1821
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Wyoming.

United States Review and Literary Gazette 1 (February 1827) 376-79.

Fitz-Greene Halleck


Nine Spenserians, signed "F. G. H., June, 1821" and published in 1827 by William Cullen Bryant in the United States Review, the successor publication to the United States Literary Gazette, and The New York Review and Athenaeum Magazine. Fitz-Greene Halleck revisits the site of the massacre described in Thomas Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming, noting the progress of civilization and the absence of the romance: "But where are they, the beings of the mind, | The bard's creations, moulded not of clay, | Hearts to strange bliss and suffering assigned, | Young Gertrude, Albert, Waldegrave, — where are they?" This poem is part of a series of descriptive odes in Spenserian stanzas developed, ultimately, out of Campbell's poem. Most are titled with American place-names.

Edgar Allan Poe: "Wyoming is composed of nine Spenserian stanzas. With some unusual excellences, it has some of the worst faults of Halleck. The lines which follow are of great beauty: '[...] And now, where winds thy river's greenest shore, | Within a bower of sycamores am laid, | And winds, as soft and sweet as ever bore | The fragrance of wild flowers through sun and shade, | Are singing in the trees, whose low boughs press my head.' The poem, however, is disfigured with the mere burlesque of some portions of Alnwick Castle — with such things as 'he would look particularly droll | In his Iberian boot and Spanish plume;' and 'a girl of sweet sixteen | Love-darting eyes and tresses like the morn | Without a shoe or stocking — hoeing corn,' mingled up in a pitiable manner with images of real beauty" in Review of Halleck, Alnwick Castle, with other Poems; Southern Literary Messenger 2 (April 1836) 335.

William Cullen Bryant: "The poem entitled 'Burns' — of which, let me say, I am not sure that the verses are not the finest in which one poet every celebrated another — was contributed by Halleck, in 1827, to the United States Review, which I bore a part in conducting. Halleck had been led, by his admiration of the poetry of Campbell, to pay a visit to the charming valley celebrated by that poet in his Gertrude of Wyoming, which he handed me for publication in the same magazine" "Fitz-Green Halleck" (1868) in Prose Works (1884) 1:375.

Edwin Percy Whipple: "His extravagant admiration for Campbell was founded on Campbell's admirable power of compression. Halleck thought that Byron was a mere rhetorician in comparison with his favorite poet" American Literature and other Papers, ed. Whittier (1876-86) in Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 6:500.

William Ellery Leonard: "In certain Spenserians on 'Wyoming' both Campbell and Byron are traceable in stanza and phraseology, while the subject itself had been sung by Campbell, to whose poem thankful reverence was then frequent in America" Byron and Byronism in America (1907) 41.

Mrs. Sigourney's "Zinzendorff" (1836) begins with an allusion to Thomas Campbell: "'Twas summer in Wyoming."

Cyrus Redding: "With the kindest feeling towards the Americans, Campbell thought it would be a very long time before it would be possible for them to have a highly marked literature of their own, if they should ever possess one at all. He thought that this was a disadvantage arising out of the early literature of England belonging equally to America. Owing to the language being common to the two nations, the higher writers of the old country must necessarily be the models for the new; there would, in consequence, be nothing sufficiently marked in American writers, to whatever excellence they might attain, that would give them an original stamp and character unconnected with their fathers, and altogether a novel creation. They might, when the vast transatlantic continent became peopled, in the course of ages, and of that decadence which is the lot of all empires, be the transmitters of the literature of England to unborn generations, but America would still be only the medium of transmission of what had been common to both. America might shine in science" "Life and Reminiscences of Thomas Campbell" New Monthly Magazine 79 (February 1847) 244-45.



Thou com'st in beauty on my gaze at last,
"On Susquehannah's side, fair Wyoming,"
Image of many a dream in hours long past,
When life was in its bud and blossoming,
And waters, gushing from the fountain spring
Of pure enthusiast thought, dimmed my young eyes,
As by the poet borne, on unseen wing,
I breathed, in fancy, 'neath thy cloudless skies,
The Summer's air, and heard her echoed harmonies.

I then but dreamed, — thou art before me now
In life, a vision of the brain no more:
I've stood upon the wooded mountain's brow,
That beetles high thy lovely valley o'er,
And now, where winds thy river's greenest shore,
Within a bower of sycamores am laid,
And winds, as soft and sweet as ever bore
The fragrance of wild flowers through sun and shade,
Are singing in the trees, whose low boughs press my head.

Nature hath made thee lovelier than the power
Even of Campbell's pen hath pictured; he
Had woven, had he gazed one sunny hour
Upon its smiling vale, its scenery
With more of truth, and made each rock and tree
Known like old friends, and greeted from afar;
And there are tales of sad reality,
In the dark legends of thy border war,
With woes of deeper tint than his own Gertrude's are.

But where are they, the beings of the mind,
The bard's creations, moulded not of clay,
Hearts to strange bliss and suffering assigned,
Young Gertrude, Albert, Waldegrave, — where are they?
We need not ask. The people of to-day
Appear good, honest, quiet men enough,
And hospitable too — for ready pay—
With manners like their roads, a little rough,
And hands whose grasp is warm and welcoming, tho' tough.

Judge Hallenbach, who keeps the toll-bridge gate
And the town-records, is the Albert now
Of Wyoming; like him, in church and state,
Her Doric column, — and upon his brow
The thin hairs, white with seventy winters' snow,
Look patriarchal. Waldegrave 'twere in vain
To point out here, unless in yon scare-crow
That stands, full-uniformed, upon the plain,
To frighten flocks of crows and blackbirds from the grain.

For he would look particularly droll
In his "Iberian boot" and "Spanish plume,"
And be the wonder of each Christian soul,
As of the birds that scare-crow and his broom.
But Gertrude, in her loveliness and bloom,
Hath many a model here, for Woman's eye
In court, or cottage, wheresoe'er her home,
Hath a heart-spell too holy and too high
To be o'erpraised even by her worshipper, Poesy.

There's one in the next field — of sweet sixteen —
Singing and summoning thoughts of beauty born
In heaven, with her jacket of light green,
"Love darting eyes, and tresses like the morn,"
Without a shoe or stocking, hoeing corn.
Whether, like Gertrude, she oft wanders there
With Shakspeare's volume in her bosom borne,
I think is doubtful. Of the poet-player
The maiden knows no more than Cobbett or Voltaire.

There is a woman, widowed, gray, and old,
Who tells you where the foot of Battle stept
Upon their day of massacre. She told
Its tale, and pointed to the spot, and wept,
Whereon her father and five brothers slept,
Shroudless, the bright-dreamed slumbers of the brave,
When all the land a funeral mourning kept,
And there wild laurels, planted on the grave
By Nature's hand, in air their pale red blossoms wave.

And on the margin of yon orchard hill
Are marks where time-worn battlements have been,
And in the tall grass traces linger still
Of "arrowy frieze and wedged ravelin."
Five hundred of her brave that Valley green
Trod on the morn, in soldier-spirit gay,
But twenty lived to tell the noon-day scene;
And where are now the twenty? Passed away.
Has Death no triumph-hours, save on the battle day?

[pp. 376-79]