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Sidney Lanier

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Title: Sidney Lanier  
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Subject: Hans Schuler, Hall of Fame for Great Americans, Le Morte d'Arthur, Brunswick, Georgia, List of Johns Hopkins University people
Collection: 1842 Births, 1881 Deaths, 19Th-Century American Poets, American Civil War Prisoners of War, American Male Poets, American People of English Descent, American People of Huguenot Descent, Confederate States Army Soldiers, Deaths from Tuberculosis, Hall of Fame for Great Americans Inductees, Infectious Disease Deaths in North Carolina, Johns Hopkins University Alumni, Johns Hopkins University Faculty, Musicians from Baltimore, Maryland, Musicians from MacOn, Georgia, Mythopoeic Writers, Oglethorpe University Alumni, People from Baltimore, Maryland, People of Georgia (U.S. State) in the American Civil War, Poets from Georgia (U.S. State), Poets from Maryland, Writers from Baltimore, Maryland, Writers from MacOn, Georgia, Writers of Modern Arthurian Fiction
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Sidney Lanier

Sidney Lanier
Born Sidney Clopton Lanier
(1842-02-03)February 3, 1842
Macon, Georgia
Died September 7, 1881(1881-09-07) (aged 39)
Lynn, North Carolina
Occupation Poet, musician, academic
Nationality American
Period 1867–81

Sidney Clopton Lanier[1] (February 3, 1842 – September 7, 1881) was an American musician, poet and author. He served in the dialects. He became a flautist and sold poems to publications. He eventually became a university professor and is known for his adaptation of musical meter to poetry. Many schools, other structures and two lakes are named for him.


  • Biography 1
    • Later life 1.1
  • Writing style and literary theory 2
  • Legacy and honors 3
    • Inhabited places 3.1
    • Bodies of water 3.2
    • Schools 3.3
    • Other 3.4
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Sidney Clopton Lanier was born February 3, 1842, in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He graduated first in his class shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War.

He fought in the American Civil War (1861–65), primarily in the tidewater region of Virginia, where he served in the Confederate signal corps. Later, he and his brother Clifford served as pilots aboard English blockade runners. On one of these voyages, his ship was boarded. Refusing to take the advice of the British officers on board to don one of their uniforms and pretend to be one of them, he was captured. He was incarcerated in a military prison at Point Lookout in Maryland, where he contracted tuberculosis[3] (generally known as "consumption" at the time).[4] He suffered greatly from this disease, then incurable and usually fatal, for the rest of his life.

Sidney Lanier

Shortly after the war, he taught school briefly,[3] then moved to Montvale Springs resort hotel near Knoxville, Tennessee.[5] In 1867, he moved to Prattville, at that time a small town just north of Montgomery, where he taught and served as principal of a school.

He married Mary Day of Macon in 1867[3] and moved back to his hometown, where he began working in his father's law office.

After taking and passing the Georgia bar, Lanier practiced as a lawyer for several years.[3] During this period he wrote a number of poems, using the "cracker" and "negro" dialects of his day, about poor white and black farmers in the Reconstruction South. He traveled extensively through southern and eastern portions of the United States in search of a cure for his tuberculosis.

While on one such journey in musical notation and quickly rose to the position of first flautist. He was famous in his day for his performances of a personal composition for the flute called "Black Birds", which mimics the song of that species.

In an effort to support Mary and their three sons, he also wrote poetry for magazines. His most famous poems were "Corn" (1875), "The Symphony" (1875), "Centennial Meditation" (1876), "The Song of the Chattahoochee" (1877),[3] "longest bridge in Georgia is in Glynn County and is named for Lanier.)

Later life

Late in his life, he became a student, lecturer, and, finally, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, specializing in the works of the English novelists,[3] Shakespeare, the Elizabethan sonneteers, Chaucer, and the Old English poets. He published a series of lectures entitled The English Novel (published posthumously in 1883) and a book entitled The Science of English Verse (1880), in which he developed a novel theory exploring the connections between musical notation and meter in poetry.

The house in which Lanier died.
Memorial stone for Lanier.

Lanier finally succumbed to complications caused by his tuberculosis[3] on September 7, 1881, while convalescing with his family near Lynn, North Carolina. He was 39. Lanier is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.

Writing style and literary theory

With his theory connecting musical notation with poetic meter, and also being described as a deft metrical technical,[6] in his own words 'daring with his poem 'Special Pleading' to give myself such freedom as I desired, in my own style'[7] and also by developing a unique style of poetry written in logaoedic dactyls, which was strongly influenced by the works of his beloved Anglo-Saxon poets. He wrote several of his greatest poems in this meter, including "Revenge of Hamish" (1878), "The Marshes of Glynn" and "Sunrise". In Lanier's hands, the logaoedic dactylic meter led to a free-form, almost prose-like style of poetry that was greatly admired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bayard Taylor, Charlotte Cushman, and other leading poets and critics of the day. A similar poetical meter was independently developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins at about the same time (there is no evidence that they knew each other or that either of them had read any of the other's works).

