Blood and Soil Nationalism in Sidney Lanier’s “Corn”

Many people find it hard to grasp the notion of a nation because they try to grasp the notion too tightly.  It is, we might say, like a wet bar of soap that flies out of the hand when it is squeezed.

I suspect they do this because their minds are modern, and therefore trammeled by the Cartesian prejudice that a “clear and distinct idea” must stand at the head of every rational thought.  But when nation is apprehended as a clear and distinct idea, it is always reduced to one aspect of the real thing, which is complex, indistinct and obscure.  In a recent post, for instance, I wrote about the way that men like Paul Ryan reduce American nationality to a doctrine, and about their fierce hostility to men who (they allege) reduce that nationality to blood and soil.

All of these reductions distort the notion of a nation by reducing it to the clear and distinct idea of either a political creed, a biological race, or a geographical territory.  The truth is that a nation combines all of these elements, and that the contours of this combination are irreducibly ambiguous.

But one thing, at least, is clear. If one of these elements is missing, we do not have a nation.  If there is nothing but doctrine, we have a church.  If there is nothing but soil, we have an empire.  And if there is nothing but blood, we have something of interest only to a zoologist.  To have a nation, we must have all three elements, and we must not expect to define these elements with any great exactness.

Obscurantism is evil, but obscurity is not.  It is wrong to intentionally obscure what is in fact clear, but it is also wrong—and perhaps in the long run more harmful—to clarify what is in fact obscure.  When we do this, we squeeze the bar of soap and it shoots out of our hand.

This is why the epistemology of nation is mythical rather than mathematical.  Mythical thought is not angered by obscurity, and it is certainly not surprised.  It is not embarrassed when its Cartesian critics pound the table and accuse it of obscurantism.  To this accusation, the mythical mind calmly responds that there are in this world a great many things that cannot be brought into sharp focus.  But the fact that they cannot be brought into sharp focus does not mean that they are not real.

When we limit human knowledge to things that can be brought into sharp focus, we lock human understanding in “the prison of things that are clear.”  The phrase is from Lubac’s Drama of Atheistic Humanism (1944), and it takes us to the heart of the special stupidity of enlightenment.  To shift the metaphor, the enlightened mind demands to see everything in broad daylight, and it will not stoop to peer at the obscure things that can be seen only by the dim and flickering light of a pale and smoking lantern.

The nation is one of the things we know by lantern light.  It is like an animal that has crawled under the house and backs away into the shadows when we thrust out our lantern to see what it is.  Religion is another thing like that.  And so is love.

I recently confessed that I have a vagabond mind, and my strolling of late has taken me into the neighborhood of some Southern poets of the late nineteenth century.  I have been pleased to make the acquaintance of Sidney Lanier, Henry Timrod, and Paul Hamilton Hayne (and not a little indignant that these names were not on any course syllabus I was ever handed). I have been pondering especially Lanier’s “Corn” (1875), a poem that I believe throws more than a little lantern light on the notion of nation.  Lantern light, mind you, not a spotlight; and Lanier was certainly not so rash as to try dragging this critter by its tail into the full light of day.

I submit that “Corn” is a classic of American conservative verse, repugnant though it may be to a large part of the Republican party.  It is conservative because it conserves the three elements of doctrine, blood and soil, allowing no one element to overwhelm and drive out the others, and more especially because it conserves all three elements from the wasting fever of classical liberalism and political economy.

I have broken Lanier’s poem into sections divided by brief bracketed paragraphs of commentary.  His language and imagery are not recondite, but this may help you maintain your bearings, and also to skip ahead if you find your patience wearing thin.  WordPress does not allow me to reproduce Lanier’s rather complex scheme of indentation, so I have substituted my own scheme of line spaces to approximate the effect.

Sidney Lanier

[The poem opens with the poet walking through a Georgia wood in springtime, ten years after Lee signed the surrender at Appomattox.  The life returning to the wood is a metaphor of the reviving South, and the entire poem should be read as an expression of Lanier’s hopes and fears about what the “New South” would become. Above this metaphor of Southern revival, Lanier is, however, simply delighting in in the profound communion he feels with his native land. Like the trees and wild grapes, his soul is nourished by the Georgia soil, and he feels kinship with both the virginal flowers and the amorous creatures that scuttle in the fallen leaves.  I think there are many lovely lines in this bucolic overture, but readers with no relish for nature poetry may wish to skip ahead.]

Today the woods are trembling through and through
With shimmering forms, that flash before my view,
Then melt in green as dawn-stars melt in blue.

