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She bides her time-a patient Fate!
AT TIMROD'S GRAVE
Harp of the South! no more, no more
Our one sweet singer breaks no more
The land is hushed from shore to shore,
No other voice can charm our ears,
For singing, Fate hath given sighs,
Ah! who may touch the harp strings since
See where he lies-his last sad home
Save for a little heap of leaves
The winds have gathered there!
One fair, frail shell from some far sea
Sad emblem and sole epitaph
The sweet winds murmur in its heart
As they would bring their secrets still
And lo! one tender pearly bloom,
Wild weeds grow rank about the place,
Around shine many a marble shaft
And strangers stand at Timrod's grave
"Hold up the glories of thy dead!"
Land that he loved! Come, honor now
Now all our days are poems,
And all our nights are song; The woods are full of singers That babble loud and long.
I hear sweet sounds of sinless mirth
And sea and shore, and heaven and earth,
In tree, in bush and briar
The winter's past; all things lift up
And days rhyme unto days.
The flowers put on a conscious look,
"We know the winter's gone," they say:
Ah, life is sweeter than we thought,
As if our world had strayed, somehow,
And so, content, I close my eyes,
In all the trees-amid the flowersThey hide and sing, and sing, The world seems full of birds and bloomsWake up, my heart, 'tis spring!
All day the toilers sigh for rest,
The sun sinks in the darkling west,
And they forget their care;
Through all our lives we pray for rest,
Then comes the Night, with balmy breast,
And soothes us unaware.
I wonder much-"And is it Death,
JOHN CHARLES MCNEILL
EDWARD K. GRAHAM
OHN CHARLES MCNEILL was born in North Carolina, July 26, 1874. He spent his youth on his father's farm in Scotland County, at that time a part of Rockingham County. He received his preliminary training in ill-equipped country schools, and in 1893 went to Wake Forest College. After graduation, in 1898, he spent a year (1899-1900) as substitute professor of English at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. The following year he began the practice of law at Lumberton, N.C., but his literary inclination was dominant, and he bought a part interest in the local paper. During the less than two years that he spent in legal practice at Lumberton, and later at Laurinburg, he was actively engaged in creative work. Journalism claimed all of his time after 1904, when he accepted a position on the Charlotte Daily Observer. In this paper most of his writings appeared, though he made occasionel contributions to The Century Magazine and other prominent periodicals. In 1905 he was awarded the Patterson Cup for the best literary work done in the State during that year. His best work, exclusive of dialect verse, was published in 1906 under the title 'Songs, Merry and Sad.'* At the time of his death, October 17, 1907, he had completed arrangements for publishing his negro dialect poems. His intimate knowledge of the negro, his warm sympathy with his moods, and his graceful gift of reproducing negro melody, put these dialect poems easily among the best in contemporary American journalism; but it is on 'Songs, Merry and Sad' that his claim to remembrance chiefly rests.
Judged by this slender volume, then, McNeill is one of the foremost poets of the South of his day. It is a collection that wins him a permanent place in Southern literary history. He is essentially Southern in the tenderness of his feeling, but he is before all else a poet. The attitudinizing that is loosely called Southern, he is wholly without. He has none of the offended melancholy that, though not characteristic of the best poets of the South, is characteristic of their
*Stone and Barringer, Charlotte, North Carolina.
imitators. No boding owls or humid moods haunt his verse, but there is the calm flute-like note of the wood thrush, of "silver silence,"
"And cottage crofts where apples bend the bough,"
luring the tired heart into a comfortable peace.
He is of a place very definitely, but he is not provincial. The place is home, and it is his fine gift to be able to revivify it with all of its rich connotations. Hearthstone moods, and the little loves and sorrows are his theme.
"The little cares and carols that belong
To home-hearts, and old rustic lutes and lyres,
It is these that he voices, in an adequate verse-medium, in felicitous and always unpretentious diction, and with a sympathy that within its range lacks nothing of nobility.
Intuitive sympathy dominates his verse. It is melodious with fulltoned, deeply-breathed sympathy. For the little white bride, the invalid, the baby in its crib, the drudge, the caged bird, the prisoner, the mother, the wife, and for her who is a mother but not a wife, it is the same: the love that understands without the need of formalism or creed. With subjects so saturated with sentiment he appears to have no temptation to indulge in sentimentality. The reserve of deep sincerity holds the balance perfectly true. Spontaneous sympathy, however, everywhere takes the emphasis. He keeps to those simple, fundamental tones and moods that present verse appears to have lost interest in, and that it has always been the peculiar function of poetry best to express. At a time when poetry has lost the appeal of passion, it is peculiarly grateful to come into the warm confidence of emotion always gentle, intimate, and manly, and in its best moments infinitely tender. It is a rare and blessed thing when Great-Heart is given the gift of speech.
The love poems exhibit the highest pitch of McNeill's singing quality. Quite frankly with him, love is the one thing worth while. The tender depth of "Love's Fashion," "Now," and "Pardon Time," the graceful spontaneity of "Jane's Birthday," and the passionate abandon of "Oh, Ask Me Not," show his power to portray with subtlety and flexibility strong, sweet passion.
Just as his sympathy is spontaneous, and not the result of modern altruism, so his representation of nature is not a part of a 'back to nature' movement. Nature with him is not an acquired taste. To say it tritely, he is clearly a lover of nature rather than a student of