Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Voices from the Past: James Buckham (1905)

This poem was originally published inThe Independent and The Weekly Review, and was written in response to the famed actor Joseph Jefferson gifting his favorite Kentucky Reel upon his passing to the former president Grover Cleveland. Buckham was a poet of note during the Victorian era and into the 1910s. His collection of mostly religious poems entitled A Wayside Altar was published in 1905.



James Buckham

"To my friend, Hon. Grover Cleveland, I bequeath my best Kentucky reel."
—Joseph Jefferson.

Dear friend, I nevermore shall hear

Your shout above the rushing stream,
Nor see your struggling captive leap

Where rainbows o'er the rapids gleam.

But, ah! for sake of old lang syne,

For sake of friendship long and leal,
Take, with a comrade's lasting love,

My best Kentucky reel.

How oft your ardent eyes have said,
"Ah me! how beautiful and rare,
With music in its silken click,
And graven with such loving care!"
You never said, "I'd like it, Joe;
I envy you from head to heel";
But, Grover, well I knew you craved
My best Kentucky reel!

And now it's yours, fond friend and best,
Your undisputed own for aye,
To sing to you beside the stream
Through many a bloom-white April day—
To sing, I fain would think, of me,
When soft thoughts o'er your spirits steal,
And you can hear me prating of
My best Kentucky reel.

I pray you treat it well, old chum,
And keep it oiled and polished bright,
And never lay it damp away,
Though you come weary home at night.
I've held in trust, I give in trust,
A very masterpiece of steel.
So cherish lovingly, dear friend,
My best Kentucky reel.

God speed you, fellow fisherman,
Beside the roaring brook, 

And many a crimson-spotted trout
Send surging up to try your hook.

Oh! would that I could still stand by,
Or with the net in triumph kneel,

While o'er the brawling turmoil sings
My best Kentucky reel!

But I have said my last farewell
To all the streams I used to know, 

Content, if you will sometimes stop
And think a while of Angler Joe,

Lie on some bank we used to love,
And let old memories o'er you steal,

Meantime a tear, that shall not rust,
Dries on my best Kentucky reel.

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