The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and tirelessly transcribe.

Category: charles fenno hoffman

“Sparkling and Bright” by Charles Fenno Hoffman—Happy New Year!

I do not speak about my personal life on this blog, nor will I make a point to in the future; however, what I will say, upon reflection, is that it has been a year of both devastation and joy. Loved ones were lost, unspeakable grief was felt, yet in the darkness was a constant light, which never extinguished. I welcome 2018.

To celebrate, please enjoy what is considered to be a song “full of lyric feeling,” according to Edgar Allan Poe, which, during its time, was “unsurpassed by any similar production in the English language,” according to the National Repository. Hoffman’s song is catchy, witty, charming and timeless. It was so popular during its time that it saw numerous rewrites, including several sobered parodies. Such a version, with the original tune, can be heard here. I have the original sheet music stored somewhere, which I cannot for the life of me find, so here’s a “sobered” lyrical version of the sheet music, which also carries the same original tune.

As I bid everyone a Happy New Year’s Eve, I will leave this post with another Hoffman story, which may be of interest, and which is appropriate for the holiday, “New Year’s Visiting in Hades” (originally published in the New-York Mirror, December 30, 1837).

Sparkling and Bright
Charles Fenno Hoffman

SPARKLING and bright in liquid light,
Does the wine our goblets gleam in,
With hue as red as the rosy bed
Which a bee would choose to dream in.
Then fill to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

Oh! if Mirth might arrest the flight
Of Time through Life’s dominions,
We here a while would now beguile
The gray-beard of his pinions,
To drink to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting. 

But since delight can’t tempt the wight,
Nor fond regret delay him,
Nor Love himself can hold the elf,
Nor sober Friendship stay him,
We’ll drink to-night, with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting   
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

See you all in the New Year! -Ann


A Review of Charles Fenno Hoffman’s “The Thaw King” From the New-York American, 1831

After researching the “Thaw-King” for my previous post, I stumbled across this, in my opinion, incredible (and generously lengthy) review of the poem, found in the New-York American of April 16, 1831. I wanted to mainly copy it here for my personal sake; but, if anyone else is also able to derive joy from reading archaic reviews, by all means please do enjoy this. If anything, it offers interesting commentary of New York culture during the 1830s. -Ann

THE THAW-KING’S VISIT TO NEW YORK: 1 vol. 18mo., bds.—Our editorial table presents so meagre an appearance to-day, that for the want of more solid materials for our weekly review, we are obliged to have recourse to a queer, dapper-looking little volume under this title; with which, from our not having seen it elsewhere, we are inclined to believe that we have been especially favored; and, indeed, between the reader, ourselves and the printer’s devil, shrewdly suspect of being a lure to draw us from some grave matter that rightfully ought to come under our editorial inquisition the while. This quaint little tome, which is a sort of personification in rhyme of the great waking up of physical and moral nature occasioned by “a general thaw” in this worshipful city, pretends to a marvellous insight into affairs,—municipal, political fashionable. Our ingenious author after, with divers other feats, making his hero, “the Thaw King,” assist the Corporation in clearing the streets, by setting the semi-frozen gutters a gurgling with what he emphatically calls,

“—————Streams as black
As the ink of a libeller’s pen;”
tells us in verse, which no one must mistake for dogrel, that—
“The Thaw King entered the City Hall,
And peeped in the Court of Sessions,
And melted the hearts of a jury all
When he heard the Recorder **** call,
From his favorite digressions.”

He then lounges about the courts and offices, practising upon young Attorneys and deputy sheriffs until evening, when, it happening to be

“———Monday night, he chanced to light,
In the Common Council Chamber,”

and hears a debate among various “membres de conseil” about “supplying the city with pure water. Upon the Recorder’s eulogising the softness of Manhattan, the Thaw-King plumply tells his honor,

“That he finds that water so devilish hard,
He with much ado can thaw it.”

We next see this bustling personage engaged in a vital struggle with “The Caucus King” at Tammany Hall, in which venerable edifice our author, finding plenty of poetical in the political machinery there ready to hand, accomplishes some exceeding elevated flights of imagination. We afterwards follow the Thaw-King into Wall street, where we are much edified by his melting from the heart of a stock jobber a premise of some scrip in the Haerlem Railroad at an advance of only fifty per cent ad hour after the books are closed. Among other wanton exercises of his power here,

“He sees a beggar, gaunt and grim,
Excite a miser’s choler;
And he laughs, while he melts the soul of him,
To fling the wretch a dollar.”

