Born in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, January 11, 1825; died in Berlin, Germany, December 19, 1878. The career of Bayard Taylor was a constantly shifting romance, comparable only to a kaleidoscope in which every turn brings out a design. From his earliest boyhood in a little Quaker town, he was imbued with two ambitions -- to travel and to be a poet; neither of which, from obvious circumstances, seemed at all probable. But Life, which is always in league with the dreamer, brought both to pass. He began at seven years of age to write poetry and at sixteen published his first verses. At nineteen he brought out his first book, Ximen, or the Battle of the Sierra Morena. In this year the second desire of his life urged him to make trial of himself and he went abroad, traveling about Europe on foot for nearly two years, with his only luggage a knapsack and a scanty supply of script. From this trip, however, came Views Afoot, almost the pioneer travel book of America, and immediately the poet-wanderer found the fates smiling upon him. Soon after his return he became head of the literary department of the New York Tribune, but no office could hold so restless a spirit and at the outbreak of the gold-fever in California in 1849, he joined the seekers, bringing back, not gold, but the story of its pursuit, in Eldorado. He married Miss Mary Agnew, a childhood friend, who was incurably ill and who lived but two months following the marriage. This grief sent the poet to Europe again and on into the East, the land which had been to him the dream within the dream. Here his poetic gift came suddenly into flower, and nearly all of his finest lyrics from this period relate to the East to which he made many subsequent trips. In 1856 he again visited Europe and was warmly received by scholars and writers, particularly in Germany, where he married a daughter of the astronomer, Professor Hansen. Returning to America, he established the beautiful home, "Cedarcroft," in his native Pennsylvania village, and in such intervals as were spent in its retirement, produced poetry, novels, essays, books of travel, and translations. To literature and travel he added diplomacy, and was sent as secretary to the American legation in Russia and as United States Minister to Germany, a position which he eagerly accepted in the hope that it would give him leisure to write a "Life" of Goethe, which he had long had in mind. This ambition, however, was not to be fulfilled, as he was stricken with illness not long after his arrival at Berlin and died there in a few weeks.
Source: This biographical note is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.
The Song of the Camp
“GIVE us a song!” the soldiers cried,
The outer trenches guarding,
When the heated guns of the camps allied
Grew weary of bombarding.
The dark Redan, in silent scoff,
Lay, grim and threatening, under;
And the tawny mound of the Malakoff
No longer belched its thunder.
There was a pause. A guardsman said,
“We storm the forts to-morrow;
Sing while we may, another day
Will bring enough of sorrow.”
They lay along the battery’s side,
Below the smoking cannon:
Brave hearts, from Severn and from Clyde,
And from the banks of Shannon.
They sang of love, and not of fame;
Forgot was Britain’s glory:
Each heart recalled a different name,
But all sang “Annie Laurie.”
Voice after voice caught up the song,
Until its tender passion
Rose like an anthem, rich and strong,—
Their battle-eve confession.
Dear girl, her name he dared not speak,
But, as the song grew louder,
Something upon the soldier’s cheek
Washed off the stains of powder.
Beyond the darkening ocean burned
The bloody sunset’s embers,
While the Crimean valleys learned
How English love remembers.
And once again a fire of hell
Rained on the Russian quarters,
With scream of shot, and burst of shell,
And bellowing of the mortars!
And Irish Nora’s eyes are dim
For a singer, dumb and gory;
And English Mary mourns for him
Who sang of “Annie Laurie.”
Sleep, soldiers! still in honored rest
Your truth and valor wearing:
The bravest are the tenderest,—
The loving are the daring.