The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Category: charles fenno hoffman

“The Call of Spring” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

The Call of Spring
Charles Fenno Hoffman

THOU wak’st again, O Earth !
From winter’s sleep !—
Bursting with voice of mirth
From icy keep ;
And laughing at the Sun,
Who hath their freedom won,
Thy waters leap !

Thou wak’st again, O Earth !
Feebly again,
And who by fireside hearth
Will now remain ?
Come on the rosy hours—
Come on thy buds and flowers,
As when in Eden’s bowers,
Spring first did reign.
Birds on thy breezes chime
Blithe as in that matin time
Their choiring begun :
Earth, thou has many a prime—
Man hath but one !

Thou wak’st anew, O Earth !
Freshly anew !
As when at Spring’s first birth
First flow’rets grew.
Heart ! that to earth dost cling,
While boughs are blossoming,
Why wake not too ?

Long thou in sloth hast lain,
Listing to Love’s soft strain—
Wilt thou sleep on?
Playing, thou sluggard heart,
In life no manly part,
Though youth be gone.
Wake ! ’tis Spring’s quickening breath
Now o’er thee blown ;
Awake thee ! ere thou in death
Pulselessly slumbereth,
Pluck thou from Glory’s wreath
One leaf alone !

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“‘Far Away'” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

This poem has touched my heart for some years now. Whether Hoffman’s song was merely in imitation of the original 1833 piece published by Tom Rice, or inspired by George P. Morris’ own version, composed by Charles Edward Horn and published in 1839,* he has set his version apart in such a lyrically refreshing, original way that it stands on its own exceptionally well.

If you would like to hear this beautiful poem come to life, pair the lyrics with these outstanding covers I have found of the original and feel free to follow along,

Link One
Link Two

*Note: The title of the reworked version by Morris and Horn is “Near the Lake where drooped the Willow.” You can view the sheet music for their version here.

“Far Away”
Air—”Long time ago.”
Charles Fenno Hoffman

THE song—the song that once could move me
In life’s glad day—
The song of her who used to love me
Far—far away—
It makes my sad heart, fonder—fonder—
Wildly obey
The spell that wins each thought to wander
Far—far away !

Once more upon my native river
The moonbeams play,
Once more the ripples shine as ever
Far—far away—
But ah, the friends who smiled around me,
Where—where are they !
Where the sweet spell, that early bound me,
Far—far way ?

I think of all that hope once taught me—
Too bright to stay—
Of all that music fain had brought me,
Far—far away !
And weep to feel there’s no returning
Of that glad day,
Ere all that brightened life’s fresh morning
Was far—far away.

“Chansonnette” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

(From The Poems of Charles Fenno Hoffman, 1873.)

Chansonnette.
Charles Fenno Hoffman

IT haunts me yet ! that early dream
Of first fond Love ;
Like the ice that floats in a summer stream
From frozen fount above,
Through my river of life ’twill drifting gleam,
Wherever its waves may flow ;
Flashing athwart each sunny hour
With a strangely bright but chilling power,
Ever and ever to mock their tide
With its illusive glow ;
A fragment of hopes that were petrified
Long—long ago !

“The Streamlet” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

Hoffman’s “The Streamlet” is a refreshing quatrain, one which is compact with bright imagery and languid movement. The core of his message focuses on likening the course of life to a streamlet—ever-flowing and carrying us on through the trials of life unto death, where we may thus perpetually glide on. Albeit simple in nature, this poem succinctly encapsulates Hoffman’s message in a refreshing way through his imagery, as forementioned, thus, in our opinion, making it a delightful read.

The Streamlet.
Charles Fenno Hoffman

HOW silently yon streamlet slides
From out the twilight-shaded bowers !
How, soft as sleep, it onward glides
In sunshine through its dreaming flowers.

That tranquil wave, now turn’d to gold
Beneath the slowly westering sun,
It is the same, far on the wold,
Whose foam this morn we gazed upon.

The leaden sky, the barren waste,
The torrent we this morning knew,
How changed are all ! as now we haste
To bid them, with the day, adieu !

Ah ! thus should life and love at last
Grow bright and sweet when death is near :
May we, our course of trial pass’d,
Thus bathed in beauty glide from here !

“Tasso to Leonora” by Charles Fenno Hoffman

Torquato Tasso was a Romantic Italian poet who, “Although…no more than a footnote today…was once wildly popular, quoted by philosophers, emulated by poets, and a source of inspiration to painters and composers,” according to Philip Kennicott in his article, “Torquato Tasso, a Poet Both Obscure and Ubiquitous.” Kennicott goes on to explain, “Even his sad and tormented life was an obsession for the romantics, inspiring a play by Goethe, a poem by Byron, a painting by Delacroix, and a symphonic study by Liszt.” I will not discuss Tasso’s life in this post (if ever), however I do want to precede Hoffman’s poem with a little context. It was a quickly spread belief in the 19th century that Tasso was romantically connected with Eleonora d’Este, a princess who took Tasso under her protection, alongside sister Lucrezia, during the later years of his life. According to John Devey in his article “Postscript to the Life of Tasso,” found in The Jerusalem Delivered, of Torquato Tasso, “That Tasso’s sonnets to Leonora were something more than the mere vers de societé, which the gallant chevaliers of that age were constantly laying at the feet of high-born dames, is, we believe, past a doubt. That Leonora encouraged his affection is also as readily admitted. The only question is how far the lovers passed the boundary of a discreet Platonism” (lxv). Thus, we find Hoffman’s poem, portraying a maddened Tasso imploring his love for Leonora. A romantic thought, indeed—do you think the two were romantically connected, however? I don’t believe there is enough evidence based on what little I’ve read to definitively lend to the case. Despite some apparently pretty verses written for Leonora, including a dedication in his poem, O figlie di Renata, there is not a lot of evidence to lend to a potential tryst. However, myth aside, Hoffman still retains his merit as an excellent poet, and this poem lends especial credence to his expertise.

Tasso to Leonora
Charles Fenno Hoffman

STILL, still I love thee; Hope no more,
‘Tis true, may light my dungeon’s gloom,
And youth as well as hope is o’er,
Both buried in a living tomb;
And even reason doth forsake me,
So oft that I begin to fear
If not the madman they would make me,
Its utter loss is ever near;
Yet fettered in this hideous cell,
And banned and barred from those sweet eyes,
Unknowing if one memory dwell
With thee of him who daily dies,—
Still, Leonora, still alone to thee
Beneath their shackles still untamably
Love’s pulses beat as if my limbs were free.

Go tell thy brother though the infectious breath
Of my rank prison may be steeped in death,
Though through my veins corrupting now may steal
The accursed taint which day by day I feel
Poisoning life’s tabernacle, regret
For having loved thee, Leonora, never yet,
In spite of all I’ve borne or yet may bear,
Hath wrung one craven tear from my despair.
And thou—thou who from him who’d do and dare,
And suffer all of anguish heart can feel
Thou who in beauty’s pride did shrink to hear
The love that lips could only half reveal;
Blushing, ashamed, because thou wert so dear
To one thy kinsman cared not to approve,—
Thou, Leonora, when I am no more,
Shalt feel the influence of a poet’s love;
In every land my story they’ll deplore,
Pilgrims from all shall make my grave their shrine,
And each who breathes my name shall murmur thine.