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Sidney Lanier

by Carey C. Giudici

Sidney Clopton Lanier was born February 3, 1842, in Macon, Georgia, the son of a struggling lawyer and a mother "of great thrift and piety." As a student at Ogelthorpe College he became interested in Romantic literature, nature and music and decided to become a writer.

While imprisoned for a year during the Civil War Lanier contracted tuberculosis. Impoverished, in poor health, and recently married to Mary Day, he put his literary ambitions aside and took up law as a profession in 1868.

In Baltimore five years later he was first flutist with the Peabody Orchestra and taught at Johns Hopkins University. But in 1874 and 1875 deteriorating health brought him to Brunswick to recuperate at his brother-in-law's home on Albany Street. While sitting under what's known today as "Lanier's Oak" he wrote his best-known poem, The Marshes of Glynn, and a few days later first read it to a literary club in the home of Mrs. James M. Couper. It was published with his other poems in 1878.

Other well-known Lanier poems include A Marsh Song, At Sunset, A Marsh Hymn, Between Dawn and Sunrise, and Individuality. For the last years of his short life, Lanier continued working on pieces that reflect his love of music, poetry, nature, and the "Old South" of his boyhood.. On his deathbed he wrote Sunrise.

Sidney Lanier died at the age of 39 in North Carolina on September 7, 1881, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery.

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