The leaves that wave against my cheek caress
Like women’s hands; the embracing boughs express
A subtlety of mighty tenderness;
The copse-depths into little noises start,
That sound anon like beatings of a heart,
Anon like talk twixt lips not far apart.

The beech dreams balm, as a dreamer hums a song;
Through that vague wafture, expirations strong
Throb from young hickories breathing deep and long
With stress and urgence bold of prisoned spring
And ecstasy of burgeoning.

Now, since the dew-plashed road of morn is dry,
Forth venture odors of more quality
And heavenlier giving. Like Jove’s locks awry,
Long muscadines
Rich-wreathe the spacious foreheads of great pines,
And breathe ambrosial passion from their vines.

I pray with mosses, ferns and flowers shy
That hide like gentle nuns from human eye
To lift adoring perfumes to the sky.
I hear faint bridal-sighs of brown and green
Dying to silent hints of kisses keen
As far lights fringe into a pleasant sheen.
I start at fragmentary whispers, blown
From undertalks of leafy souls unknown,
Vague purports sweet, of inarticulate tone.

Dreaming of gods, men, nuns and brides, between
Old companies of oaks that inward lean
To join their radiant amplitudes of green,
I slowly move, with ranging looks that pass,
Up from the matted miracles of grass
Into yon veined complex of space
Where sky and leafage interlace
So close, the heaven of blue is
Inwoven with a heaven of green.

[Lanier’s “ranging look” that passes up from earth to sky is, of course, a sign that he is in communion with both heaven and earth.  He is not only attuned to the chaste and lusty rites of spring that are taking place at his feet, but also to the sky that overarches and sustains this vernal pageant.  The “heaven of blue” is not, you will note, a distant heaven, but is rather “interlaced” with the burgeoning “heaven of green.”  And this is well for Lanier, who as a man of flesh and blood is confined to earth by the “mighty tenderness” of the “embracing boughs” of “oaks that inward lean.”]

[Stepping out from the pure nature of that Georgia wood, Lanier enters into the world that is made by men.  A traditional Southern snake fence separates the wild growth from the orderly rows of cornstalks, and despite his romantic love of nature, Lainer sees that “the march of culture” is something other than the pulse of nature.  A man may bask in moments of profound communion with nature, but from these moments he must return because he is, after all, a man.]

I wander to the zigzag-cornered fence
Where sassafras, intrenched in brambles dense,
Contests with stolid vehemence
The march of culture, setting limb and thorn
As pikes against the army of the corn.

[Leaning on the snake fence and looking across the cornfield, Lanier show us that man stands apart from nature because the world is, for him, a symbol as well as a thing.  It is by reading the symbolism of the cornfield that Lanier “harvests” that field without “theft,” and it is by taking those symbols to heart that he eats from that field without “tilth.”]

There, while I pause, my fieldward-faring eyes,
Take harvests, where the stately corn-ranks rise,
Of inward dignities
And large benignities and insights wise,
Graces and modest majesties.

Thus, without theft, I reap another’s field;
Thus, without tilth, I house a wondrous yield,
Heaping my heart with quintuple crops concealed.

[The first symbol Lanier sees is a lone corn stalk, larger than the rest, standing somewhat apart and close against the snake fence that separates the corn from the wild growth on the other side.  He sees this cornstalk as the “type” (i.e. symbol) of a national poet who stands apart from his people, but who nevertheless remains one of them and on their side of the fence.  A national poet does not cross over and live among the sassafras and brambles on the other side.]

Look, out of line one tall corn-captain stands
Advanced beyond the foremost of his bands,
And, waves his blades upon the very edge
And hottest thicket of the battling hedge.
Thou lustrous stalk, that ne’er mayst walk nor talk,
Still shalt thou type the poet-soul sublime
That leads the vanward of his timid time
And sings up cowards with commanding rhyme—

[The word “type” is here a verb that means to symbolize.  A national poet is on the side of his own kind, not on the side of the “battling hedge” that will overgrow the cornfield if given half a chance.  He is on the side of his own kind, but as their teacher, not a man in the crowd.  He must be in one sense greater than his people (he must “grow by double increments”), but he must not be grander than his people (he must remain as “soul homely” as a humble stalk of corn).  He must write his poems for “yeomen,” not critics, and his aim must be to boost both their morals and their morale.]

[As for his own soul, he must learn to be . . .]

