Southern Poets and Poems, Part VIII

A series by Clyde Wilson

RICHARD HENRY WILDE (1789–1847) of Georgia gave up a successful career as lawyer and Congressman to pursue the Muse in Europe. This poem, though perhaps out of fashion, was praised by Byron and was long immensely popular in the English-speaking world. The Yankee black-face minstrel show impresario Stephen Foster “appropriated” some of the lines and set them to music under a different title.

My Life is Like the Summer Rose

My life is like the summer rose.

That opens to the morning sky.

But, ere the shades of evening close,

Is scattered on the ground—to die!

Yet on the rose’s humble bed

The sweetest dews of night are shed.

As if she wept the waste to see—

But none shall weep a tear for me!

My life is like the autumn leaf

That trembles in the moon’s pale ray:

Its hold is frail—its date is brief.

Restless—and soon to pass away!

Yet, ere that leaf shall fall and fade.

The parent tree will mourn its shade,

The winds bewail the leafless tree—

But none shall breathe a sigh for me!

My life is like the prints, which feet

Have left on Tampa’s desert strand;

Soon as the rising tide shall beat.

All trace will vanish from the stand:

Yet, as if grieving to efface

All vestige of the human race.

On that lone shore loud moans the sea—

But none, alas! Shall mourn for me!  

*

To the Mocking-Bird

Winged mimic of the woods! thou motley fool!

Who shall thy gay buffoonery describe?

Thine ever-ready notes of ridicule

Pursue thy fellows still with jest and gibe.

Wit, sophist, songster, Yorick of thy tribe,

Thou sportive satirist of Nature’s school,

To thee the palm of scoffing we ascribe.

Arch-mocker and mad Abbot of Misrule!

For such thou art by day—but all night long

Thou pourest a soft, sweet, pensive, solemn strain,

As if thou didst in this thy moonlight song

Like to the melancholy Jacques complain,

Musing on falsehood, folly, vice, and wrong,

And sighing for thy motley coat again.

*

A Farewell to America

FAREWELL, my more than fatherland!

Home of my heart and friends, adieu!

Lingering beside some foreign strand,

How oft shall I remember you!

How often, o’er the waters blue,

Send back a sign to those I leave,

The loving and beloved few,

Who grieve for me,–for whom I grieve!

We part!—no matter how we part,

There are some thoughts we utter not,

Deep treasured in our inmost heart,

Never revealed, and ne’er forgot!

Why murmur at the common lot?

We part!—I speak not of the pain,–

But when shall I each lovely spot

And each loved face behold again?

It must be months,–it may be years,–

It may—but no!—I will not fill

Fond hearts with gloom,–fond eyes with tears,

“Curious to shape uncertain ill.”

Though humble,–few and far,–yet, still

Those hearts and eyes are ever dear;

Theirs is the love no time can chill,

The truth no chance or change can sear!

All I have seen, and all I see,

Only endears them more and more;

Friends cool, hopes fade, and hours flee,

Affection lives when all is o’er!

Farewell, my more than native shore!

I do not seek or hope to find,

Roam where I will, what I deplore

To leave with them and thee behind!

About Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of www.shotwellpublishing.com, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books. More from Clyde Wilson

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