March 16, 2014

Birth of Lucas: tribute of love from me

When Daniel Bedinger Lucas was born there on March 16, 1836, the town of Charles Town was part of Virginia; today it is part of West Virginia, which legally separated into its own state during the Civil War. During that conflict, Lucas, a lawyer who studied at the University of Virginia as well as what was then called Washington College, sided forcefully with the Confederacy, a loyalty he often celebrated through his poetry. During the war, he attempted to rescue a friend who was to be executed as a spy, John Yates Beall. Lucas was unsuccessful and was unable to return to Virginia and instead hid out in Canada.

Upon his return to his family home, Rion Hall, where he was born, his home state had become West Virginia and he was barred from practicing law until he finally offered his oath to the Union in 1870. It was said that Lucas got his poetic sensibility, at least in part, from the picturesque surroundings of rural western Virginia where he was born and grew up. If that is the case, perhaps no better poem can be included her than his "My Heart is in the Mountains":

Right nobly flows the River James
   From Richmond to the Sea,
And many a hallowed mem'ry claims,
   And tribute of love from me;
But Western Tempe farther on—
   Mother of limestone fountains!
My heart goes back with the setting sun—
   My heart, my heart is in the Mountains!

There where the fringe-tree nods his plume,
   Beneath the white pine's shade—
There where the laurel drops his bloom
   O'er many a wild cascade—
There where the eagle seeks his nest—
   Mother of limestone fountains!
List to an exile's prayer for rest—
   My heart, my heart is in the Mountains!

The wide expanse of the boundless sea
   Is a sight to stir the soul,
And there is a breadth of majesty
   In the Western prairie's roll—
But give me the heights that milk the clouds,
   And gather the dew in fountains!
Give me the peaks, with their misty shrouds—
   My heart, my heart is in the Mountains!

There's something blank in the landscape here
   And tame in the water's flow—
I pine for a mountain atmosphere,
   And a crag in the sunset's glow!
King of the Hills! Blue Ridge that I love!
   Feed still the Vale with fountains,
From rock and dale, and mountain-cove—
   My heart, my heart is in the Mountains!

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