Soul calm, like thee, yet fain, like thee, to grow
By double increment, above, below;
Soul homely, as thou art, yet rich in grace like thee,
Teaching the yeomen selfless chivalry
That moves in gentle curves of courtesy;
Soul filled like thy long veins with sweetness tense,
By every godlike sense
Transmuted from the four wild elements.

[The “four wild elements” are, of course, earth, air, water and fire.  By the strange alchemy of corn, these elements are transmuted into “sweetness” that can nourish a human body.  By an analogous alchemy, a national poet combines the elements he draws with “every godlike sense” from his surroundings, and with this sweetness feeds his people’s soul]

[To do this, a national poet must be rooted in his native soil, and must therefore be content to know that he is “standing in his future grave.”  It should be needless to say that this is the heart of blood and soil nationalism.  Blood and soil nationalism is a grateful acceptance of the fact that the blood of the nation runs into and out of its soil.  Even as the broken bodies of its dead are laid in the earth, the food of its youth sprouts anew.]

Drawn to high plans,
Thou lift’st more stature than a mortal man’s,
Yet ever piercest downward in the mould
And keepest hold
Upon the reverend and steadfast earth
That gave thee birth;
Yea, standest smiling in thy future grave,
Serene and brave,
With unremitting breath
Inhaling life from death,
Thine epitaph writ fair in fruitage eloquent,
Thy living self thy monument.

[Lanier continues to develop the analogy between the cornstalk and a national poet who draws from his surroundings to produce “fruitage eloquent.”  But now he adds his people’s history to the four elements of earth, air, water and fire. Like the corn, the poet must taste “dreadful night” (which I take to be ordeals such as the Civil War, in which Lanier fought), must assimilate “antique ashes,” and must push his roots deep into buried beds of “potsherds and dry bones, and ruin-stones.”]

As poets should,
Thou hast built up thy hardihood
With universal food,
Drawn in select proportion fair
From richest mould and vagabond air;
From darkness of the dreadful night,
And joyful light;
From antique ashes, whose departed flame
In thee has finer life and longer fame;
From wounds and balms,
From storms and calms,
From potsherds and dry bones,
And ruin-stones.

[A national poet makes his verse from things that lie ready to hand in the everyday world of his people, for like the cornstalk he is bound to the soil and does not run away in search of exotic impressions and foreign notions.  His substance is healthy and “vigorous” precisely because it has been wrought from “what’er the hand of Circumstance hath brought.”  And even with this his work is not to pick and choose like some finicky critic, but to assimilate, synthesize and elevate what his surroundings yield.  The result is the spiritual food with which a national poet can “solace” (not shock or harass) both “lord in hall” and “beast in stall.”]

So to thy vigorous substance thou hast wrought
Whate’er the hand of Circumstance hath brought;
Yea, into cool solacing green hast spun
White radiance hot from out the sun.

So thou dost mutually leaven
Strength of earth with grace of heaven;
So thou dost marry new and old
Into a one of higher mould;
So thou dost reconcile the hot and cold,
The dark and bright,
And many a heart-perplexing opposite,

And so,
Akin by blood to high and low,
Fitly thou playest out thy poet’s part,
Richly expending thy much-bruised heart
In equal care to nourish lord in hall
Or beast in stall.

[Now, Lanier takes a very interesting turn and speaks more directly of his hopes and fears for the New South.  His hope is that the people of the South will be content with a modest life of agrarian repose; his fear is that they will catch (or perhaps relapse into) the fever of political economy.  He thus begins by praising the corn for its habit of staying put and being a “steadfast dweller on the selfsame spot” where it was born.  The corn is thus the “type” (i.e. symbol), of the “home-fond heart.”  As such it “rebukes” the restless world of commerce that builds its “flimsy homes” on “the shifting sands of trade.”  Those “flimsy houses” endure “scarce a day” and are in no time swallowed up by “swift engulfments of incalculable tides, whereon capricious commerce rides.”]

Thou took’st from all that thou might’st give to all.
O steadfast dweller on the selfsame spot
Where thou wast born, that still repinest not—
Type of the home-fond heart, the happy lot!
Deeply thy mild content rebukes the land
Whose flimsy homes, built on the shifting sand
Of trade, forever rise and fall
With alternation whimsical,
Enduring scarce a day,
Then swept away
By swift engulfments of incalculable tides
Whereon capricious Commerce rides.

[To illustrate the deadly fever of political economy, Lanier invites the corn to look across the valley, in which a bankrupt mill molders, and upon a ravaged and derelict farm that crowns a distant hill.]

