"Sydney Lanier,"was born February 3, 1842, in Macon, Georgia, to parents Robert Sampson Lanier and Mary Jane Anderson; he was mostly of English ancestry, with his distant French ancestors having immigrated to England in the 16th century. He began playing the flute at an early age, and his love of that musical instrument continued throughout his life. He attended Oglethorpe University near Milledgeville, Georgia, graduating first in his class shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War.

He fought in the Civil War, primarily in the tidewater region of Virginia, where he served in the Confederate signal corps. Later, he and his brother Clifford served as pilots aboard English blockade runners. On one of these voyages, his ship was boarded. Refusing to take the advice of the British officers on board to don one of their uniforms and pretend to be one of them, he was captured. He was incarcerated in a military prison at Point Lookout in Maryland, where he contracted tuberculosis (generally known as "consumption" at the time). He suffered greatly from this affliction for the rest of his life.

In an effort to support Mary and their three sons, he also wrote poetry for magazines. His most famous poems were "Corn" (1875), "The Symphony" (1875), "Centennial Meditation" (1876), "The Song of the Chattahoochee" (1877), "The Marshes of Glynn" (1878), and "Sunrise" (1881). The latter two poems are generally considered his greatest works. They are part of an unfinished set of lyrical nature poems known as the "Hymns of the Marshes", which describe the vast, open salt marshes of Glynn County on the coast of Georgia. There is a historical marker in Brunswick commemorating the writing of "The Marshes of Glynn". The largest bridge in Georgia (as of 2005), a short distance from the marker, is named The Sidney Lanier Bridge.

Late in his life, he became a student, lecturer, and, finally, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, specializing in the works of the English novelists, Shakespeare, the Elizabethan sonneteers, Chaucer, and the Anglo-Saxon poets. He published a series of lectures entitled The English Novel (published posthumously in 1883) and a book entitled The Science of English Verse (1880), in which he developed a novel theory exploring the connections between musical notation and meter in poetry.

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Sidney Lanier Poems

A Song Of Eternity In Time

Once, at night, in the manor wood
My Love and I long silent stood,
Amazed that any heavens could
Decree to part us, bitterly repining.... more »

A Sunrise Song.

Young palmer sun, that to these shining sands
Pourest thy pilgrim's tale, discoursing still
Thy silver passages of sacred lands,
With news of Sepulchre and Dolorous Hill,... more »

An Evening Song.

Look off, dear Love, across the sallow sands,
And mark yon meeting of the sun and sea,
How long they kiss in sight of all the lands.
Ah! longer, longer, we.... more »

Sidney Lanier Quotes

Comments about Sidney Lanier

Judy Hill 16 Nov 2019 02:22
What is the name of the poem that starts " Mary walked among the birch trees, questioning each one, 'Little Birch Trees, little white souls, have you seen my son...'"
vance sutton 24 Aug 2019 07:13
I Have a hand written Sydney Lanier pome. date Feb,20,1875. It starts out Love me Darling. it was passed down by a relative.
D. E. Pugh 15 Jul 2018 12:24
The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee quoted a poem by Sydney Lanier in his sermon. I'm unable to recognize in listed poems which poem quote was taken from. Can anyone help me? The following line is qujoted from aLanier's poem: Where are the strong arms in which I too might lay me in repose and yet be full of the fire of life Thank you