He now, as night again comes on, assumes the guise of a steamy sort of a vapor, and insinuates himself into a crowded ball room, where we will leave him floating about for a while, after recounting the following failures of his power upon this scene of action:—

“He enters into a lady’s eyes,
And thrusts at a dandy’s heart:
But the vest that is made by Frost, defies
The point of the Thaw-King’s dart.
And the baffled spirit pettishly flies
On a pedant, to try his art;
But his aim is equally foiled by the dust-
y lore that envelopes the man of must.
And next he tries with a lover’s sighs
To melt the heart of a belle,
But around her waist there’s a stout arm placed
Which shields that lady well:
And that waist! oh! that waist—it is one that you would
Like to clasp in a waltz, or wherever you could.
Her figure was fashioned tall and slim,
But with rounded bust and shapely limb;
And her queen-like step as she trod the floor—
And her look as she bridled in beauty’s pride;
Was such as the Tyrian heroine wore
When she blushed alone on the conscious shore,
The wandering Dardan’s unwedded bride.
And the Thaw-King gazed on that lady bright,
With her form of love, and her looks of light,
Till his spirits began to wane;
And his wits he put to rout,
And entering into a poet’s brain,
He thawed these verses out:—
“They are mockery all, these skies—these skies—
“Their untroubled depths of blue—
“They are mockery all—those eyes, those eyes
“That seem so warm and true.
“Each tranquil star in the one that lies,
“Each meteor glance that at random flies
“The other’s lashes thro’.—
“They are mockery all, these flowers of Spring
“Which her airs so softly woo—
“And the love to which we would madly cling,
“Ay! it is mockery too.
“The winds are false which the perfume stir,
“And the looks deceive to which we sue,
“And love but leads to the sepulchre,
“Which flowers spring to strew.”

An affecting custom, by the way, is that same strewing the grave with flowers, and one which Geoffrey Crayon, in his beautiful article on it in the Sketchbook, should have recollected, is common to many parts of New England, as well as to the sequestered church-yards of Britain, and the gay cemetery of “Pere la Chase.” As for these vernal airs and flowers, we have not as yet been much subjected to their witching influence; though one can hardly take up a country paper that is not redolent of paragraphs upon the season, and sentimental vegetation seems to be progressing with prodigious rapidity in the crania of their editors. These rural gentlemen, who may hear the carol of the blue-bird as it pecks the buds on the maple bough beneath their window, have a decided advantage over those who can only watch nature as she develops herself in a flower-pot, or revels in a bouquet upon some lovely bosom; and yet the city, with its formal alleys of brick, its rattling carts, and smoke of anthracite, is not wihout the “attractions of the season.”—How different an appearance, for instance, do the airy figures, whose gay bonnets and light-colored dresses, already flutter in Broadway, give to that carnival promenade, from the sombre mantles that swept it but the other day? And the Park—that beautiful area which, though carved up like an apple pie to a country inn, is still grateful in its green to the dust-vexed eye of the burghor!—what drawing-room, enlivened by the gay tracery of Brussels, or made noiseless to the step by the downy texture of Turkey, can boast at such a carpet? Even Wall-street, which seldom owns a brighter visitant than yellow doubloons, seems to acknowledge the presence of the rival sunbeams. The broker, as he crosses the street, poises himself on the curbstone, to look at the blue sky above him, and delay the moment ere he must descend into his billious labaratory [sic]. The merchant checks his gait, while hurrying on ‘Change, to snuff the air as it comes fresh from Brooklyn heights, unconscious of a “South ferry.” The underwriter smirks along the pavement as if premiums were “being” distilled upon him from the favoring skies; and they, the Leviathians of this pecuniary deep, who have realized in a plum the fruit of years of toil, loiter under the old sycamores opposite the Soda Fountain, as if they could never tear themselves from these smiling realms of gold and good humor! Everywhere, indeed, do you see the effects of the disfranchisement from the chains of winter; and he who would have the hardihood to penetrate into such a perilous region, would probably find that the all-pervading influence of nature was like the myrmidons of Alderman Strong, not unknown even at the Five Points!
Here you may see the pale invalid, still afraid to discard his furred pelisse, stealing along the sunny side of the street, heedful of rude contact, and almost shrinking from the gay child that frolics by him; and, tottering on his track, the bowed form of some old pilgrim, who sallies from his easy chair to gulp a mouthful of the air his lungs, for the nonce, receive unfiltered through flannel : there you may detect the nervous gait of the dyspeptic, doggedly pursuing his accustomed route, as if walking with Disease for a wager, and perhaps jostling the fragile form of the smiling consumptive who hangs affectionately on some stout arm near him. Vain flitters round a yawning grave unnoticed by the thousands who flaunt by them in all the insolence of health and worldly security!—Nor are sounds wanting to tell us here that the call of spring is abroad throughout the land: not to mention the twitter of the martins, as like lawyers on a circuit they perform their mazy gyrations around the Bridewell, there are a thousand tuneful noises which salute the ear with wondrous power. Though the sweep and the milkman are silent, and the rusk-boy hath not commenced his lay, when thou, fair reader, first [salliest?] out to glad the eyes and tire the fingers of shop-boys at Vandervoort’s and Fountain’s, yet other seasonable ejaculations supply their place; and the cry of “white wine,” from the grey headed Communipaw negro, who trundles a churn on a barrow before him, must at some time have reminded thee that buttermilk is an excellent cosmetic: And who, that has achieved a score of years in this goodly city, is not familiar with the recitation of Straw-aw-aw, pronounced by a once jetty, but now “a sable-silvered” singer, ensconced upon a moving stack, erst propelled by a Bucephalous which time has turned into a Rosinante? Now the ear is regaled with the blithe carol of some young voice, as its owner warbles a variation to her “morning’s practising,” while ranging her hyacinths at the open window; and again it is set on edge by the tread-mill tones ground sharply from the machines of those foreign operatives, who rove the streets as did their predecessors the Troubadours, the highways.
And now it is worth the while of him who is afflicted with “the nothing to do,” to saunter along South street, and see the lighters come in to the wharves with freights gathered from every shore that knows a keel,—the rich tribute of many a clime to the enterprise of his native city. Or if tired of watching the small craft as they ply to and fro upon the mincing waves, and regardless of the green slopes he may see across the hazy river reaching away toward Gowannus, let him at least observe the stirring “note of preparation” among the tall Indiamen, as about to sail they, “stand like greyhounds in the slips.” Some of these appearances are thus described at the opening of the Thaw King, which should have been before quoted:—