Look, thou substantial spirit of content!
Across this little vale, thy continent,
To where, beyond the moldering mill,
Yon old deserted Georgian hill
Bares to the sun his piteous aged crest
And seamy breast,
By restless-hearted children left to lie
Untended there beneath the heedless sky,
As barbarous folk expose their old to die.

[The last line of course echoes George Fitzhugh, who thirty years before had written that a society run along the lines of political economy would be as cruel as a society with the custom “of exposing its deformed and crippled children.”  In Lanier’s Georgia hills, the moldering mill and ravaged farm are types (i.e. symbols) of agrarian contentment ravaged and destroyed by the fever of classical liberalism. The “seamy breast” of the hill is “scarified” with gullies because its soil has been overworked by “keen Neglect.” Lanier knew the farmer who ruined this farm, and says he did so because he had given “soul and soil” to “coquette Cotton.”  In other words, the farm was ruined as a burnt offering to Mammon]

Upon that generous-rounding side,
With gullies scarified
Where keen Neglect his lash hath plied,
Dwelt one I knew of old, who played at toil,
And gave to coquette Cotton soul and soil.
Scorning the slow reward of patient grain,
He sowed his heart with hopes of swifter gain,
Then sat him down and waited for the rain.

[Impatient with the humble task of growing “patient grain,” this farmer “sowed his heart” with Carlyle’s “Mammon Gospel of Supply-and-Demand.” He stopped being a farmer and became a speculator, because this promised “swifter gain.”  And having given his heart to Mammon, the farmer was snared in the toils and traps of Mammonism.]

He sailed in borrowed ships of usury
A foolish Jason on a treacherous sea,
Seeking the Fleece and finding misery.
Lulled by smooth-rippling loans, in idle trance
He lay, content that unthrift Circumstance
Should plough for him the stony field of Chance.
Yea, gathering crops whose worth no man might tell,
He staked his life on games of Buy-and-Sell,
And turned each field into a gambler s hell.

[“Unthrift Circumstance” is the luck of the market in the “game of Buy-and-Sell.”  But the farmer has no luck and “unthrift Circumstance” betrays him into the “gambler’s hell” of risking what he still possesses in the hope of recovering what he has already lost.  Snared and trussed by Mammonism, the farmer must take himself to the very temple of Mammon, and abase himself before its high priest.  In other words, he must go to town and plead with a banker in his lair. He must abase himself with obsequious begging and lies, and by kissing the rich man’s dust.]

Aye, as each year began,
My farmer to the neighboring city ran;
Passed with a mournful anxious face
Into the banker’s inner place;
Parleyed, excused, pleaded for longer grace;
Railed at the drought, the worm, the rust, the grass;
Protested ne’er again ’twould come to pass;
With many an ohand ifand but alas
Parried or swallowed searching questions rude,
And kissed the dust to soften Dives’s mood.
At last, small loans by pledges great renewed,
He issues smiling from the fatal door,
And buys with lavish hand his yearly store
Till his small borrowings will yield no more.

[So, this wretched devotee of Mammon is by slow degrees crushed and ground to dust.  His hope of “swifter gain” gives way to forebodings of dispossession, destitution and disgrace.  Yet he still looks to the market for salvation, fretting over the auguries of prices, and futures, and rumors, and trends.]

Aye, as each year declined,
With bitter heart and ever-brooding mind
He mourned his fate unkind.
In dust, in rain, with might and main,
He nursed his cotton, cursed his grain,
Fretted for news that made him fret again,
Snatched at each telegram of Future Sale,
And thrilled with Bulls or Bears alternate wail
In hope or fear alike forever pale.

[Wasted with anxiety, the farmer at last learns that Mammon is a cruel god and Shylock will have his pound of flesh.]

And thus from year to year, through hope and fear,
With many a curse and many a secret tear,
Striving in vain his cloud of debt to clear,
At last
He woke to find his foolish dreaming past,
And all his best-of-life the easy prey
Of squandering scamps and quacks that lined his way
With vile array,
From rascal statesman down to petty knave;
Himself, at best, for all his bragging brave,
A gamester’s catspaw and a banker’s slave.

[When Lanier was writing, the phrase “best-of-life” meant what we mean by “prime of life.”  It denoted not only the years of healthy maturity, but also the rewards a man must reap in those years if he is to reap rewards at all.  This farmer who put his faith in political economy watches in horror as the bank forecloses on both his best-of-life and his farm.  Betrayed by political economy, he runs away from Georgia in poverty and disgrace, most probably in the direction of Texas.]

