poet and editor James Russell Lowell: The "very profession [of poet] ... is looked down upon with contempt." Hayne was particularly bitter because he hoped to use poetry as his sole source of income.
By the date on his letter, Hayne was less than a month shy of his 30th birthday, though he had already published two volumes of poetry and was working on his third. The first, simply titled Poems, was published in 1855 in Boston — not the South. Two years later, his Sonnets, and Other Poems was published in his native Charleston, receiving little attention. Hayne's third book would be printed by Lowell's Boston publishers, Ticknor and Fields.
By the time he died in 1886, Hayne was recognized as the "Poet Laureate of the South" and one of the writers most responsible for a "new South" which respected literature. Some of his works were printed in the Atlantic Monthly while Lowell was the magazine's editor. Here is one of his earlier poems, "The Poet's Trust in His Sorrow":
O God! how sad a doom is mine,
To human seeming:
Thou hast called on me to resign
So much—much!—all—but the divine
Delights of dreaming.
I set my dreams to music wild,
A wealth of measures;
My lays, thank Heaven! are undefiled,
I sport with Fancy as a child
With golden leisures.
And long as fate, not wholly stern,
But this shall grant me,
Still with perennial faith to turn
Where Song's unsullied altars hum
Nought, nought shall daunt me!
What though my worldly state he low
I own an inner flame whose glow
Makes radiant all the outward show;
My last great blessing!