“Sonnet” by C[harles] H[enry] F[oster]

by Ann Neilson

Although it unknown who may have written these lines, I speculate they belong to Charles Henry Foster, a mid-19th century lawyer, journalist, and politician. There are a couple clues which lead to this conclusion. Firstly, the name Charles Henry Foster appears in the 1856 (48th) volume of the Knickerbocker, just a volume after the appearance of this sonnet, thus establishing a connection between contributors with the same initials. Foster, to my knowledge, does not reappear fully named, but the simple initials reappear in volumes 49 and 50. Secondly, there is a hint given at the end of a few of C. H. F.’s sonnets (which will be posted soon after this one) being the location “Augusta, (Maine.)” According to Donald E. Collins in Charles Henry Foster: A Unionist in Confederate North Carolina, Foster “spent the year 1856 as a teacher and principle at Cony School for Boys in Augusta, Maine” (2). This coincides with the release of this poem, as well as another sonnet published in 1857 (Volume 49) of the Knickerbocker, which is also signed by C. H. F. accompanied with “Augusta, (Maine) as the location. According to Collins, Foster made a change by moving to the South in 1857, although exact dates surrounding this move are not given.

All-in-all, simple coincidences, but they leave one to undoubtedly conclude that the author of this sonnet, as well as later poems signed by C. H. F. in the Knickerbocker, belonged to Charles Henry Foster. Until proven otherwise, therefore, every poem posted on this website by C. H. F. from the Knickerbocker will be tagged under “Charles Henry Foster.”

As for who Foster was, I’ll save that for a rainy day. (Preview: he was a tempestuous character. How fun!)

Sonnet.
By C. H. F.
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 47 (1856), pg. 475.

‘UBI PLATO, IBI PHILOSOPHIA VERA.’

OUT from these fetters wherewith I am bound,
I cry for rescue: my tired spirit pleads
Against this starving slavery of creeds,
And mourns its freedom lost, in grief profound:
Alas! what prison-walls my soul surround!
Once, in unrest, I sought fair-seeming schools;
But there Authority supremely rules;
And sullen Doubts crouch, muttering, on the ground
While buffoon Dogmas mimic hoary Truth.
From this dull bondage is there no release?
Down in despair must all my hopes be frowned?
Can I not win again my golden youth?
A presence answers: Now my soul has peace;
In PLATO’S muse divine, deliverance is found.

Augusta, (Maine.)