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Sunday, February 12, 2017

A BALLAD OF THE TREES AND THE MASTER


A BALLAD OF THE TREES AND THE MASTER
…Sidney Lanier

Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent,
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn- tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.

Out to the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When death and shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
'Twas on a tree they slew Him ... last
When out of the woods He came.

Sidney Lanier was born at Macon, Georgia, Feb. 3, 1842. His was a family of musicians[Lanier himself was a skillful performer on various instruments], and it is not surprising that his verse emphasizes... even over stresses... the influence of music on poetry. He attended Oglethorpe College, graduating at the age of 18 in 1860, and a year later, I volunteered as a private in the Confederate Army. After several months imprisonment he was released in February, 1865, returning from Point Lookout to Georgia on foot, accompanied only by his flute. His physical health, never the most robust, had been further him paired by his incarceration, and he was already suffering from tuberculosis, the rest of his life being spent in an unequal struggle against it

He was now only 23 years old and the problem of choosing a vocation was complicated by his marriage in 1867. He spent five years in the study and practice of law, during which time he wrote comparatively little verse. But the law could not hold him; he felt premonitions of death and realized he must devote his talents to art before it was too late. He was fortunate enough to obtain a position as flautist with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and 1873 in Baltimore, where he had free access to the music and literature he craved. Here he wrote all his best poetry. In 1879, he was made lecturer on English in Johns Hopkins University, and it was for his courses there that he wrote his chief prose work, a brilliant if inconclusive study, The Science of English Verse. Besides his poetry he wrote several books for boys, the two most popular The Boys' Froissart [1878] and The Boys' King Arthur [1880].

A comprehensive collection of his verse was first issued in 1906: collected poems of Sidney Lanier, edited by his wife, the poets well known musical experiments, but they're rarely printed dialect versus and all that remains of "The Jacquerie."

Lanier died, a victim of his disease, in the mountains of North Carolina, September 7, 1881.

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