Regional affection for Georgia's first "national" poet tends on occasion to reduce Sidney Lanier's Civil War-torn career to a tragic metaphor for the antebellum South. In truth, Lanier had definite affections for the agrarian South (though not the cotton plantation economy) which he expressed in his writing. His poems overwhelmingly transcend their immediate setting and explore and reveal themes that are universal -- like Man's faith, his relation to his fellows and to the natural world.
Still, generations of Georgians probably know Lanier best for his poems set in the natural surroundings of the state, such as "The Marshes of Glynn" and "Song of the Chattahoochee." Ultimately, these much-anthologized gems of Lanier's fitful and tragically short poetic career make up only part of an intense literary life. Driven by forces of circumstance and intellect, he also produced notable redactions of Froissart's Chronicles , Malory's tales of King Arthur, a Florida travel guide sparkling from insight and first-hand research, three provocative collections of essays on English verse, the English novel, and the theoretical identity of music and poetry.
Born and reared in a middle-class Macon home, where he was exposed to and encouraged in the studies of literature and music, Lanier graduated from Oglethorpe University near Milledgeville. A precocious musical talent, Lanier was drawn to philosophy and Romantic poetry, but he postponed his intentions for further study to volunteer for Confederate Civil War duty. In the years that followed, Lanier worked in Georgia, Alabama and Texas as a tutor, teacher, and law clerk while writing poetry and Tiger-Lillies, his novel of the war. In 1873 he moved to Baltimore and there found work as a flutist with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and as a lecturer at Johns Hopkins. Later, Lippincott's Magazine published a number of Lanier's poems to favorable critical reception, establishing his reputation as a poet of national importance.
Towards the end of his life, Lanier suffered from a crippling case of tuberculosis that eventually led to his death at the age of 39.
The following editions of works by Sidney Lanier may be found in the Hall of Fame collections of the Hargrett Library:
Tiger-Lilies, A Novel. New York: Hurd & Houghton, 1867.
Florida: Its Scenery, Climate, and History. With an Account of Charleston, Savannah, Augusta, and Aiken; A Chapter for Consumptives; Various Papers on Fruit-Culture' and a Complete Handbook and Guide. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1876.
Poems. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1877.
The Science of English Verse. New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1880.
The English Novel And the Principle of Its Development. New York: Scribners, 1883.
Poems of Sidney Lanier. Edited by His Wife. New York: Scribners, 1884.
Poems of Sidney Lanier. Edited by His Wife. New York: Scribners, 1891.
Select Poems of Sidney Lanier. New York, Scribner, 1895.
Retrospects and Prospects, Descriptive and Historical Essays. New York: Scribners, 1899.
Letters of Sidney Lanier; Selections from his Correspondence, 1866-1881... New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1899.
The English Novel: A Study in the Development of Personality. New York: Scribners, 1900.
The Lanier book; selections in prose and verse from the writings of Sidney Lanier. New York: C. Scribner's sons, 1904.
Hymns of the Marshes. New York: Scribners, 1907.
Shakspere and His Forerunners, Studies in Elizabethan Poetry and Its Development from Early English . New York: Doubleday, Page, 1908.
Poem Outlines. New York: Scribners, 1908.
Bob, The Story of Our Mocking-Bird. New York: Scribners, 1910.
Selections from Sidney Lanier, Prose and Verse. New York, Scribner, 1916.
Poems of Sidney Lanier. Edited by His Wife. New York: Scribners, 1918.
Letters to Col. John G. James. Austin, The Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, University of Texas, 1942.
Centennial Edition of the Works of Sidney Lanier. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1945.
Poems of Sidney Lanier. New York: Scribner, 1946.
The Marshes of Glynn. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949.
The Marshes of Glynn. Darien, Ga.: Ashantilly Press, 1957.
Poems. Macon: Middle Georgia Historical Society, 1967.
Music and Poetry; Essays Upon Some Aspects and Inter-relations of the Two Arts. New York: Haskell House, 1969.
Sidney Lanier: Poems and Letters. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969.
Tiger-Lilies; a novel. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969.
Music and Poetry; Essays Upon Some Aspects and Inter-relations of the Two Arts. St. Clair Shores. Mich.: Scholarly Press, 1970.
Poems of Sidney Lanier. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981.
The Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries' Special Collections holds a large collection of Lanier's letters, journals, notebooks, memorabilia, and books.
The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia has a few letters, poems, and other items in its manuscript holdings.