June 19, 2014

Charles H. Crandall: silver-harnessed stars

Courtesy: Stamford
Historical Society
"One must needs be in a rarely appreciative mood fully to enjoy the privilege of listening to an old violin that bears the autograph inscription of Antonius Stradivarius," theorized Charles Henry Crandall. But, when those moods of appreciation strike, "one should approach the consideration of a gem in the domain of literature which has outlasted seven centuries." Crandall, born in Greenwich, New York on June 19, 1858, was referring particularly to the sonnet, a poetic form to which he dedicated his first book Representative Sonnets by American Poets (1890). The title was limiting, as he also included various sonneteers from around the world.

Crandall began his publishing career as a journalist for newspapers including the New York Tribune. In 1886, however, his poor health inspired a move to Connecticut. It was here that he began publishing more literary works, rather than journalistic ones. After his anthology of sonnets, he published his own poetry in Wayside Music: Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets (1893) and The Chords of Life (1898). He published several more books until he committed suicide in 1923 at age 64.

Crandall's poem "Each Day" from Wayside Music:

I watch the sun at morning, and it shines with all the gladness
  Of the million million happy eyes that greet its glorious birth.
I gaze again at evening, and it gives back all the sadness
  Of the million million weary eyes that watch it sink to earth.

And his poem "The Poet" from The Chords of Life:

I am not young, I am not old,
    For Time has fled before me;
All gates before my touch unfold,
    Transparent skies are o'er me.

I gaze in maiden's eyes, and ken
    Their never-uttered speech;
I look into the souls of men
    Deeper than they can reach.

The sun each morn I link anew
    Unto my kingly cars;
Each evening drive through realms of blue
    My silver-harnessed stars.

My spirit speaks, and birds and bees
    Obey my slightest will;
And silent things break out in speech,
    And noisy things are still.

No noble thing escapes my love,
    All maidens pure are mine,
And ever round me, from above,
    The rays of beauty shine.

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