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George Marion McClellan

1860–

George Marion McClellan was born on September 29, 1860, in Belfast, Tennessee. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his bachelor of divinity from Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. He was a teacher of Latin and English in Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1899 to 1911, before becoming the principal of Dunbar Public School.

A Congregational minister, teacher, and fiction writer, as well as a poet, McClellan published two poetry collections: Poems (A. M. E. Church Sunday School Union, 1895), which was later retitled Songs of a Southerner (Rockwell and Churchill, 1896), and his noted collection The Path of Dreams (John P. Morton, 1916). He also published the fiction collection Old Greenbottom Inn and Other Stories in 1906, a tragedy about racial mixture and interracial romance. McClellan, though more obscure—as little is known about his life—is frequently compared to his contemporary Paul Laurence Dunbar, another distinguished African American poet of the time. McClellan died in 1934.

By This Poet

3

A January Dandelion

All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere
Like desert sand, when the winds blow,
There is each moment sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow.
O! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.
And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem,
Full many a heart has but a common boon
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem.
When the heart has bloomed by the touch of love’s warm breath
Then left and chilling snow is sifted in,
It still may beat but there is blast and death
To all that blooming life that might have been.

A September Night

The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou’s face is gemmed with stars,
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, ’twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the Gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields, Anguilla sits
Half bird-like, dreaming on her Summer nest.
Amid her spreading figs and roses, still
In bloom with all their Spring and Summer hues,
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations, stretching far
Away, are plains of cotton, downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds;
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects’ wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night!
The Summer sweetness fills my heart with songs,
I can not sing, with loves I can not speak.

To Theodore

Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
Gay laughter leading quick and stormy tears,
Then smiles again and pulse of flying feet,
In breathless chase of fleeting gossamers,
Are memories so dear, so bitter-sweet.

No more are echoes of your flying feet.
Hard by, where Pike’s Peak rears its head in state,
The erstwhile rushing feet, with halting steps,
For health’s return in Denver watch and wait.
But love and memories of noiseless tread,
Where angels hovered once, all shining fair,
To tuck you in your little trundle bed,
Kneel nightly now in agony of prayer.