Yet, in 1879, he was 29 years old and still struggled (he is pictured at right at age 28). It took the publication of a play to convince newspapers to publish his poetry. One such publication was The Indianapolis Saturday Herald, which published four of his poems in its July 26, 1879 issue: "Last Words," "At Bay," "A Worn-Out Pencil," and "God Bless Us Every One." The latter two were later included in book-length poetry collections in the author's lifetime; the first two never were.
"At Bay" directly addresses "Fate," who the narrator is ready to either embrace or "strike blow for blow." Fate is an enemy in the poem, and its narrator offers harsh words of threatened violence and vengeance. "You have crouched along my track like a hound," the poem says, as Fate blocks "every hope serene." After years of experience, however, the narrator is now ready to confront Fate "hand or fist."
For something completely different, "Last Words" is written in the voice of a woman:
He left me for a foreign land:
I could not even free
One little tear to gem the hand
That God had give me;
For "I will follow soon, my dear,"
I laughed with girlish air, —
"The sun that cheers our pathway here
Shall beam upon us there!"
And so we parted... Listen, God! —
I may not even free
One little tear to dew the sod
Where, sleeping peacefully,
He waits in foreign lands — my dear!
But prophecy and prayer, —
"The sun that cheers our pathways here
Shall beam upon us — there!"