Sidney Lanier: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sidney Lanier

Born February 3, 1842(1842-02-03)
Macon, Georgia
Died September 7, 1881 (aged 39)
Lynn, North Carolina
Occupation Poet, musician, academic
Nationality American
Period 1867 - 1881

Sidney Lanier (February 3, 1842 – September 7, 1881) was an American musician and poet.


Early life and war

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.[1] 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).[1] He suffered greatly from this affliction for the rest of his life.

Post war

Shortly after the war, he taught school briefly, then moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he worked as a desk clerk at The Exchange Hotel and also performed as a musician; he was the regular organist at The First Presbyterian Church in nearby Prattville. He wrote his only novel, Tiger Lilies (1867) while in Alabama. In 1867, he moved to Prattville, at that time a small town just north of Montgomery where he taught and served as principal of a school. He married Mary Day of Macon (1876) that same year and moved back to his hometown and began working in his father's law office. After taking and passing the Georgia bar, he practiced as a lawyer for several years. During this period he wrote a number of poems in the "cracker" and "negro" dialects of his day about poor white and black farmers in the Reconstruction South. He traveled extensively through southern and eastern portions of the United States in search of a cure for his tuberculosis.


While on one such journey in Texas, he rediscovered his native and untutored talent for the flute and decided to travel to the northeast in hopes of finding employment as a musician in an orchestra. Unable to find work in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, he signed on to play flute for the Peabody Orchestra in Baltimore, Maryland, shortly after its organization. He taught himself musical notation and quickly rose to the position of first flutist. He was famous in his day for his performances of a personal composition for the flute called "Black Birds," which mimics the song of that species.

Sidney Lanier

Poet and scholar

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.

1972 Sidney Lanier U.S. postage stamp

Later life

Putting these theories into practice, he developed a unique style of poetry written in logaoedic dactyls, which was strongly influenced by the works of his beloved Anglo-Saxon poets. He wrote several of his greatest poems in this meter, including "Revenge of Hamish" (1878), "The Marshes of Glynn" and "Sunrise". In Lanier's hands, the logaoedic dactylic meter led to a free-form, almost prose-like style of poetry that was greatly admired by Longfellow, Bayard Taylor, Charlotte Cushman, and other leading poets and critics of the day. A similar poetical meter was independently developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins at about the same time (there is no evidence that they knew each other or that either of them had read any of the other's works).

Lanier also published essays on other literary and musical topics and a notable series of four redactions of literary works about knightly combat and chivalry in modernized language more appealing to the boys of his day:

The house in which Lanier died.

He also wrote two travelogues that were widely read at the time, entitled Florida: Its Scenery, Climate and History (1875) and Sketches of India (1876) (although he never visited India).

Memorial stone for Lanier.

Lanier finally succumbed to complications caused by his tuberculosis on September 7, 1881, while convalescing with his family near Lynn, North Carolina. He was only 39. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore. Baltimore also honored him with a large and elaborate bronze and granite sculptural monument, created by Hans K. Schuler and located on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University.

Lanier's poem "The Marshes of Glynn" is the inspiration for a cantata by the same name that was created by the modern English composer Andrew Downes to celebrate the Royal Opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham, England, in 1986.


Several things have been named for Sidney Lanier:

References in popular culture

Lanier, his life, his talent as a flautist, and his poetry all figure prominently in the 1969 Science Fiction novel Macroscope by Piers Anthony. Several quotations from "The Marshes of Glynn" and other references appear throughout the novel, and indeed Lanier and his work are central to one of the characters in the story.

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sidney Lanier (February 3, 1842July 7, 1881) was an American poet and musician.


  • O Trade, O Trade! Would thou wert dead!
    The time needs heart — 'tis tired of head.
    • "The Symphony" (1875).
  • And yet shall Love himself be heard,
    Though long deferred, though long deferred:
    O'er the modern waste a dove hath whirred:
    Music is Love in search of a word.
    • "The Symphony" (1875).
  • Virginal shy lights,
    Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
    When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
    Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
    Of the heavenly woods and glades,
    That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
    The wide sea-marshes of Glynn.
  • The sun is a-wait at the ponderous gate of the West.
    • "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878).
  • 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.
    • "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878).
  • The incalculable Up-and-Down of Time.
    • "Clover", reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original text related to:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SIDNEY LANIER (1842-1881), American poet, was born at Macon, Georgia, on the 3rd of February 1842. He was of Huguenot descent on his father's side, and of Scottish and Virginian on his mother's. From childhood he was passionately fond of music. His subsequent mastery of the flute helped to support him and greatly increased his reputation. At the age of fourteen he entered Oglethorpe College, where, after graduating with distinction, he held a tutorship. He enlisted in the Confederate army in April 1861, serving first in Virginia, and finding opportunities to continue his studies. After the Seven Days' battles around Richmond, he was transferred to the signal service.

About this time the first symptoms of consumption appeared. He subsequently served in a blockade-runner, but his vessel was captured, and he was confined for five months in a Federal prison, his flute proving the best of companions. Exchanged early in 1865, he started home on foot, arriving in a state of exhaustion that led to a severe illness. In 1867 he visited New York in connexion with his novel Tiger Lilies - an immature work, dealing in part with his war experiences, and now difficult to obtain. Later in the same year he took charge of a country school in Alabama, and was married to Miss Mary Day of his native town. The next year he returned to Macon in low health, and began to study and practise law with his father. In 1872 he went to Texas for his health, but was forced to return, and he secured an engagement as first flute in the Peabody concerts at Baltimore (December 1873). He wrote a guide-book to Florida (1876), and tales for boys from Froissart, Malory, the Mabinogion and Percy's Reliques (1878-1882). He now made congenial friends, such as Bayard Taylor, his reputation gradually increased, and he was enabled to study music and literature, especially Anglo-Saxon poetry. In 1876 he wrote his ambitious cantata for the Centennial Exhibition, and brought his family north. A small volume of verse appeared in the next year. In 1879 he was made lecturer on English literature at Johns Hopkins University. His lectures became the basis of his Science of English Verse (1880) - his most important prose work, and an admirable discussion of the relations of music and poetry - and also of his English Novel (New York, 1883), which, devoted largely to George Eliot, is suggestive, but one-sided. Work had to be abandoned on account of growing feebleness, and in the spring of 1881 he was carried to Lynn, North Carolina, to try camp life, and died there on the 7th of September. Since his death his fame has grown steadily and greatly, an enlarged and final edition (1884) of his poems, prepared by his wife, his Letters, 1866-1881 (1899), and several volumes of miscellaneous prose having assisted in keeping his name before the public. A posthumous work on Shakspere and his Forerunners (London, 2 vols., 1902) was edited by H. W. Lanier. Among his more noteworthy poems are "Corn," "The Revenge of Hamish," "Song of the Chattahoochee" and "The Marshes of Glynn." By some his genius is regarded as musical rather than poetic, and his style is considered hectic; by others he is held to be one of the most original and most talented of modern American poets. He is considered the leading writer of the New South, the greatest Southern poet since Poe, and a man of heroic and exquisite character.

See a "Memorial," by William Hayes Ward, prefixed to the Poems (1884); Letters of Sidney Lanier 1866-1881 (1899), edited by H. W. Lanier and Mrs Sidney Lanier; E. Mims, Sidney Lanier (1905). There is a bibliography of Lanier's scattered writings in Select Poems (New York, 1896; Toronto, 1900) edited by Morgan Callaway.

(W. P. T.)

<< Matthaus Lang Von Wellenburg

Jean Denis, Comte Lanjuinais >>

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address