“——He comes on the wings of the warm southwest
In the saffron hues of the sunbeam drest,
And lingers awhile on the placid bay
As the ice cakes languidly steal away,
To drink these gems which the wave turns up,
Like Egyptian pearls in the Roman’s cup.
Then hies to the wharves, where the hawser binds,
The impatient ship from the wistful winds,
And slackens each rope till it hangs from on high,
Less firmly pencilled against the sky;
And sports in the stiffened canvases there
Till its folds float out in the wooing air:
Then leaves these quellers of Ocean’s pride
To swing from the pier on the lazy tide.”

The Battery, however, at this season, begins to be the most attractive spot in this ‘fairy city of the heart,’ as Byron calls that New York of the old world, the pride of the Adriatic. There is no longer to be sure the shady hollow, which once gave this noted promenade the semblance of a hanging garden in summer, when at high noon its matress of greensward was generally strown with sleeping Priapi in the shape of a drunken sailor or two; our Procustean Corporation having levelled the area up at the same time that the observatory,—so celebrated in the days of Salamagundi for the marvellous consumption of peanuts within its precincts,—was levelled down. But Castle Garden, though it too seems to have had its day, so amply compensates for the want of both, that even even [sic] the fastidious race of peanut eaters, —a remnant of which is now only occasionally seen in some solitary crancher in the pit of the theatre,—would readily have moved his household gods from “the flagstaff” thither.
The Battery has also increased so in size of late years, that it is now as much more comely in appearance, than formerly, as is the portly figure of an Alderman that the yet maturing person of his Assistant. Nature has now more breathing room there than twenty years since, and shows the effect of giving her fair play. The young willows have already begun to put on their “green and yellow melancholy” livery, and in a fortnight will supply chaplets enough for all the dispairing lovers of the last season. Hear how affectionately the thaw king lingers upon this the first spot he touches in his vernal visit to the city.

