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Fitz-Greene Halleck

1790–1867

Fitz-Greene Halleck was born on July 8, 1790, in Guilford, Connecticut. In 1811, he moved to New York City and worked for financiers Jacob Barker, who founded the Exchange Bank of New York, and later John Jacob Astor. 

In 1813, Halleck met medical student and poet Joseph Rodman Drake, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake. In 1819, Halleck and Drake collaborated on a series of thirty-five satirical poems known as the “Croaker Papers,” which took as their subjects prominent New York City residents. The poems were published in the New York Evening Post and were widely read and appreciated. 

Both Halleck and Drake became a part of the New York City writers circle known as the Knickerbocker Group, members of which regularly published work in The Knickerbocker, a monthly literary magazine. Other contributors included William Cullen Bryant, Lydia Maria Child, James Fenimore Cooper, and Washington Irving. 

Drake died of tuberculosis in 1820 at the age of twenty-five, about which Halleck wrote, “Green be the turf above thee,/ Friend of my better days!/ None knew thee but to love thee,/ Nor named thee but to praise.” Halleck never married and in his will requested that Drake’s body be exhumed so he might be interred with him (which was not carried out).

About the poet Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “No name in the American poetical world is more firmly established than that of Fitz-Greene Halleck.” Having achieved uncommon acclaim in his day, Halleck is the only American to have a statue along Central Park’s Mall and Literary Walk. 

Halleck’s collections of poems include Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems (Harper & Brothers, 1845) and Fanny and Other Poems (Harper & Brothers, 1839). He is the editor of The works of Lord Byron, in verse and prose, including letters, journals, etc: with a sketch of his life (G. Dearborn, 1833).

Halleck died November 19, 1867, in Guilford, Connecticut.

Fitz-Greene Halleck
Fitz-Greene Halleck

By This Poet

1

Address, At The Opening of a New Theatre

Where dwells the Drama's spirit? not alone
Beneath the palace roof, beside the throne,
In learning's cloisters, friendship's festal bowers,
Art's pictured halls, or triumph's laurel'd towers,
Where'er man's pulses beat or passions play,
She joys to smile or sigh his thoughts away:
Crowd times and scenes within her ring of power,
And teach a life's experience in an hour.

To-night she greets, for the first time, our dome,
Her latest, may it prove her lasting home;
And we her messengers delighted stand,
The summon'd Ariels of her mystic wand,
To ask your welcome. Be it yours to give
Bliss to her coming hours, and bid her live
Within these walls new hallow'd in her cause,
Long in the nurturing warmth of your applause.

'Tis in the public smiles, the public loves,
His dearest home, the actor breathes and moves,
Your plaudits are to us and to our art
As is the life-blood to the human heart:
And every power that bids the leaf be green,
In nature acts on this her mimic scene.
Our sunbeams are the sparklings of glad eyes,
Our winds the whisper of applause, that flies
From lip to lip, the heart-born laugh of glee,
And sounds of cordial hands that ring out merrily,
And heaven's own dew falls on us in the tear
That woman weeps o'er sorrows pictured here,
When crowded feelings have no words to tell
The might, the magic of the actor's spell.

These have been ours; and do we hope in vain
Here, oft and deep, to feel them ours again?
No! while the weary heart can find repose
From its own pains in fiction's joys or woes;
While there are open lips and dimpled cheeks,
When music breathes, or wit or humour speaks;
While Shakspeare's master spirit can call up
Noblest and worthiest thoughts, and brim the cup
Of life with bubbles bright as happiness,
Cheating the willing bosom into bliss;
So long will those who, in their spring of youth,
Have listen'd to the Drama's voice of truth,
Mark'd in her scenes the manners of their age,
And gather'd knowledge for a wider stage,
Come here to speed with smiles life's summer years,
And melt its winter snow with pleasant tears;
And younger hearts, when ours are hushed and cold,
Be happy here as we have been of old.

Friends of the stage, who hail it as the shrine
Where music, painting, poetry entwine
Their kindred garlands, whence their blended power
Refines, exalts, ennobles hour by hour
The spirit of the land, and, like the wind,
Unseen but felt, bears on the bark of mind;
To you the hour that consecrates this dome,
Will call up dreams of prouder hours to come,
When some creating poet, born your own,
May waken here the drama's loftiest tone,
Through after years to echo loud and long,
A Shakspeare of the West, a star of song,
Bright'ning your own blue skies with living fire,
All times to gladden and all tongues inspire,
Far as beneath the heaven by sea-winds fann'd,
Floats the free banner of your native land.

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