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Poet, Frank L. Stanton

I have commented several times here on the value of poetry. One poet I particularly appreciate is Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927), who was the first poet laureate of Georgia.  His poems are primarily a celebration of the simple pleasures of life rooted in the rural South.  I recently acquired a book of his poems which contains a foreword by Joel Chandler Harris (of Uncle Remus fame).

This foreword contains an engaging critique of culture which still speaks today.  Here are some excerpts from the foreword.

“We know a great deal more than our fathers knew.  Profound sophistication is the order of the day. . . . Sham culture, brought to book (to speak literally), confesses that the beastliness of the primal ape remains pretty near the surface of things.  The poets flutter somewhat higher.  That which is insipid vulgarity in prose blossoms into pessimism in verse.  In the magazines and in the newspapers it is the same.  Knowing too much, we know nothing!  There is no future anymore.  Everything is hopeless gloom…”

“It is in the midst of these conditions that the voice of a singer away down South, in the provincial regions, makes itself heard.  It is a bold voice, too, for it persists in singing night and day, neither seeking nor avoiding an audience.  If the world listens, well and good: if not, pleasant dreams to all for the sake of old times! ”

“It will be interesting to note what the critics – the apostles of culture – will say of Mr. Stanton’s verses.  We shall hear, no doubt, that they lack finish, that too little attention has been paid to the demands of literary art.  It is so easy to talk about literary art, and so hard to know what it is!”

“In a period that fairly reeks with the results of a sham culture that is profoundly ignorant of the verities of life, and a sham philosophy that worships mere theories, it surely is something to find a singer breathing unceremoniously into Pan’s pipes and waking again the woodland echoes with snatches of song that ring true to the ear, because they come straight from the heart.  We were told a while ago by one of the sophisticated brethren that the poet of the future would come to us singing of science.  The dreaded possibility still lies before us.  Meanwhile, here is one with the dew of morning in his hair, who looks on life and the promise thereof and finds the prospect joyous.  Whereupon, he lifts up his voice and speaks to the heart: and lo! here is Love, with nimble feet and sparkling eyes; and here is Hope, fresh risen from his sleep; and here is Life made beautiful again.”

[Joel Chandler Harris’ preface to Frank L. Stanton, Songs of the Soil (New York: Appleton, 1928)]

I commend Frank L. Stanton to you!

One Comment

  1. Ted Short says:

    Just acquired the same book just yesterday at an estate sale, occasions at which I never turn down purchase of volumes of poetry of any size. I have been riveted with the book since I began reading it once home. My son loves the “Watermelon song”, “Blackberries”, “The Rattlesnake”, and “Mockingbird”. I am especially fond of “A Little Hand”, “A Georgia Barbecue”, and “Singing of you”. “At Andersonville” and “Hunt Him Down” made the heart race.

    Ted Short

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