“He reaches the Battery’s grassy bed,
And the earth smokes out from beneath his tread:
And he turns him about to look wistfully back
On each charm that he leaves on his beautiful track;
Each islet of green which the bright waters fold,
Like emerald gems from their bosom rolled.
The sea just peering the headlands thro’,
Where the sky is lost in its deeper blue,
And the thousand barks which securely sweep
With silvery wings, round the land-locked deep.
He loiters awhile on the springy ground,
To watch the children gambol around,
And thinks it hard that a touch from him
Cannot make the aged as lithe of limb—
That he has no power to melt the rime—
The stubborn frost that is made by Time—
And sighing, he leaves the urchins to play,
And launches at last on the world of Broadway”—

Where we now leave his molting majesty to the doubtless sure discomfiture of the reader, who, worthy man, has all along kept up with us in the hope of at last finding “reason” as well as “rhyme” among these Humors of Spring.*

*May refer to the collective title of which a series of articles was written under by Hoffman, entitled “Humors of a Young Man About Town.”-Ann

The Thaw-King’s Visit to New York by Charles Fenno Hoffman


[Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen (1911)]

Due to the chilly weather now enclosing in on the southern parts of the United States, I have been perusing my books and staying in more (naturally). The poem featured in this post is one I have been ecstatic about posting for a while now. For me, it hearkens to the old tales of Jack Frost, yet spins Frost in a new light. Whether or not Hoffman was inspired by the old tale I am unsure. Regardless, he has excellently spun his own wintery narrative. This first appeared in The New-York Mirror in 1831 and saw several publications thereafter. There are a couple asterisks and crosses strewn throughout this transcription, which indicate Hoffman’s various changes throughout the history of this poem’s publication, and a few of my personal notes. Below, you will find the source of the full version I have transcribed. -Ann

The Thaw-King’s Visit to New York
From Humors of a Young Man About Town, originally printed in The New-York MirrorVolume 9, pgs 286-287.
This version is transcribed from Roberts’ Semi-monthly Magazine, Volume 1-2, pgs 525-526. 

He comes on the wings of the warm south-west
In the saffron hues of the sunbeam drest,
And lingers awhile on the placid bay,
As the ice-cakes languidly steal away,
To drink these gems which the wave turns up,
Like Egyptian pearls in the Roman’s cup.

Then hies to the wharves, where the hawser binds
The impatient ship from the wistful winds,
And slackens each rope till it hangs from on high,
Less firmly pencil’d against the sky ;
And sports in the stiffened canvas there
Till its folds float out in the wooing air ;
Then leaves these quellers of ocean’s pride
To swing from the pier on the lazy tide.

He reaches the Battery’s grassy bed,
And the earth smokes out from beneath his tread ;
And he turns him about to look wistfully back
On each charm that he leaves on his beautiful track ;
Each islet of green which the bright waters fold,
Like emerald gems from their bosom rolled,
The sea just peering the headlands through,
Where the sky is lost in its deeper blue,
And the thousand barks which securely sweep
With silvery wings round the land-locked deep.

He loiters awhile on the springy ground,
To watch the children gambol around,
And thinks it hard that a touch from him
Cannot make the aged as lithe of limb ;
That he has no power to melt the rime,
The stubborn frost that is made by time ;
And sighing, he leaves the urchins to play,
And launches at last on the world of Broadway.

There were faces and figures of heavenly mould,
Of charms not yet by the poet told ;
There were dancing plumes, there were mantles gay,
Flowers and ribbons flaunting there,
Such as of old on a festival day
The Idalian nymphs were wont to wear.
And the Thaw-king felt his cheek flush high,
And his pulses flutter in every limb,
As he gazed on many a beaming eye,
And many a form that flitted by,
With twinkling foot and ankle trim.

And he practised many an idle freak,
As he lounged the morning through ;
He sprung the frozen gutters aleak,
For want of aught else to do ;
And left them black as the libeller’s ink,
To gurgle away to the sewer’s sink.
He sees a beggar gaunt and grim
Arouse a miser’s choler,
And he laughs while he melts the soul of him
To fling the wretch a dollar ;
And he thinks how small a heaven ‘twould take,
For a world of souls like his to make.*

And now as the night falls chill and gray,
Like a drizzling rain on a new-made tomb,
And his father the Sun has slunk away,
And left him alone to gas and gloom,
The Thaw-king steals in a vapor thin,
Through the lighted porch of a house, wherein
Music and mirth were gayly mingled ;
And groups like hues in one bright flower,
Dazzled the Thaw-king while he singled
Some one on whom to try his power.

He enters first in a lady’s eyes,
And thrusts at a dandy’s heart ;
But the vest that is made by Frost, defies
The point of the Thaw-king’s dart ;
And the baffled spirit pettishly flies
On a pedant, to try his art ;
But his aim is equally foiled by the dust-
y lore that envelopes the man of must.

And next he tries with a lover’s sighs
To melt the heart of a belle ;
But around her waist there’s a stout arm placed,
Which shields that lady well.
And that waist! oh! that waist–it is one that you would
Like to clasp in a waltz, or—wherever you could.

