Park Benjamin (1809-1864)

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Read a biography of Benjamin at Edgar Allan Poe's Literary Neighborhood. According to Poe, Benjamin's sonnets "have not been surpassed."

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A Great Name

Time! thou destroyest the relics of the past,
And hidest all the footprints of thy march
On shattered column and on crumbled arch,
By moss and ivy growing green and fast.
Hurled into fragments by the tempest-blast
The Rhodian monster lies; the obelisk
That with sharp line divided the broad disk
Of Egypt's sun, down to the sands was cast:
And where these stood, no remnant-trophy stands,
And even the art is dead by which they rose:
Thus, with the monuments of other lands,
The place that knew them now no longer knows.
Yet triumph not, O, Time; strong towers decay,
But a great name shall never pass away.

(Text from The Sonnet in American Literature)

Sonnets (from Harper's Monthly, 1854)


What though my years are falling like thy leaves,
Oh, Autumn! When the winds are plumed with night--
They have thy colors, thy enameled light,
And all the fullness of thy ripened sheaves.
Of verdant joys aggressive Time bereaves,
And the glad transports of unclouded dawn;
But though the shadows deepen on Life's lawn,
Rays of serene and solemn beauty shed
A mellow lustre on my fading hours,
And with a calm and tempered joy I tread
Paths still bedecked with iridescent flowers--
Like thine, oh, Autumn! ere the sober gray
Of Winter steals thy glorious tints away.


Upon an eminence I seem to stand,
And look around me. Backward I survey
A lovely prospect, stretching far away
Through mists that curtain all the nearer land.
There once I wandered gayly, hand in hand
With the companions of my happy spring;
It was Life's realm of Fairy, rainbow-spanned,
Where birds and brooks together loved to sing,
And every cloud made pictures as it sailed.
That music yet resounds, those pictures shine
Through the far distance Time has faintly veiled,
Though many a rock, stream, valley intervene
Between me and that fairy-haunted scene.

Tributary Sonnet

To my friend, the Rev. Walter Colton, author of "Deck and Port" and "Three Years in California," who died, having been long absent from home, shortly after rejoining his family. (Harper's Monthly, 1853)

Heart, that with warm and generous feeling beat--
How strange it seems to one who loved thee well,
That over thee has pealed the solemn knell,
And not one spark of all that genial heat
Remains each high-born sympathy to greet,
And glow with fond affection, when some word
Uttered in tone harmonious, low, and sweet,
Thy fervent depths to kind emotions stirred!
Alas--that thou, when life was doubly dear,
When once more reunited to thine own,
After such weary years of absence flown,
Should'st be translated--though to that bright sphere
On which, in child-like earnestness and faith,
Thy looks were turned beyond the door of death.

New York Harbor

(Written in view of the harbor of New York on the loveliest and calmest of the last days of autumn.)

Is this a painting?  Are those pictured clouds
Which on the sky so movelessly repose?
Has some rare artist fashioned forth the shrouds
Of yonder vessel?  Are these imaged shows
Of outline, figure, form, or is there life—
Life with a thousand pulses— in the scene
We gaze upon?  Those towering banks between,
E'er tossed these billows in tumultuous strife?
Billows!  there's not a wave!  the waters spread
One broad, unbroken mirror!  all around
Is hushed to silence,— silence so profound
That a bird's carol, or an arrow sped
Into the distance, would, like larum bell,
Jar the deep stillness and dissolve the spell!