November 17, 2011

Birth of Solyman Brown, dentist-poet

Solyman Brown was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on November 17, 1790. A Yale graduate, he was a minister, teacher and, after moving to New York in 1812, a practicing Swedenborgian. Twenty years later, his career took a turn when he became a dentist. It was this line of work that made him famous. As a founding member of the American Association of Dental Surgeons, he also became an editor of The American Journal and Library of Dental Science.

Brown once wrote that "the proudest freedom to which a nation can aspire, not excepting even political independence, is found in complete emancipation from literary thraldom." In his own way, Brown tried to aspire to this kind of freedom. Combining his interests in dentistry and poetry, he published Dentologia, a Poem on the General Laws of the Teeth in 1838.

When man was fashioned by the Power Supreme,
Strange and mysterious as the fact may seem,
And cause of wonder; to his frame was given
Peculiar structure by the hand of heaven: —
...One common destiny awaits our kind; —
'Tis this, that long before the infant mind,
Attains maturity—and ere the sun
Has through the first septennial circle run,
The teeth, deciduous, totter and decay,
And prompt successors hurry them away.

Naturally, he became known as the poet laureate of the dental profession. Some of his other poems focused on more conventional themes. One of the best I found was "The Emigrant's Farewell":

Farewell to the land that my fathers defended;
   Farewell to the fields which their ashes inurn;
The holiest flame on their altars descended,
   Which, fed by their sons, shall eternally burn.
Ah! soft be the bed where the hero reposes!
And light be the green turf that over him closes!
Gay Flora shall deck with her earliest roses,
      The graves of my sires, and the land of my birth.

Adieu to the scenes which my heart's young emotions
   Have dressed in attire so alluringly gay;
Ah! never, no never can billowy oceans,
   Nor time, drive the fond recollections away!
From days that are past present comfort I borrow;
The scenes of to-day shall be brighter to-morrow;
In age I'll recall, as a balm for my sorrow,
   The graves of my sires, and the land of my birth.

I go to the West, where the forest, receding,
   Invites the adventurous axe-man along;
I go to the groves where the wild deer are feeding,
   And mountain-birds carol their loveliest song.
Adieu to the land that my fathers defended!
Adieu to the soil on which freemen contended!
Adieu to the sons who from heroes descended!
      The graves of my sires, and the land of my birth.

When far from my home, and surrounded by strangers,
   My thoughts shall recall the gay pleasures of youth;
Though life's stormy ocean shall threaten with dangers,
   My soul shall repose in the sunshine of truth.
While streams to their own native Ocean are tending,
And forest-oaks, swept by the tempest, are bending,
My soul shall exult, as she's proudly defending
      The graves of my sires, and the land of my birth.


  1. Solyman Brown also receives kudos for being one of the first two Swedenborgians to come out in published form against slavery