Then, worn and gray, and sick with deep unrest,
He fled away into the oblivious West,
Unmourned, unblest.

[To close this poem, Lanier pities the wounded Georgia hill. Its wounds are too deep for life to return this spring, but the poet has faith its wounds will heal in time.  Here again, we should remember that Lanier was writing only ten years after Appomattox, and so almost certainly meant the ravaged Georgia hill is the type (i.e. symbol) of the war-ravaged South. That the South was war-ravaged was itself due to antebellum dalliance with the faithless coquette of political economy.]

[Looking into the future, Lanier hopes that the ravaged hill, and like it the ravaged South, will come under the guidance and protection of some “bolder heart,” which I take to mean a deeper Gospel, that will combine the wisdom of tradition (“antique sinews”) with the intelligence of “modern art.”]

Old hill! old hill! thou gashed and hairy Lear
Whom the divine Cordelia of the year,
E’en pitying Spring, will vainly strive to cheer
King, that no subject man nor beast may own,
Discrowned, undaughtered and alone
Yet shall the great God turn thy fate,
And bring thee back into thy monarch state
And majesty immaculate.

Lo, through hot waverings of the August morn,
Thou givest from thy vasty sides forlorn
Visions of golden treasuries of corn
Ripe largesse lingering for some bolder heart
That manfully shall take thy part,
And tend thee,
And defend thee,
With antique sinew and with modern art.

24 thoughts on “Blood and Soil Nationalism in Sidney Lanier’s “Corn”

  1. Pingback: Blood and Soil Nationalism in Sidney Lanier’s “Corn” | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Blood and Soil Nationalism in Sidney Lanier’s “Corn” | Reaction Times

  3. As the old Arab proverb goes: ‘Me against my Brothers.
    Me and my Brothers against the Cousins.
    Me, my Brothers and the Cousins against the Village.
    Me, My Brothers, the Cousins and the Village against the Clan.
    Me, my Brothers, the Cousins….against the Tribe/Nation etcetcetc’.
    As a Clan is an extended Family and a Tribe is an extended Clan,
    a Nation is an extended Tribe – a Tribe writ on a larger scale.
    As members of Families, Clans and Tribes tend to be blood-related,
    and tend to have the same religion and speak the same language;
    so do members of Nations – though often more distantly.
    However, neither Families, Clans, Tribes nor Nations are necessarily exclusive,
    whether classed by blood, race or religion
    Unrelated people may marry (or be adopted) into Families, Clans, and Tribes.
    Related people may marry (or be cast) out of their Families, Clans and Tribes.
    The same is true with respect to unrelated (and related) people and Nations.
    Nations may inhabit Independent Nation States (eg: Germans and Germany),
    or they may not (eg: Scots and Scotland, or Kurds and Kurdistan).
    Nations (like Families, Clans and Tribes) are natural groupings of people.

    • A nation is not an extended family or clan. A nation is a people that believes itself to be a nation. It is a product of human will and mind. Entirely unrelated (in biological sense) people can form a single nation, as American nation was formed.

      • If a random assortment of people for some reason believed itself to be a nation, their children would, presumably, intermarry, and in time the creedal nation would become biological. I’d call the first generation a church, but since all viable churches are somewhat endogamous, all viable churches are somewhat national. It’s right there in the phrase “cradle Catholic.”

      • @Bedarz Iliachi
        You write: ‘Entirely unrelated (in biological sense) people can form a single nation,
        as American nation was formed.’
        Did I not say: ‘neither Families, Clans, Tribes nor Nations are necessarily exclusive,
        whether classed by blood, race or religion’.
        Is it not the case that two unrelated people (one man and one woman),
        by getting married, can form a single new family?
        And can this new family not then adopt entirely unrelated people into it?
        It seems to me that the American (US) nation is not excluded from my description.

      • JMSmith
        Do nobles intermarry with commoners?
        Kings and queens marry other royals and not their own countrymen.
        Hindus form a single nation despite being composed of over 4000 non-intermarrying communities

      • Nobles may not intermarry with commoners, but even a commoner such as I have nobles in my family tree. You would have to go pretty far back, but kings have bastards and ner-do-well offspring. Indian nationalism is a very recent invention, and probably not real even today. The British called the place a “subcontinent” precisely because it was a territory home to many nations. In my view, most of the “nations” in the United Nations are not actual nations. Now polities like India, the U.S.A., or Botswana may be better than nations like, say, Japan, but they are not the same thing. As a rule, I oppose calling things that are not the same by a single name.

