May 4, 2011

Birth of Hovey: Off with the fetters

Though born in Normal, Illinois on May 4, 1864, Richard Hovey grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. Educated at home by his mother, Hovey published his first book, Poems, when he was 16 in 1880; he entered Dartmouth College the next year. His many friendships there — including ones he built while a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity — deeply influenced him and his later writings are heavily focused on comradeship. After failed attempts at acting and joining the seminary, Hovey returned to poetry, his early calling. His work has been described as Walt Whitman-esque. From "Vagabondia" (1894):

Off with the fetters
That chafe and restrain!
Off with the chain!
Here Art and Letters,
Music and wine,
And Myrtle and Wanda,
The winsome witches,
Blithely combine.
Here are true riches,
Here is Golconda,
Here are the Indies,
Here we are free—
Free as the wind is,
Free as the sea,


...Here we are free
To be good or bad,
San or mad,
Merry or grim
As the mood may be—

Free as the whim
Of a spook on a spree,—
Free to be oddities,
Not mere commodities.
Stupid and salable,
Wholly available,
Ranged upon shelves;
Each with his puny form
In the same uniform,
Cramped and disabled;
We are not labelled,
We are ourselves...

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