Poems of the Week: Henry Timrod

These poems of Henry Timrod, the finest poet of the War Between the States, are posted courtesy of Vince Cornell:

Serenade
Hide, happy damask, from the stars,
What sleep enfolds behind your veil,
But open to the fairy cars
On which the dreams of midnight sail;
And let the zephyrs rise and fall
About her in the curtained gloom,
And then return to tell me all
The silken secrets of the room.
Ah, dearest! may the elves that sway
Thy fancies come from emerald plots,
Where they have dozed and dreamed all day
In hearts of blue forget-me-nots.
And one perhaps shall whisper thus:
Awake! and light the darkness, Sweet!
While thou art reveling with us,
He watches in the lonely street.
Youth and Manhood
Another year! a short one, if it flow
Like that just past,
And I shall stand -- if years can make me so --
A man at last.
Yet, while the hours permit me, I would pause
And contemplate
The lot whereto unalterable laws
Have bound my fate.
Yet, from the starry regions of my youth,
The empyreal height
Where dreams are happiness, and feeling truth,
And life delight --
From that ethereal and serene abode
My soul would gaze
Downward upon the wide and winding road,
Where manhood plays;
Plays with the baubles and the gauds of earth --
Wealth, power, and fame --
Nor knows that in the twelvemonth after birth
He did the same.
Where the descent begins, through long defiles
I see them wind;
And some are looking down with hopeful smiles,
And some are -- blind.
And farther on a gay and glorious green
Dazzles the sight,
While noble forms are moving o'er the scene,
Like things of light.
Towers, temples, domes of perfect symmetry
Rise broad and high,
With pinnacles among the clouds; ah, me!
None touch the sky.
None pierce the pure and lofty atmosphere
Which I breathe now,
And the strong spirits that inhabit there,
Live -- God sees how.
Sick of the very treasure which they heap;
Their tearless eyes
Sealed ever in a heaven-forgetting sleep,
Whose dreams are lies;
And so, a motley, unattractive throng,
They toil and plod,
Dead to the holy ecstasies of song,
To love, and God.
Dear God! if that I may not keep through life
My trust, my truth,
And that I must, in yonder endless strife,
Lose faith with youth;
If the same toil which indurates the hand
Must steel the heart,
Till, in the wonders of the ideal land,
It have no part;
Oh! take me hence! I would no longer stay
Beneath the sky;
Give me to chant one pure and deathless lay,
And let me die!
Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Raymond Olson says:

    Thanks, Vince. Did Timrod belong to the last generation of American poets capable of youthful rumination in light-footed, elegant verse?

  2. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Tom,
    Did you ever meet Allen Tate or read his modernist Ode of similar name ?

  3. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    One of Ryans poems, published in the Weekly Register in 1879, is entitled: What Ails the World?
    I also like this southern poem by Father Ryan

    What ails the world? he sings and sighs

    No answer cometh to his cry

    He asks the earth and asks the sky

    The echoes of his song pass by

    Unanswered and the Poet dies.

  4. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    I never met Tate. The closest I came was meeting his granddaughter at a wedding. I cannot say why, but I was never drawn to him. He was one of those writers always trying to find himself or make an impression. I tried a novel and gave it up.

  5. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Don’t know much about him myself but thank you for the response