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Category: charles fenno hoffman

Charles Fenno Hoffman’s “Indian Summer, 1828”

Although we are many months and several forecasts away from experiencing an “Indian Summer”—should mother nature bestow one upon us this year—I feel this poem is worthy of my “Autumn” series. (Regardless of my bias, being that this was written by my favorite author—) Charles Fenno Hoffman delicately and accurately spins golden worded-webs and autumnal threads throughout this romantic poem. Connecting with personal recollections of childhood, he paints nostalgic images of the woodlands, and strives to remind the reader of nature’s beauty and unchanging devotion. -Ann Neilson

“Indian Summer, 1828”

LIGHT as love’s smile the silvery mist at morn
Floats in loose flakes along the limpid river ;
The blue-bird’s notes upon the soft breeze borne,
As high in air he carols, faintly quiver ;
The weeping birch, like banners idly waving,
Bends to the stream, its spicy branches laving.
Beaded with dew the witch-elm’s tassels
The timid rabbit from the furze is peeping.
And from the springy spray the squirrel gayly leaping.

I love thee. Autumn, for thy scenery, ere
The blasts of winter chase the varied dyes
That richly deck the slow declining year ;
I love the splendor of thy sunset skies,
The gorgeous hues that tint each failing leaf
Lovely as beauty’s cheek, as woman’s love too,
I love the note of each wild bird that flies.
As on the wind he pours his parting lay,
And wings his loitering flight to summer climes

O Nature ! fondly I still turn to thee
With feelings fresh as e’er my chilhood’s were;
Though wild and passion -tost my youth may be,
Toward thee I still the same devotion bear ;
To thee — to thee — though health and hope no more
Life’s wasted verdure may to me restore —
Still — still, childlike I come, as when in prayer
I bowed my head upon a mother’s knee,
And deem’d the world, like her, all truth and purity.*

*It was indicated to me by Netherlands historian Ton F— that an alternative version of the last stanza exists, for which I thank him earnestly. Upon research, I found said stanza in the New York Mirror of September 22, 1832, on page 91, under the pseudonym “H,” a pseudonym (if it may be called one) used frequently by Hoffman in both the New-York Mirror and the American Monthly Magazine (which I will discuss in a later post).

The stanza is as follows,

“Oh, nature! still I fondly turn to thee,
With feelings fresh as e’er my boyhood’s were,
However cold my reckless heart may be,
To thee I still the same devotion bear.
In all life’s changes yet my feelings will
To thee be true, as to his office still
Is he who fixed by right prescriptive there—
(Though even thou shouldst break thy wonted order)—
In every party change yet finds himself “recorder.”


I was perusing the pages of Charles Fenno Hoffman’s poetry this evening, when I felt the urge to share a few of his poems—pieces which have touched my heart. I share these with the hope that you may also enjoy these exquisite, nature-themed writings.

From John Frost’s Grand Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animated Nature, pg. 154.

Hunt is Up, The. A Meditation


The hunt is up —
The merry woodland shout,
That rung these echoing glades about
An hour agone,
Hath swept beyond the eastern hills,
Where, pale and lone,
The moon her mystic circle fills;
Awhile across her slowly reddening disk
The dusky larch,
As if to pierce the blue o’erhanging arch,
Lifts its tall obelisk.

And now from thicket dark,
And now from mist-wreathed river
The fire-fly’s spark
Will fitful quiver,
And bubbles round the lily’s cup
From lurking trout come coursing up,
Where stoops the wading fawn to drink:
While scared by step so near,
Uprising from the sedgy brink
The clanging bittern’s cry will sink
Upon the hunter’s ear;
Who, startled from his early sleep,
Lists for some sound approaching nigher —
Half-dreaming, lists — then turns to heap
Another fagot on his fire,
And then again, in dreams renewed,
Pursues his quarry through the wood.