Her figure was fashioned tall and slim,
But with rounded bust and shapely limb ;
And her queen-like step as she trod the floor,
And her look as she bridled in beauty’s pride,
Was such as the Tyrian heroine wore
When she blushed alone on the conscious shore,
The wandering Dardan’s unwedded bride.

And the Thaw-king gazed on that lady bright,
With her form of love, and her looks of light,
Till his spirits began to wane ;
And his wits were put to rout,**
And entering into a poet’s brain,
He thawed these verses out :***

‘They are mockery all—these skies, these skies—
Their untroubled depths of blue—
They are mockery all—those eyes, those eyes,
Which seem so warm and true.
Each tranquil star in the one that lies,
Each meteor glance that at random flies
The other’s lashes through ;
They are mockery all, these flowers of spring,
Which her airs so softly woo—
And the love to which we would madly cling,
Ay! it is mockery too ;
The winds are false which the perfume stir,
And the looks deceive to which we sue,
And love but leads to the sepulchre,
Which flowers spring to strew.’†

*He read, placarded upon the wall,
“That the country now on its friends did call,
For liberty was in danger,”
And he went to a room ten feet by four,
Where a chairman and sec., and couple more
(Making five with our friendly stranger),
By the aid of four slings and two tallow tapers,
Were preparing to tell in the morning papers
Of the UNION unbroken,
By this very token,
“That the people in mass last night had woken
And their will at the primal meetings spoken!”
And he trembled himself to the tip of his wing
At the juggling might of the Caucus king.

He saw an Oneida baskets peddling
Around the place where the polls were held ;
And a Fed. the Red-skin kicked, for meddling,
As the Indian a Democrat’s ballot spell’d.
That son of the soil
Who had no vote,
How dared he to spoil
A trick so neat,
Meant only to cheat
The voters who hither from Europe float!

From The Poems of Charles Fenno Hoffman, edited by Edward Fenno Hoffman, pgs 210-211. This is also included in his version of
“The Thaw-king” found in The Vigil of Faith, and Other Poems, published in 1845.

**And the Thaw-king gazed on that lady bright,
With her form of love and her looks of light,
Till his spirits began to wane,
And his wits were put to rout ;
And entering into an editor’s brain,
He thaw’d this “article” out.

From The Vigil of Faith, and Other Poems by Charles Fenno Hoffman, pg. 141.

***”River, O river, thou rovest free
From the mountain height to the fresh blue sea,
Free thyself, while in silver chain
Linking each charm of land and main.
Calling at first thy banded waves
From hill-side thickets and fern-hid caves,
From the splinter’d crag thou leap’st below
Through leafy glades at will to flow—
Idling now with the dallying sedge,
Slumbering now by the steep’s moss’d edge,
With statelier march once more to break
From wooded valley to breezy lake ;
Yet all of these scenes, though fair they be,
River, O river, are bann’d to me!

‘River, O river ! upon thy tide
Gayly the frightened vessels glide ;
Would that thou thus couldst bear away
The thoughts that burthen my weary day,
Or that I, from all, save thou, set free,
Though laden still, might rove with thee.
True that thy waves brief lifetime find,
And live at the will of the wanton wind—
True that thou seekest the ocean’s flow
To be lost therein for evermoe !
Yet the slave who worships at glory’s shrine,
But toils for a bubble as frail as thine,
But loses his freedom here, to be
Forgotten as soon as in death set free.”

From The Poems of Charles Fenno Hoffman, edited by Edward Fenno Hoffman, pg. 213

† This was borrowed and replaced as the first stanza in Hoffman’s Love’s Calendar; Or, Eros and Anteros. There are minimal differences between this version and the version found in The Poems of Charles Fenno Hoffman. 

“The Sleigh Bells” and “Sleighing Song”-Presenting the early and final drafts of Charles Fenno Hoffman’s merry poem, accompanied by an article from the New-York American

“The Sleigh Bells,” by Charles Fenno Hoffman, is a timeless poem, which inspires good cheer. Its tinkling melody is reminiscent of that same playful song by our author, entitled “Sparkling and Bright,” and rhythmically whisks the reader into a land of frost and whim.

