Although literary historians are correct in maintaining that Sidney Lanier had only minimal influence on other writers, that influence is most apparent in the post-Civil War interest in the recording of regional dialects. Perhaps taking his cue either from James Russell Lowell’s satirical The Biglow Papers (1848, 1867) or Augustus Longstreet’s humorous Georgia Scenes (1835), Lanier wrote several propagandistic poems in southern dialect, in which humor was incidental rather than integral.
“Thar’s More in the Man than Thar Is in the Land”
Works written in dialect, yet serious in intent, were an innovation in American literature, and one of the first such works was Lanier’s “Thar’s More in the Man than Thar Is in the Land.” Written sometime between 1869 and 1871, the poem was originally published in the Macon Telegraph and Messenger on February 7, 1871, and thereafter in newspapers throughout the South and Midwest. Lanier reworked a local story into a serious statement of what he personally felt was the soundest strategy for the survival of the postwar South: Resist the temptation to emigrate, and diversify crops.
The poem itself (despite the challenges of the dialect) is unusually straightforward for a work by Lanier, not only because of the paucity of imagery but also, more important, because of Lanier’s uncharacteristic avoidance of sentimentality. Written in ten sestets, it...
(The entire section is 3292 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Sidney Lanier Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!