And thus upon my dreaming youth,
When boyhood’s gambols pleased no more,
And young Romance, in guise of Truth,
Usurped the heart all theirs before;
Thus broke Ambition’s trumpet-note
On visions wild,
Yet blithesome as this river
On which the smiling moonbeams float
That thus have there for ages smiled,
And will thus smile for ever.
And now no more the fresh green-wood,
The forest’s fretted aisles,
And leafy domes above them bent,
And solitude
So eloquent!
Mocking the varied skill y’-blent
In Art’s most gorgeous piles —
No more can soothe my soul to sleep
Than they can awe the sounds that sweep
To hunter’s horn and merriment
Their verdant passes through,
When fresh the dun-deer leaves his scent
Upon the morning dew.

The game’s afoot! — and let the chase
Lead on, whate’er my destiny —
Though Fate her funeral drum may brace
Full soon for me!
And wave death’s pageant o’er me —
Yet now the new and untried world
Like maiden banner first unfurled,
Is glancing bright before me!
The quarry soars! and mine is now the sky,
Where, “at what bird I please, my hawk shall fly!”

Yet something whispers through the wood —
A voice like that perchance
Which taught the hunter of Egeria’s grove
To tame the Roman’s dominating mood,
And lower, for awhile, his conquering lance
Before the images of Law and Love —
Some mystic voice that ever since hath dwelt
Along with Echo in her dim retreat,
A voice whose influence all, at times, have felt
By wood or glen, or where on silver strand
The clasping waves of Ocean’s belt
Will clashing meet
Around the land:
It whispers me that soon — too soon
The pulses which now beat so high,
Impatient with the world to cope,
Will, like the hues of autumn sky,
Be changed and fallen ere life’s noon
Should tame its morning hope.

Yet why,
While Hope so jocund singeth
And with her plumes the gray beard’s arrow wingeth,
Should I
Think only of the barb it bringeth?
Though every dream deceive
That to my youth is dearest,
Until my heart they leave
Like forest leaf when searest —
Yet still, mid forest leaves
Where now
Its tissue thus my idle fancy weaves,
Still with heart new-blossoming
While leaves, and buds, and wild flowers spring,
At Nature’s shrine I’ll bow;
Nor seek in vain that truth in her
She keeps for her idolater.


From forestry; a journal of forest and estate management, pg. 521.

What is Solitude?

Not in the shadowy wood,
Not in the crag-hung glen,
Not where the echoes brood
In caves untrod by men;
Not by the black seashore,
Where barren surges break,
Not on the mountain hoar,
Not by the breezeless lake;
Not on the desert plain
Where man hath never stood,
Whether on isle or main —
Not there is solitude.

Birds are in woodland bowers;
Voices in lonely dells:
Streams to the listening hours
Talk in earth’s secret cells;
Over the gray-ribbed sand
Breathe Ocean’s frothy lips;
Over the still lake’s strand
The wild flower toward it dips;
Pluming the mountain’s crest
Life tosses in its pines,
Coursing the desert’s breast
Life in the steed’s mane shines.

Leave — if thou wouldst be lonely —
Leave Nature for the crowd;
Seek there for one — one only
With kindred mind endowed!
There — as with Nature erst
Closely thou wouldst commune —
The deep soul-music nursed
In either heart, attune!
Heart-wearied thou wilt own,
Vainly that phantom wooed,
That thou at last hast known
What is true Solitude!


A Peep at the Birds: With Twenty Engravings, Francis Channing Woodworth, pg. 16.

The Bob-O-Linkum

Thou vocal sprite — thou feather’d troubadour!
In pilgrim weeds through many a clime a ranger,
Com’st thou to doff thy russet suit once more
And play in foppish trim the masquing stranger?
Philosophers may teach thy whereabouts and nature;
But wise, as all of us, perforce, must think ’em,
The school-boy best hath fixed thy nomenclature,
And poets, too, must call thee Bob-O-Linkum.