The poem below is the revised, and perhaps final, version of Hoffman’s poem, found in Love’s Calendar, Lays of the Hudson, and Other Poems. Below this is a transcription of an article, which was originally paired with an earlier version of the poem, as they originally appeared just sixteen years prior in the New-York American. What is curious about this article is that it is marked with an asterisk, which, according to Hoffman biographer Homer Barnes, Charles was apt to use either an asterisk or the initial “H” as a sign off to his articles: [in a letter to his brother George] “when you read the articles marked by an asterisk in the American you may know that I commune with you as lovers have done for some thousand years—through a star” (Barnes 37). Therefore, I will boldly assume that the article accompanying this poem was written by Hoffman.

The Sleigh Bells. 
From Love’s Calendar, Lays of the Hudson, and Other Poems by Charles Fenno Hoffman

MERRILY, merrily sound the bells
As o’er the ground we roll,
And the snow-drift breaks in silvery flakes
Before our cariole.
When wrapp’d in buffalo soft and warm,
With mantle and tippet dight,
We cheerily cleave the fleecy storm,
Or skim in the cold moonlight.
Merrily, merrily! Merrily, merrily!
Merrily sound the bells.

Merrily, merrily sound the bells
Upon the wind without,
When the wine is mull’d and the waffle cull’d,
And the song is passed about.
While rosy lips and dimpled cheeks
The welcome joke inspire,
And mirth in many a bright eye speaks
Around the hickory fire.
Merrily, merrily! Merrily, merrily!
Merrily sound the bells.

[The original article with its early “draft” of the poem.]
From the New-York American, January 21, 1831, pg. 1
“And theirs were happy sleigh-ride winters.”—Halleck
And so do ours bid fair to be, if the sun does not think proper to treat the earth like the man in the fable, and strip the ground of the wintry mantle with which an old-fashioned North Easter has covered it. Our distant readers must know that we have just been blessed with one of those storms which are only “known in the memory of the oldest inhabitants,”—one of those hearty, bouncing fellows which wrap nature in a snowy upper Benjamin that will stand the wear of sun and rain for a month. Mockasons and fur caps must come once more into vogue, if people would keep their feet from going astray, and their ears from chilblanes: our belles too, if the emergency of the occasion can call out originality, may for the nonce, instead of servilely copying the costume of other climes, venture upon something appropriate to their own. Now is the time (as the Journal of Health would say) for colds, coughs and consumptions—the egg, the chrysalis, and the consuming worm of disease. Now, too, is the time to lay up stores of health and bloom that will last a whole six weeks of subsequent dissipation. Can any thing be more invigorating to a system unstrung from breathing the atmosphere of crowded rooms, or reading novels over an anthracite fire, (a source of heat only fit for Pandoemonium,) than the bracing air of a January morning, snatched through the folds of a buffalo robe, and caught when going at the rate of twelve miles an hour? Sleighing is your true panacea for the ills that flesh is heir to—always excepting punning and dyspepsia—complaints which, when chronic, are incurable. Who is there that loves the republic, who does not grieve over the faded glories of sleighing, when he recollects the hospitality which was wont to cheer him at the goal of his winter’s ride, “where Cato gave his little Senate laws,” and remembers the music and merriment which, sweeping fitfully upon the blast, came so pleasantly to his ears, when he had made good his seat by the crackling hickory fire?—Such rides and such fires are no more. Cato indeed survives; but the fortunes of his house are obscured—the sceptre hath departed from his hand. The world “frolic” is not the be found in Pelham, and hickory now is only used for election poles. Surely the world grows colder, though less snow falls to soften our pathway through it.
May we not be forgiven for concluding our remarks upon this moving subject, with the following feeble translation of a spirited Dutch song, by an early and forgotten poet of this province?         *

SLEIGHING SONG—By Hans Van Poeng. [Hoffman]
Merrily, merrily sound the bells
As o’er the ground we roll;*
And the snow-drift breaks in silver flakes
Before our Cariole;
While, muffled in sables rich and warm,
With mantle and beaver dight,
We rive in the teeth of the angry storm,
Or skim in the cold moonlight,
Merrily, merrily, &c.

Merrily, merrily sound the bells
Upon the wind without,
When the wine is mulled, and the waffle culled,
And the joke is pass’d about:
And rosy lips and dimpled cheeks
The flash of wit inspire,
While mirth in many a bright eye speaks,
Around the crackling fire.
Merrily, merrily, &c.

*The term of rolling is not as inappropriate as it seems, for a bond broken through a deep snow forms into what the Canadians call Cahoo’s-waves, which make a light “cutter” dance about like a cockle boat.
So in another poet of the period
“From varied pastry heaped upon the board,
Cull the light kruller when the schnap is poured.”

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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