In analyzing Sidney Lanier and his decline in popularity, I am looking at Lanier as a Southern writer. As the first of four sub-sections, this part will introduce Lanier as a man and author of his times and birthplace. It will focus on his experience in the Civil War and many of his dialect works that communicate his thoughts about the Reconstruction. These themes that are essentiall to Lanier’s poetry partially explain why he could not appeal to a broader audience after his death.
The photograph of Lanier’s birthplace in Macon, Georgia, seen in The Lanier Book: Selections in Prose and Verse from the Writings of Sidney Lanier, depicts his southern, rural origins. Sidney Lanier spent tens years in this two-story, clapboard house owned by his grandparents Sarah and Sterling Lanier.
In George Herbert Clarke’s Some Reminiscences and Early Letters of Sidney Lanier, there is a photograph of Sidney Lanier in his Confederate uniform in 1866. Sidney Lanier fought for the Confederacy and was a prisoner at Point Lookout where he contracted tuberculosis, which was the cause of his death many years later. The Civil War influences several of his works such as “The Dying Words of Stone Wall Jackson,” Tiger Lilies,” “Devil Bombs,” “Conferderate Memorial Address,” and “The Sherman Bill.”While Lanier praised his comrades who lost their lives for their convictions, he illustrated the horrors of war and the conceit of the South that believed led to such destruction
In Mose Daniels’ illustrated version of The Marshes of Glynn, there is a photograph on the page “Glooms…lights,” which depicts the majestic landscape that goes nicely with the text. Deeply inspired by nature, Lanier wrote numerous poems about the scenary of the South.The looming trees and dangling moss in the photograph convey the mystery and the splendor Lanier was trying to evoke in the poem.
The manuscript in pen of “Them Klu Klux” shows Sidney Lanier’s thought process and use of dialect, which is essential to his southern pieces. Though composed in Baltimore and never published during Lanier’s lifetime, this work exemplifies the poet’s strong southern sympathies and antagonism towards the Republican Party for meddling with Georgian life.
The “Sherman Bill” printed in Macon, Georgia in 1867 reveals Lanier’s views on the the Reconstructionist South and use of dialect. Printed in a local newspaper in 1867, this prose piece would have resonated with many of the paper’s readers. Unlike in the manuscript, one is not able to discern the writer’s formulation of his thoughts and styly but can see an example of a finished product in the type of material that would have circulated his work.