Say! art thou, long ‘mid forest glooms benighted,
So glad to skim our laughing meadows over —
With our gay orchards here so much delighted,
It makes thee musical, thou airy rover?
Or are those buoyant notes the pilfer’d treasure
Of fairy isles, which thou hast learn’d to ravish
Of all their sweetest minstrelsy at pleasure,
And, Ariel-like, again on men to lavish?

They tell sad stories of thy mad-cap freaks
Wherever o’er the land thy pathway ranges;
And even in a brace of wandering weeks,
They say, alike thy song and plumage changes;
Here both are gay; and when the buds put forth,
And leafy June is shading rock and river,
Thou art unmatch’d, blithe warbler of the North,
While through the balmy air thy clear notes quiver.

Joyous, yet tender — was that gush of song
Caught from the brooks, where ‘mid its wild flowers smiling
The silent prairie listens all day long,
The only captive to such sweet beguiling;
Or didst thou, flitting through the verdurous halls
And column’d isles of western groves symphonious,
Learn from the tuneful woods, rare madrigals,
To make our flowering pastures here harmonious?

Caught’st thou thy carol from Ottawa maid,
Where, through the liquid fields of wild-rice plashing,
Brushing the ears from off the burdened blade,
Her birch canoe o’er some lone lake is flashing?
Or did the reeds of some savannah south
Detain thee while thy northern flight pursuing,
To place those melodies in thy sweet mouth,
The spice-fed winds had taught them in their wooing?

Unthrifty prodigal! — is no thought of ill
Thy ceaseless roundelay disturbing ever?
Or doth each pulse in choiring cadence still
Throb on in music till at rest for ever?
Yet now in wilder’d maze of concord floating,
‘Twould seem that glorious hymning to prolong,
Old Time in hearing thee might fall a-doting,
And pause to listen to thy rapturous song!

19th century engraving of the New Forest, UK

Photographed from a book titled ‘English Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil’ published in London ca. 1870. 

Primeval Woods


Yes ! even here, not less than in the crowd,
Here, where yon vault in formal sweep seems piled
Upon the pines, monotonously proud,
Fit dome for fane, within whose hoary veil
No ribald voice an echo hath defiled —
Where Silence seems articulate; up-stealing
Like a low anthem’s heavenward wail: —
Oppressive on my bosom weighs the feeling
Of thoughts that language cannot shape aloud;
For song too solemn, and for prayer too wild, —
Thoughts, which beneath no human power could quail,
For lack of utterance, in abasement bow’d —
The cavern’d waves that struggle for revealing,
Upon whose idle foam alone God’s light hath smiled.


Ere long thine every stream shall find a tongue,
Land of the Many Waters! But the sound
Of human music, these wild hills among,
Hath no one save the Indian mother flung
Its spell of tenderness? Oh, o’er this ground,
So redolent of Beauty , hath there play’d no breath
Of human poesy — none beside the word
Of Love, as, murmur’d these old boughs beneath,
Some fierce and savage suitor it hath bound
To gentle pleadings? Have but these been heard?
No mind, no soul here kindled but my own?
Doth not one hollow trunk about resound
With the faint echoes of a song long flown,
By shadows like itself now haply heard alone?


And Ye, with all this primal growth must go!
And loiterers beneath some lowly spreading shade,
Where pasture-kissing breezes shall, ere then, have play’d,
A century hence, will doubt that there could grow
From that meek land such Titans of the glade!
Yet wherefore primal? when beneath my tread
Are roots whose thrifty growth, perchance, hath arm’d.
The Anak spearman when his trump alarm’d;
Roots that the Deluge wave hath plunged below;
Seeds that the Deluge wind hath scattered;
Berries that Eden’s warblers may have fed;
In slime of earlier worlds preserved unharmed,
Again to quicken, germinate, and blow,
Again to charm the land as erst the land they charm’d.

Happy Birthday, Charles Fenno Hoffman!

