest in the Italian poet was aroused. His translation ranks with the best American renderings of the Commedia, although it is not complete. His version of the Inferno appeared in 1867; portions of the Purgatorio and Paradiso were published in 1893. Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813-1892), an artist living in Cambridge, a member of the transcendental group, published a translation of Virgil's AEneid in 1872. The modest verse of Alice and Phoebe Cary (Alice, 1820-71; Phoebe, 1824-71), natives of Ohio, serious in sentiment, was widely read.

New England Women.

Mrs. Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a lecturer and leader in reform movements, will be remembered chiefly as the author of a great warpoem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Lucy Larcom (1826-1893), a worker in the mills at Lowell when her early songs attracted the notice of Whittier, and Mrs. Celia Laighton Thaxter (1836-1894), daughter of the lighthouse-keeper on the Isles of Shoals, were also typical New Englanders who found their inspiration in subjects close at hand. Of other New England women whose verse was notable for literary quality and popular appeal, the following should be mentioned: Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835-1921), Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton (1835-1908), Mrs. Julia C. R. Dorr (1825-1913), born in South Carolina, but making her home in Vermont, Mrs. Annie A. Fields (1834-1915), the wife of James T. Fields, and Edna Dean Proctor (1838- ). A larger distinction attends the literary career of Mrs. Helen Fiske Jackson (1831-1885), before her second marriage Helen Hunt, whose signature "H. H." was familiar to the readers of a generation ago. Mrs. jackson was born at Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poems, issued in 1870, placed her at the head of the women writers of verse in America. The last ten years of Mrs. Jackson's life were spent in Colorado and California. Her interest in the Indians and her intense sympathy with them in their wrongs led to the publication of her Century of Dishonor (1881), a book which bore fruit in the official appointment of Mrs. Jackson as special examiner to the mission Indians in California; and eventually in her striking novel, Ramona (1884). A group of rather remarkable short stories by "Saxe Holm," published in two series (1873, 1878), although unacknowledged, are usually attributed to Helen Hunt Jackson. The poems of Emily Dickinson (1830- 1886) are remarkable productions, which have commanded recognition by our highest literary critics. Miss Dickinson was a townswoman of Helen Fiske, and her life was spent at Amherst largely in seclusion. Only a few intimate friends were aware of her poetical gift, and her verses were not published until 1890, four years after her death.

The Middle West.

John Hay (1838-1905), distinguished as a diplomatist and statesman, was born in Indiana. He began the practice of law in Illinois in 1861, and became the private secretary of President Lincoln. In collaboration with John G. Nicolay he afterward wrote the authoritativeAbraham Lincoln; a History (1886-1890). His literary fame, however, is based upon a slender volume of Pike County Ballads (1871) which, strong in local color, portray the rough virtues of the Mississippi Valley in the early days. There is a finer quality of elegance and grace -- with less originality -- in the later verse of his Castilian Days (1871) and Poems (1890). A strong and successful novel, The Breadwinners (1884), attributed to John Hay, was never publicly acknowledged.

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