      • JMSmith,
        The Indian nationalism may be recent but
        Hindus are an ancient nation. They, from the old, self-define themselves as consciously as do the Chinese.

    • In Europe, nationality is often equated with language, which is what we mean by the Hungarian minority in Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine or the Swedish minority in Finland

      • Certainly. I would include language under the head of doctrine, since one is taught a language and is taught everything else in a language. But nation cannot be reduced to language. In any case, those linguistic minorities that you mention will tend to be endogamous. Minorities that are not endogamous do not last long.

      • @ Michael Paterson-Seymour
        The Hungarian minority in Romania etc is neither THE nor A Hungarian nation.
        The Swedish minority in Finland is neither THE nor A Swedish nation.
        Did I not say: ‘Nations may inhabit Independent Nation States…or they may not
        (eg…Kurds and Kurdistan). The Kurds are minorities in many independent states.
        Nevertheless, they remain Kurds. Your argument supports mine.
        It does not contradict it.

  4. In “reality,” we know everything by lantern light. As my dear Michael Polanyi put it, “We know more than we can say.” All of our everyday knowledge, let alone things like “nation,” is replete with unspecifiable components: making an omelet, for example, or riding a bicycle.
    Even the most “clear and distinct” arrangements of ideas are inescapably based on tacit knowledge, as Richard Cocks has recently been at pains to point out. Polanyi gives, among a plethora of others, this illustration (in “Personal Knowledge”):
    “Mathematics has once already fallen into oblivion by becoming incomprehensible. After the death of Apollonius in 205 B.C. there occurred a break in the oral tradition which alone made the mathematical texts of the Greeks intelligible to students.”
    I can remember being in thrall to the imagined expulsion of imagining from knowing; being, as a young man, such a gashed and hairless Lear.

    • They who insist that Man is utterly insignificant and his being absurd and irrational are the same ones who claim for for themselves absolute and universal epistomological authority.

  5. This brings to mind a dichotomy that is relevant to your previous post: that between town and country. Roger Scruton has a personal interest in this theme, and, IIRC, makes reference to a writer or writers of Roman antiquity who warmed to the same theme.

    Country dwellers in the industrialised world are on a hiding to nothing in this opposition, with their situation steadily deteriorating. Victor Davis Hanson’s ruminations, which used to appear regularly in PJ Media, about his divided life in California (gentleman farmer and Californian academic) are germane and informative.

    The connection of blood with soil becomes more and more attenuated as most of the population grows up within densely populated cities. Even within the cities, the connection with the land, such as it is, becomes more tenuous. When I was growing up in the 50s, in Brisbane and in coastal towns, we lived on quarter-acre blocks. The houses were modest, the back-yards big, and there were plenty of kids of one’s own age. Even living in Brisbane, in what is now almost an inner-city suburb, the bush was a short walk away. Now, because fauna and flora must be free, the people are caged into closer and closer confinement. The housing blocks have shrunk, and the old quarter acre blocks are being subdivided, with two hyper-pituitary monstrosities spilled onto the space previously the setting for a single family home. Back-yard? What for? The child, or perhaps the two, are happily playing video games when not being ferried to and from school or regimented sporting activities.

    The interior life of the adults these children will become is unimaginable to me. The Spirit, however, can make straight the paths in the most unpromising materials.

    • Oswald Spengler had many things to say about the way that enormous cities grow up and poison the countryside that gave them birth. Poison in the cultural sense, that is. The rise of the great cities and their deracinated populations is a late stage in his lifecycle of a culture. My parents grew up on farms, so I spent a fair amount of my childhood on a farm. My children have not. As an urban desk-worker, I relate to the “soil” aesthetically, much as Lanier does. My sense is that even this is declining. I was in a state park last weekend and they had closed down large sections, stopped maintaining the trails. The place was almost empty.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post! I’ll have to look into Lanier. About a year ago I discovered the online archived editions of the Southern Literary Messenger(1834-1864) while doing some research on a related topic. It has been a joy to read many of the articles contained in the publication.

    • Thanks, Terry. I’m glad you liked it. I know this sort of thing is not for everyone, but also that there are some who have the taste.

  7. What a lovely post! I read Corn whilst working my way through a collection of Lanier’s poetry. When I read the verses on usury, I naturally thought of you. I wish I had mentioned it to you then. But, of course, you got around to it on your own. Outstanding.


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