April 23, 2010

Tributes to Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's actual birth date is uncertain but it is generally believed to be April 23, 1564. The Bard certainly was a major influence to several American writers, including ones you've never heard of. One, for example, was Charles Sprague (1791-1875) the "Banker Poet of Boston." He presented his "Shakespeare Ode" in Boston in 1823. It reads, in part:

  God of the glorious Lyre!
Whose notes of old on lofty Pindus rang,
  While Jove's exulting choir
Caught the glad echoes and responsive sang, —
  Come! bless the service and the shrine
  We consecrate to thee and thine.

  Fierce from the frozen north,
  When Havoc led his legions forth,
O'er Learning's sunny groves the dark destroyers spread;
  In dust the sacred statue slept,
  Fair Science round her altars wept,
  And Wisdom cowled his head...

  Then Shakespeare rose!
  Across the trembling strings
  His daring hand he flings,
  And lo! a new creation glows!
There, clustering round, submissive to his will,
Fate's vassal train his high commands fulfil...

Looking for more obscurity? Another Shakespeare fan was the Charleston, South Carolina-born Augustus Julian Requier (1825-1887). Requier was, for a time, Attorney General of Alabama (a role he held when that state became part of the Confederacy). He spent his last years in the state of New York. His "Ode to Shakespeare" was published in 1860:

He went forth into Nature and he sung,
Her first-born of imperial sway — the lord
Of sea and continent and clime and tongue;
Striking the Harp with whose sublime accord
The whole Creation rung!

He went forth into Nature and he sung
Her grandest terrors and her simplest themes —
The torrent by the beetling crag o'erhung,
And the wild-daisy on its brink that gleams
Unharmed, and lifts a dew-drop to the sun!
The muttering of the tempest in its halls
Of darkness turreted; beheld alone
By an o'erwhelming brilliance which appals —
The turbulence of Ocean — the soft calm
Of the sequestered vale — the bride-like day,
Or sainted Eve, dispensing holy balm
From her lone lamp of silver thro' the gray
That leads the star-crowned Night adown the mountain way!
These were his themes and more — no little bird
Lit in the April forest but he drew
From its wild notes a meditative word —
A gospel that no other mortal knew:
Bard, priest, evangelist! from rarest cells
Of riches inexhaustible he took
The potent ring of her profoundest spells,
And wrote great Nature's Book!

If you know of any better Shakespeare tributes from other 19th-century poets, especially obscure ones, feel free to add a link in the comments section.


  1. That might be a good one to read at his grave on Columbus Day? What occassion did he write and deliver that poem for? Is there a Shakespeare statue in Boston?

  2. The actual poem is very, very long. Sprague apparently presented his "Ode" to a "Boston theatre." The exact theatre is not named in my sources; Sprague is so obscure today it's hard to find out with much certainty. As far as I know, there's no Shakespeare statue in Boston.