Lanier also published essays on other literary and musical topics and a notable series of four redactions of literary works about knightly combat and chivalry in modernized language more appealing to the boys of his day:

He also wrote two travelogues that were widely read at the time, entitled Florida: Its Scenery, Climate and History (1875) and Sketches of India (1876) (although he never visited India).

Legacy and honors

1972 Sidney Lanier U.S. postage stamp


  • Works by Sidney Lanier at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Sidney Lanier at Internet Archive
  • Works by Sidney Lanier at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • A Biography Of Sidney Lanier at Project Gutenberg
  • Finding aid for the Sidney Lanier papers at the Johns Hopkins University
  • Sidney Lanier in The New Georgia Encyclopedia
  • Sidney Lanier Cottage House Museum in Macon, Georgia
  • Christopher T. George, "Sidney Lanier—Baltimore's Southern Poet-Musician." Urbanite, Baltimore, Maryland
  • "A ballad of trees and the master", Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1899. From Alabama Sheet Music Collection.
  • Sheet music for "Sunset", New York: G. Schirmer, 1877. From Alabama Sheet Music Collection.

External links

  • De Bellis, Jack. Sidney Lanier, Poet of the Marshes, in Southern Literature Series. Atlanta, Ga.: Georgia Humanities Council, 1988. ISBN 0-8203-1319-X (assigned to the University of Georgia Press).
  • Fish, Tallu. Sidney Lanier, America's Sweet Singer of Songs. Cynthiana, Ky.: Privately Printed ... [for distribution by] Betty Fish Smith, 1988. Without ISBN
  • Fishburne, Charles C., junior. Sidney Lanier, Poet of the Marshes, Visits Cedar Keys [in] 1875. Cedar Key, Flor.: Sea Hawk Publications, 1986. Without ISBN

Further reading

  1. ^ "Sidney Clopton Lanier". Netstate. September 24, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  2. ^ Anderson, Charles Robert. Sidney Lanier: Poems and Letters. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969: 90.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Sidney Lanier/Prattville Male and Female Academy Site". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Martin, C. Brenden (2007). Tourism in the Mountain South: A Double-edged Sword. Univ. of Tennessee Press. p. 45.  
  6. ^ C. K. Williams, article in Poets on Poets Carcanet Press, Manchester, 1997 ISBN 9781857543391
  7. ^ Letter by the poet in The Poems of Sidney Lanier (ed Mary D Lanier). kindle ebook ASIN B004 UJ86TE
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Sidney Lanier School
  12. ^ Lanier Elementary School website
  13. ^ Sidney Lanier High School in Austin website
  14. ^ Lanier Middle School in Fairfax website


  • Sidney Lanier Cottage, the birthplace of Lanier, in Macon, Georgia
  • Brunswick, Georgia
  • Lanier's Oak in Brunswick, Georgia
  • The Lanier Library, Tryon, North Carolina. Lanier's widow, Mary, donated two of his volumes of poetry to begin the collection when the library was established in 1890.
  • Sidney Lanier Camp, Eliot, Maine.
  • Sidney Lanier Boulevard in Duluth, GA
Sidney Lanier sat under an oak tree at this location and was inspired to write the poem The Marshes of Glynn. (The original oak tree died.)



  • Chattahoochee River, a river that was the subject of one of Lanier's poems.)
  • Lake Lanier in Tryon, North Carolina

Bodies of water

  • Lanier Heights Neighborhood, Washington, D.C.
  • Lanier County, Georgia
    • Indirectly, USS Lanier, which was named for the county.

Inhabited places

Several entities have been named for Sidney Lanier:

Piers Anthony used Lanier, his life, and his poetry in his science-fiction novel Macroscope (1969). He quotes from "The Marshes of Glynn" and other references appear throughout the novel.

Lanier's poem "The Marshes of Glynn" is the inspiration for a cantata by the same name that was created by the modern English composer Andrew Downes to celebrate the Royal Opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham, England, in 1986.

Baltimore honored Lanier with a large and elaborate bronze and granite sculptural monument, created by Hans K. Schuler and located on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University. In addition to the monument at Johns Hopkins, Lanier was also later memorialized on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Upon the construction of the iconic Duke Chapel between 1930 and 1935 on the university's West Campus, a statue of Lanier was included alongside two fellow prominent Southerners, Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee.[9] This statue, which appears to show a Lanier older than the 39 years he actually lived, is situated on the right side of the portico leading into the Chapel narthex. It is prominently featured on the cover of the 2010 autobiographical memoir Hannah's Child, by Stanley Hauerwas, a Methodist theologian teaching at Duke Divinity School.[10]

The southeastern side bears this inscription: "To Sidney Lanier 1842–1880. The catholic man who hath nightly won God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain and sight out of Blindness and Purity out of stain.” The other poets on the monument are James Ryder Randall, Fr. Abram Ryan, and Paul Hayne. [8]

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