July 8, 2012

Death of Drew: the rugged mound of earth

Columbus Drew died of heart disease in Florida on July 8, 1891 — a mere three days after his final poem was published in a Tennessee newspaper. He was 71 years old. Though he wrote and published poetry throughout much of his life, he never released a book of his verse. Over a decade after his death, his daughter Alice J. Drew attempted to collect as much as she could, though many of his manuscripts were destroyed by the great Jacksonville fire in 1901. Among those that survived was "The Poet's Grave," originally published in 1842:

I marked a lonely grave among
    The mansions of the dead,
Where slept an humble child of Song,
    His notes forever fled,
Save when their echoes gently stole
    Back to the haunts where he
Poured forth the music of his soul
    In numbers wild and free.

I knew it was the Poet's grave,
    Although no sculptured stone,
Nor urn, nor towering column, gave
    His memory its own.
Some loved one, who had known his worth,
    Unable to do more,
Had smoothed the rugged mound of earth
    And turf'd it greenly o'er.

The sauntering crowd passed rudely by
    That lovely place of rest,
To view the marble piled on high
    Above the rich man's breast;
But they forgot the wealth of love
    That lives when gold and stone
Have perished from the earth above
    And left the dust alone.

They knew not that the form laid nigh
    By lowly, loving hands,
In memory's mystic alchemy
    Would turn to golden sands;
For had they felt one throb that stirred
    The loving hearts that knew
The Poet's grave, their ears had heard
    His lingering music, too.

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