This marks the second birthday that I get to “spend” with this deceased literary figure (and thankfully, my boyfriend doesn’t mind Hoffy too much). So, in honor of Charlie’s birthday, I’m posting his second of two Birthday-related poems. You can visit my first blog post about him by going here.

Without further ado-

A Birthday Meditation

Another year! alas, how swift,
Alinda, do these years flit by,
Like shadows thrown by clouds that drift
In flakes along a wintry sky.
Another year! another leaf
Is turn’d within life’s volume brief,
And yet not one bright page appears
Of mine within that book of years.There are some moments when I feel
As if it should not yet be so;
As if the years that from me steal
Had not a right alike to go,
And lose themselves in Time’s dark sea,
Unbuoyed up by aught from me;
Aught that the future yet might claim
To rescue from their wreck a name.

But it was love that taught me rhyme,
And it was thou that taught me love;
And if I in this idle chime
Of words a useless sluggard prove,
It was thine eyes the habit nursed,
And in their light I learn’d it first,
It is thine eyes which, day by day,
Consume my time and heart away.

And often bitter thoughts arise
Of what I’ve lost in loving thee,
And in my breast my spirit dies,
The gloomy cloud around to see
Of baffled hopes and ruin’d powers
Of mind, and miserable hours —
Of self-upbraiding, and despair —
Of heart, too strong and fierce to bear.

“Why, what a peasant slave am I, ”
To bow my mind and bend my knee
To woman in idolatry,
Who takes no thought of mine or me.
O God! that I could breathe my life
On battle-plain in charging strife —
In one mad impulse pour my soul
Far beyond passion’s base control.

Thus do my jarring thoughts revolve
Their gather’d causes of offence,
Until I in my heart resolve
To dash thine angel image thence;
When some bright look, some accent kind,
Comes freshly in my heated mind,
And scares, like newly flushing day,
These brooding thoughts like owls away.

And then for hours and hours I muse
On things that might, yet will not be,
Till one by one my feelings lose
Their passionate intensity,
And steal away in visions soft,
Which on wild wing those feelings waft
Far, far beyond the drear domain
Of reason and her freezing reign.

And now again from their gay track
I call, as I despondent sit,
Once more these truant fancies back
Which round my brain so idly flit;
And some I treasure, some I blush
To own — and these I try to crush —
And some, too wild for reason’s rein,
I loose in idle rhyme again.

And even thus my moments fly,
And even thus my hours decay,
And even thus my years slip by,
My life itself is wiled away;
But distant still the mounting hope,
The burning wish with men to cope
In aught that minds of iron mould
May do or dare for fame or gold.

Another year! another year,
A LINDA , it shall not be so;
Both love and lays forswear I here,
As I’ve forsworn thee long ago.
That name, which thou wouldst never share,
Proudly shall fame emblazon where
On pumps and corners posters stick it,
The highest on the J ACKSON ticket.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dearest friends, today is Valentine’s Day (in case you couldn’t tell from the title). So, to celebrate, I thought I would post a poem from our very own Charles Fenno Hoffman, America’s sweetheart!

St. Valentine’s Day

The snow yet in the hollow lies;
But, where by shelvy hill ’tis seen,
In myriad rills it trickling flies
To lace the slope with threads of green;
Down in the meadow glancing wings
Flit in the sunshine round a tree,
Where still a frosted apple clings,
Regale for early Chickadee:

And chestnut buds begin to swell,
Where flying squirrels peep to know
If from the tree-top, yet, ’twere well
To sail on leathery wing below —
As gently shy and timorsome,
Still holds she back who should be mine;
Come, Spring, to her coy bosom, come,
And warm it toward her Valentine!

Come, Spring, and with the breeze that calls
The wind-flower by the hill-side rill,

The soft breeze that by orchard walls
First dallies with the daffodil —
Come lift the tresses from her cheek,
And let me see the blush divine,
That mantling there, those curls would seek
To hide from her true Valentine.

