The Civil War Connections Blog

Brawned like Briareus….and whatnot

A review of Palmetto Pictures by Volney Hickox and published by Walter Low appeared in the  New York Evening Post 163 years ago this day.  While I would normally just give such a review a cursory glance – the following made me stop and reconsider.  Of this work the reviewer writes: “This purports to be a poem, devoted to the praise of our military leaders and soldiers in South Carolina; but while it is an ambitious work, it is at the same time an incomprehensible and silly one.”

Well of course this meant I had to find it. Incomprehensible and silly?  Then it must be for me! but I will let you be the judge – here is the first part of it. If you feel the need to read it all – you can find it here

Beautiful Land, where the bountiful sun

Blesses the bond of savannah and sea,

Neither so lovely till blended in one

Each to the other shall complement be,

Magical dews that the tropical day

Kisses to rapturous odor and hue,

Myrtle and laurel and orange and bay,

Purple and emerald, golden and blue.

 

Yonder indigenous endogens wave

Banner-like blades on a mystical bole,

And, with a vigor perennial, brave

Boreal blasts from the alien pole,

Over the plaited palmettos, abroad

Brawned like Briareus, century-old,

Grimly magnificent evergreen god

Realm of the greenwood the live-oak doth hold.

 

Tempests the thunderous foliage toss,

Locks of the Deity wizard and hoar,

Awfully sighs the oracular moss,

Art thou incarnate Dodona of yore?

Dead generations rejoiced at thy birth,

Peoples have flourished to power with thee,

Cities have leaped from thy generous girth,

Art of the shore and the ark of the sea.

 

O these soft Isles of the summery sea!

Angels their daintiest prisms composing,

Turn the kaleidoscope watching with glee,

Every moment new glories disclosing.

Land of the Beautiful, Bountiful Land!

Sweet is the blossom, but sweeter the boon,

Flowers are bright and their odors are bland,

O but the fruits of the tropical noon!

 

And the delirious chorusses—hush!

Mockingbird, whippoorwill, nonpareil, Nightingale, killdeer, and passionate thrush,

Fringed by the petrel’s tempestuous peal?

Tribes of the sea, how ye cherish these shores,

Meeting in wild multitudinous play,

Muscles rejoice in the succulent pores,

Crabs and soft shrimps, Epicurean prey.

 

What do the elves of the sun and the sea,

Cunningly comb from the glistening sands?

Is it the fleece of a sorcery

Wierder than wildered the Argonaut bands?

Magical mesh, to entangle a world—

Commerce, religion, philosophy, art,

Liberty, peace, from their pedestal hurled—

Cotton, the tyrant of manor and mart.

 

Ominous plant! thou shalt never again,

Ghost of the tears and the blood of the slave,

Phantom of knout-welted corpses of men,

Stalk like a ghole, with the gust of the grave,

For there’s a judgment, wherever hath trod

Blistering foot of the bondman, and earth

Gapes to develope the vengeance of God,

Ruin and rapine, and ravage and dearth.

 

This is the Land of divinest Delight,

Riches of rapture in every ray,

Gold of the morning and amber of night—

Passionate peace, nought to take it away.

This is the Land, that the Serpent of Sin

Seeks to beguile of a generous God,

This is the Land that His servants shall win—

Liberty’s Eden from Slavery’s rod.