Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Collections >> Library of Southern Literature >> Document Menu >> Summary

Paul Hamilton Hayne, 1830-1886
Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne
Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1882.

Summary

On January 1, 1830 Paul Hamilton Hayne was born to Paul Hamilton, a naval officer, and Emily McElhenny Hayne, both members of prominent families in Charleston, South Carolina. Hayne's father succumbed to an early death from yellow fever, and as a result Hayne was reared primarily by his mother, an ardent supporter of her son's literary efforts, and his uncle, Robert Young Hayne, a U.S. senator. Attending Christopher Cotes's school with future poet laureate of the Confederacy Henry Timrod, Hayne cultivated his interest in literature at a young age. Among his early literary influences were Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and Edgar Allan Poe. He began writing poetry at the age of nine and published his first poem on September 11, 1845 in the Charleston Courier. Hayne regularly submitted poetry throughout the late 1840s to Graham's Magazine, the Home Journal, the Southern Literary Messenger, and the Southern Literary Gazette, of which he would become associate editor in 1852. In 1850 Hayne graduated from the College of Charleston with honors in elocution and English composition. He served two years as a lawyer's apprentice, married Mary Middleton Michel in May 1852, and had a son, William Hamilton Hayne, in 1856.

A prolific writer, Hayne wrote hundreds of sonnets, lyric poems, and essays in his lifetime. He published his first volume of poetry, Poems, in November 1854 and his second collection, Sonnets, and Other Poems, in 1857. That same year Hayne helped found Russell's Magazine and served as editor until its collapse in 1860 due to the political and financial turmoil of the Civil War. His third volume of poetry entitled Avolio: A Legend of the Island of Cos. With Poems, Lyrical, Miscellaneous, and Dramatic appeared in print in November 1859. Due to ill health, Hayne was unable to serve as a soldier in the war, but he did employ his talents as an aide to Governor Francis Pickens for four months in 1861-1862, wielding his pen in honor and defense of the Confederacy.

With Union forces destroying his home and library during the Civil War, Hayne moved his family to Augusta, Georgia, where he became a news editor at the Constitutionalist. Poor health once again impeded his career ambitions, forcing his resignation. Moving in April 1866 to a home near Grovestown, Georgia, roughly fifteen miles from Augusta, Hayne remained there until his death. Despite physical limitations and financial difficulties, Hayne continued to lead a busy literary life, submitting poetry and essays to such magazines as Scribner's Monthly, the Independent, Southern Opinion, Scott's Monthly, New Monthly Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly. He likewise served as an editor and literary critic for newspapers across the South, from the Wilmington Star to the Atlanta Sun, until his death on July 6, 1886.

Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne (1882) is a complete edition that showcases Hayne's antebellum juvenile poetry, his war poems, and post-Civil War pieces published previously in Legends and Lyrics (1872) and The Mountain of the Lovers; With Poems of Nature and Tradition (1875). Featuring lyrical poems, sonnets, odes, and narrative verse, the collection testifies to Hayne's tremendous range as a poet. Across the body of his work, notable similarities in tone, form, and themes emerge. Sentimental and fervent in tenor, the poems tend to be rather personal and non-intellectual. Favoring iambic meters and regular rhyme, Hayne often follows ABAB or couplet rhyme schemes. Perhaps most striking is Hayne's thematic unity; the central premise of all the poems is love—of country, state, family, nature, God, and friends.

Frequently celebrating the natural world, Hayne's treatment ranges from reveling in its splendor to suggesting that earthly wonders signify divine presence. Poems such as "Nature the Consoler" and "Hints of Spring" reflect on the general beauty of nature in a romantic vein, whereas "Aspect of the Pines" and "The Voice of the Pines" offer a more localized celebration of Hayne's home in Georgia. The poet also reveals his love of nature in more philosophical and spiritual pieces; two of his better poems, "Muscadines," a lyric poem, and "Unveiled," an irregular ode, center on the presence of immortality in nature and suggest a connection between nature and the divine.

Hayne's affinity for nature is matched only by his devotion to his family and friends. Scores of poems in Collected Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne offer heartfelt dedications to his mother, father, wife, and fellow southern authors. The dedication of Sonnets (1857) and the end piece to Legends and Lyrics (1872) pay homage to his mother, whereas "My Father" honors the man Hayne never really knew. Similarly, "The Bonny Brown Hand," "An Anniversary," "Love's Autumn," and "A Little While I Fain Would Linger Yet," among dozens of others, commemorate Hayne's devotion to his wife. Elegies such as "Monody" on William Gilmore Simms and "By the Grave of Henry Timrod" bespeak of the debt Hayne owed to his poetic mentors and friends.

Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne solidified his position as "the poet laureate of the South," a title bestowed on him by numerous critics and garnered for his devotion to his native state, the South, and the men who fought and died in both the Mexican War and the Civil War. Not surprisingly, Hayne became a spokesman for the South following the Civil War, penning two commissioned pieces published in 1883, the "Sesqui-Centennial Ode" honoring the founding of Georgia and the "Charleston Centennial Poem" commemorating that city's incorporation. In "The Battle of Charleston Harbor," he calls South Carolina a "mother" and a "priestess" who was "blessed with wondrous vision of the things to come." Indeed throughout his poetic works, Paul Hamilton Hayne distinguishes himself as a southern poet characteristic of his time, memorializing the Old South—its land, people, and ideals.

Works Consulted: Ljungquist, Kent, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography: Antebellum Writers in the South, Second Series, volume 248, Detroit: Gale Research Company, 2001; Bain, Robert and Joseph M. Flora, eds., Fifty Southern Writers Before 1900: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Mary Alice Kirkpatrick
Bond Thompson

Document menu