Come, Spring, and with the Red-breast’s note,
That tells of bridal tenderness,
Where on the breeze he’ll warbling float
Afar his nesting mate to bless —
Come, whisper, ’tis not always Spring!
When birds may mate on every spray —
That April boughs cease blossoming!
With love it is not always May!

Come, touch her heart with thy soft tale,
Of tears within the floweret’s cup,
Of fairest things that soonest fail,
Of hopes we vainly garner up —
And while, that gentle heart to melt,
Like mingled wreath, such tale you twine,
Whisper what lasting bliss were felt
In lot shared with her Valentine.

Now go and eat a lot of candy. Rot your teeth away.

Happy Birthday, Charles Fenno Hoffman!

Today is the Birthday of one of my favorite nineteenth century writers, Charles Fenno Hoffman.


In honor of his Birthday today, I thought I’d add a quick blurb about him before sharing a couple of his poems.

Born in New York, February 7, 1806, he grew up in a “socially and politically prominent” household with parents Joseph Ogden and Maria Fenno Hoffman (Barnes 17).

At eighteen, he had nearly completed studies at Columbia College and began studying law. At twenty-one, he was admitted to the bar. He abandoned law for writing, however, and wrote anonymously for the New York American (456). In 1835, he published his first book, A Winter in the West, a two-part book documenting his travels from New York to St. Louis. This was significant as it was one of the most complete works documenting travels this way, especially as far as St. Louis, Missouri. His second work, Wild Scenes in the Forest and Prairie, was published in 1837, which was followed by his most notable novel, Greyslaer, in 1840 (457). Hoffman was the founder of the Knickerbocker magazine, edited for the New York Mirror, and in 1843 published The Vigil of Faith, a book of poetry (457).

In 1849, he “went insane,” which was an oh-so very nice way of saying he was manic depressive. He was admitted permanently to the Harrisburg State Hospital in Pennsylvania, where he remained until his death on June 7, 1884.

Despite his condition, Hoffman was known to many friends for being genial and good-natured. According to an account by William Keese, he is described as follows:

He was a general favorite in society, and his wit, bright intelligence, and genial manners, made his companionship very attractive. He was loved by the young, for he sympathized with them in their sports and enthusiasms, and from his knowledge of nature and his own adventurous experience drew the stories that take children captive. He was a gallant and noble gentleman, and a wide circle of friends mourned the affliction that befell him (Lamb 152).

He was perseverant, compassionate, honorable, and loyal. He was close to the anthologist and Edgar Allan Poe’s defamer, Rufus Griswold, and was even deeply in love at one point in his life. His poetry documents the turmoils of love and rejection, the beauty of nature and afflictions of growing up. In one poem, which I am going to post below, written on his 25th Birthday, Hoffman recollects his life up until that point and bemoans himself for his lack of accomplishments:

Birthday Thoughts
by Charles Fenno Hoffman

At twenty-five — at twenty-five,
The heart should not be cold;
It still is young in deeds to strive,
Though half life’s tale be told;
And Fame should keep its youth alive,
If Love would make it old.

But mine is like that plant which grew
And wither’d in a night,
Which from the skies of midnight drew
Its ripening and its blight —
Matured in Heaven’s tears of dew,
And faded ere her light.

Its hues, in sorrow’s darkness born,
In tears were foster’d first;
Its powers, from passion’s frenzy drawn,
In passion’s gloom were nurs’d —
And perishing ere manhood’s dawn,
Did prematurely burst.

Yet all I’ve learnt from hours rife
With painful brooding here
Is that, amid this mortal strife,
The lapse of every year
But takes away a hope from life,
And adds to death a fear.


Was this man truly unaccomplished? I do not think so. He was strong-willed, intelligent, and is remembered by any and all who happen to stumble upon his writings. (So, basically, I pretty much love this guy, so I’m pretty biased with most of what was said in this post. Whoops.)

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