Mr. E. C. Stedman:1
Dear Sir: Holding you as the most authoritative of our critics I write
on a matter which will at once concern you, and ask your consideration. I enclose a few
poems by an author who is a stranger to me but one which I do not think you can afford
longer to remain ignorant of.
I ask your careful attention to these poems. They were published in the
"Providence Sunday Journal" and attracted my attention and finally affected me
so power fully that I sought to know more of the author. I found Mr. Burleigh to be one of
the well-known Burleigh family of Connecticut.2
His hair has grown white in literary work. For forty years he has been writing and has
published but a mere tithe of his work. Latterly he has sent out some extracts from his
longer poems. By the merest chance I met him here in the city, and as we talked together
he opened up the plan of his works which are prodigious. I do not conceive that you could
have left him unmentioned in your late work had you known of his writings. I ask you to
read the "Song of Beauty"3
and the "Song of the Architect" with this plan in your brain:-
The scene opens on a high wooded height, at still noon. The poet lies
gazing into the sky. Suddenly a light, brighter than the noonday sun, announces the
approach of a lovely female figure floating at will, without wings. Upon the fillet on her
head a single star blazes still more brightly. Behind her an innumerable train floats,
till lost in the upper deeps. It is Alèthè and her attendant spirits.
--"The glorious company who keep
The worlds in rhythmic march."
As the dreamer questions concerning life and its mysteries, Alèthè and
her spirits of Wisdom, Beauty, Love, etc answer.--The slips sent contain two of these
songs which will faintly indicate the splendid character of the rhythm and music,
and grandeur of the thought. I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe this poetry to
bear the characteristics of the poetry which shall spring "like an Alpine torrent
from the glacial facts of science." Mr. Burleigh strikes me as an Evolutionistic
Hugo. However my opinion is of no consequence--what do you think of it? It is probable
that you will wonder why he has not published more and all I could reply is, he seems a
very retiring man and--is poor. Friends are now urging him to print and "Alethe"
is the particular poem, we urge. It seems to me that our literature can ill afford to lose
work of the character of "Song of the Architect" and "Silence of the
Stars" which are mere fragments. His range is enormous: running from poems for the
"Nursery" and "St. Nicholas" up to the poems enclosed. Are we deceived
or is this a remarkable genius? Is that "Silence of the Stars" a mighty hymn of
a soul filled with the glory of science or is it rhymed dissertation? It pleases me so
well that I dare not say whether it is poetry to Smith or Hobbes. What shall we say of a
man who catches and swings the "Nebular Hypothesis" thus.
"The fine mist of primeval time
My breath condensed like summer rain
Swept on as by a hurricane
Each drop a burning world sublime"
"I sunk the glooming gulfs of space
Down which the stellar maelstrom whirls;
That for its seething foam-crest, hurls
The pallid nebulae in heaven's face."
Observe the contrast of the great and small in each stanza.--But nothing
I can say will add to them, they will speak to you in their own fashion. Believing that
you will feel an interest much greater than my own I have written thus freely. I should be
very glad to hear from you, or a letter directed to Mr. Burleigh at this point would be
pleasant. Any questions from you would be gladly answered.
Mr. Burleigh is here for a few days. As I indicated he is in no way
connected with me except as a congenial mind.
Will you please return slips. They are all I have and are valuable to
1. Edmund Clarence
Stedman (1833-1908), genteel poet, editor, and stockbroker, whose Poets of America
(2 vols., 1885) Garland refers to. This is apparently the earliest surviving letter by
2. George Shepard Burleigh
(1821-1903) published poems chiefly in magazines and newspapers.
3. Full title: "A Song of
Beauty in her Winter Realm."